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Short, sweet, and here to stay: 2022 trends in short term accommodations

By keeping STRs in mind, tailoring stays to appeal to a new business-class traveler, and offering more STR options in advance of the event, the resulting uptick in travel and local patronage could be a true win-win.

Short-term stays rose to COVID-era fame as the perceived safer way to travel, the preferred way to work, and—at times—the only way to maintain some pandemic-era sanity. Young families flocked to larger properties away from city centers where competing schedules of at-home schooling, living-room work, and family life could co-exist. Early career professionals with a new freedom from office leveraged it for drive-to stays immersed in different local cultures. And the many people priced out of a sky-high housing market preferred short-term rentals for flexible lease lengths.

But certainly, some of the steepest and best sustained demand for short-term rentals is coming back with a return to travel. ‘Save for further variants and complications, which we’d be remiss to entirely write off, the recent opening of foreign borders is the moment for which Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, prepared his team,’ says Emir Dukic. Emir is the CEO of Rabbu, a turnkey rental platform that helps investors source, buy, and sell properties as short-term rentals. ‘Earlier in the year, Airbnb announced they’d be in need of ‘millions more hosts’ to satisfy the demand that was coming across their wires.’ And on the heels of a record quarter, the company saw an additional 41% increase in bookings since international borders opened their doors. 

Sweet home short-term rental
At the peak of the pandemic, travelers were reporting on an increased sense of safety when booking with short-term rentals (STRS). Often parking in a driveway, and always avoiding crowded lobbies or depending on guest services, short-term rentals were enclosed, independent spaces in which traveling families felt safe.

But the offerings of short-term rentals are more nuanced, and as travel continues to rebound, guests are showing affinity for a number of reasons. Competitive among them is the price point of many STRs; while not always cheaper, a close tie to market demand prevents the common surge of hotel prices that can inflate in desired areas around high-travel times. Concurrent listings on multiple booking platforms and ample, specific guest reviews makes short-term rental bookings feel like more options are available at different price points. And perhaps because of that social-media mirroring aspect, a PWC survey found short-term rentals are the preferred accommodation for Gen Z travelers. 

Understanding the STR value-add
‘Safety and price point still don’t capture the real magic of short-term rentals,’ says Dukic. During an isolated time, many travelers visited near-by locales and loved, among the attractions and surrounding communities, the interaction with their hosts. ‘Tailored communication, recommended restaurants, and personal touches that go a long way often made short-term rental experiences stand out in the mind of the traveler at a time when personal connection was much-needed.’ 

Traditional accommodations have advanced in recent years to offer a robust roster of high-end guest services at more accessible price points. But there’s something special to be said for the feeling of being welcomed into someone’s home, and introduced to their community; an offering that the best short-term rental hosts extend, and that other travelers are alerted to via the art of reviews.

Rather than replace the need for traditional accommodation strategies, short-term rentals have arguably made an important contribution to the travel industry during the long months of pandemic-era operations. Keeping some avenue to travel activity alive, guests engaging in short stays were able to patronize local restaurants and tourist attractions. And capturing early demand, short-term rentals will be a major player in bringing post-pandemic travel back online, in full, which stands only to the industry’s benefit. But the success of STRs hasn’t gone unnoticed, and the industry might never be the same.

Hoteliers take note
In response, there’s a growing movement among hoteliers to re-engineer their guest experience, namely on the booking and communications front. Apps like HotelTonight, which sells leftover rooms at a discounted price, rose to prominence by solving some of the price-hike problem that was keeping guests away. Now, automated solutions, concurrent room listings, and investments into relationship management are making it easier for prospective guests to interact with hotels like they would with STRs, and to have access to a professional that can help them with their booking the same way they might with an STR host.

In addition, there’s been a notable move for hoteliers to re-engage with their surrounding communities and reflect the local scene within their offerings. ‘Rather than more spa baths and high-end fitness gyms, luxury now speaks the language of experience,’ says Dukic. Even large, chain hotels are featuring local chefs, highlighting in-town experiences and vendors, and taking the cue from their guests to become a contributing part of their surrounding communities. 

Business travel: No exception
As meetings and conferences resume, business travelers will be among the many travelers considering STRs in their booking process. Airbnb found an uptick in searches for work-from-home amenities during the pandemic, and STRs that offer dedicated working spaces are seeing a quick guest reward. There’s every reason to believe that STRs will remain a top choice for work-related travel, even with a full return to normal meetings and conferences practices.

‘Travel agents, event planners, and local hosts will all be well advised to understand and capitalize on the incoming corporate demand,’ Dukic says. ‘By keeping STRs in mind, tailoring stays to appeal to a new business-class traveler, and offering more STR options in advance of the event, the resulting uptick in travel and local patronage could be a true win-win.’

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