Short-Term Rentals See a Surge in Demand Again

June 10, 2020

City dwellers looking for an escape this summer are rushing to find short-term rentals. Sites like Airbnb and Vrbo are reporting a jump in numbers lately. Case in point: Airbnb says it has more nights booked for U.S. listings between May 17 and June 3 than compared to that same period a year ago. Other firms like Booking Holdings Inc. are also reporting an increase in vacation rentals.

“People, after having been stuck in their homes for a few months, do want to get out of their houses; that’s really, really clear,” Brian Chesky, Airbnb CEO, told Bloomberg. “But they don’t necessarily want to get on an airplane and are not yet comfortable leaving their countries.”

Unprecedented cancellations have haunted the short-term rental sector since COVID-19 broke out in the U.S. in March. Airbnb cut a quarter of its workforce in response, as it expected revenue for the year to be half of what it was in 2019.

But a rebound may be coming faster than predicted. Airbnb has more listings than it did before the crisis, Chesky told Bloomberg. The top destinations on its site are Big Bear Lake in southern California, the Smoky Mountains, and Port Aransas, Texas. The COVID-19 world has shifted from traveling “from airplane to car, big city to small location, hotel to home,” Chesky says.

Short-term vacation site Vrbo is reporting a surge in demand as tourist states reopen like in Florida and Maine. “If you draw a 250-mile circle around any major metro—every place where you see water in there or mountains or national parks, the homes around it are what’s starting to get booked up,” Jeff Hurst, president of Vrbo, told Bloomberg.