‘Quarantine in Paradise’: Virus Vacations Are Stretching Longer - OZY | A Modern Media Company

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Urbanites who can afford to get out of the cities are bolstering Airbnb-style businesses.

City dwellers have sharply extended the length of short-term rental stays as they hunt for bolt-holes to escape coronavirus hot spots such as London and New York.

AirDNA, a data analytics group that tracks listings from companies including Airbnb and Expedia-owned rival VRBO, found that 50 percent of new bookings in recent weeks have been for two weeks or more. And beyond that:

The average length of a vacation rental has jumped from 4.5 days to 9.

That’s according to data from Guesty, which provides software to short-term rental owners in 80 countries.

“Length of stay is increasing dramatically,” says Vered Raviv Schwarz, chief operating officer of Guesty. She attributes the trend to city dwellers looking to get away from places where the virus has been spreading rapidly.

And while booking volumes are down across the board, they haven’t dropped equally everywhere. Reservations on Airbnb, Booking.com and VRBO-listed properties have dropped about 50 percent in urban areas in the United States — but Guesty found that in rural locations and suburbs, bookings were down only 10 to 20 percent. The company says that among the most resilient destinations are places such as the Hamptons and Napa Valley, which are within a two- to three-hour drive of large urban hubs.

Owners and managers of short-term rental properties have responded to the demand by advertising discounted rates for longer stays. 

Airbnb, which has been battered by the crisis with bookings down roughly 90 percent in some areas, says about half of its active listings now offer discounts for stays of a month or longer. Last week it launched a monthly stay option on its homepage.

If [you] are going to work from home for an extended period of time, then why would you do it from a 600-square-foot London flat when you can get the connectivity in a nice place by the coast?

Martin Luen, travel industry specialist

Searches for Airbnb homes to rent during government-enforced restrictions bring up a series of properties advertising themselves as open for lockdown stays, from a one-bedroom flat in Queensland, Australia, calling itself “perfect for self-quarantine,” to a cottage in Florida touting “quarantine in paradise.” 

Raviv Schwarz says she has also seen properties advertised as including gloves, disinfectant and additional cleaning.

The picture is similar in the United Kingdom, despite government warnings that city dwellers should not travel to second homes for fear of spreading the virus farther afield. Airbnb last week banned all listings except those open to front-line workers until April 18.

Guesty says that in the last week of March, smaller cities such as Liverpool and Nottingham had all received more bookings than previous weeks as customers hunted for getaways outside of London.

“If [you] are going to work from home for an extended period of time, then why would you do it from a 600-square-foot London flat when you can get the connectivity in a nice place by the coast?” says Martin Luen, a travel industry specialist at investment bank Baird.

But Richard Clarke, an analyst at Bernstein, warns that there could be risks for short-term rental owners. “Supply looks to be shifting to longer-term rentals, and those in financial distress will not receive the same government support as hotels,” he says. “There is also the risk that regulation may accelerate as knowledge on the impact on housing shortages clears.”

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