Tourist-rental platforms turn attention to extended-stay business as holiday bookings collapse

A holiday rental flat in Barcelona, where owners are turning their attention to extended stay

The Covid-19 pandemic has been bad for short-stay rental platforms like Airbnb, who are reportedly turning their attention to bookings with longer durations.

Global tourism has all but collapsed as a consequence of the coronavirus and lockdowns, which has hammered the turnover of short-stay rental platforms like Airbnb and Bookings, who rely on commission from tourist rentals booked through them.

As a result, these giants of the short-stay business, with 7 and 5 million listings respectively, are reportedly turning their attention to bookings with longer stays, where activity has not been hit so hard.

Having previously focused on bookings lasting a few days, and even a few hours, Booking.com now allows listings to be offered and priced for weeks or months, as does Airbnb, reports the Spanish press. To be honest, this is news to me. I thought Airbnb already allowed owners to offer their homes for rent for stays of a month or more before Covid-19 came to town, but I might be wrong.

Clients looking for extended stay rentals include students and company executives on a project abroad for a few months, and at least one journalist I know who likes to spend a few months in Barcelona every year. Extended-stay clients also tend to focus on cities, at least up until now.

Extended stay rentals are not as expensive per night as short-stay, but more expensive than long-term rentals. A sort of intermediate price, which can be more profitable than long-term rentals, if the demand is there.

For example, some quick and dirty research I just did for 3-bed flats in one area of Barcelona reveals that 3 month bookings have an asking price of between 3,000€ and 8,000€ per month (33€ – 90€/night), whilst long term rentals ask between 1,500€ and 3,000€ per month (17€ – 33€/night), very generally speaking.

Airbnb has taken note. “There’s this really new trend where travelling and living are starting to blur together,” the company’s CEO, Brian Chesky, told CNN in a recent interview. “People are booking for weeks at a time, or even months at a time.”

Domestic tourism on the rise

Airbnb also revealed that their short term bookings are now driven by local tourists. Travellers are “not crossing borders, they’re not travelling for business — but what they’re doing is they’re getting in a car, and they’re going for two or 300 miles to nearby destination dive destinations, and they’re staying at home,” Chesky said. “And this has been something that’s really been a huge and welcome surprise for Airbnb.”

In Spain, Airbnb revealed that holiday rental clients travelling less than 500 km were up to 45% of bookings in July and August, compared to 17% the same time last year. And this year 200 places in Spain had holiday bookings for the first time.