You’re probably sick of reading articles about the pandemic and coming across disheartening news day after day – we are too. However, despite what’s happening in the world, there are moments of tenderness and raw emotion that still make us smile.
Airbnb has released a report highlighting how travel in 2021 will shift from mass travel to more meaningful and authentic travel. With data from public opinion research and Airbnb insights, this thorough analysis represents what the US population will be looking for post-pandemic.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the freedom and comfort of travel were often overlooked. Whereas booking trips with your closest friends or family members once seemed like tradition, the obstacles of the pandemic have now limited these opportunities, making society crave closeness more than ever.
As a vacation rental owner, you can be a part of this shift and provide a safe home for those looking to reconnect.
Travel Is What Americans Miss the Most
If you’ve ever traveled, you’re well aware of the adrenaline and excitement that comes with it. The feeling of exploring new places with people you love is unmatched by any other experience, and this is why travel is the activity that people have missed the most.
The pandemic has resulted in Americans feeling a lack of connection and heightened loneliness (24%). 53% feel less connected to their extended friends and family and 56% feel less connected to their local community. However, thinking of travel boosts people’s happiness by 18% and their hopefulness by 9%.
Traveler confidence is also on the rise. Research shows that 54% of Americans have either booked travel, are currently planning to travel, or expect to travel in 2021. Those more eager to travel tend to be under 50. Whether they’re workationers looking to relocate, families hoping to reconnect, or staycationers seeking a change of scenery, these new guest types present valuable opportunities for vacation rental owners.
In the report, Airbnb Co-Founder and CEO Brian Chesky writes: “Once people feel safe to travel, they will. But it will look different than before the pandemic. Travel will be viewed as an antidote to isolation and disconnection. People don’t generally miss landmarks, crowded shuttles, lines, and lobbies packed with tourists.”
According to Chesky, “Mass travel is really just a different form of isolation—you are anonymous, herded around with other travelers, never really experiencing the people and culture of a community. What people want from travel now is what they’ve been deprived of—spending meaningful time with their family and friends.”
People Want to Connect with Their Loved Ones
What does meaningful travel even mean? According to Airbnb’s research, the top three traits of this type of travel are lasting memories (44%), time with loved ones (39%), and discovery and learning (26%). The majority of people described this concept as “togetherness”.
When faced with such grueling times, one begins to prioritize what truly matters. After experiencing nearly a year of isolation and being saturated with technology as a means of distraction, people are eager to step outside of their homes to spend quality time together.
When asked about traveling post-pandemic, 41% of Americans said that connecting with friends and family was at the top of their list and 52% would like to take a break from technology during their trip. 51% say the first people they will visit are their extended family, followed by their friends (39%) and extended family (33%).
After their first trip, Americans will continue to prioritize traveling to see family and friends. 32% responded that they would like to be close to family, 31% would like to visit a new destination, and 25% want to return to their favorite destination. Those over 50 will prefer to be close to family (33%) or revisit a favorite spot (32%) while younger Americans are interested in using their second trip for a new experience or destination (35%), followed by being close to family (31%), and then being close to nature (23%) and returning to a favorite spot (23%).
Americans Are Flexible on Where and When They Travel
Two in five Americans are able to work or study from home since the start of the pandemic, making them more flexible when it comes to traveling. Because of this, people are also more likely to travel during off-peak times in order to avoid crowds.
There’s also a new spontaneity that exists with travel. Americans are booking trips much closer to their travel dates and deciding to stay long-term. Airbnb’s survey shows that 19% of people have rented a vacation home for a stay of at least 28 days since the start of the pandemic and 24% are looking to book more long-term stays in the future.
While the top destination cities in 2019 were Barcelona, Lisbon, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, New York City, Paris, Rome, Seoul, and Toronto, 2020 took a drastic turn. Lower-profile destinations began to see major growth in demand, with places like Rodanthe, North Carolina and Forks, Washington seeing the largest year-over-year increase in searches.
People Want Affordable Travel Nearby
With the ever-changing international travel regulations, Americans feel much safer choosing domestic destinations. While only 21% want to travel internationally, a whopping 56% prefer staying local. Travel by car continues to increase in popularity, with 55% of Americans responding that they would like to take a trip within driving distance of their home.
For many, the pandemic has resulted in financial turmoil. That said, affordability is the top priority when it comes to booking accommodation. 58% of Americans earning less than $50,000 per year say they have already booked, planned, or expect to travel in 2021. 75% of those earning over $100,000 say the same.
