Labor Day Weekend was more profitable than last year for many destinations, but it was unclear as to whether the momentum would continue through the rest of the month. The performance for the final three weeks of September removes all doubt: September was an outstanding month for vacation rentals in some of the top leisure markets in the United States. Travelers continue to be drawn to coastal and mountain communities where they can safely experience a change of scenery. In many markets, not only are visitors coming in higher numbers, but they’re also staying longer, contributing further to revenue increases for vacation rental owners, property managers, and destinations.
The adjusted paid occupancy rate, which accounts for owner and hold nights, increased substantially in each of these twelve markets for the last three weeks of September, as compared to last year. For Corolla, Duck, and Southern Shores, on the northern end of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the season usually ends abruptly after Labor Day. This year, however, adjusted paid occupancy remained high. The fall shoulder season for other spring and summer destinations, such as 30A (Florida), Charleston (South Carolina), and Hilton Head Island (South Carolina) were also stronger than in 2019. Even destinations with traditionally low September occupancy, like the ski markets of Park City (Utah) and Breckenridge (Colorado) have seen increased rental activity.
Not only are more guests traveling to these destinations, but they’re also staying longer, showing that people may be taking advantage of remote work and school. The average length of stay increased in most of these markets, but it’s important to note that in destinations where seven-day stays are common or required, like 30A, Hilton Head, Topsail, and the Outer Banks, the stay length did not change substantially. Increases in stay lengths appear to be more common in markets where travelers typically spend only a few days, such as Park City and South Padre Island.
And, while the average stay was longer for the last three weeks of September this year, stays that are longer than 14 days are not common. In the vast majority of markets, 14+ day stays comprise fewer than 10% of guest stays. Park City, Utah, where 14% of guest stays during this period were longer than 14 days, is an exception once again. While not unheard of, most families are taking advantage of the change in schedule to squeeze in a normal-length vacation, rather than choosing to live out of a vacation rental for a month.
The increase in occupancy, paired with longer stays and (in most cases) higher average daily rates, led to large increases in revenue per available rental (RevPAR) for the final three weeks of September. The average rental in many of these destinations generated about twice as much revenue during this period of 2020 as it did in 2019. This bump in revenue will help to offset the losses from the spring season and shows the continued strength and resilience of the vacation rental industry in leisure markets during this tumultuous time.