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How the Decline in Popularity of Airbnbs Will Affect the Outdoor Recreation Industry

July 6, 2023
How the Decline in Popularity of Airbnbs Will Affect the Outdoor Recreation Industry

At the height of the pandemic, a growing demand for vacation rentals combined with a higher availability of investment properties on the market, created a boom in purchasing vacation homes. In 2020 and 2021, the number of vacation home purchases was 44% higher than the growth of existing home sales. This boom caused a housing shortage and skyrocketing rental prices in the U.S. and abroad. It also affected the growth of the outdoor recreation industry, as campsites, RV campgrounds, and other short-term housing options had to suddenly compete with Airbnbs. Now, many cities are cracking down on short-term lodging and vacation home rentals, passing new regulations that take thousands of lodging options off the market for travelers. What does this mean for the outdoor recreation industry? 

A Pattern of Disruption

The competition between Airbnbs and the hotel and resort industry has long been a pattern of disruption, resulting in attacks, denial, and participation over the past decade and a half. The luxury hotel segment was hit as hard as smaller, boutique or rural hotels that didn’t have as many resources to rely on as competition mounted. Since the start of the pandemic, outdoor adventure lodging has been pulled into the fray as well. As people started traveling again, albeit with restrictions due to the pandemic, they didn’t want to stay in huge hotels or at crowded campsites and campgrounds with other travelers. Instead, they chose Airbnbs which offered relative privacy and seclusion as well as the comforts of home. In response, Airbnb developed “Airbnb Experiences,” making it easier for travelers to coordinate activities in the great outdoors. This appealed to travelers thirsting for adventure, who were looking for unconventional accommodations. This pattern of disruption only ground to a halt because of increasing calls for legislation restricting the use of vacant vacation homes as purely-for-profit Airbnb rentals. 

Understanding Consumers’ Needs 

Larger societal trends are now impacting what consumers are looking for when they book travel, lodging, and adventure experiences. The industry has seen a shift towards “new luxury,” where travelers are looking for authentic and unique experiences that teach them something about themselves. Previously underrepresented groups are now seeking out adventure travel and outdoor activities, creating an opportunity to reach a new demographic of travelers. Brand loyalty isn’t as important anymore, and consumers seem to place more value on instant gratification, finding the best deal available, and personalization of experiences. There has also been a marked shift towards wellness and well-being in combination with authentic outdoor experiences. Finally, today’s travelers seek to blend work, life, and play into one experience by taking advantage of increased opportunities for connection even in the most remote areas. All of these changes are forcing travel and adventure lodging providers to re-think what consumers want out of their travel experience. 

Re-Commitment to Hospitality

In order to compete in these new shifts in the needs of travelers and adventure seekers, lodging providers need to recommit to hospitality. For a long time, Airbnb managed to leverage the “authenticity” of the travel experience and monetize connections between local experiences and travelers. Now, with the slow decline of Airbnbs popularity, other lodging providers have an opportunity to once again find their niche among other low-cost, convenient, and authentic offerings. A new focus on brand authenticity and committing to providing authentic experiences can encourage travelers to choose their company over a hotel or resort. When companies, especially smaller, locally owned companies, place a focus on humanity and hospitality, they establish themselves as a trustworthy, valuable resource. Creating a human connection instead of a faceless corporation will highlight the personalization and hospitableness of the company.

Create a New Marketing Journey

Airbnb created strategic, creative, and competitive brand communication strategies that other short term lodging providers can learn from. Their advertising and digital marketing teams recognized the value of marketing to people of every generation. Their team knew how to effectively build trust and establish an authentic brand. They took advantage of digital marketing tools that leveraged their presence online among popular spaces and created a sense of community. Creating this community also simplified further marketing strategies and their booking process. This community then further spread the word about the popularity of Airbnb, creating a word-of-mouth marketing campaign that didn’t cost them anything. 

They created a robust website that optimized their booking and sales and encouraged engagement and sharing. They utilized paid search marketing and email marketing to spread the word far and wide across demographics and platforms. They used SEO and social media optimization to drive traffic and get their message in front of the right audience at the right time. They built and nurtured partnerships with influencers and other brands, further increasing their reach. They also understood the power of using storytelling in marketing, setting up informative blogs and resources for travelers who wanted to share stories, videos, and photos. Finally, they used both inbound and referral marketing. Inbound marketing used a partnership with Craigslist to drive traffic and business to Airbnb’s website from people looking for short term lodging. Referral marketing encouraged users to refer new members to the service in exchange for a trip credit. This increased their growth and rewarded repeat visitors.   

Take Advantage of Technology  

Technology is increasingly infiltrating the great outdoors, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Advancements in technology have made it easier for travelers to connect, share vital information, and stay safe in remote areas. Tech also makes it easier and faster for search and rescue teams to find lost and injured hikers, campers, and travelers. If you run a lodging site for adventurers, you can also embrace technology to attract younger travelers and reach a different demographic. Advertise that you have charging stations and internet access onsite and find a way to combine your guests’ passion for the outdoors and technology. Use your website or app to connect travelers with each other, so they can coordinate their stay and share information. Highlight stories from past travelers and use it as a way to introduce newbies to activities and areas to explore that they wouldn’t have come across on their own. 

Revitalizing the Sense of Community

One of the most valuable ways that short-term lodging providers can demonstrate value to travelers and outdoor enthusiasts is by committing to revitalizing and beautifying public spaces. What hotels and Airbnbs lack is genuine sustainability. If you run a campsite, campground, or other vacation lodging option for hikers, backpackers, and travelers, you can significantly increase your visitors by creating a safe, engaging, sustainable, and beautiful public space for their use. You already know your visitors love nature and the outdoors; don’t confine them to a small, impersonal room or the solitude of their tent. Create a sense of community by building a gathering space that is inviting and comfortable and encourages engagement. It could be as simple as setting up chairs and benches around a bonfire, creating a communal cooking area, scheduling sing-alongs or scary story sharing contests, or encouraging use of a common outdoor space for conversation. 

The Future of Temporary Lodging

The pandemic and new regulations on Airbnbs didn’t fully upend the short-term rental industry, but it did affect its course. Other lodging providers in the outdoor industry can use Airbnbs’ downfall as an illustration of the importance of innovation, adaptation, sustainability, and reconnecting with the customer experience. As technology and consumer needs advance at a rapid pace over the next five years, those in the outdoor industry need to keep pace and continue to find new ways to compete and grow. Leveraging technology and IT services can help smaller lodging providers compete in a bigger marketplace and across a wider demographic. Lodging providers can create brand authenticity through storytelling and creating an authentic experience that connects with their customers. Creating a sense of community and recommitting to hospitality will allow customers to bond or be alone together in outdoor spaces. 

Stay Competitive in the Outdoor Industry  

If you want your company to stay competitive in the outdoor industry, stay in touch with us at Advanced Outdoor Solutions. By signing up for our email list and keeping up with our blog, our team can help you identify the ways you can adapt and change along with the changing needs of your target audience. Our team of outdoor enthusiasts loves to research, analyze, and present the latest trends and data in outdoor activities so that you can stay informed about changes that impact your business, and find new ways to expand, grow, and engage with your community. 

We also offer those in the industry land planning, design, development, and turnkey third-party management solutions throughout Delaware, DC, and SW Florida. To learn more about these services, contact us today at 1-800-579-9796 or contact us online.