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What Investors Should Learn from the VRBO 2021 Trend Report

Date: November 19, 2020 Author: Second Home Market

What Vacation Rental Buyers  Should Learn From the VRBO 2021 Trend Report 

Every year VRBO canvasses a large cross-section of its ecosystem - both travelers and  vacation property owners/managers - to identify new trends in the global vacation rental marketplace.   This year’s trend report is based on a survey of more than 8000 members of this ecosystem from 8 countries, and used aggregate travel data from the prior 12-month period ending August 31, 2020.  This year’s report identified 6 key trends that vacation property investors would be wise to understand:


1.  “Travel slowed down.  Travel planning didn’t.”

An astonishing 61% of travelers surveyed were forced to cancel travel plans due to Covid-19.  While this wreaked absolute havoc on the vacation rental industry during the spring months of March and April, VRBO sees light at the end of the tunnel by identifying growing pent-up demand for travel in 2021.  82% of survey respondents reported having already begun travel plans for the new year signaling a strong rebound in the works as soon as health conditions improve.


2.  “Pandemic travel habits may be hard to break.”

VRBO’s 2021 report identifies three pandemic-era travel habits that it believes will be with us for foreseeable future.  First, a vast majority of travelers who did venture out this year chose to travel by car, and 59% of respondents say they are much more likely to drive than fly for their next trip.  In addition to the social distancing benefit of driving, there is an obvious budget-consciousness and cost savings implied by venturing out closer to home.  Second, travelers have been opting for natural experiences in the great outdoors versus visiting crowded cities, museums or events.  Finally, the mass-adoption of work-from-home and e-learning has given travelers a new found freedom to take their work on the road and combine business and pleasure.  Mixing work, virtual school, and vacation time has even earned its own moniker - the “Flexcation.” 


3. “Lakes, rivers and streams reign supreme.”

Interestingly, VRBO travel data from this Covid summer indicates that travel destinations at lakes, rivers and streams increased in popularity while beach destinations “took a back seat.”  Some of the standout vacation rental destinations that may not have been on your radar before (and may be great spots for potential investment opportunity) are: 


4. “Cozy is king.”

Travel data indicated that those who did travel during this pandemic period trended towards comfortable lodging in natural settings.  Destinations that featured cabins or chalets near mountainsides, forests and lakes saw a boost in business throughout the year.  VRBO demand for cabins and chalets was up 20+% this year and is forecast to remain strong into 2021.


5. “Time to go all out.”

The pandemic seems to be inspiring a whole new joie de vivre among hopeful travelers for 2021.  VRBO’s survey results indicate that travelers are not inclined to wait any longer to take that once-in-a-lifetime trip, and many may be planning it for 2021.  At least one-third of respondents said they are prepared to spend more than they traditionally would, and more than half say they are more likely to take their bucket list trip.


6. “Families want a vacation redo.”

While turning back the clock is unfortunately not an option, travelers appear to be looking for ways to recreate their cancelled vacations of 2020.  More than 40% of respondents who cancelled a vacation due to Covid plan on rescheduling the same trip.  And nearly one-third are looking to make their next trip all about family time.  


More than anything, property owners and rental managers seem to be poised to take advantage of a v-shaped recovery in the travel industry in 2021 provided health conditions improve.  Cancelled vacations of 2020 will return to the schedule in 2021, while workers, no longer chained to the office, will provide further boost as they incorporate Flexcations into their lives.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this trend report is the shift in demand towards natural environments as opposed to the boom in urban vacation rental growth we have seen for the past decade.  There appear to be new investment opportunities opening up in rural settings - particularly near lakes, rivers and streams - that are worthy of new attention. 


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