Despite CDC warnings against travel, 54% of Americans have stayed in a hotel or vacation rental since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a recent ValuePenguin study.
Results show all generations are making reservations, but they have different opinions on the safest type of accommodation. Baby Boomers are more likely to say hotels are the safe choice, while a majority of Millennials and Gen X say Airbnbs are the safer option.
If you're planning to book a cheap trip while would-be tourists are homebound, you may want to curb your enthusiasm. Only 44% of Airbnb guests report paying less than usual during the pandemic, and some believe their bookings actually cost more than normal.
The study commissioned by ValuePenguin surveyed 1,056 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. These are the survey findings:
- 54% of Americans have stayed in a hotel and/or a vacation rental at some point during the coronavirus pandemic.
- More consumers have stayed in hotels than Airbnbs during the pandemic, but many deem Airbnbs safer. Half of Americans said they checked into a hotel at some point since March, while 41% have visited an Airbnb or other vacation rental. Still, 35% of consumers believe Airbnbs are safer than hotels in the new coronavirus era, while just 10% think hotels are a better choice.
- Nearly half (44%) of recent vacation rental guests estimate they paid less due to low demand, though 38% believe increased cleaning fees raised prices.
- 36% of consumers have plans to stay in a vacation or homeshare rental over the next six months. An additional 25% don't have anything planned but would still consider doing so.
Just over 4 in 10 consumers checked into a homeshare vacation rental amid the pandemic
Half of Americans have checked into a hotel at some point since March, and 41% said they've visited a vacation rental or Airbnb during the pandemic.
Gen X — those between the ages of 44 and 55 — are making the most reservations:
- 70% of Gen X has stayed in an Airbnb since March, compared to 50% of Millennials and just 8% of Boomers.
- 75% of Gen X has stayed in hotels since March, compared to 60% of Millennials and 19% of Baby Boomers.
"Given which age groups are most susceptible to major trouble with COVID-19, and which have been hit hardest economically by the outbreak, this breakdown makes a lot of sense," said Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree.
Older adults are at a higher risk of getting a severe case of COVID-19, which could be motivating them to stay home. Millennials who want to take a trip might not have the extra cash to spare at the moment. A Transamerica Center study published in May found that Millennials are more likely than Gen X and Baby Boomers to report having trouble making ends meet.
Most Airbnb users are traveling to cities with family in tow
Most Airbnb reservations have been a romantic or family affair: 45% of Airbnb guests stayed with family, 32% went with a spouse or romantic partner and 13% with family they don't live with. Only 7% of Airbnb guests stayed in the rental with friends and 3% stayed alone.
Urban locales are the most popular destination — 56% of Airbnb guests said they visited cities. As for those who ventured elsewhere for a getaway, 41% stayed at a beach, 18% stayed at a lake, 15% visited the desert and 12% went to the mountains.
Even with fewer people traveling and lower demand, less than half of Airbnb guests said they were able to score a deal. Just 44% said they paid less than usual for their reservation, and 38% believe they paid more than usual because of a cleaning fee.
"Depending on where you're visiting, you definitely might pay less for a vacation rental today than you would have a year ago. That doesn't mean that everything is cheap, though," said Schulz. Even with fewer people visiting popular tourist sites, there's still demand there and costs will likely go up during a peak time, such as summer vacation and holiday travel season.
Then you have to consider that you might pay more and not less if you want to explore places off the beaten path. "Rentals in the country or near state or national parks might be seeing excess demand as more and more Americans look for socially distant outdoor fun," said Schulz.
An increase in interest could drive rates upward, so you might have to do a bit of shopping around if you're looking for a deal on a mini-getaway.
Americans are taking precautions when they travel
The majority of people (86%) who traveled to Airbnbs or vacation rentals since March said they took safety precautions. Of those who took precautionary measures, 38% said they wiped down surfaces when they arrived and 30% said they opened windows to circulate the air.
