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Vacation Rental Hosts Not Immune to Coronavirus Pandemic

Yesterday, the World Health Organization officially labelled COVID-19 a pandemic.1 The coronavirus has continued to grow, with more than 130,000 confirmed cases and almost 5,000 deaths spread across 125 countries.2 As the reach of coronavirus has expanded, so too has the economic cost. Stocks fell sharply this week and Bloomberg News estimated that the coronavirus could cost the global economy $2.7 trillion.3,4 The economic toll is being felt all across the board, but particularly in the travel and hospitality sector.

Global markets are highly reliant on the travel industry and thus the impact of coronavirus on airlines, hotels, and vacation rentals have had a significant toll on the global economy.5 Since the outbreak of coronavirus, there’s been an immediate decline in travel. Airlines have reduced flights, events around the world have been cancelled and this has resulted in a reduction of bookings across the entire vacation accommodation sector. Panic is spreading almost faster than the actual virus – and Airbnb hosts have not been immune to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The objective of this piece is to provide a brief overview of the effect of coronavirus on the vacation rental market with respect to Airbnb hosts, how they’ve reacted thus far and recommendations to offset the impact of the pandemic.


Travel is among one of the industries hit hardest by this epidemic and the short-term rental market may be in a position to be more severely impacted within the accommodations industry.5 This is because smaller businesses may be less equipped to handle such large disturbances in the market. Airbnb’s lenient and ever-extending “extenuating circumstances policy” makes it especially difficult for small businesses that own one or even a few properties to manage the effect of such large-scale cancellation.6,7 The policy was issued in February by Airbnb in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and essentially allows both hosts and guests to cancel without any penalties for reservations in certain impacted regions.8

During the past few weeks, we’ve combed through countless blogs and heard stories of Airbnb hosts all around the world complaining about Airbnb’s flexible cancellation policy and how they’ve lost a significant amount of revenue because of it.6-7, 9-10 Hosts are responding frantically to the loss of revenue and looking for alternative uses for their properties.  As the number of quarantined regions increases and Airbnb’s policy cuts into hosts’ revenues, hosts may opt to remove their listings from the Airbnb platform.6,9

If the coronavirus does not stabilize soon, it is likely that hosts will choose to move their listings to channels with less flexible cancellation policies. We also predict to see a decrease in the overall supply of vacation rentals as hosts switch their properties to the long-term rental market, which under normal circumstances would generate lower profits, but in the context of quarantine and travel restrictions could serve as a more stable source of income.6-7, 11


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Simply add your Airbnb property URL to start selecting and tracking competing vacation rentals in your area.

It may be possible for hosts who choose to keep their listings on the short-term rental market to offset the effect of the coronavirus pandemic by lowering daily rates, offering discounts, reassuring guests of adherence to disinfection guidelines/cleaning protocols and targeting domestic travelers.7, 12 Many hosts have already begun slashing prices and offering discounts to guests in hopes of curtailing the disturbance in the short-term rental market.6 Booking activity for spring break and summer have seemed to remain strong, at least in the United States, so these measures should hopefully only be temporary.13

Additionally, It has been predicted that in upcoming weeks, travelers will begin adjusting their travel plans instead of cancelling them, and therefore we predict to see an upsurge in travel to countries not affected by coronavirus as well as domestic or ‘drive-to’ destinations.14,15 What this means for hosts, at least for the upcoming weeks, is that they should begin targeting local travelers. An easy way to do this is to search for the most popular short-term rental market channels in your region and make sure that your listing is posted on those platforms. As a host, it will be important to identify which segment of the market you may lose and which segment you may be able to gain. In this way, you can adapt your marketing strategy in order to maintain bookings despite the outbreak.

Recently, we’ve seen a multitude of creative ways hosts have adjusted their marketing strategies and used the coronavirus outbreak to their advantage. In response to Israel’s mandatory 14-day quarantine, Airbnb hosts in Israel have been to catering to those required to ‘self-quarantine’ by offering discounts and special amenities.16 Other hosts have used the rising panic and fear to advertise ‘coronavirus-free hideaways’.17 In fact, as of March 10, 2020, we located 64 vacation rental listings using a similar advertising strategy in the listing title.17 Although these are extreme examples of hosts responding to the pandemic, it is important to note the varying range in which short-term rental market hosts are reacting to this outbreak.

Airbnb host advertises ‘coronavirus-free’ stay. Source: Business Insider

Airbnb host advertises ‘coronavirus discount’. Source: Business Insider

No matter which approach you decide to take as a vacation rental market host, it is important to remain calm despite widespread panic and weigh all possible options before choosing how you will react to the rapidly changing short-term rental market. As for our role in your decision making process, we will continue to monitor the situation and give you our unique insight into the entire scope of the vacation rental market so that you can ensure that you are always making the most informed decision.


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