Demand up for short-term rentals

Short-term rental performance has exceeded all expectations in 2021, as demand has surged in small-town and destination markets throughout the U.S., even surpassing 2019 levels in April 2021.

“The short-term rental sector is dependent on discretionary spending and dissimilarly to other recessions U.S. consumer incomes have remained high throughout the pandemic. This combined with pent-up demand bodes well for a gradual return to normalcy, granted there are no emerging COVID-19 variants and vaccine uptake remains high,” Jamie Lane, VP of Research at AirDNA said. 

The Revival of the Great American Cities

While unprecedented demand in small city/rural and destination/resort markets dominated 2020 and 2021, 2022 will focus on a return to the great American cities.

Through April of 2021, demand was still down over 40% compared to 2019 in urban areas. But as more people are vaccinated and attractions begin to reopen, AirDNA expects urban travel to begin to recover in the back half of 2021, leading to a full recovery by 2023.

“The main risk to major U.S cities is Americans traveling abroad before the U.S. welcomes back international guests, tipping the scales against cities like New York and San Francisco where international tourism is historically as much as 30% of total demand,” Scott Shatford, CEO of AirDNA said.

Will Travel Flexibility be Hampered by the Reopening of Schools and Offices?

While it’s unlikely that increased flexibility has changed the short-term rental sector forever, as more companies move towards hybrid models, extended trips will be much more common than pre-pandemic as travelers combine business and leisure trips.

In Q1 2021, the average length of stay was four days — a full 25% higher than prior to the pandemic. As leisure and business travel return to these cities, the length of stay will shorten but remain materially higher than 2019 levels. 

While the industry will somewhat normalize with the return of international travel, the short-term rental sector has strengthened consumer trust and sentiment during the pandemic, which will only strengthen its position within the lodging market.

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