Surprisingly, only 16% of Airbnb or vacation rental guests said they stayed in the rental by themselves without the host. Most guests (50%) stayed in the same house as their host during the trip, but with a separate entrance.
Another 34% of Airbnb and vacation rental guests said their host stayed in the same house without a separate entrance.
Hotels vs. Airbnbs: consumers split on safety
When it comes to what type of lodging is safer, 35% of consumers believe that Airbnb is safer than hotels in the new coronavirus era. Although, Millennials and Gen X are more likely than Baby Boomers to say that Airbnbs are the safer choice.
Just 10% of respondents think hotels are safer and 21% believe Airbnbs and hotels are equally as safe. A sizable 34% of people are still undecided on whether one is safer than the other, which is a response that's pretty indicative of the times. Decisions on how to safely go about life can change on an almost daily basis as we get new information about COVID-19.
Of those who believe Airbnbs are safer, 57% say it's because they have less contact with other people when they stay at an Airbnb. Another 42% say Airbnbs are safer because they're able to book a remote location, 23% believe Airbnbs are cleaner than hotels and 13% say they can communicate directly with the Airbnb host about cleaning standards.
As for those who believe hotels are safer, 57% say it's because hotels have more regulations in terms of cleaning and social distancing. Forty-six percent say they trust hotel brands and 40% simply believe that hotels are cleaner overall.
Ultimately, COVID-19 doesn't discriminate between lodging types and the virus could be present at either one. "Regardless of whether you stay at a hotel or an Airbnb, you should probably take the time to do at least a little bit of cleaning yourself when you arrive," said Schulz.
More than a third plan to rent a homeshare property for fall or winter travel
As for future plans, 22% of Americans have already booked travel and look forward to staying in an Airbnb or other form of a homeshare in the next six months; 14% said they plan to travel but haven't made the booking yet.
Twenty-five percent of Americans said their plans aren't set in stone but they might consider staying in an Airbnb or homeshare. Meanwhile, 39% of Americans said they don't plan on staying in a homeshare and wouldn't consider it either.
Keeping on trend, Gen X and Millennials are more likely than Baby Boomers to have Airbnb plans over the next six months — 67% of Gen X and 44% of Millennials plan to stay in an Airbnb compared to only 6% of Baby Boomers.
5 things to think about when booking accommodations during pandemic-era travel
If you decide to travel, safety is paramount. The CDC recommends limiting travel as much as you can, but here are some travel tips for when you venture out:
- Watch out for hotspots: Besides making a destination choice based on the sites, food and activities, the status of outbreaks in the area is a factor to weigh in your decision. Consider checking local and national news to view case statistics before deciding where you'll travel.
- Read hotel and host reviews: Whether staying in an Airbnb or hotel, look at the most recent reviews to see what guests are saying about the cleanliness of the property.
- Check safety and cleanliness standards: Review the Airbnb host profile or hotel website to see what's being done to minimize exposure between guests. Hyatt, for example, has enacted a safety protocol that includes regularly cleaning common areas and guest room surfaces. The hotel also maintains sanitization stations throughout the hotel. Marriott also regularly cleans surfaces with disinfectant and offers disinfectant wipes in guest rooms. If you don't see what the Airbnb host or hotel brand is doing on the website, you can contact them beforehand to inquire before making a reservation.
- Book several days (or weeks) after other guests: If you're staying in an Airbnb or vacation rental, consider leaving a gap in time between your stay and the prior guests' stay. COVID-19 can live on surfaces for hours or up to several days depending on the surface, so a gap in time could minimize your risk of exposure.
- Maintain distance during your stay: The CDC says maintaining a distance of six feet away reduces the risk of transmission. Try to follow this guideline while in transit and after checking in, especially if you will be sharing common areas with an Airbnb host.
ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 1,056 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded Sept. 18-22, 2020.
Generations are defined as the following as of September 2020:
- Gen Z: Ages 18 to 24
- Millennial: Ages 25 to 43
- Gen X: Ages 44 to 55
- Baby boomer: Ages 56 to 74
- Silent generation: Ages 75 and older