Airbnb Stays Are Bouncing Back Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

Jul 24, 2020
Airbnb Stays Bouncing Back Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Sometimes the way to escape cabin fever is by visiting an actual cabin. At least, that seems to be the thought process behind some of the latest travel trends. Airbnb says its business hasn’t fully recovered since the coronavirus pandemic brought travel almost to a standstill, but there are encouraging signs that people are beginning to venture out again, particularly to stay at vacation rentals.

Airbnb says users booked more than a million stays on July 8, 2020. That’s the first time bookings have reached that high since March 3, 2020, before COVID-19 led to state and local shutdowns across the U.S.

Here’s what we know about the types of travel people booked with Airbnb on its big day this July:

More than ⅔ of bookings were within 500 miles

People are staying close by. Five hundred miles is a distance drivable in a single day, and about half of the bookings were even closer (only 300 miles away).

This statistic confirms what many have surmised about what a return to travel might look like in the short-term: Lower rates of air travel ushering in the summer of the road trip.

People want to escape the city

Densely populated cities are some of the hot spots for coronavirus in the U.S. (although rural areas are not exempt from the virus). It appears people are fleeing urban areas and opting for quieter, more spread-out spaces instead. Two-thirds of the nights booked on July 8 were at destinations outside of cities.

This past June, rural hosts (defined as people renting vacation homes or rooms in areas with fewer than 100 inhabitants per square kilometer) made more than $200 million, an increase of more than 25% over June of last year.

Even trending search destinations for Fourth of July weekend seemed to correlate with this notion. Airbnb reported an increase of searches for rentals in:

  • Adirondacks, Catskills and Hudson Valley in New York.

  • The Berkshires in Massachusetts.

  • Coastal New Hampshire.

  • Northern Minnesota.

  • South Shore Lake Michigan.

  • North Carolina’s Outer Banks and Blue Ridge Mountains.

The rental is the destination

Access to attractions and restaurants might be more limited than normal, whether because of COVID-19 restrictions or simply because travelers are opting for more far-out places. Travelers are accommodating to this new reality of traveling by making an experience out of the Airbnb, where they will spend so much time during their upcoming trip. Some recent trends Airbnb has seen include more searches for rentals with swimming pools or unique types of accommodation like cabins, chalets, islands, barns, cottages and boutique hotels.

People are booking affordable nights for immediate travel

Travelers don’t want to put off travel any longer. If they’ve decided to take the risk, many are scheduling trips within weeks. On Airbnb’s massive booking day, “a significant portion” of travelers booked trips within the next 30 days. More than half of the bookings were for less than $100 per night as well, meaning the majority of people aren’t necessarily splurging on these summer trips.

The bottom line

This data might resonate with people who are trying to figure out their own boundaries when it comes to safe travel right now. Like airlines and hotels, Airbnb has introduced new cleaning standards for its properties — but the safety of each rental will vary by host and location.

If you're a traveler who wants the whole place to yourself when you book, Airbnb might feel like a safer option compared to staying at more traditional hotels or motels, where you run the risk of more exposure to other guests. But before you book any trips, it’s a good idea to check the rate of coronavirus cases and current public health policies at your potential destination.

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