For many vacation rental companies, stability and routine flew out the window in mid-March—along with a significant portion of their income. Proven digital marketing strategies became obsolete in just days.
In the wake of these dramatic changes in the industry, data analysts like Jack Scherrer, Bluetent’s analytics manager, began tracking traveler behavior. Scherrer’s findings show that a travel rebound is underway. This data and other valuable insights can provide vacation rental managers with a basis for adjusting their digital marketing strategies both now and in the future.
Scherrer’s analysis includes data aggregated from 400 direct-booking vacation rental websites. In the first graphic below, you can see that 2020 bookings hit a low point on April 5. After an upward trend, 2020 bookings actually began to surpass those of 2019 on April 27—illustrating the pent-up demand for travel after the recent COVID-19 lockdowns.
In the second graphic, Scherrer tracks arrival dates for bookings made in the last two weeks of April. Surprisingly, the largest spike in arrival dates is on May 1, showing that many travelers are ready for vacation immediately. Another worthwhile note: these bookings were made by travelers from every one of the 50 states.
The data reinforces Bluetent’s belief that our industry is uniquely positioned to capture travelers before other tourism industries see a rebound. “Travelers still want to preserve a certain amount of social distance, even though stay-at-home orders and distancing requirements are relaxed. They’re going to want drive-to vacations where they can spend time with family in a private space, cook meals in their own kitchen, and stay apart from the masses,” asserts Bluetent’s president, Peter Scott.
To address this new traveler persona, Brynn Flaherty, Bluetent’s director of marketing services, says, “Of course, targeting drive-to markets is essential right now. But you should also consider loosening cancellation policies and accommodating longer stays in order to keep your brand in the running for bookings.”
Flaherty and her team are helping vacation rental brands adjust their messaging to focus on a continued concern for safety. “Travelers are looking for places where they can vacation responsibly. Creating and sharing content that addresses your cleaning policies, lists local restaurants offering take-out, or highlights socially distant recreation options can go a long way toward building trust—not only with potential guests but also within your community.”
Scherrer’s data even has encouraging news for those vacation rental companies not yet experiencing a rebound: travelers are researching future vacation dates in all markets. “We see this as evidence that travelers are still hopeful—and so are we,” Flaherty states. “Our advice to clients still waiting for bookings to restart is: Don’t completely pull the plug on your digital marketing efforts. Keeping your brand in front of potential travelers and giving them the confidence to book with you when the time is right is incredibly important. Once restrictions are lifted, travelers will be very ready to take a vacation. It’s just a matter of time.”
Want more data? The digital version of this article on VRMIntel.com will include a link to updated, interactive booking data provided by Bluetent. Looking for help crafting a digital strategy designed to set your vacation rental company up for success after COVID-19? Our experts are here to help. Contact Bluetent at 970.704.3240.
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I would be interested to get opinions about any lag in bookings specific to properties geared to large groups ~16 people. I’m thinking these groups often include older guests that will be most reluctant to stay with more than 10 folks, even if they are family.