U.S. Short-term Rentals Have Recovered: An Anomaly in the Global Market

Published: 12 May 2021

AirDNA's Monthly Review reports that the U.S. short-term rental industry has officially recovered demand above 2019 levels — marking the first month since the outbreak of COVID-19 to exceed 2019 performance.

In April 2021, U.S. short-term rental (STR) demand increased by 66.4% compared to 2020 levels and 5.4% over 2019 levels. Occupancy figures also built on March's strength, rising to 61.6% in April from 60.9% in March; a deviation in traditional seasonality considering that occupancy typically falls in April after strong Spring Break demand in March.

"The U.S. is an anomaly globally, benefiting as travelers trade Paris for the Poconos." - AirDNA CEO, Scott Shatford

In quite a few U.S. markets, particularly beach locations, demand for this summer isn't just pacing well ahead of prior years: it's already ahead of previous summers' levels. As of early May, Santa Rosa/Rosemary Beach and Panama City in Florida and Hilton Head, SC, are already more than 80% occupied for June 2021, with an additional seven markets seeing occupancy levels above 75%.

Of the 10 largest countries in terms of short-term rentals, the U.S. was the only country with growth, followed by Mexico where demand was only down by 3.4%. Europe still trails in recovery, with demand in Italy, Spain, and Germany down more than 45% in April. Better performance is ahead, though, as all of these countries have seen improved booking trends as vaccines roll out and people plan for summer travel.

Demand surging, will supply return?

Higher levels of demand are putting pressure on short-term rental booking platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo to rapidly increase their supply. Destination/resort markets have now increased their listing count by 12% while small city/rural areas have increased supply by 34%, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

"The search for new hosts is heating up and in April the combined supply of Airbnb and Vrbo reached 1.5 million in the U.S. — even surpassing pre-pandemic peaks," AirDNA VP of Research, Jamie Lane, explained.

Not surprisingly, listings are down in urban areas where demand recovery is lagging. New York, Los Angeles, and Boston have all lost more than 25% of their listings.

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