With a population of 219 inhabitants during the week and 50.000 over the weekend, the quaint little village of Hochatown, in Oklahoma, is one of the most booming places around the world. Most of the weekend visitors come from the nearby city of Dallas – people fleeing the city for a much-deserved break. But such an in-stream of people doesn’t come without a price.
Just before Covid-19 hit, Hochatown counted 400 Airbnb rentals. Still quite a lot but close to nothing compared to the 2.400 today. Even though the pandemic initially had a negative impact on the holiday rentals in the town – many owners saw their bookings cancelled – once the world opened up again, Hochatown burst out of its seams. “The town is basically one giant Airbnb,” David Francis, an Oklahoma state official, told the New York Times.
Holiday homes were built and sold ad a rapid pace, with many investors believing they had made the investment of their life. With a stunning natural landscape, including the Broken Bow Lake, and a steady influx of travellers from Dallas, it seemed like the perfect, safe bet.
But according to an investigation by the New York Times, tides are turning. There’s talk of an Airbnbust: the offer exceeds the demand and investors now worry that they won’t be able to make as much money as they initially thought.
But that’s not the only problem with Hochatown. Counting only 219 inhabitants during the week, the town isn’t exactly prepared for such grand numbers of visitors. It has no police officers, no firefighters, no garbage collectors and most houses aren’t connected to the sewer system. Moreover, the rental houses – many of them with a jacuzzi – put giant pressure on the water infrastructure, leaving many without drinking water at times.
There’s still hope though, because the influx of travellers left the town with 456.000 dollars in tax revenue for last September alone. Quite a bit of money to invest in the local infrastructure, which means the technical issues could soon disappear. However, it still remains a question whether or not the Airbnb bubble of Hochatown will burst completely. Even if it doesn’t, maybe we’ve arrived at a point where we could ask ourselves if towns which are almost completely covered with holiday rentals are a sustainable perspective for the future.