After months on lockdown, after months of Zooming … comes the itch to escape to the great outdoors, even if the great outdoors is pretty much someone else’s backyard or breakfast table.
The coronavirus has spurred the rebound of road trips, where some stats show that the dawn of summer has given rise to vacation rental bookings – though admittedly off a bottom that seems as steep as a visit to the Grand Canyon.
In other words, domestic travel is the way to go, hearkening back to the days when, decades ago, American families piled into station wagons and logged hundreds of miles on the odometer.
The trend has been global in scope. Airbnb has seen bookings for U.S. listings between May 17 and June 3 grow year over year as measured against 2019. Other areas seeing a pickup in activity include Germany and Portugal, according to reports in Bloomberg. The jump is not confined to Airbnb alone, as Expedia Group has seen growth in its VRBO unit.
According to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky in an interview with Bloomberg, travelers feel more comfortable making domestic journeys. The jump comes after bookings in major metro areas were down double digits in recent weeks compared to the beginning of the year. This time around, the demand is seen across vacation rental markets, such as in southern California and in the Smoky Mountains. As noted in this space earlier, the percentage of bookings that occur within a 200-mile radius has accounted for about 50 percent of bookings seen in May.
There’s a certain appeal tied to being able to vacation in what might be likened to a “bubble” – where on-site kitchens and laundry mean people can cook and clean their own environments to their liking, and exercise some control.
The ripple effects may refashion the tourism industry – short term, to be sure, but also long term.
The perception that short- and longer-term rentals are less risky than hotels might challenge hotels to step up their own battle for travelers’ share of minds and wallet. And certainly the airlines, which have continued to have a rough time navigating the pandemic, will be hard-pressed to see top lines return, particularly as international travel remains tepid.
There are other ripple effects to be felt, too, this summer, as we contend prices are likely to increase at the pump. Those who can work remotely can, of course, work from their vacation spots with the ease provided by Wi-Fi and video apps.
Bloomberg noted that searches for vacation rentals on Google are at about at the same level as last year. But hotel searches are down, said Booking Holdings Chief Marketing Officer Arjan Dijk – and interest is decidedly focused on domestic travel, which stands at 70 percent of Booking Holdings’ business, where previously it had been 45 percent.
Get ready, then, for the staycation that is here to stay.