The vacation rental industry has been on a roller coaster ride this past year. So much has changed about travel: from where we can travel, to how we travel and why we’re travelling. 

This much is certain; travel in 2021 will be far smoother than it has been in 2020. More flights will take off, a greater number of countries will welcome visitors and there will be fewer restrictions. 

As 2020 winds to a close, expectations are mounting for 2021 to be the bounce-back year. There are many hopeful signs. Tests for COVID-19 are more widely available and destinations are finding ways to reopen safely without requiring travellers to quarantine. We also now have the prospect of three effective vaccines on the verge of widespread distribution. 

Next year, many travellers are hoping to get back on the road – and they’re already researching where to book. According to Expedia’s 2021 Travel Trends report, most travellers are looking for destinations that offer seclusion, sun and sand, and are easily accessible by plenty of flights

Urban vacation rentals are still very much on travellers’ radars according to Expedia; search results make it clear that travellers are eager to return and enjoy all the culture, activities and experiences that you can only find in cities.

But when exactly will travellers start to book again, and how can you prepare your distribution for the surge in demand? Let’s find out.

Positive trends in travel, according to Rentals United data 

More than ten months have passed since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Hundreds of millions of people have lived through lockdowns and shifted to working from home. But one thing they haven’t had is a well-earned break. 

As soon as the news broke that a vaccine for COVID-19 would become available, we noticed a steep increase in the number of bookings made. Travellers are keen to get exploring again, which is fantastic news for the travel industry. 

From the graph below, you can see the effect of the news. Our stats show an almost 30% increase in reservations being made globally. 

2021 date you should be ready for
Source Rentals United

We are not the only ones looking at 2021 in a positive light. Ryanair expects air passenger numbers to bounce back to near-normal levels by next summer, defying industry predictions that it could take years for growth to return after the pandemic. 

The airline’s Chief Executive Officer, Michael O’Leary, said passenger volumes should reach 75-80% of pre-COVID19 levels in 2021, especially if a vaccine is developed by the spring. 

When will travellers be booking their holidays for 2021? 

January has always been a popular month for booking a holiday, and this year we aren’t expecting any different. Travellers will desperately be looking to make up for their lost holidays in 2020. As the January blues start to set in, people will long for a break, sunshine and hot weather.  

To identify the most common booking window in this period, we looked back over the previous years’ statistics. We found a trend. 

The most popular time for making reservations is the last week of December and the first three weeks of January with an accumulative average increase week on week of around 10% (see graph below). 

2021 date you should be ready for
Source Rentals United

It’s important to be aware of this so you can get your marketing distribution up to scratch for the most prosperous few weeks. Let’s break it down further.  

Spanish travellers 

A recent survey from our partner, HomeToGo goes into detail about what to expect for the Spanish market in 2021. 

They forecast 63% of Spaniards to travel over the next 12 months. From that, 33% are planning to travel during New Year’s Eve and New Year 2020/21. 

Travel is also expected to increase around the Easter holidays, with more than 50% of Spaniards already looking to travel during that time in 2021. 

Chinese travellers 

In China, there is enormous pent-up demand for travel. The virus has been nearly defeated in East Asia and there’s a prospect for a vaccine to become available to the Chinese public in a few weeks. 

The COTRI (China Outbound Tourism Research Institute) is forecasting that travellers from mainland China will take 100 million international trips in 2021. If you haven’t already started advertising to Chinese tourists, we would suggest getting listed on Trip.com

For more information on how to market your vacation rentals to Chinese travellers, read our article here

US Travellers 

As for US travellers, Expedia’s 2021 Travel Trends report says that while domestic travel and escapes to nearby destinations will likely remain popular, US travellers are craving a far-flung vacation. 

More specifically, they will be looking for island escapes, cultured visits to Europe as well as trips to large cities

According to HomeToGo, winter and summer will be the most popular travel period among US travellers who are planning a trip in 2021. 

Here’s the breakdown per season:

  • Winter: 43% 
  • Summer: 41% 
  • Spring: 36%
  • Autumn: 33%.  

Australian travellers 

Historically, Australia’s travel recovery has been substantially better than that of many other countries. 

Looking at past trends in our internal statistics, we expect to see a quicker recovery from Australia with stricter travel restrictions once the country allows people to travel again.

The excellent news for Australia is that in November, the government vowed to open up coronavirus travel bubbles with key countries so that Australians can enjoy overseas holidays again in 2021

The BIG travel trend we expect to see in 2021

One significant change we are expecting to take effect in 2021 will be the nature in which people take their holidays. 

Travellers will take fewer and more extended trips. Those who can work from home will set up home offices in attractive places with fewer restrictions on movement than where they live. We expect many of these changes to continue long after a vaccine has been widely deployed. 

Travellers will get used to longer trips, more flexibility and combining work with leisure. International tourism will eventually recover to its 2019 levels, but we believe starting from 2021, it will look somewhat different.

We would recommend making sure your vacation rentals are equipped to meet the new demand of the digital nomad and work-from-home guest. There’s been an increase of renters scouring listings to ensure their holiday home has ample desk space, sufficient lighting and high-speed wifi

How to maximise the visibility of your vacation rentals 

Getting your properties in front of travellers before the New Year hits is imperative. As we’ve seen in the graph above, the last week of December and the first three weeks of January are typically when many people look to book a vacation. 

Targeting the right travellers at the right time is essential to your success. And it all begins with picking the appropriate mix of distribution channels (booking sites). Your distribution strategy will determine whether you manage to get your listings in front of your audience and successfully convert them to guests.

The problem many property managers have is they often rely on a handful of channels. This is a risky strategy. Algorithms change, booking sites can go bust, and you could be putting your business in a difficult situation. 

We did some digging and looked through our own statistics to find that the most successful property managers are connected to an average of 11 channels, including the big 5 (Airbnb, Booking.com, Agoda, Expedia and Vrbo). 

That leaves six other channels that are helping them to generate more bookings, boost occupancy and increase visibility, helping to cover as much ground as they can to increase their bookings. 

More often than not, these channels are high-performing niche websites that target specific types of travellers and drive incremental bookings. 

Get listed on niche channels

Niche websites are an essential part of a balanced vacation rental distribution strategy next to large OTAs and your own direct booking website. Which ones you get listed on will depend on the characteristics of your rentals and the audience you’re trying to reach. 

For example, there are booking sites that target:

To help you find the best niche websites for your business, we created a new ebook titled The Who’s Who of Short-Term Rental Listing Sites. 

In it, you can find 40+ niche websites and lots of details about them including:

  • Monthly traffic/reach
  • Business model
  • Commissions
  • Investment

To learn more, download your free copy now!

If you’d like to find out more about which channels are best for you, get in touch with a Rentals United distribution specialist who will be happy to answer your questions.