After a period of rolling out more lenient reservation cancellation policies and more stringent cleaning procedures in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic — as well as withstanding a slew of cancelled bookings — Airbnb and other vacation-rental websites like it are finally starting to see an increase in bookings again.
Between May 17 and June 6, 2020 more nights were booked for travel to Airbnb listings in the U.S. than during the same time period the previous year, according to a recent report released by Airbnb. Furthermore, on a global level, Airbnb saw year-over-year growth in its gross booking value — not including booking cancellations or alterations — during the weekend of June 5 to June 7 for the first time since February.
“People, after having been stuck in their homes for a few months, do want to get out of their houses; that’s really, really clear,” Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, told Bloomberg in an interview. “But they don’t necessarily want to get on an airplane and are not yet comfortable leaving their countries.”
Countries across the world including Germany, New Zealand, South Korea and Portugal are experiencing a rise in domestic Airbnb bookings. Similar websites like Vrbo (owned by Expedia Group Inc.) and Booking Holdings are also seeing the same trend in domestic reservations.
With work from home becoming routine during the pandemic, some domestic travelers are taking advantage by reserving a last-minute stay not too far from home for a more extended period of time rather than planning well in advance for a brief trip to Europe.
“Work from home is becoming working from any home,” Chesky told Bloomberg.
Nola Lu, a public relations spokesperson for Vrbo, told Inman in an email that the company started seeing extended reservations for the end of the summer pop up around mid-April.
“Around Memorial Day the numbers of people doing searches for Vrbo and going to the site reached their highest level since March and are outpacing this time last year,” Lu told Inman.
The new wave of summer reservations for vacation homes comes just as Airbnb rolls out a new campaign to support domestic travel and local economic growth, called “Go Near.” By partnering with local governments and tourism agencies, the booking site hopes to share data and other insights to help local organizations market effectively in a new age of travel.
The rebound in traffic is a hopeful sign for the travel industry, and will keep alive the possibility of Airbnb still making a public market debut sometime by the end of the year, a move the company had originally slated for March 31, but delayed in the wake of the pandemic.
Vrbo President Jeff Hurst told Bloomberg that as areas are starting to reopen for business, he’s seen a flood of traffic.
“If you draw a 250-mile circle around any major metro — every place where you see water in there or mountains or national parks, the homes around it are what’s starting to get booked up,” Hurst said.
As more vacationers get spring and summer fever, it seems they’re seeking out less populous areas where it’s easier to social distance. With fewer hotels available in such areas, people are turning to vacation homes, where they also have more control over what comes in and out, and can make use of a kitchen to prepare their own food.
Although vacation rental searches on Google have remained steady this year compared to last year, hotel searches are down, according to Booking Holdings CMO Arjan Dijk. Dijk said the company’s business has also shifted significantly from about 45 percent domestic travel last year to over 70 percent domestic travel this year.
If Airbnb’s data is any indication, it looks like U.S. travelers will be seeking out areas ripe with beaches and parks for the foreseeable future. The company noted recently that the top five trending destinations in the U.S. are currently Big Bear Lake, California; Miramar Beach, Florida; Panama City Beach, Florida; the Great Smoky Mountains; and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.