For those who preferred to stay at home altogether, virtual travel was their go-to. Airbnb’s Online Experiences launched in April 2020, helping owners to earn income without physically hosting anyone.
Business Travel Is What Americans Miss the Least
Advances in technology and the adaptations that companies have had to make during the pandemic have changed business travel for good. Research shows that this type of travel is the out-of-home activity that Americans miss the least (5%), compared to the 37% for leisure travel. 36% of participants responded that they expect to travel less for work after the pandemic.
Because 41% of Americans can work or study remotely, the future of business travel will actually be reversed. Instead of traveling for business, employees will travel from the destinations they have relocated to in order to gather at their workplace every now and then.
Safety Is Still a Top Priority
Those traveling or planning to travel in the future are highly prioritizing their health as well as the safety of the communities that they visit. One-third of Americans want the majority of people at a destination to be vaccinated before traveling there, 30% want testing to be available, and 29% would like access to urgent care.
87% of Americans have said that traveling responsibly is important to them. However, the pandemic has changed the way we think of “responsible travel”. When asked what it means to travel responsibly, 21% responded with “avoiding risky behaviors” and 17% responded with “respecting local health protocols”.
Here’s How to Prepare Your Vacation Rental for the Year of Meaningful Travel
The shift from mass travel to meaningful travel presents an opportunity for vacation rental owners looking to welcome guests into their homes. So, how can you accommodate travelers planning to reconnect with their loved ones post-pandemic?
Get vacation rental software
Investing in vacation rental software is the first step in preparing your business for 2021. Because it gives you the ability to manage all your bookings, tasks, guest communications, and finances on one platform, you’ll be able to maximize your efforts and provide the best experience for your clients.
Nowadays, customer service and overcommunication are key in making your guests feel comfortable. By automating messages and texts, you can stay on top of any doubts or questions that arise before your guests even arrive.
Prepare your vacation rental website
Having a bookable vacation rental website transmits professionalism and trust to potential clients. By using templates and SEO-optimization, you’ll be able to increase your online ranking and credibility.
At the moment, the most important part of having your own website is that you can customize the content as you wish. Create pages to highlight your COVID-19 cleaning protocols, make a list of family-friendly activities that your guests can do at home, and mention any amenities or services you might have like an office space or grocery delivery.
Connect to relevant OTAs and sync with a channel manager
Ready to increase your visibility? A channel manager will do exactly that. By syncing your calendars, rates, and bookings across the top online travel agencies, a channel manager will give you the ability to juggle more OTAs while providing the same level of quality to your guests.
Because changes will sync automatically, the chance of double-bookings and other human errors will drop significantly. This will help you save time, improve customer experience, and maximize your revenue.
Revise your pricing strategy
Like we mentioned before, affordability is a huge factor when it comes to accommodation. It’s extremely important to keep that in mind when adapting your rates.
Consider using dynamic pricing, which uses algorithms to set your nightly rate depending on factors like seasonality, the day of the week, and lead-time. This tool is personalized, meaning you can always set a minimum or maximum price.
Set up your cleaning tasks with property management software
It’s not easy keeping track of guest turnover, especially during times where thorough disinfection is required between stays. To facilitate the process, property management software provides tools to efficiently manage tasks.
Both you and your cleaning staff will be able to access important information like check-ins and check-outs in order to plan ahead. These tools will allow you to distribute responsibilities to different team members and receive notifications when each task has been completed.
Focus on the details and create a workspace
Now more than ever, paying attention to small details and improving guest experience is crucial. A handwritten note, a surprise welcome basket, or even stocking up your property with fun activities goes a long way after months of disconnection.
Seeing as your future guests will most likely be a family or group of close friends, you can prepare your vacation rental to provide them with the best possible reunion. Upon receiving a reservation, check in with your guests and ask what they’re looking to do during their stay. You can put together a list of recommendations to ensure that your clients never run out of things to do!
With workationers on the rise, you’ll be able to attract more guests if you create a pleasant workspace in your home. Find a room with enough lighting, invest in a comfortable office chair, and set up a work desk.
Target local travelers
With travelers prioritizing destinations within a driving distance, you should actively focus your marketing efforts on this audience. Draw in domestic travelers by partnering with local businesses, creating optimized blog posts with keywords that they might look for, offering discounts for extended stays, and taking advantage of social media.
As a vacation rental owner, your role in the shift from mass travel to meaningful travel is significant. In order to provide the safest and most enjoyable experience for your future guests, we recommend always staying up-to-date on local regulations and consumer trends.