Summer 2021 proved to be a major comeback for the travel industry. Occupancy of short-term rentals rose 70.2% in June 2021, a full 20% higher than 2019. The first time the U.S. exceeded occupancy higher than 70%.
Hotels are always an option, but many consumers prefer vacation rentals due to their flexibility, large inventory and, in some cases, lower rates. Whether you’re booking one bed in a shared space or renting an entire beach house, you have plenty of options to choose from.
Travel Behavior is Changing
Consumer behavior isn’t what it used to be, that’s according to the 2021 AirBnB Report on Travel & Living.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, business travel dominated the industry. However, as workstyles become increasingly remote, family travel is now the new powerhouse. Families are interested in vacations that are more flexible, longer, and include destinations that aren’t major cities.
While most major booking sites consistently update their platforms to protect consumers against fraud, there will always be a handful of misleading listings.
Whether it’s a last-minute getaway or a trip planned well in advance, Better Business Bureau recommends the following tips for booking short-term vacation rentals.
- A reverse image search goes a long way. Fake listings are notorious for stealing images or even using stock photos to attract consumers. If you see the same image on multiple websites with conflicting information, it is very likely a misleading listing. Check and verify whether the owner/host, address, and bed/bath information are consistent across the board.
- Check for consistent, detailed reviews. The possibility of fake reviews is always there. Look for reviews that are detailed and specific to ensure the listing is reliable. Previous guests will give you a solid idea of what your experience will be and provide details that may be deal-breakers for you.
- Write a list of must-haves and deal-breakers. Do you need a strong WiFi signal to work remotely? Do you want quiet or active surroundings? Do you need a coffee shop near you? Take a moment to think about details you may not have considered in your search for the perfect rental.
- Message the host as soon as you book the listing and a week before you arrive. Staying in communication with your host before your trip will give you an idea of how responsive, professional, and transparent they are. It helps you build trust with your host and reassure yourself they will be easily reachable in case of any issues.
- Take control of your communication. It is not a good sign for a host to ask you to communicate or send payment outside of the official platform. They may tempt you with a lower price to circumvent fees that come with the site. Unfortunately, communicating through private messaging leaves you unprotected in case they disappear with your money.
- Be cautious of any last-minute changes. If your host suddenly can’t rent out the unit and starts sending alternatives, be a little skeptical. Perhaps they do have a legitimate reason for canceling. However, BBB has received reports of bait and switch. A host will apologize and promise an upgrade, but once the consumer shows up, the unit is in subpar condition. Additionally, they may be sending you to alternative properties on less secure websites or fake, lookalike websites.
- Understand the cancellation policy. Some of the best deals are booked well in advance. Many platforms encourage early booking and provide flexibility in case you need to cancel. Nevertheless, make sure you have a solid understanding of those policies so you don’t miss your window of opportunity. If a host contacts you and says they can’t rent out the unit anymore, make sure you aren’t who cancels the booking because you’ll be the one penalized. Report it, don’t cancel.
- Shop with a credit card. Most credit card companies offer fraud protection programs. Those are an additional layer of security in case you lose money.