In 2019, the Travel and Tourism sector was a dominant global force. It enjoyed 3.5% growth, and for the ninth consecutive year, it outpaced global economy growth by 2.5% according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). All told, Travel and Tourism contributed a whopping $8.9 trillion to the world’s GDP in 2019 and provided 330 million jobs.
That year was an exclamation mark on a progressively lucrative era for our industry, so much so that it’s possible you didn’t even have to worry about marketing your vacation rentals. Travelers were traveling at record rates while property managers and short-term rental hosts happily obliged, so marketing strategies for vacation rentals might not have seemed super necessary at the time.
But then 2020 happened.
The WTTC estimated a $5.5 trillion loss for the sector toward the end of last year, and that’s all we really need to say about that.
Now, on the heels of two truly polarizing years, the entire industry is left to wonder: What can we expect in 2021?
Concerns about the pandemic are still extremely prevalent, but by and large, we now know what travelers are looking for during COVID-19 and can adjust to those demands. Thanks to ongoing research, we can also identify growing travel trends for the coming year, including this essential fact: marketing your vacation rentals is more important than ever.
Recent studies released by Expedia Group and Skift shed light on just how critical marketing will be in the months ahead.
“Regardless of traveler sentiment or willingness to travel right now, dreaming of travel hasn’t stopped,” Hari Nair, SVP of Expedia Group Media Solutions, told Skift in response to the latest data. “Engagement and awareness advertising are incredibly important and will pay dividends in the long term,” he said.
Knowing that, let’s explore some marketing strategies to make sure your vacation rentals stand out in 2021:
Research conducted by Expedia toward the end of last year revealed that one in two travelers feels optimistic, comfortable, or excited about going on a trip in the next 12 months. What’s more, 57% of travelers said they’d be ready for a trip if vaccines became widely available, which has already started to happen.
Still, though, that means a large chunk of people are wrestling with the unknown. Travelers are unsurprisingly at varying stages of readiness, so it’s important to ask: how can you effectively reach all sides? The answer lies in your messaging, which you need to keep consistent, truthful, and reassuring. Be sure to make it abundantly clear to travelers that you know what they are looking for right now. That type of messaging will resonate with people who are ready to travel today, as well as those who are hesitant but dreaming about their next trip tomorrow.
Year-end data also showed that roughly 80% of travelers intend to make accommodation decisions based on up-to-date pandemic measures. So when you’re pumping out all that reassuring messaging, take the time to hammer home your advanced health and hygiene standards: cleaning protocols, facemask usage, contactless check-in, and so on.
But you can also use your messaging, content, and special offers to highlight something else that is very important to travelers at the moment: flexibility. Government restrictions, rising and falling COVID cases, and general health concerns mean that vacation plans are much more fluid than in the past. You can put travelers at ease instantly by offering them refunds and trip protection—just make sure you communicate those offerings across various channels.
Hotels lost a ton of ground in 2020, and in 2021, the data gurus at Airdna predict the travel sector will fully adopt short-term rentals as a primary lodging choice. It’s a massive shift, and one that brings a level uncertainty with it. For instance: seasonality trends fell by the wayside last year. Will that continue? Who knows!
What is clear, though, is that more travelers are turning to online travel agencies for information than prior to the pandemic. They want to read your reassuring messaging, but they also want to see engaging visual content—especially pictures. When it comes to advertising vacation rental properties in 2021, you’ve got to develop a revenue management plan based on these factors. As Expedia’s Mr. Nair relayed to Skift: “Pictures and informative messaging are more influential now than pre-pandemic.”
People want to travel—that hasn’t changed. What has changed, though, is the how, when, and where details. Expedia’s research concluded that of the people who went on trips in 2020, 80% of them traveled for “rejuvenation,” especially for a change in scenery or to visit loved ones. So what does that mean for you? Well, it means you can gear your marketing efforts toward those desires with relaxation-focused messaging and imagery. Here are a few additional points that can help you form a plan: