Beyond COVID19 – Five Trends That are Shaking up Vacation Rentals

Lodge on a lake in the sunset

2020 has been a year of unprecedented change, the likes of which have never been seen before in the travel and tourism industry. However, there are signs of market recovery, and the future looks positive for vacation rental homes in particular. Here we look at five key trends that are set to shake up the future of vacation rentals in a big way. Read on and get ahead of the game for 2021!

Vacation Rentals Optimism Survey reveals trends to watch

At the height of the lockdown earlier this year, we ran our Vacation Rentals Optimism Survey (May 2020). Against the backdrop of the pandemic, we wanted to investigate how people were feeling about future travel, holidays and vacation rental stays post-COVID19.

Over 350 people shared their views, and the results revealed significant market shifts in favour of vacation rentals, as well as huge optimism and appetite for future travel. 73% of respondents said they were likely or very likely to book a trip once COVID19 restrictions ease, with 84% looking to travel in the next 12 months.

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1. Vacation rentals more popular than hotels

Greenmyre Farmhouse
Vacation rentals offer guests clear advantages over hotel stays

Even before COVID19, there was already clear evidence of vacation rentals gaining significant accommodation share over hotels. One study suggests that after staying in a vacation rental property for the first time, the likelihood that travellers will then prefer a traditional hotel as their accommodation choice is halved.

Our survey data revealed that COVID19 has further strengthened this trend, with 66% of respondents preferring to stay in a vacation rental rather than a hotel.  The personal and private nature of vacation rentals, where guests stay with their immediate family or close friends only, offers clear advantages overcrowded hotels used by hundreds of people. More people are using vacation rentals for the first time, and preferring this going forward means that vacation rental share gains because of COVID19 are likely to become permanent.

Market share of holiday accommodation for vacation rentals was previously around 14%, yet recent data shows this is set to quadruple. This is indicative of a permanent switch in preference for vacation rentals over hotels for many people. Additionally, Google trend data shows keyword searches in the UK for ‘holiday home’ and ‘holiday rental’ were more than double the previous top figures for recent years.

2. 'Drive to' destinations beat 'fly to'

Car packed for holiday
Domestic tourism now represents 70% of all Airbnb trips, versus 45% last year

With international travel and tourism one of the biggest casualties of COVID19, the switch to domestic travel is a burgeoning trend which vacation rentals can tap into. As travel bans and quarantine rules persist, foreign travel may be off the cards for the time being. However, this has not dampened our appetite for travel – it is still taking place, just closer to home. Our Vacation Rentals Optimism survey revealed that 57% of those intending to travel in the next 12 months would opt for UK-based staycation holidays. 

The popularity of ‘drive to’ versus ‘fly to’ destinations is having an impact on a global scale. Recent reports from Airbnb show that globally, domestic tourism now represents around 70% of trips versus 45% for the same period last year. Analysis from Skift singles out China and the UK as countries set to make the biggest $ gains from domestic bookings.

3. Shift from rural to urban

Autumn countryside
COVID19 has seen an increase in demand for rural staycation breaks.

Another clear preference is the increase in demand for staycation holidays in rural, countryside and coastal destinations, opposed to urban towns and cities. Dubbed ‘the urban escape’ this traveller behaviour is driven by COVID19 lockdowns, the general climate of uncertainty and the requirement for social distancing. These factors combine to drive increased appetite for domestic holidays in rural locations. 


People want vacation rentals within a reasonable driving distance of their homes, where they feel surrounded by natural scenery where they can get away from it all.  This is good news for vacation rentals which tend to offer significantly better coverage in rural areas than hotels. According to Airbnb, hosts in rural areas of the US earned over $200 million in June 2020, an increase of more than 25% on the previous year.

4. Stay demographics are in flux

Stay demographics are also changing in response to evolving traveller preferences post COVID19. Most notably, overall length of stay has seen a change, with the average length of stay increasing to 7.43 days at the height of the pandemic in April 2020. This suggests that people are looking to get away for longer periods of time, perhaps to make up for foreign holidays they have so far been able to take. 


Guests are also booking far more impulsively. Instead of booking 30 to 60 days in advance, people are booking trips with far less lead time. Data from Rentals United shows that in August 2020, 26.59% of all travellers booked 1-6 days out, compared to 21.07% in August 2019. Reducing your booking notice to allow next day arrivals is a smart move to attract more last-minute bookings. 

5. Renewed focus on guest experience

A well-equipped kitchen
A well-equipped kitchen is top of guests' wishlists for vacation rental properties.

Post-COVID19 guests still want a brilliant experience at a vacation rental property, however, their expectations have shifted and demands are different. The overall quality of the property is much more important, as guests are likely to be spending more time there than out and about visiting the local area. Guests are looking for a real home from home that ticks all the boxes. A high-quality, luxury finish is important. 

Amenities are always important in a holiday home, but the emphasis has changed. The availability of things like reliable WiFi, a space to work, and a desk will be important to guests who need to work from the property. For families who may not want to eat out, a well-equipped kitchen to prepare meals and plenty of space to eat together becomes paramount.

Understandably, guests expect a renewed emphasis on safety and cleanliness from hosts. Guests who book a vacation rental property need to have absolute confidence that the property has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitised in accordance with recommended cleaning protocols before their stay. From November 2020, Airbnb will introduce COVID19 safety practices which hosts must follow, including a 5-step cleaning process that is required between each stay.

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