Rural Airbnbs are the stars of the suddenly struggling vacation-rental platform, as Americans flee cities to escape the coronavirus
Airbnbs in some rural areas saw a surge in bookings last week even as travel ground to halt across most of the US, according to AirDNA. The coronavirus pandemic has taken a huge toll on Airbnb as well as many hosts who have had to refund guests after the company overrode their cancellation policies. However, as Americans flee COVID-19 hotspots in large cities, some surrounding areas are actually seeing record-high bookings. The trend may be temporary, as the US has yet to see the full economic fallout from the virus, but it shows that, so far, not all regions have been equally hurt. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
With one in three Americans now under some form of lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the travel industry is taking a beating. That includes Airbnb, which has seen bookings tank around the world as people are forced to cancel trips. But Airbnb properties in some rural parts of the country seem to have defied that trend so far, and some even saw an uptick in business last week, according to vacation rental data company AirDNA. As major cities like New York and San Francisco see an explosion of COVID-19 cases, residents are departing for their smaller hometowns or neighboring communities in an attempt to stay safe, spread out, or be closer to family — even though that could mean carrying the virus into new parts of the country and burdening already ill-equipped healthcare systems. "Alongside the advent of social distancing, we've noticed a similar trend in U.S. vacation rental markets: travelers fleeing urban centers and heading towards homes just outside the city," the company said in a blog post published Monday. Approximately 73% of Airbnb revenue in the first half of March was made outside of large urban centers, while rural listings were the only ones that saw a "significant" gains from the same period last year, compared with urban and suburban listings, according to AirDNA. The US is still several weeks behind many other countries in terms of when cases first began appearing, meaning it the full impact likely hasn't been seen yet. But the analysis suggests a small, if temporary, bright spot for Airbnb — and some hosts, who have been particularly hard hit by travel slowdowns. As the pandemic has escalated, Airbnb has gradually expanded its policies to allow more guests to call off trips and still get full refunds. But in doing so, it overrode hosts' own cancellation policies, leaving many angry that they've had to bear the bulk of the financial cost of those refunds. Airbnb has been trying to strike a delicate balance between the interests not just of guests and hosts, but also of investors, who had concerns about Airbnb's reported losses even before the virus hit that have intensified now that the company's plans to go public this year could get delayed. While the spike in rural bookings likely won't make up for Airbnb's other losses, it does offer some insight into how Americans across the country have responded to the virus and what that means for hosts.Airbnbs in the least crowded locations saw business grow the most in March as Americans tried to escape densely populated areas.
Northern and Midwestern states in particular have shown more resilience to coronavirus-related fallout so far.
Smaller "destination" locations within driving distance of large urban areas have seen the biggest jump in bookings during March.
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Important cancellation policies and dates for 2020 holiday travel: Marriott, Airbnb, Hilton, and more
Summary List Placement Despite the pandemic, many will likely consider holiday travel this year to visit...Summary List Placement Despite the pandemic, many will likely consider holiday travel this year to visit family and take deferred vacations after months of isolation. Cheap fares, hotel rates, and packages are also aiming to lure those who are comfortable with the risks associated with travel. If you're considering booking a great deal but want to watch and see what happens, it's important to understand cancellation policies. We compiled key 2020 holiday dates and cancellation policies for hotel brands, vacation rental platforms, and online booking sites. Read more: Is it safe to travel for the holidays? Here's what doctors, a microbiologist, and a travel pro told us. Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky The holiday travel season is going to look very different in 2020. Many people will be weighing whether they should go anywhere at all, not just because of safety, but because of social responsibility. And while some will stay home, others will still plan to travel by plane, train, or car to see loved ones after months of separation, or to take a long-anticipated vacation. After all, exceptionally low prices are being promoted right now on everything from flights to hotels and vacation packages, adding serious temptation. "In normal years, the holidays are one of the most expensive times of year to travel," explains Scott's Cheap Flights founder Scott Keyes. "That's because it's such a popular time not only to see family, but for many students, teachers, and families with kids, it may be one of the few coordinated vacation breaks they get. With all those people traveling at the same time, fares are bound to go up." He cautions, however, "But this isn't a normal year." Because far fewer people are booking holiday travel, Keyes says the opposite has occurred, and holiday fares have precipitously dropped. "We have found more cheap Christmas flights in 2020 than the past five years combined. So while people mistakenly assume that all cheap flights these days are a result of the pandemic, the