Co-Founder & CEO of Anyplace.
Covid-19 has had a significant impact on many industries. The vacation rental industry, in particular, has been hit hard as countries regulated travel. The number of travelers crossing borders has declined dramatically. European countries like France and Germany have eased travel restrictions, but locked down again as the number of people infected skyrocketed.
The good news is that there’s been significant progress in developing and delivering a vaccine, but these shake-ups are likely to continue for some time. Even with the hope that a vaccine will reduce the infection rate of Covid-19, many short-term rental operators expect the pandemic to continue for at least a year, possibly several. But how will they survive?
Travel Industry Giants In Action
In light of this, online travel agencies (OTAs) like Booking.com and Airbnb have expressed interest in moving into the extended-stay space. Booking.com announced that it’s looking to introduce extended stays. And Airbnb created a monthly-stay category, which encourages hosts to promote extended stays to guests.
Beyond OTAs, some hotel operators, such as Red Lion Hotels, have started to offer their own extended-stay plans. Vacation rental operators are starting to offer discounted long-stay plans as well. For example, Sonder, a major vacation rental operator, is offering discounts of up to 45% for longer stays.
As the founder and CEO of a flexible-term fully furnished accommodation marketplace, I have personally seen short-term rental operators renting out their properties for longer stays over the past few months. In addition, inbound inquiries to our platform in October 2020 are up 200% compared to January 2020 – pre-Covid-19.
The Age Of The Nomadic Lifestyle
The impact of Covid-19 has made it possible for many people to work remotely. With major companies like Microsoft allowing remote work permanently, this movement will continue if not accelerated. Just as the way work has changed, lifestyles are changing as well.
According to the Wall Street Journal, many people are moving (paywall) out of urban areas like New York and San Francisco. Some are becoming digital nomads, working from wherever they want while traveling. According to Bloomberg, the number of people who consider themselves digital nomads has increased from an estimated 7.3 million in pre-pandemic 2019 to 10.9 million in 2020.
With travel restrictions still in place, some are hesitant to move across borders. This leaves room for so-called domestic nomads who move around the U.S. While the coronavirus has negatively impacted the travel industry, it has also created a new market for the nomadic lifestyle and slow travel.
How can rental operators attract remote workers?
There are several opportunities for short-term rental operators to take advantage of the nomadic lifestyle trend.
Rural areas: With the availability of remote work, many people are moving away from urban areas. This gives an opportunity to operators in more rural areas. My own company has seen a growing need for housing in Denver, Austin and Miami. In such areas, workers can live a high quality of life at a cheaper cost compared to urban rents.
Nature: Due to the impact of Covid-19, there is also a desire to camp and explore vanlife — often in place of traveling to urban areas. This trend shows that people want access to or to live in a nature-rich environment where they don’t have to worry about social distancing. Getting away from the city and spending time in nature is relaxing and can help with productivity and helping to attract remote workers and nomads.
Work environment: An essential part of attracting nomads is providing a good working environment at the property. You can become the property of choice for nomads by providing high-speed Wi-Fi, a large work desk, an ergonomic office chair, outlet space for charging and a second monitor — among other upgrades. These amenities can not only help attract workers who are nomads, but are often considered upgrades worth paying for by consumers.
The Future Of Slow Travel
Vacation rental operators, whose main revenue stream came from short stays, are trying to survive the pandemic by filling their rooms with longer stays. Many people will choose the freedom to live their lives, relocating and working wherever they want and whenever they want, instead of staying in the same place for a long period of time. I believe slow travel is not just a trend during Covd-19 — it is a long-term phenomenon that will continue after the pandemic. Today’s vacation rental operators will be willing to work effectively to attract nomadic clients — among those returning to shorter vacation travel — post-Covid-19.