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Airbnb trends 2021: How to get bookings by answering the need to reconnect with loved ones

Airbnb trends 2021: Americans prioritize travel to be close to family

2021: People want to and will travel

So, when is the time for revenge travel coming? Will we soon see the comeback of travel? Yes, says Airbnb, in its travel report titled From Isolation to Connection – Travel in 2021.

According to Airbnb, travel for pleasure is the out-of-home activity Americans have missed the most—over going to restaurants and bars, and attending sporting and other live events

54% have either already booked, are currently planning to travel, or expect to travel in 2021. This includes 57% of 18- to 29-year-olds, and 60% of 30- to 49-year-olds.

Loneliness is weighing on many of us; Travel to see family & friends is the best antidote

Airbnb trends 2021: Americans prioritize travel to be close to family

The Airbnb 2021 travel report states that one-quarter of Americans (24%) report feeling either loneliness or emptiness. People are feeling isolated and lonely:

  • 53% feel less connected to their extended family,
  • 53% feel less connected to their friends.

The type of travel people have missed the most is visiting with family and friends. Business travel is the type of travel they have missed the least.

Americans prioritize travel to be close to family (32%) but equally prioritize a new experience or destination (31%), preferably nearby, followed by a return to a favorite destination (25%).

Rental Scale-Up’s takeaway:

  • We knew that catering to families was important: Vrbo’s 2021 travel trend report mentioned that “82% of US families surveyed already have travel plans in mind for 2021”. Vrbo’s commercials are also abundantly promoting family vacation rentals.
  • In our own 2021 vacation rental trend report, we said that “Family is a core topic, both as a traveler group and a reason to travel in uncertain times.”
  • Loneliness brings another dimension:
    • Large vacation rentals where you can reconnect with your family (or with your friends, but probably not at the same time) will be in demand. We witnessed it in 2020. Update your listing photos and descriptions to show how group-friendly and family-friendly your property. How can you convince travelers that your place is the best to spend shared moments? Why should they pick your place over another to finally reconnect with people they missed? What should you add to your rental, from a barbecue to board games?
    • This is not just about large properties: People may also book 1-bedroom apartments in cities if this is where their family lives. How can you leverage this trend? What words can you use in your property description to convey that your condo is safe and clean so that people will not have to worry if they drop by their loved ones?
    • In Europe, where cross-border travel should reopen for the summer, a key target group is expats. For instance, Greek expats in Germany or in the UK may not have come home for a long time. And they may want to book for several weeks at a time. How may you target them? Do some Facebook groups for expats from your country welcome posts about properties? Do some expat groups have a newsletter that you can sponsor? Can you offer a weekly or monthly discount to expat coming back to your country to see friends and family?

Familiar faces AND familiar places

Airbnb trends 2021: US travelers prefer a domestic or local destination

In its 2021 travel trend report, Booking.com had identified a trend called “Familiarists, not tourists”. According to their survey across 28 countries, 50% of travelers intend to travel somewhere – locally or not – they’ve already been previously for its familiarity. The same source said that 47% of people are planning to travel within their own country in the medium term (7-12 months).

Airbnb’s findings are aligned with those of Booking.com. According to Airbnb:

  • 56% of US travelers prefer a domestic or local destination,
  • while only 21% who want to visit someplace international and farther away.
  • One in two (51%) are more interested in being isolated beyond major tourist areas than they are in being “surrounded by people and energy” (24%)

Rental Scale-Up’s takeaway:

  • Just as in 2020, domestic and local travel will be big. What are key local vacation rental listing sites that you can add to your existing channels? In France, for instance, classifieds sites such as Le Bon Coin are still very popular. Local tourism bureaus can also be useful.
  • Searches for “vacation rentals near me” will be big, as in 2020. Make sure to update your presence in Google My Business and Google vacation rentals.
  • Get back to your past guests: To people who usually book with you, tell them how nice it will be to come back to a familiar spot. Remember to contact people who had booked with you in 2020 but had to cancel, especially the ones that can drive to you or come with a direct flight.
  • Cabins, lodges, and cottages will remain very popular. If you are a property manager, it may still be time to add such an inventory to your portfolio of properties.
  • If your inventory is located in a city, how may you convey that it is in a quiet neighborhood and in a calm building?

