Short-term rentals had an up-and-down year in 2020. Bookings plummeted in the early days of the pandemic thanks to lockdowns and travel restrictions. Though they picked up later on in the year, it was quickly evident these weren't your average, days-of-past bookings.
Interest in rural and more remote properties jumped. Travelers looked for places to isolate and socially distance rather than party it up or hit cultural hotspots. Stays got longer.
Will these trends continue as we get further into 2021? What about when vaccines are more widely distributed? Let's dive in.
Five trends to expect
Once vaccine distribution ramps up, travel is sure to gain steam as well. But that doesn't mean it will go back to "normal" by any means.
In fact, according to new reports from Airbnb (NASDAQ: ABNB) and AirDNA, a short-term rental analytics firm, we can expect some definitive changes in the travel industry for 2021 -- and likely beyond. Here are five trends the two companies expect this year.
1. Lack of seasonality
Prior to the pandemic, it was easy to predict when those bookings would pick up and slow down. But now that people are largely working from home (and many kids are schooling from home, too), that typical seasonality isn't really valid anymore.
"Now that remote work and learning are giving many people more freedom to choose when they travel, a significant percentage of Americans are more open to traveling during off-peak times of year and days of the week," Airbnb's report says. According to the company's recent survey, 25% of travelers are opting for off-peak seasons or days of the week this year.
Markets are less tied to seasons, too. Take AirDNA's recent data, for example. Though ski towns are typically popular destinations in the winter, bookings show travelers plan to visit these markets well into spring this year -- particularly places like Big Bear and Lake Tahoe, California.
2. Close-to-home locations
Airbnb's report shows most travelers are planning to stay close to home this year. Over half said they plan to go somewhere domestic or local, while just 21% say they'll venture further out (or even go international). Another 20% say they'll stick within driving distance of their home base.
Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, wrote: "Wherever we go in 2021, for most of us, it won't be far from home. We will get in cars and travel nearby, dispersing to thousands of smaller cities, towns, and rural communities, making tourism an important part of how local economies recover."
3. More spacious bookings
Pod travel has been big this year. Families pick one or two households to "isolate" with, and they lean on each other for support, socialization, and often schooling while maintaining social distance from other households. They also often travel together, which requires larger properties with more square footage.
"Hosts who managed bigger, single-family units made out best" in 2020, according to AirDNA. The company projects these properties to outperform other segments again this year, so if you're thinking about a new investment, keep this in mind when choosing your property.
4. Longer stays
Travelers are also opting for longer stays. Part of this is due to the increase in remote work and school arrangements, and part is just pure desire for a change of scenery during isolation.
AirDNA data shows that short bookings of one to seven days accounted for 80% of all bookings prior to the pandemic. After, that fell to just 30%.
AirDNA's report states: