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Online Vacation Rentals Offer Home Design Opportunities

Consumers looking to experience a location, be it a destination, urban setting or just a cool locale, are moving toward online vacation rental sites such as Airbnb at a rapid pace.

Diane Falvey
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Surya vacation rentals
This Surya room vignette showcases elements, such as seating and colors, that can be easily photographed for online vacation rental sites.

Where are the opportunities in home design headed? One opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked is vacation rental properties. As consumers continue to trade in traditional hotels for more “authentic” travel experiences, Airbnb, VRBO and similar services are experiencing a boon said to be changing the hospitality landscape and providing growth opportunities in home furnishings design. 

According to iProperty Management, as the result of new integrated apps and software, more consumers are taking advantage of vacation rentals and the benefits they offer. Revenue for this industry worldwide was projected at $57 billion for this year, largely made up of small properties managing one to 19 guest spaces. In the first quarter of 2019, Airbnb saw booking revenue climb 31 percent over the same quarter last year, with $9.4 billion booked in that quarter alone. The company has also seen growth climb 40 percent year over year, with more than 150 million site users and 2 million properties booked every single night worldwide. 

Millennials make up 40 percent of the users booking vacation rentals online and are expected to spend $1.4 trillion on travel by 2020. Their go-to? Vacation rentals over traditional hotels. According to iProperty Management, this new generation of vacationers and the tools they have at their disposal for travel experiences is expected to impact hotel business in a major way by 2020. There are more than 600,000 Airbnb rental locations in the United States alone, and that number is growing exponentially year over year. Currently valued at $3.5 billion, Airbnb’s value is projected to be at $8.5 billion by the end of 2020. 

Leverage the Experience Factor

Without question, this is a growth opportunity to keep an eye on for interior designers and home furnishings retailers. Vacation rentals need to be fully outfitted — home furnishings, decor and the special touches needed to create an experiential, local vibe

IMAX Worldwide Home changed up its merchandising perspective this year with destination-styled vignettes, complete with a story and travel hangtags. Shown: Northern Exposure. 

What will consumers stepping up to the Airbnb plate as an income stream in their properties — whether rooms in a residence or a vacation rental property — be looking for? Durability, functionality, unique design that reflects a location’s ambience and culture are all draws for these spaces. Experience is the factor driving this vacation alternative, according to research, so the feel should be a designer interpretation of the location. 

“You want to accessorize in a way that captures the feel of the environment and reinforces where the vacationers are and how great that makes them feel,” says Sonja Urich, Creative Director at IMAX Worldwide Home. “Even in places that aren’t vacation destinations — Pittsburgh or Cleveland, for example —there are unique, quirky things about those areas. How you set up the space can change someone’s whole perspective of that location.”

For the interior designer, understanding the nuances in a locale ups the ante for designing rental opportunities. For retailers in a vacation destination or an urban location, where Airbnb rentals are seeing rapid growth — Indianapolis, IN, and Columbus, OH, topped Airbnb rental growth rates in the United States, with 256 percent and 254 percent growth in the last year, respectively — showcasing a comprehensive local merchandising vibe could give consumers considering vacation rental opportunities the inspiration needed to furnish that rental property. 

Practicality Matters

That destination-infused rental space can charm the visitors that stay there, but they also need to be enticed beforehand. According to iProperty Management, Airbnb users spend an average of 11 to 12 minutes on the site when choosing a property and half of that traffic comes through mobile devices. Photography matters. It’s imperative to make sure the space photographs well and looks inviting. It can mean the difference between a busy vacation rental and an empty one. Urich cautions, however, that larger statement pieces and art that don’t easily walk away with vacationers as souvenirs are good choices when designing Airbnb spaces. Decorative lighting fixtures, wall art and more can add flair and are reliably certain to stay in place. 

Hooker Furniture
Hooker Furniture’s Keane power sleeper sofa features a unique mechanism so it can be opened without removing the sofa cushions. It also features plush performance fabric and a storage chaise.

Beyond the photograph, once a guest arrives, it’s also important to offer comfort and functionality. The average Airbnb guest stays for approximately six nights, compared with four nights at a hotel, according to iProperty Management, and 88 percent of Airbnb reservations are for two to four people. 

Multifunctional furnishings — hidden seating, sleeping areas and easy storage — are necessary considerations when designing vacation abodes. The growth of Airbnb stays can be attributed, in part, to a feeling of home and convenience not found in traditional hotels. 

With the evolution of performance fabrics, durable materials and more, it has become easier to design a custom space that stands the test of time while wowing visitors with the comfort of home. The expanding availability and breadth of textiles with moisture, stain and sun resistance have offered up growth opportunities for designers, retailers and consumers looking for options that can help bring a vacation rental from drab to design-worthy. 

While online residential vacation rentals don’t offer the same scale as possibly designing a luxury hotel, consumer travel trends continue to lean more and more in this direction. Millennials account for 60 percent of all Airbnb rentals, yet the fast-growing Airbnb host demographic is seniors, with more than 200,000 senior hosts. 

When procuring home furnishings or planning that interior design trajectory, it’s a focus to keep in mind.

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