ANALYSIS

Short-term rental market collapses in 2020

Many property owners withdraw listings from online platforms; others hope for a summer rebound

short-term-rental-market-collapses-in-2020

The pandemic and the resulting crash in the tourism industry also greatly affected short-term rentals, with total earnings falling to €467.4 million from €989 million in 2019, a drop of almost 53%.

The average occupancy rate of short-term rentals dropped to 36.1% from 50% in 2019. In other words, reservations accounted for just over one-third of available days.

The above data come from the annual survey on the Greek market conducted by specialized firm AirDNA, which mines data from over 10 million short-term rental listings worldwide, on the Airbnb and Vrbo platforms. According to the 2020 survey, daily income per listed property did not exceed €40.2, down from €59.55 in 2019, a drop of 32.5%.

The most popular destinations were not immune to this decline; quite the contrary. On the island of Mykonos, for example, the average monthly income from a short-term listing dropped 41% from 2019, while in central Athens it was almost 37% lower. In Santorini, income declined almost 33% and, on the island of Crete, 25.7%. Monthly income also declined 31.4% in Paros and 25% in Tinos.

The Halkidiki peninsula in northern Greece, which depends heavily on tourists from neighboring Balkan countries, was even harder hit: a 44% decline in monthly income was observed in Cassandra, 40.2% in Sithonia and 39.3% in Nea Propontida, while nearby Thessaloniki, with a more diverse source of clients, the decline was 25.8%.

Athens seaside resorts fared the best, with the income decline at a relatively small 9.3%. This is due to the fact that many Athenians chose short-term rentals near the city for their 2020 vacations, eschewing long-distance travel for safety reasons.

Greek renters dominated the market in 2020 and it is possible they will do so again this coming season. In 2020, visitors from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the United States and Spain trailed Greece in the short-rental market, while in 2019, US visitors led the category, followed by the British, Greeks, French, Germans and Canadians.

In terms of available overnight stays, there were 11.6 million such in 2020, but only 4.2 million were reserved, a 49.3% drop from the 8.3 million reserved in 2019. The average cost for an overnight stay shrank 6.7%, to €111.30, from €119.20 in 2019.

Active listings – that is, listings on which at least one reservation was made – declined 11.6% in 2020, to 72,591 from 82,138. December 2020 was the worst month of the year; it was obvious that short-term leasing would suffer worst in lockdown conditions. Thus, in mid-December, the number of listings dropped below 45,000, a decline of 75.4% below the previous year’s level.

The picture becomes even worse when one takes account of just the active listings. Thus, in December, fewer than 20,000 available listings had at least one reservation. Even at the height of last year’s tourist season, in August, just over 60,000 listings were active. This is proof that the short-rental market was operating at well below capacity in 2020 and a sizable number of property owners saw little or no business.

Rapid developments

Short-rental market professionals note that the market appears different, as the pandemic accelerated developments that had already become apparent in 2019. Specifically, thousands of listings have dropped the short-term rental platforms as owners opt to pursue longer-term contracts. There are also many cases of a holding pattern, with owners seeking, for example, six-month rentals, an indication that they intend to try the short-term market again.

Regardless of how many properties will appear again on digital platforms, such as Airbnb, it is certain that the market will become more competitive and more professional.

Companies managing five or more properties are constantly gaining market share. According to the AirDNA data, companies managing over 21 properties each accounted for 14% of income from rents. Their share has been rising steadily, to 21% in 2020. But the market is still dominated by small-scale operatives; companies or individuals managing up to five properties still accounted for 63% of all income in 2020.

As for the market’s 2021 prospects, there is an, undoubtedly guarded, optimism that occupancy rates could approach 2019 levels, that is, 50%. But for that to happen, there would need to be a significant rise in reservations. Based on the number of reservations for summer stays, the picture is not much different than that in 2020; however, as vaccination programs advance in all countries, it is hoped that reservations will rise correspondingly.