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Short-Term Rental Data Shows Americans Are Ignoring Thanksgiving COVID-19 Guidelines

A Thanksgiving Like No Other

Every year, Thanksgiving involves large numbers of Americans visiting their families and enjoying themselves in the company of loved ones. 

However, with the number of COVID-19 cases spiking across the United States, mayors, governors, local authorities, and even the CDC are advising against holding Thanksgiving celebrations involving multiple households. At the same time a number of states are starting to re-implement harsher restrictions in order to stop the further spread of the virus – including shutdowns for restaurants, bars, indoor and outdoor gatherings, and even curfews.

These new stay-at-home and “cancel Thanksgiving” advisories are coming at a time that traditionally sees large numbers of Americans traveling to stay with their families. But are Americans listening?

The Evidence From The Short-Term Rental Markets

As a beloved end-of-year holiday, it’s feared that, no matter the risks that ignoring social distancing guidelines and participating in social gatherings entail, Americans will gather to share with their families and friends, even ignoring the recommendations by the CDC.

In order to analyze if Americans are following the guidelines this Thanksgiving, we looked at short-term rental occupancy rates in both 2020 and 2019 for the 4 days before and after Thanksgiving, which will be celebrated on the 26th November in 2020, and was celebrated on the 28th November in 2019. 

 As you can see in the above chart, average U.S. occupancy rates for Thanksgiving week in 2020 are exhibiting a similar trend as in 2019 for the same period, with a gradual increase that peaks on Thanksgiving Day and Friday, before decreasing over the weekend.

However, what’s even more alarming is that U.S. short-term rental occupancy rates are actually higher in 2020 than 2019. In 2019 the average occupancy rate over this period was 7.7%, while in 2020 it’s currently at 11.0% – significantly higher, despite the guidelines.

It’s therefore clear that people in the US are still planning to travel during Thanksgiving Week. It appears that, no matter the risks that breaking self-isolation and participating in social gatherings entail, Americans will go to other places to be with their families and friends, even ignoring the recommendations of the CDC against traveling and large gatherings. 

With many expecting a second round of strict lock downs and travel bans in several states during the December holidays, and with pandemic fatigue affecting most of the population, Americans are seemingly eager to celebrate Thanksgiving Week before any new measures come into effect. 

Short-Term Rentals & COVID-19

Is that the whole story? Probably not.

Short-term rentals bookings crashed when the virus came to the U.S. but then started to rebound in May as Americans, tired of lock downs , fled for short-term rentals, especially those in rural areas. Short-term rentals offered a way to get away from virus-related restrictions while still maintaining control of their social ‘bubble’ and compliance with social distancing guidelines.

To us, it looks like Americans are using short-term rentals again, this time as way to be near their family and friends while trying to minimize the risks. Staying at the residence of (often older and more vulnerable) family members and being in close proximity for an extended period of time seems to be perceived as far more likely to result in transmission of the virus than staying at a short-term rental nearby and coming over for socially-distanced Thanksgiving celebrations, and it seems that is what many Americans are opting for. If they are wrong, we could see a significant rise in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths as we head into the festive period.

We wish everyone a safe Thanksgiving and hope for a virus-free festive period!

Note: This article is not an endorsement of any actions that might result in the transmission of COVID-19. We recommend you follow CDC guidelines this Thanksgiving.