Short-term Rentals, Present and Future

Even though 2020 is winding down, COVID-19 hasn’t taken a break. The entire travel industry is still reeling from the pandemic. And the month of October began with airlines laying off thousands of employees.

However, travel is a resilient industry and recovery will happen in time. Recently TSA clocked one million passengers in a single day of flying. That’s the most people flying since the start of the pandemic.  Leisure travel is slowly beginning to rebound from its lows earlier in the Spring and is expected to bounce back by the Summer of 2021. Unfortunately, urban-centric business travel has significantly stalled for the foreseeable future and the Bay Area is heavily dependent upon corporate travel to fill hotel rooms and short-term rentals.

Here are some of the current travel trends as we begin in Fall 2020. According to major booking platforms, guests are searching for privacy. Top search filters in the Bay Area included Entire Homes and Self-check-in.

People are continuing to book closer to home. In fact, 55% of San Francisco bookings are from within the Bay Area.

Last-minute bookings have doubled since the emergence of COVID-19 with 56% of stays booked within 7 days of check-in.

Monthly stays are now the fastest growing search segment at Bookings for 4 – 6 weeks increased by 30%. More than half of bookings in the Bay Area are 28+ nights. Please exercise caution with monthly bookings. Squatter’s rights in California could tie-up your property for months!

Rural, drive-to markets are still seeing unprecedented demand for short-term rentals.

So how do you make the most of your rental in the time of COVID-19? Whatever you plan for your survival and future growth, be decisive with your strategy.

Cancelation Flexibility:  The number of bookings with a flexible cancellation policy is 15% higher since COVID.

Emphasize Enhanced Cleaning Policies:  Use enhanced cleaning to gain guest confidence. According to Airbnb, only 25% of hosts in San Francisco have taken the pledge to follow Airbnb’s enhanced cleaning protocol. Listings that are enrolled in the protocol are getting booked more often on average than other listings. Airbnb just took this off the table as an option for hosts. A recent email sent to hosts asks everyone to take the pledge or risk losing their listing.

Take Advantage of Merchandising:  Advertise your listings to drive bookings. Merchandising is free Airbnb marketing that helps guests find and book your listings. Unlock merchandising by using promotions which are flexible offers designed to drive bookings.

Optimize Your Listings:  You should optimize your listing by confirming filters like self-check-in and opting into more flexible cancellation policies.

Offer Long-Term Stays:  As mentioned earlier, exercise caution when taking advantage of this option. Comfort and Convenience were the top two qualities guest looked for in a property for a long-term stay. Guests focused on key attributes including kitchens, laundry, Wi-Fi speed, workspace as well as safety of neighborhood and length of commute to points of interest. Weeklong stays could be a useful tool during the upcoming holiday season as many guests have more flexibility in date ranges.

Adapting to the Future of Travel:  It’s important to keep in mind that people may not travel the same way they did before COVID-19. Remote work and school are blurring the lines between living and traveling and we can expect this trend to continue until the pandemic ends.

Travelers will want more affordable options. The global economy is still struggling and many people remain out of work, so it’s no wonder that the lowest-cost stays—those under $50 USD/night—are growing quickly.

People will continue to book stays closer to home. Since the pandemic began, the percentage of people booking nearby stays has more than doubled from 13% to 30%. Guests will also continue to book trips at the last minute. The percentage of last-minute bookings has doubled since the emergence of COVID-19.

On a more positive note, a drop-off in the number of hosts and listings during the pandemic will mean more potential revenue for remaining property owners who ride out the storm. After months of pent-up demand, many travel forecasters expect a surge in travel by the time a vaccine is readily available.