Bookings already show a strong summer 2021 for most markets in the U.S and, as expected, destination/resort markets will capture most of that demand as domestic travel to beaches and mountains remains popular. Through mid-May, demand (nights) in those markets was up over 40% relative to the same time in 2019. Small cities/rural areas are already pacing 62% higher for this summer than in 2019.

Cities’ Slumps Mean Fewer Guests

A recovery in large cities is just beginning to take shape. Since the start of the year, each week’s new bookings have looked slightly better when compared to 2019. In early 2021, bookings in large cities were 45% lower than 2019’s pace. Now, bookings are only 15% below 2019’s pace.

The deficit of new bookings continued to compound and summer bookings are currently about 46% lower in urban areas than in 2019. Lead times for stays in large cities will remain short, as there continues to be plenty of availability and little incentive to book far in advance.  

The “New Normal” of Travel is Here

Will increased flexibility to live and work anywhere change the short-term rental sector forever? Probably not, but there are plenty of tailwinds for the sector that should help it get back to its pre-pandemic trend growth rate. In the longer term, we will see the short-term rental industry continue to professionalize and expand its share of total lodging spend. Brands like Vacasa and Sonder will grow and competition between Airbnb and Vrbo will intensify, especially as continues to penetrate the short-term rental space and hosts increasingly look for ways to drive direct bookings. 

While the industry will somewhat normalize with the return of international travel, consumer trust and sentiment towards the short-term rental sector has strengthened during the pandemic, which will accelerate its recovery rates compared to its lodging counterparts.

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