The early booking period for the 2020 rental season is already “in the books,” and the numbers of inquiring vacationers and actual bookings are providing reasons for optimism. Despite concerns from homeowners that the new lodging tax would drive vacationers to other destinations, that just doesn’t seem to be the case.
This year, as there are no exemptions from the tax that vacationers enjoyed last year, there were concerns that the lodging tax would have an even bigger impact than last year. (The exemptions included booking their homes prior to the Dec. 31, 2018, deadline as well as beginning their vacations prior to July 1st, 2019.) But so far at least, vacationers seem to be as excited as ever to return to the Cape and Islands.
The number of vacationers has actually increased
In fact, January 2020 had more vacationers on our site than during ANY other January in our 22-year history.
Even though bookings were off for the full year in 2019 over 2018 (-3%), there were still more vacationers inquiring over the whole year in 2019 than any other year dating back to 2013.
Increased numbers of vacationers and their inquiries usually result in increased bookings, and, sure enough, weekly bookings are off to a good start this year. Needless to say, this is a relief to those who worried that the tax would tamp down vacationer interest.
Overall, summer bookings on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket are up 12% over this time last year. The Cape is leading the charge with bookings up 13.8%, followed by the Vineyard, whose bookings are 7.5% higher than last year, and Nantucket, whose bookings are 2.6% higher.
Of significant note is the pricing set this year by homeowners. Where the norm for over the past 2 decades has been to increase rates between 2-4% each year, homeowners this year were exceptionally cautious: rates on the Cape are up only .73%, on Nantucket only .92%, and the Vineyard a less cautious 3.1%.
Fear of decreased vacationer demand due to the tax – coupled with the growing inventory of rental homes – appears to have led homeowners to be unusually cautious in their pricing this year.
Our Conclusions: They’re coming back again!
Given the strong start to this year’s booking season, it’s clear that vacationers are returning to the Cape and Islands despite the lodging tax. They may balk at higher prices and become more discerning about rental home values. And they may settle for slightly less expensive homes so that, when the tax is added, their costs are the same. But, so far this season, it seems they aren’t willing to forego their years-old, if not generations-old, vacation time at their Cape or Islands Happy Places.
How can homeowners best succeed this season?
- Make sure your rates are competitive, especially given the above-mentioned pricing stats. (Read more about Pricing Your Home.)
- Offer as many amenities as possible to compete better with similar properties (this may include online payment options or window air conditioners).
- Make sure your listing markets your home really well. Have you checked your Listing Quality Audit for ways to improve it? Is your calendar always up to date? (The date stamp should be within the past 2-3 weeks.)
- Have as many recent guest reviews on your listing as possible – they sell your home for you!
- Make your guests’ experience in your home as easy and enjoyable as possible so that they will write excellent reviews and return year after year.