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Vacation rentals bounce back to higher occupancy numbers than pre-pandemic levels

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                                People at Lanikai Beach, a popular neighborhood for vacation rentals in Kailua, in 2013.


    People at Lanikai Beach, a popular neighborhood for vacation rentals in Kailua, in 2013.

Vacation rental occupancy statewide was even better in June than it was during the same month in 2019, a record-setting year before the pandemic shut down the industry in 2020.

However, the market’s average daily rate (ADR), along with overall supply and demand, all remained below pre-pandemic levels, according to a Hawaii Tourism Authority report released today that was produced by Transparent Intelligence, a Madrid-based company that analyzes short-term rental markets.

June was the most recent month for which data was available. HTA does not support illegal rentals, but the report does not distinguish between permitted and unpermitted, or illegal, units.

HTA noted that unlike hotels, vacation rental units “aren’t necessarily available year-round or each day of the month and often accommodate a larger number of guests than traditional hotel rooms.”

Fewer visitors stay in vacation rentals in Hawaii than in hotels, but in recent years vacation rental occupancy growth had begun to outpace hotel occupancy growth. That run was disrupted when vacation rentals were sidelined for a time during the pandemic, while hotels were allowed to operate as “essential businesses” during Hawaii’s COVID-19-related shutdown.

Once government loosened vacation rental restrictions, vacation rentals experienced a pandemic-related jump in popularity, likely from travelers who were seeking more social distance.

Vacation rental occupancy topped Hawaii hotels again in June, continuing an nine-month trend that emerged in October after Safe Travels Hawaii allowed some visitors to bypass the state’s COVID-­19-related travel quarantine.

Statewide vacation rental occupancy in June was 79.9%, which was up 66.1% from the same month in June 2020 when occupancy was just 13.8%. It was also up 6.3 percentage points from the same month in 2019 when statewide vacation rental occupancy was 73.6 %.

In comparison, statewide hotel occupancy in June was at 77%, down 61.4 percentage points from June 2020, when occupancy was 15.6%. It was up 6.9 percentage points from the 83.9% in June of 2019.

The ADR for vacation rental units statewide increased in June to $242, which represented a gain of 17% from 2020 and a decrease of nearly 30% from 2029. In comparison, the ADR for a hotel room in June was $320, which was significantly higher than the $28o achieved in June 2019 and the $162 in June 2020.

In recent months, the occupancy gap between vacation rentals and hotels has narrowed.

One theory is that vacation rental supply has dropped over time, causing those vacation rentals that are available to fill up faster. Government zoning and tax crackdowns have targeted vacation rentals. Government COVID-containment policies during the pandemic caused some vacation rentals to exit the market as the units are not allowed to host quarantining guests.

Another conjecture is that car rental supply challenges and prices also might have disproportionately affected vacation rentals, causing some of the occupancy gains to recede. Hawaii’s car rental companies decreased their fleets by more than 40% during the pandemic.

Hawaii’s ground transportation challenges are so severe that HTA has even created a website to help visitors explore ground transportation options on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii island, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai.

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