Are booking windows and stay lengths returning to normal?

January 27, 2022

During 2020, changes in booking windows and stay lengths kept the vacation rental industry on its toes. Planning, marketing, and revenue pacing were difficult as renters’ booking behaviors responded to the pandemic. 2021 brought a return to (mostly) normal booking behavior, at least as measured by average stay lengths and booking window.

Booking Windows

The chart above shows the percentage of guest reservations, by arrival date, made within certain booking windows by quarter for the last three years. Bookings within 30 days of arrival and more than 90 days in advance are the most common and also experienced the most shake up in 2020. Reservations within 30 days of arrival have always been the most popular but became even more dominant in 2020; the reopening of U.S. destinations in the second quarter and continued uncertainty about future travel led to travelers waiting until the last minute to make a reservation. The same uncertainty likely contributed to fewer reservations booked more than three months in advance. In 2021, these percentages bounced back and booking windows normalized with some interesting differences. Reservations for stays within 30 days were actually slightly less common in the last three quarters than in 2019; high occupancy rates in most destinations this summer made finding a still-available rental difficult. Overall, the average booking window in most destinations are trending towards a pre-pandemic normal.

Stay Lengths

Like the first chart, the chart above breaks down all guest reservations by quarter and year into different stay lengths. The red line shows the percentage of guest stays that were four or fewer days. These weekend stays have continued to account for about half of all guest stays, but did dip slightly during quarters two through four of 2020. A slowdown in urban travel, where weekend stays are common, likely contributed to this trend. Stays of five to eight days saw slight upticks in 2020 and a return to normal in 2021. Stays of nine or more days experienced the same trend. Notably, stays of nine or more days continue to only make up about 10% of all guest reservations.  While some people may be working from ‘home’ in a vacation rental, that has not caused a substantial increase in longer stays.

Comparing booking windows and stay lengths across the last three years does signal a return to normal booking behaviors. The continued pandemic, though, has the potential to shake things up again in 2022, making the future uncertain. And, like all vacation rental indicators, these trends vary greatly by market. Reach out to Key Data for updated information for your market.

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