June through August is considered peak wildfire season across the United States. This year’s wildfire season in Colorado has extended into November and has included the largest fires in the state’s history. Three of the Colorado wildfires that broke out after August, the Williams Fork fire in Grand County, the East Troublesome Fire in Grand County, and the Cameron Peak Fire in Larimer County, are still active today and burning areas close to top vacation rental markets. How have these wildfires impacted the fall performance of vacation rentals in these two Colorado counties?
The adjusted paid occupancy rate is the number of guest nights booked out of the total number of nights available. Adjusted paid occupancy averaged slightly lower this year than in 2019 for Grand County, but only by 1%. Larimer County’s adjusted paid occupancy between August and October this year averaged 6% higher than last year. However, Larimer County’s occupancy did drop below last year towards mid-October, perhaps due to fire activity.
The average length of stay in these two counties increased over 2019; potentially due to employees and students working from home. In Grand County, guests stayed for an average of 1.6 days longer than last year from August to October. Larimer County remained on par with 2019, with an average increase of 0.18 days. Overall, guests in Colorado stayed an average 0.85 days longer than last year.
Finally, we reviewed the guest reservations booked per property during the August to October period. Larimer County saw an average increase of 59% in reservations made this year over last year. Alternatively, Grand County saw a 35% decrease in reservations made compared to the same period in 2019, signaling that guests may have been hesitant to book trips while the fires were raging. Overall, Colorado saw an increase of 26% in reservations made over last year.
Although we’ve come to expect that natural disasters will impact the vacation rental industry annually, the combination of a historic wildfire season and the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for property managers in Colorado. Fortunately, the vacation rental industry in Grand and Larimer Counties were able to hold their August through October season steady.
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