Longer season and longer stays

Airbnb trends 2021: vacation rentals experience longer season and longer stays

In 2020 and early 2021, some areas recorded an extreme seasonality, with overbooked summers and empty winters (due to travel restrictions), while other regions saw new patterns. For instance, summer is usually low season on the Caribbean island of St Barths. Yet, in 2020, high-heeled Americans flew in drove to this destination to escape New York City where the virus was raging.

According to Airbnb, one-quarter of Americans are open to traveling during off-peak times of year and days of the week. One quarter also see themselves undertaking more long-term stays, while nearly one in five (19%) say they already have rented a vacation home for a stay of more than 28 days since the pandemic started.

Rental Scale-Up’s takeaway:

  • Consider what happened in your area in 2020 and look at your booking pace date for 2021: Have seasonal booking patterns changed? For instance, your shoulder season may be longer than in the past, as more people may want to stay and work at a vacation rental in October and November. Make sure not to leave money on the table by lowering your prices too early.
  • Weekly and monthly discounts may be a great idea to attract remote workers in the low season.

What guests wants: Calm and affordable accommodations, while cleanliness becomes less of an obsessions

Airbnb trends 2021: guests looking for calm, affordable vacation rental accommodations

The pandemic, travel restrictions, and other dramas have a created a heavy news cycle for a lot of people. Home schooling has exhausted more than one parent. People want to rest a bit.

According to this 2021 Airbnb travel report, one attribute specific to the first post-pandemic trip is that people are seeking a sense of calm and security. The top emotions they want to feel during that first trip are “relaxed” (44%), “comfortable” (34%) and “safe” (33%).

In April and May 2020, people thought the virus could be caught by touching surfaces. Airbnb cleaning became a hot topic, especially with the Enhanced Cleaning Initiative. Yet, in 2021, price trumps cleanliness: Affordability is the top priority overall when it comes to choosing accommodation not just for the first trip but for future travel indefinitely (54%), beating health and safety protocols by 10 points.

Rental Scale-Up’s takeaway:

  • In 2020, the rise of illegal Airbnb house parties forced the company to ban party houses and restrict young people from making same-city same-night bookings.
  • In 2021, safety is also a concern for guests. Things should run smoothly. What does it mean for your operations? What information should you make available to your guests before they arrive so that they find the experience relaxed? What little touches can you add to your property to make it feel more comfortable? Our 2021 list of vacation rental gadgets may give you some inspiration.
  • Booking.com had identified cleanliness as a key factor for 2021. Yet, the obsession with complicated health and safety protocols may be receding, for more simple measures such as mask-wearing and social-distancing.
  • Airbnb and Booking.com agree that short-term rental operators should create discounts and make their places affordable. This is understandable that it is what guests say they want. Yet, in multiple regions, revenge travel will be so high and available inventory so low that property managers will have no reason to lower their prices. Once again, 2020 travel trends showed that several traditional vacation rental destinations were in very high demand and maintained their average daily rates.

Business travel is dead, long live remote working?

Airbnb trends 2021: will remote work overtake business travel

Airbnb does not see business travel coming back: People do not really miss traveling for work, unless it is their choice, à la remote working.

Business travel is the type of travel people miss the least: 6%, versus travel to spend time with loved ones at number one with 48%.

More than one-third of people surveyed (36%) expect to travel less for work after the pandemic compared to before it began.

The pandemic has institutionalized remote working for many companies—two in five Americans (41%) are able to work or study from home at least some of the time. In another recent survey commissioned by Airbnb, 35% of respondents say it will become more common post-pandemic for people to relocate to new places so they can take advantage of the ability to work remotely.

Rental Scale-Up’s takeaway:

  • How can you show travelers that they can comfortably work from your property? Have a look at Airbnb’s laptop-friendly and Booking.com’s work-friendly program requirements to understand what is needed. Update your listing photos and description to attract this type of travelers.
  • Use weekly and monthly discounts to attract bookings with longer lengths of stay.
  • If your properties, such as serviced apartments, used to exclusively cater to business travelers, how may you instead attract remote workers and digital nomads? Can you make them a bit more child-friendly in case people work and travel with their family? Can you make your apartments less anonymous so that people feel more in at their temporary than on a business trip?

Brian Chesky’s introduction to this 2021 travel report sums up these trends with talent.


Rental Scale-Up

Thibault is the founder of Rental Scale-Up. He owns vacation rentals in St. Barths and Bali. He also leads innovative projects for companies within the vacation rental industry. Feel free to reach out to Thibaut Masson on Linkedin.


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