Holiday let companies rush to sign up properties ahead of summer

Vacation rental companies are scrambling to secure accommodation as a burst of pent-up summer demand and a drop in the number of holiday lets during the pandemic prompts fears of a supply squeeze.

Henrik Kjellberg, chief executive of Awaze, which operates across the UK and Europe, said the company was going “gangbusters” recruiting new homes to its brands. “We have increased the number of people we have focused on it [and] we have streamlined processes.”

Awaze has added 6,000 new holiday lets so far this year to its websites, which include Hoseasons and, almost 40 per cent more than during the same period in 2019.

Expedia-owned holiday rental company Vrbo said demand for summer was 15 per cent ahead of the same point last year and many “top locations” were already sold out.

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Both Vrbo and Plum Guide, a high-end holiday let company, said consumers were taking advantage of remote working and booking longer stays, which was also putting pressure on supply.

Competition for holiday lets was rising before the pandemic because of the success of Airbnb, but volatile travel restrictions and demand during the crisis prompted some owners to give up on the industry.

Tighter regulation of short-term rental accommodation, particularly in cities, has also quelled the growth of available properties.

The number of vacation rentals listed in Europe fell from nearly 6.1mn in August 2019 to 5.8mn in August last year, according to industry data provider Transparent, with the proportion available in cities declining from 62 per cent to 43 per cent.

In popular Mediterranean countries, such as Italy, there was 25 per cent less accommodation available in April 2022 than there had been in April 2019, figures from analyst AirDNA showed. In Portugal, there was 14 per cent less.

To increase supply, Vrbo said it was spending “aggressively” on social media platforms to encourage hosts to sign up. It also spent more in the first quarter of the year on US TV advertising targeted at hosts than ever before.

Meanwhile, Airbnb this month announced an overhaul of its platform to push guests to more unusual locations. Non-urban listings had increased by 15 per cent globally year on year in the first quarter, it said.

Doron Meyassed, co-founder and chief executive of Plum Guide, said there was a “big crunch” on short-term rental stock in cities such as New York, where authorities approved plans for a strict new licensing regime last December. But many hosts that put their properties on long-term leases during the pandemic were starting to return to the holiday market, he added.

A further boost to supply had come from people who had bought homes in rural areas during the pandemic, but had now been called back to work in city centre offices more often than they had expected.

“A lot of people who did that . . . realised they are not spending as much time as they thought in that place and [are] renting it out, especially as interest rates go up [it] is a good way to monetise it,” said Kjellberg.

Graham Donoghue, chief executive of Sykes Holiday Cottages, said holidaymakers who had enjoyed domestic breaks during periods of restricted international travel last year were now going on staycations in addition to taking foreign trips.

Several operators said that bookings were increasingly being made at the last minute.

Awaze said bookings for holidays within the next 28 days were up 9 per cent on the same period in 2019, while Plum Guide’s Meyassed said occupancy for the next 90 days was “higher than pre-Covid almost everywhere we operate”.

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