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First US offshore wind farm 'boosts local tourism'

Researchers say analysis of AirBnB rental data shows positive impact after construction of pioneering Block Island array

Researchers at the University of Rhode Island (URI) found tourism has increased on Block Island since five turbines began operating off its coast in 2016, confounding concerns over offshore wind among some in coastal communities.

After analysing AirBnB rental data from roughly two years before and one year after the pioneering US array entered commercial operation, they found results for the rental market to be almost entirely positive for the peak July-August summer months.

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There were no noticeable effects during the rest of the year, according to Corey Lang, URI associate professor of environmental economics and doctoral student Andrew Carr-Harris, who detailed their findings in a paper, Sustainability and Tourism: The effect of the United States’ First Offshore Wind Farm on the Vacation Rental Market.

The AirBnB data allowed them to examine trends in monthly revenues, occupancy rates and reservations from both Block Island, located 21km south of mainland Rhode Island, and Narragansett, Westerly and Nantucket – nearby communities also dependent on summer vacation rentals.

During July-August following construction of America's first offshore facility, Carr-Harris and Lang found AirBnB rentals in Block Island experienced, on average, a 19% increase in occupancy rates and a $3,490 increase in monthly revenue compared to those in Narragansett, Westerly and Nantucket.

Offshore wind opponents often cite the purported negative effects of turbines visible from the coastline on tourism as a reason to reject their construction.

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