Most vacation rental owners across the country are overdue for some good news. COVID-19 has flipped the tourism and hospitality industry on its head, and small business owners, property managers, and vacation rental owners have felt the impact.
And while COVID-19 has brought a lot of chaos and confusion, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Amidst the negative news and scary statistics, there is good news for those in the short term rental industry.
People are starting to travel again (up 127% from early April)
New bookings across various rental platforms are slowly but surely picking up again, as families are starting to venture out and travel again for the first time in months. While summer booking numbers this year aren’t as high as they normally are, bookings are at their highest point since March. This is not only evidence that people are planning summer trips, but that more and more travelers are open-minded about end of the year trips as well.
Based on AirDNA data, vacation rental booking plummeted at the beginning of march as news of the virus began to surface. April 5th was a bad week for many vacation rental owners, but as the weeks progressed, there was a slow but steady increase of bookings leading into the month of May.
The rebound was faster than most expected, and brought the number of bookings on AirBnb and VRBO from 916,000 to 2.08 million in just weeks.
Across the globe, vacation rental owners are seeing an increase in bookings in just 6-8 weeks since the lowest point in April. For example:
- New Zealand saw 465% more bookings in early June than in the last month and a half. Many contribute this to their commitment to shutting down their country and putting rules and regulations in place to help flatten the curve.
- Germany was another country that saw a surge of bookings recently, reporting 367% more bookings than previous weeks.
- In the United States and France, there has been a 200% increase in bookings.
- Australia’s booking numbers are also up, coming in at an 189% increase in the last few weeks.
As summer approaches, people across the world have spent almost 100 days in quarantine, and are desperate for a change of scenery. Vacation rentals are quickly becoming a popular option for those who want to stay home but are tired of being home. There is also an opportunity to provide a well-deserved getaway for essential workers and first responders.
Vacation rental owners can take advantage of the fact that people are eager for a change of scenery but still want to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing and staying put.
Domestic travel is on the rise
While the numbers and statistics are showing that people are becoming more open-minded to travel, many travelers are choosing to take it one small step at a time. This means instead of elaborate three and four week getaways to other countries, people are starting with destinations that they can get to on a single tank of gas. Shorter, more local vacations are on the rise, as people are ready to vacation but still cautious about venturing out too far.
There have been more domestic trips planned between mid May and early June this year than there were last year, which may mean people who are usually staying home for the summer are ready for a chance of pace, or perhaps the people who take long-distance summer vacations are choosing to stay closer to home. Either way, some of the industries most popular listing sites like Expedia and VRBO are reporting an increase in domestic travel reservations.
New cleaning and sanitizing protocols
Many vacation rental owners have taken the obstacle of COVID-19 and turned it into an opportunity to learn something new. Cleanliness in the vacation home industry has always been paramount, but now it has become more important than ever to find effective ways to limit the spread. Many owners have adopted new and improved cleaning and sanitizing strategies to reduce cross-contamination and create a clean and healthy rental environment.
Small touches like leaving hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes in the home for guests to use have become the norm, and upgrades to cleaning processes have changed the way owners view their cleaning procedures. For guests concerned about germs on vacation, this is a welcomed change that can help them feel more comfortable on vacation.
Families are actively seeking more intimate accommodations
Although people are starting to travel, many report still being cautious about crowded spaces, and sharing public amenities. Many families who typically stay in hotels are looking for more intimate alternatives that limit their exposure to other people. Travelers are seeking out private accommodations with private amenities they can enjoy with their families without the need of sharing with other guests. And this is great news for vacation rental owners.
Vacation rentals are becoming a top choice for travelers headed to rural destinations where it can be difficult to find a safe, clean, and accessible hotel. It’s also a top choice for those who want their own space, their own kitchens, and more control over who they share their space with. Vacation homes with kitchens give guests the option to cook meals at home instead of going out to a restaurant, and helps to avoid spending time in crowded spaces like common areas and lobbies.
Vacation rentals are better equipped to survive the crisis than hotels
If there’s one thing about our industry, it’s that it’s adaptable. There’s room for flexibility and grace in the vacation rental process, and owners are used to switching things up to better serve their guests.
Vacation rental owners have adopted new policies, eliminated others, and changed the way they do business to attract more business. For example, some rental owners have changed their approach to self-check-ins and cleaning by blocking their calendar for keeping their home empty for a set period in between stays, with no activity other than cleaning. Others have adapted their cancellation policies for families who have booked but can no longer travel.
The personalization of the short term rental community is one of the main reasons guests choose vacation homes over traditional travel accommodations. Some of these changes may be temporary until things go back to “normal,” while other practices and policy changes that have served the guests and the host well may become permanent. Either way, the adaptability and fluidity of the vacation home industry will help it recover from the impacts of COVID-19 quickly.
What to take away
In a world where it is easy to be overwhelmed with negative news and uncertainty, small business owners are desperate for some good news. Thankfully, industry experts are confident that the short term vacation rental industry will recover from this, and rental owners will learn new, more effective ways to provide a five-star guest experience.