The short-term vacation rental industry may not have emerged from the past year entirely unscathed, but the category as a whole has proven itself to be stronger and more resilient than traditional lodging sectors.
“When the pandemic first hit, all the short-term rental demand fell off a pretty steep cliff,” said Julie Brinkman, CEO of short-term rental revenue management platform Beyond Pricing. “But then, once lockdowns started lifting in mid-May, right around Memorial Day, we saw reservations really start to bounce back strongly, particularly in coastal and nonurban markets.”
Brinkman added that, thanks to an extended high season — with remote work and schooling options helping to drive summer-like vacation rental booking demand well into October — a notable number of Beyond’s short-term rental manager and owner clients actually enjoyed a better year in 2020 than in 2019.
“In my opinion, the pandemic has caused the market for short-term rentals to leapfrog at least a few years in terms of growth,” said Brinkman. “You had Gen X and baby boomers who maybe were more of a traditional hotel demographic trying Airbnbs and Vrbos for the first time and really like it, so you’re seeing growth in that overall pie of demand.”
According to Nicolas Galantini, senior account manager for vacation rental and short-term rental consultancy AJL Consulting, much of the short-term rental industry’s pandemic-era appeal has been fueled by one key element: privacy.
“During Covid, private space became the No. 1 amenity that everyone was looking for,” Galantini said. “Everyone was really trying to limit their contact with strangers.”
Many short-term rentals also benefited from a geographical advantage, added Galantini.
“You can find vacation rentals in almost every town on Earth,” he said, “while for most hotels, you would need some sort of pre-Covid attraction to bring travelers to that destination. So when you had people trying to get out into open space and fresh air, they were automatically drawn to that vacation rental product.”