one area where cheap fares are directly attributable to coronavirus is for holiday travel." And while many travelers will want to take advantage of such lucrative deals, the situation surrounding the novel coronavirus is fast-evolving. While one destination may seem safe right now, it could easily emerge as a new hotspot in two to three months if a second wave of the pandemic occurs, and as cold and flu season begins. For those that want to book travel, but lack confidence that they will actually be able to go, or may not ultimately feel comfortable doing so, it's important to know that your travel purchase is protected amid so much uncertainty. Fortunately, right now is also a good time to find more generous cancellation policies than ever before, with flexible options that allow travelers to back out without added fees, for any reason at all. Like airlines, major hotel brands and third-party booking engines are offering similarly lenient policies, competitive pricing, and refund options for both new and holiday bookings. They're also promoting stringent new cleaning procedures in an attempt to reassure concerned travelers. I did some heavy online digging to see how this side of hospitality is responding, and while few travel outlets are publishing special cancellation periods specifically targeted at holiday travel, some do specify a mid-December cutoff — approximately the week before Christmas — for refunds. That means most Thanksgiving travel may be booked right now, worry-free. For an at-a-glance guide to cancellation periods, we rounded up the current published policies from major hotels, online travel agencies, and home rental platforms. And if you do decide to book, here's what experts say you should know about whether it's safe to fly over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the holiday season, specifically. Keep reading for key dates and cancellation policies from hotels and online travel booking platforms for 2020 holiday travel. Airbnb Airbnb hosts set their own cancellation policies, which vary depending on the listing as well as the amount of time from booking, or until check-in. Individual cancellation details are available towards the bottom of each listing page, and you can also search by this filter for more flexible options. Available policies hosts can choose include Flexible, Moderate, and Strict. For some places, hosts offer a choice of refundable or non-refundable booking with a different price and terms. Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made on or before March 14, with a check-in date between that date and October 31, are covered by Airbnb's extenuating circumstances policy and may be canceled before check-in. Guests who cancel their bookings will see cancellation and refund options: Airbnb will either refund, or issue travel credit that includes, all service fees for covered cancellations. Booking.com Look for bookings that state flexible cancellation policies; if you don't book a flexible rate, you may not be entitled to a refund. If you already have a booking that is non-refundable or no longer free to cancel, you may face a cancellation fee if you cancel. You may also try calling the hotel property booked directly as they may be willing to change your dates at no additional cost. If your reservation ends up being a no-go because of pandemic-related events — like a border closure — sign into your account and check your options. In these situations, the property must provide a refund, offer a free date change, or a credit for a future stay. Expedia For future travel, look for the filters labeled "free cancellation" (for lodging) and "no change fee" (for flights) to avoid penalties. Car rentals are flexible. For existing travel, many reservations made through Expedia already qualify for either free cancellation or no-fee change. Sign into your account and check your itinerary. If you qualify, you can change or cancel your reservations from within your itinerary. If you booked a package vacation, you'll have to cancel your lodging and your flight separately, subject to the cancellation policies of your specific booking. If you don't have an account, you can use your itinerary or confirmation number. Four Seasons For any future arrival date, reservations (even pre-paid ones) qualify for any changes or cancellations at no charge up to 24 hours before arrival, as long as the change or cancellation is made by December 31 — which generously includes the entire 2020 holiday period. But some exclusions do apply during holidays, so check your individual rate rules when booking to confirm. Changes to any reservations will be subject to availability as well as any potential rate differences. Hilton Hotels All reservations made through September 30 can be changed or canceled at no charge, up to 24 hours before check-in date. If you're booking a new reservation now (in other words, past that cutoff date), your reservation is subject to published cancellation policies. If you are a Hilton Honors member, and cancel an advance purchase rate, you may be eligible for a free night certificate for each canceled night, to use by August 31, 2021. Hotels.com If you haven't yet made your booking, look for rates stating flexible cancellation policies. If you have already booked one that offers free cancellation, you'll get a refund for the amount that you paid. If you made a non-refundable booking, but your destination is considered inaccessible, you qualify for a full refund or a hotel voucher if you cancel at least 24 hours in advance. But that's just under those circumstances: If your destination is considered open for travel but you just want to cancel anyway, your booking's original cancellation policy applies. Hyatt Hotels New reservations booked on or after July 1 for arrival dates through July 31, 2021, can be