Summer 2020 is here!

Instead of a flood of guests filling our booking calendars, our hearts are filled with a certain amount of dread, and our heads brim with questions about what this summer will mean for our small businesses.

A worldwide pandemic has taken a giant bite out of our summer dreams and brought the entire travel industry to its knees. Airbnb has delayed its much-anticipated IPO and laid off 25,000 employees worldwide.

In a world seemingly taking unexpected turns at every corner, what can we expect this summer to mean for the vacation rental industry?

Travel came to a virtual standstill this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic. The vast majority of travelers canceled their plans as people sheltered in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

So, who will come and when will they arrive?

Expect June to begin slowly, painfully slow. This summer, the hordes of international tourists will be replaced by cautious Americans on a road trip.

Memorial Day Weekend is often called “the unofficial start of Summer.” For the first time ever, AAA couldn’t even predict how many Americans would travel for Memorial Day. AAA said the accuracy of the economic data used to create the prediction has been undermined by COVID-19. The pandemic has left many seasoned travel experts scratching their heads wondering what the future will bring.

Predictions for how and when travel will return—and what it will look like when it does—run the gamut. Some think we’ll see travelers start heading out this summer, others predict that it could take much longer before travelers feel confident to explore the world again. But what most sources appear to agree on is a gradual return to travel.

Travelers will book more trips at the last minute. People will book stays closer to home. Since the pandemic began, the percentage of people booking nearby stays has more than doubled from 13% to 30%.

More travelers will opt for leisure destinations over urban. That means mountain cabins and beachside bungalows will be in high demand.

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

This summer’s guests will be looking for entire house/apartment listings and those with separate entrances to reduce or eliminate interaction with hosts.

The majority of past and prospective guests have told us they’d feel more comfortable staying with their families in a space listed on Airbnb than at a hotel.

Cleanliness will be more important than ever. The good news is that Airbnb hosts already have a strong track record here—in 94% of reviews, guests have given your spaces 4 or 5 stars for cleanliness. And with our new enhanced cleaning protocol, you’ll be in an even better position to protect yourselves and your guests, and to stand out from the crowd.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that prospective travelers keep an eye on the number of coronavirus cases in the destination they plan on visiting and not traveling there if COVID-19 is actively spreading. The agency also recommends avoiding crowded settings while traveling.

Data suggests this virus is going to be part of our travel plans this summer. Much of the future is uncertain, but two things seem abundantly clear: People are concerned with protecting themselves from this virus, but they also wish to spend time with friends and family away from laptops and living rooms.

Chip Rogers, President and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), said that his organization, which represents more than 27,000 hotels in the United States, is estimating that demand for leisure travel will return by mid-summer, that business travel will start to return sometime in the late third quarter or early fourth quarter of 2020, and that the conference, meeting, and convention business won’t be back until 2021.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, or in the case summer. When it comes to lodging, many health and travel experts believe that short-term rentals such as Airbnb and VRBO could outperform hotels in the near-term as travelers attempt to avoid interactions with strangers.

Recent occupancy prediction models compiled by short-term rental analytics company, show more activity in mid-summer and a return to near normal occupancy rates by September.

Use this downtime constructively. Now is a great time to freshen up your listing or make a few cosmetic improvements to your property. But most importantly, remain focused on the understanding that the short-term rental industry will rebound stronger than ever