Just a few months ago, Airbnb's outlook was grim. Bookings were down as much as 96% in some cities, and the company halted all marketing efforts just to stay above water.
Flash forward to July 8, and the short-term rental giant is reporting more than 1 million bookings in a single day. Yep; that's right: During a global pandemic, demand for short-term rentals is surging.
What's causing this uptick, and how can investors capitalize on it? Let's dig a little deeper.
Who's booking short-term rentals right now?
The world has been largely social distancing since March, and according to Airbnb's data, people are ready to get out of the house and get away.
What they don't want to do, though? That's travel to far-off destinations that require a flight or other means of germ-ridden public transport.
Instead, people are looking to book stays in close, drivable destinations -- often in more rural or remote areas around them. According to Airbnb, about half of all July 8 bookings were to destinations within 300 miles, and a whopping two-thirds were to places outside of major cities.
It's a trend that has rural rental hosts raking in the dough. In fact, Airbnb reports that rural hosts earned more than $200 million in June alone -- a 25% uptick over the year.
What you can do as a short-term rental investor
Obviously, there's some serious potential here for short-term rental investors. To start, if your property is in a rural area, batten down the hatches. Get your cleaning protocols in order, and make sure your listing description and photos are up to date.
You should also consider running a special to snag more price-conscious travelers. According to Airbnb's booking data, travelers are increasingly looking for more wallet-friendly rentals (not really a surprise given the unemployment rate and economic uncertainty). Just over half of all July 8 bookings were priced at less than $100 per night.
You can also try some of these strategies to capitalize on the demand:
- Offer a local experience. People are bored and desperate for a change of pace. Hop on the Airbnb Experience bandwagon, and eke some more cash out of your efforts. The platform's newly launched "Online Experiences" actually raked in $2 million in the month of June alone.
- List on other platforms, too. Airbnb isn't the be-all end-all. Consider other short-term rental platforms like VRBO, HomeAway, and these Airbnb alternatives to maximize your exposure.
- Play up the privacy of your place. Travelers want to get away, but they also want to do it safely and without unnecessary exposure to the virus. Change up your listing to highlight the privacy of your property and how it can enable comfortable, fun, and clean social distancing.
- Add more in-home amenities. Given the health crisis, your guests are probably going to spend more time on the property than they normally would, so use this time to improve your amenities. Install an above-ground pool, add in a better TV with surround sound, or include a complimentary basket of wine, cheese, and other foods to make their stay more comfortable.
- Include a work-from-home space. Have an extra closet or spare room? Turn it into a work-from-home space, complete with a desk, comfortable chair, and lightning-fast Wi-Fi. You can bet most of your guests will need to use it.
You should also make an effort to be more flexible -- with both your policies and your house rules. For example, allowing pets (with limitations, of course) might be smart, as many boarding facilities and vets' offices may be closed. You also might be more lenient on booking and cancellation windows, since many travelers are dealing with up-in-the-air work, school, and daycare schedules.
The bottom line
We're in the midst of unprecedented times, but that doesn't mean your short-term rental can't still be successful. Just keep cleanliness top of mind, get creative with your marketing, and stay on top of traveling trends. And don't forget: It's never too early to start marketing for those holiday bookings.