canceled at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival (with few limited exceptions), making all holiday travel flexible. Find a list of change and cancellation fee waiver exceptions online to check before booking. Some individual hotel properties may adjust this cancellation policy during high-demand periods like holidays, so review the rate rules when booking. These will show the current cancellation and deposit policies for your specific stay. Reservations can be changed or canceled on hyatt.com or via the app. Changes to existing reservations are subject to availability and possible rate differences. Note that these policies apply to reservations made directly through Hyatt directly. Online travel agents or other third parties may have different policies. InterContinental Hotel Group The hotel group offered more flexible cancellation policies due to COVID-19, but those are mainly not applicable to the 2020 holiday period because all non-refundable and pre-paid bookings from October 1 onward will be subject to the terms and conditions stated during booking. Some rates do have flexible cancellation built-in, so check your booking for the details. Langham Hotels & Resorts Langham will provide a full refund (including related fees) on cancellations for bookings as long as they're made at least 24 hours prior to arrival date. This applies for stays up to and including December 18. Outside of that window, policies differ for individual Langham hotels. If you made your booking through a third party, you'll have to contact that entity, as their policies will apply. Lowes Hotels Lowes' flexible policy allows cancellation with 24 hours notice for any new and existing reservations. Pre-paid and non-refundable reservations may not be included in this policy. Reservations made through a third party are subject to that entity's terms. Marriott Bonvoy Existing reservations for future travel are subject to the policies stated at the time of booking. Late cancellation booking may be equivalent to the room night cost. For guests with reservations made on or after July 6 for arrival dates through December 30, Marriott will allow changes or cancellations without a fee up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date. Pre-paid reservations and a few other exclusions will be subject to the policies stated at the time of booking, such as the responsibility to pay the nightly room rate if canceling late. Rosewood Hotels & Resorts For new individual reservations booked as of March 14, for stays through December 19, a flexible 24-hour, no-fee cancellation policy applies. Travelocity Travelocity doesn't charge its own cancellation fees, and as long as you're canceling with three days' notice of your stay, most hotels in your itinerary won't charge one either. If you need to cancel a flight within 24 hours of booking it, most airlines don't charge a fee, and neither does the online agency. Vrbo (and HomeAway) Note that Vrbo and HomeAway are now the same platform, except in name, and as such, they have the same cancellation policies. With the summer COVID-19 policies now past, the host's standard cancellation policy currently applies. It falls into three categories. The first is called Relaxed. Bookings canceled at least 14 days before the start of the stay receive a full refund. Those canceled at least seven days in advance receive a 50% refund. The next category is Moderate. Bookings canceled 30 days or more from check-in receive a full refund. Two weeks or more from check-in and guests can receive a 50% refund. The most stringent policy is Firm. Bookings canceled 60 days out receive a full refund; then guests can receive a 50% refund until 30 days before check-in. Wyndham Hotels For new or existing direct bookings, all properties are required to accommodate non-cancelable rate reservation changes without penalty if the request is received at least 48 hours prior to arrival, and the same number of room nights or more are booked for a future stay. This policy does not apply to group bookings, such as meetings or events. Guests who are prohibited from traveling to their booked hotel will have their cancellation or change penalties waived on direct bookings. Join the conversation about this story »
Everything to know about Airbnb Plus, including how listings are vetted, if they cost more, and if it's worth it
Summary List Placement Airbnb launched Airbnb Plus in 2018 to highlight listings vetted in-person by a...Summary List Placement Airbnb launched Airbnb Plus in 2018 to highlight listings vetted in-person by a third-party inspector for the highest levels of style, design, and hospitality. We break down the benefits of Airbnb Plus listings, how they're vetted, and if they cost more. Read more: Are Airbnbs safe? We spoke to experts, a company representative, and an Airbnb host to share everything you should know before booking someone's home As travelers are starting to feel more comfortable doing trips following lockdowns and travel disruptions due to the novel coronavirus, many are looking to vacation rental sites like Airbnb for accommodations. In fact, experts have actually noted that Airbnbs may be a safer option than hotels since you can opt to book an entire private home. Airbnb also recently rolled out a new Enhanced Cleaning Initiative so guests can easily identify Airbnb listings that adhere to the new vigorous standards. But when it comes to homes listed on Airbnb, the offerings can certainly be a mixed bag. On the same platform where you can rent a renovated lighthouse or Tyler Perry's former mansion, you'll also find small, drab rooms and even the occasional scam. Similarly, the hosts can range from Superhosts who go above and beyond to uninvolved third parties. Of course, savvy travelers know to be vigilant when it comes to checking ratings and