Comparing this year’s performance to last year’s is a helpful way for vacation rental managers to judge how they’re doing. Specifically, reviewing pace reports can lead to a better understanding of pick-up, booking windows, and expected performance. But what if the prior year was wildly different due to, for example, a global pandemic?
In 2020, most travel destinations began to feel the impacts of the pandemic in Mid-March. Booking activity quickly declined as stay-at-home orders were announced. During the spring, occupancy was low, new reservations all but stopped, and stay lengths increased. Then, upon reopening, many destinations experienced a flood of new bookings. Summer and fall performance was extremely strong for most leisure destinations.
Given these huge deviations from the norm, should vacation rental managers be comparing 2021 performance to 2020 or to 2019?
The simple answer would be to write 2020 off as an anomaly and compare 2021 to 2019. However, that ignores two facts: 1) the pandemic is ongoing and 2) some trends, particularly booking windows, have likely changed for the foreseeable future.
The more complicated, but also more useful answer, is to consider both 2019 and 2020 performance. Compare 2021 to 2020 for January – February and 2019 for March – June. When comparing this year to 2019, keep in mind that booking windows are considerably shorter than they were pre-pandemic and seasons may be less rigid due to the continued location flexibility for many workers and students. Whether the fall season of 2021 should be compared to 2020 or 2019 will depend largely on how the summer shapes up and how much learning and working is still taking place remotely. Above all, knowledge of the timeline and impacts of the pandemic for your specific market will be crucial as you consider year-over-year performance.