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What does a post-coronavirus short-term rental market look like?

The impact of coronavirus has been devastating to vacation rental markets around the world. Short-term rental (STR) hosts have been battling low occupancy rates and revenues and have been crushed by lenient Airbnb cancellation policies. However, the supply of STRs has remained relatively constant throughout this crisis, giving the STR market hope for the future. But what does the future of Airbnbs and vacation rentals look like post-coronavirus? Will recovery of the travel industry mean a return to normal for the STR market – or will the impact of COVID-19 on the market outlast the pandemic itself?

1. Cleaning Practices

In order to ensure vacation rental guests feel safe once travel restrictions are lifted, it will be important to make adjustments to standard cleaning protocols. On April 27, 2020, Airbnb announced an ‘Advanced Clean Initiative’ to address these concerns and make travelers feel safer in booking listings (1). Their new cleaning protocol is backed by CDC recommendations specific to COVID-19 and serves as a guideline for hosts (1). This pandemic will definitely enhance and expand upon the existing protocol of cleaning practices within the STR market. Airbnb guests will be able to see which hosts abide by these protocols, in a post-coronavirus STR market, both hosts and platforms will have to up their game in terms of these procedures (1). Taking the required steps to ensure the safety of their guests will allow hosts to experience faster recovery post-coronavirus.

2. Waiting Period Between Guests

Another new feature of vacation rentals in response to coronavirus is called the ‘Booking Buffer’, which was also introduced as part of Airbnb’s new ‘Advanced Clean Initiative’ (1). This option would be available for Airbnb hosts that block off time between guest stays as an added precaution – as the virus is known to survive some time on surfaces (1). The current waiting period is set at 72 hours, and again comes as a recommendation by the CDC in an effort to slow the spread of the virus (1). While this ‘Booking Buffer’ is optional, Airbnb is mandating a 24-hour waiting period for certain hosts (2). While it is not clear exactly how these ordinances will be issued, as more and more countries reopen for travel, it will be interesting to see whether these types of tools remain optional by these platforms or become mandatory, either by the STR channels themselves or by the government.

3. Regulations on Bigger Groups

As more and more states across the world reopen, there will surely be regulation put in place to attempt to slow the transmission of the disease. For example, in Alabama, regulations say that, “vacation rental companies must take reasonable steps to avoid the rental of large properties to large groups of people who are not in the same household (such as graduation parties, bachelor/bachelorette parties, etc.)” (3). While it isn’t likely that this type of regulation remains in place permanently, it is probable that more and more countries or states such as Alabama decide to impose tighter regulations on STR markets to try to contain the spread of the pandemic. One regulation we have seen that is likely to remain permanent is the one proposed by Pennsylvania lawmakers (4). Rep. Rosemary Brown explained that the legislation would, “halt short-term rentals immediately upon a disaster declaration in the future so we wouldn’t have to wait for a governor to implement a special order to protect our residents and resources” (4). This type of STR regulation inspired by the current pandemic is preparing for future emergencies and has the potential to be legislation adapted by many places around the world. It’s just one more example of the way that this crisis will impact the future of the vacation rental market. 

Conclusion

As travel restrictions start being lifted and the industry begins to recover from the wrath of coronavirus, it is easy to assume that the short-term rental market may return to normal. However, there may be more long-lasting or even permanent changes to the market in response to this pandemic. As we’ve seen in this article, coronavirus will enhance standard cleaning protocol for hosts, offer guests the option to choose ‘booking buffer’ listings, and tighten regulations in the STR market. It is very likely that the vacation rental market will be forever changed by this pandemic. 

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