reading past guest reviews before booking and to check other home booking sites too, but even the most seasoned Airbnb users can find themselves checking into a run-down home when they were hoping for a sophisticated stay. Plus, not everyone has time to devote hours to sifting through hundreds of listings and reading multiple reviews to compare every potential stay. For travelers who want the guarantee of hotel-quality design and hospitality, Airbnb Plus is the answer. Airbnb Plus was officially launched by Airbnb in 2018 to highlight the bonafide creme de la creme of Airbnb listings, homes renowned for designer aesthetics, magazine-worthy style, and thoughtful amenities provided by hosts for a next-level stay. It's important to keep in mind that there's no guarantee of safety for travel right now. But for users who are looking to book an Airbnb and are interested in vetted homes, there's an option to filter Airbnb listings to only show Plus stays. This can significantly cut down the time it takes to find your next top-notch accommodations. Here's how it works. What is Airbnb Plus? Airbnb Plus is a special collection of homes that have been verified in-person by a third-party inspector. According to Airbnb, it includes a "selection of only the highest quality homes with hosts known for great reviews and attention to detail." Hosts must meet the following requirements before they are even eligible to apply: The listing must be either an entire place or a private room with a private bathroom. The host must have maintained an average rating of at least 4.8 over the past year. The host must not have canceled any reservations, with the exception of extenuating circumstances. The host must have accepted 95% of booking requests over the past year. Once the host meets these requirements, a third-party inspector will visit the home to vet the listing on style, design, and hospitality (more on this below). If the home is accepted, a professional photographer is then provided to take new photos to showcase the property and ensure that all listing photos are high quality in terms of look and resolution. Once the home is officially part of Airbnb Plus, hosts must also agree to not list it on any other booking platform, meaning that all Plus listings are exclusive to Airbnb. As an added bonus, when you book a Plus home, you'll also have access to the Airbnb Plus support team, which is focused on serving Plus customers with quicker response times. What is the difference between Airbnb and Airbnb Plus? The main difference between a regular Airbnb and Airbnb Plus is the fact the homes are verified in-person and held to a higher standard. However, eligibility to apply for Plus certification is not available in all destinations. Airbnb currently lists Plus homes across all six continents, but these are usually in major cities like Los Angeles or island countries like the Dominican Republic. The program is constantly expanding but still lacks some major world cities. For example, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are the only destinations where there are Plus listings in all of South America. And while you can find a Plus home on the Hawaiian island Maui, you won't find any on Oahu. A verified Plus rating doesn't necessarily mean that the home is better than non-Plus listings, especially because the distinction does not cover every destination on the platform. However, it can offer stronger peace of mind that someone has verified the listing in-person and that what you will be getting will at least match the quality of the photos. It's also worth noting that Airbnb Plus is also a different service than Airbnb Luxe, which exclusively lists private villas and includes a personal trip planner and airport pick-up in the price. What is the difference between Airbnb Plus and a Superhost? Superhost status is earned by maintaining at least a 4.8 average rating with zero cancellations over the past year. You don't have to operate an Airbnb Plus listing to be a Superhost. Additionally, hosts must have completed 10 stays or three reservations totaling at least 100 nights. They must also maintain a 90 percent response rate. Superhost status will automatically be earned if the host meets all these criteria by the end of any given quarter. On the other hand, Airbnb Plus status must be applied for and verified in person. However, Plus hosts are required to sustain their Superhost level of hospitality, in addition to having a listing that is well designed, equipped, and maintained. How are Airbnb Plus listings vetted? Homes are vetted based on three standards: style, comfort, and hospitality. By being eligible for Airbnb Plus, the host already meets the hospitality standards, but an in-person visit is required to confirm that the home also meets style and comfort standards. The interior design of the home is expected to be cohesive, clutter-free, and reflect style and personality like this Los Angeles home, which has a clean design scheme punctuated by eye-catching houseplants and funky furniture pieces. The home must also be unique in some way and the listing will score points for personal touches like this Roman loft, for example, which really pulls off its vintage nautical theme. Airbnb Plus homes are required to be fully-equipped with cooking essentials, filtered or bottled water, and an iron and hairdryer, among other desirable amenities. The property must also be well maintained, which means that everything is clean and works, from the coffee maker to all the locks on the bedroom doors. Lastly, self-check-in, via a lockbox or door code, is mandatory to ensure that all guests have a smooth check-in experience. Is Airbnb Plus more expensive? The biggest misconception about Airbnb Plus is that you'll pay a lot more for it, but that's not necessarily the case. Although some