Gay travelers have especially become attracted to vacation rentals. According to a 2021 study published by IGLTA (International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association), 45 percent of LGBTQ+ travelers are likely to stay in a vacation home post COVID-19. That’s nearly half the gay population.
“When COVID hit, people were going stir-crazy and looking for places to escape to like Palm Springs,” says Sean Rogers, owner of popular vacation rental Villa Sierra in Palm Springs. “Since many hotels were closed, or heavily regulated with strict rules during the pandemic, “short-term rental homes became an extremely attractive offering,” says Sean. “2020 and 2021 were record years for us with many people booking multiple vis its to the home,” he says. “One guest paid full price for 48 nights, and they are coming back this year for 42 nights.”
Not only are travelers booking vacation rentals multiple times, they’re paying more for it. According to AirDNA, a company that tracks vacation rental data, vacation rental prices soared across the U.S. in 2021, with some destinations showing over 50% daily rate growth (compared to 2019), including popular, outdoor-centric destinations like Long Island, New York, Big Bear, California, Atlantic City, New Jersey, Burlington, Vermont and Joshua Tree, California.
“A lot of people discovered and tried the vacation rental category for the first time during the pandemic and loved the experience, so those guests are already planning to book vacation homes for their next trip,” says Vrbo Travel Expert, Alison Kwong. She notes that the strong desire to travel and reunite with friends and families lends to the surge in vacation rental bookings.
The pandemic also changed typical booking behavior. “People are booking their vacation homes much further in advance,” says Kwong. “For several major travel seasons, like summer and the holidays, we’ve seen booking activity occur two to three months earlier than usual.”
Sean Rogers agrees and even recommends travelers book well in advance now, and he often finds guests book their next stay while on property, especially for yearly events like Modernism Week, the Palm Springs Film Festival, and Coachella. “Summer in Palm Springs is no longer the low season,” he says. “We now have the same amount of guests year-round.”
Another change post-pandemic? Many people are opting to stay longer to make up for cancelled pandemic trips or because hybrid and remote work policies are becoming more commonplace, which gives them more freedom to travel and extend their vacation days.
“Guests are not only staying longer, they’re embracing flexible travel dates,” says Kwong. “Marriott saw an uptick in three- to four-week stays, as well as an increase in undated searches, indicating that people are less beholden to a school or company holiday calendar and are traveling whenever they want because flexibility and remote work are becoming more commonplace.”
Major Hotel Chains Now Offer Vacation Rental Options Right on Property
Travelers who are brand loyal to hotel chains don’t necessarily have to abandon them for vacation rentals. Globally, luxury hotel brands, like Marriott, have been extending their guestroom options to include vacation rental-type accommodations, such as separate, standalone villas, residences, and even homes, meaning guests can receive all the bene fits of a vacation rental while accumulating loyalty points and continuing to receive stellar hotel service (housekeeping, concierge, butlers), enjoy all the resort’s amenities and perks, such as in-room dining, and have access to all facilities, including restaurants and spa.
As a frequent traveler, I prefer a luxury resort’s vacation rental option when available. You receive the best of both worlds: the privacy and space of a homestay, and all the privileges of the resort. A resort’s vacation rental option will be truly luxurious, often more reliable than a homestay. For instance, while bed comfort can be hit or miss at a homestay property, I know I’ll be sleeping well on the comfortable, expensive bed in a resort’s vacation rental, the same bed a resort provides in guestrooms. Also, because a resort’s vacation rental options are generally considered premium accommodations, they’re a nice upgrade from standard guestrooms.
A resort’s vacation rental often comes with perks. A great example is Four Seasons Punta Mita (www.fourseasons.com/puntamita), where the four- and five-bedroom beach homes offer the same beds, design, and butler service of the guest rooms, but they are the only accommodations with direct beach access.
While hotel chains have recently begun offering these high-end, home stay-style accommodations, some boutique hotels and resorts have long pandered to repeat guests with vacation homes.
At the 1,300-acre Equinox Resort (www.equinoxresort.com) in Manchester, Vermont, guests can stay in one of the 195 luxury rooms, or book an entire home on the historic, 18th-century property. The 14 vacation homes (minimum two bedrooms, starting at 1,360 square feet) are staggered throughout the resort, equipped with full kitchens, gas fireplaces, stainless steel appliances and more. These rentals boast the same New England charm as the guestrooms, and guests have access to all resort amenities, from spa to restaurants, bikes, and 914 acres of hiking. Another benefit? A three-bedroom home can be as low as $500 a night. Over in Stowe, Topnotch Resort (www.topnotchresort.com) has a similar set-up. The resort, opened in 1959, offers elegant rooms and suites, but guests who want more privacy can book one of the 17 uniquely designed vacation rentals (debuted in the early 1980s) within walking distance to the main resort. Guests have access to the award winning spa, two pools, and signature restaurant The Roost.