hosts may raise their nightly rates after being accepted into the program, there are still plenty of affordable listings like this private room just outside London that starts at $47 per night. If you're searching by location though, you might find that Plus homes do cost a little bit more than competing listings in the same neighborhood. For most hosts who enroll in Airbnb Plus, the incentive is to stand out from the crowd and attract more bookings with a Plus badge. However, an Airbnb Plus stay does not mean premium or luxury services, so hosts can't hike up the prices too much if they want to stay competitive. At the end of the day, you'll have to decide if it's worth it to pay a little bit more for the peace of mind that your Airbnb will be stylish, sufficiently-equipped, and under the care of a highly-rated host. Wondering if Airbnbs are safe right now? Are Airbnbs safe? We spoke to experts, a company representative, and an Airbnb host to share everything you should know before booking someone's home Which is safer: Airbnbs or hotels? Here's what doctors say Is travel safe? Looking for more vacation rentals? Try here: Everything to know about vacation rentals, including the best booking platforms, COVID-19 safety info, and the best places to go in the US Where to search if Airbnb is booked or too expensive Ready to book an Airbnb? Start with these guides: The best Airbnbs in upstate New York Unique and affordable Airbnbs in the Hudson Valley The best Airbnbs in the Adirondacks The best Airbnbs in the Hamptons The best Airbnbs in New England The best Airbnbs in Cape Cod The best Airbnbs in Rhode Island The best Airbnbs on the Jersey Shore The best vacation rentals in Ocean City The best Airbnbs in Connecticut The best Airbnbs in Maine The best Airbnbs in Vermont The best Airbnbs in Florida The best Airbnbs in Destin The best Airbnbs in Nashville The best Airbnbs in Hilton Head The best Airbnbs in Myrtle Beach The best Airbnbs in Chicago The best Airbnbs in California The best Airbnbs in Hawaii The best Airbnbs with pools in the US The best Airbnb beach houses in the US Join the conversation about this story »
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky says treehouse and Airstream rentals are booming — and that it's a sign we're entering a more 'intimate' era of travel
The pandemic has not been kind to Airbnb. In May, the company laid off 25% of...The pandemic has not been kind to Airbnb. In May, the company laid off 25% of its global staff to keep business afloat. In a July 22 webcast with Reuters, CEO Brian Chesky said that despite setbacks, rentals outside of cities, particularly unique stays like treehouses and Airstreams, are "booming." Chesky attributed the recent surge in bookings to people wanting to get out of their houses and reconnect in a safe way. He says he's hopeful for a "new golden age" post-pandemic, predicting the industry will move away from mass tourism. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Airbnb has had a trying past few months. In May, CEO Brian Chesky predicted that Airbnb's yearly revenue will be half that of 2019 due to the pandemic's impact on travel. The homesharing company also laid off 25% of its global staff. Despite having to make difficult decisions, Chesky told Reuters' Global Editor Rob Cox and Columnist Gina Chon in a July 22 webcast that he is "optimistic" about recent numbers. Earlier in July, Airbnb saw one million room nights booked in a single day for the first time since March. Chesky attributed this uptick in bookings people wanting to get out of their houses. "I think what this is starting to tell us is that people want to connect, but they want to do so safely," he said. Travelers are heading to suburbs and rural areas Two thirds of those one million bookings were located outside of cities, and 50% were located within 300 miles from guests' homes, according to an Airbnb news release. In lieu of touring major global cities and tourist attractions in double-decker buses, travelers are now heading to small towns where they can enjoy socially distanced activities, Chesky said. "Paris" is out, and "Petaluma and Pittsburgh" are in, he told Reuters. The pandemic has accelerated a new era of unique stays and 'private' travel In particular, Airbnb's unique stays like treehouses and Airstreams are "booming," according to Chesky. Not only are people booking rentals outside of cities, but they're also looking for "something more private, intimate, smaller, unique, special — something that could be a destination in and of itself," he said. "Unlike a hotel where you're in a public space, Airbnb is a little more private," Chesky added. "So I think people feel like maybe for the first time in a long time, Airbnb is not the riskier option." In June, Airbnb rolled out new cleaning protocols for hosts to assuage traveler and host concerns about COVID-19 safety while traveling. Guests can now look for an "Enhanced Clean" certification on listings to see whether a host has committed to following the new protocols, such as wearing head-to-toe personal protective equipment while disinfecting rooms. Though no one knows when travel will fully recover, Chesky is hopeful that the industry is heading into "a new golden age of travel." That future, he thinks, does not include double-decker buses filled with camera-toting tourists. "Travel will not be massive, but small and intimate," Chesky predicted.SEE ALSO: Airbnb reveals the 10 most popular destinations in the US right now — here's where they are and where to stay in each NOW READ: Airbnb announced vigorous new cleaning protocols for hosts in response to COVID-19. Here's how to know if the listing you're considering is participating — or not. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why thoroughbred horse semen is the world's most expensive liquid