While short-term rentals as a whole took a hit in 2020 (especially in the early days of COVID), many markets saw significant spikes in occupancy and Average Daily Rates (ADR). Cities suffered, but rural and destination markets came out on top.
Now, as domestic travel returns, new airline routes will deliver travelers directly to smaller airports with easier and cheaper access to some of the country’s hottest destination markets and smaller cities. And airlines are betting big on recovering from a dismal 2020.
The airline industry’s total revenue nosedived in 2020, pulling in only about 40% of 2019’s figures. It’s also projected that airline traffic won’t hit 2019 levels again until 2024. Still, every major U.S. carrier is aiming high to capitalize on and help facilitate the boom in leisure travel with new airline routes in 2021 and beyond.
Short-term rental (STR) hosts, property owners, and investors in and around these markets are sure to welcome these new routes; some of the United States’ most popular destination markets are pacing well above or around 2019 levels.
In 2021, travelers are still mostly opting for seaside houses, mountain cabins, and lakeside retreats. And airlines are keen to capitalize on traveler’s pent-up demand for these new vacation and remote work hotspots with new routes to get them there with no connections.
New Airline Routes to Smaller, Secondary Airports and Destination Markets
We won’t belabor how the pandemic permanently changed travel. But it’s important to note how significant the shift from business to leisure travel has been. Before COVID, business travel made up a significant portion of airlines’ revenues.
With Zoom calls now the norm and fewer companies wanting (or seeing the need) to put employees on planes, airlines see travelers’ pent-up eagerness to escape to destination markets as a way to get a foothold on an otherwise shaky travel landscape — and to establish profitable routes in both the near and long terms.
To meet the demand (and remain competitive), all major U.S. airlines and two newcomers are launching dozens of routes across the country. So, where are they flying?
New Flights to Florida, South Carolina, and the West
In what should be a surprise to no one who’s kept up with pandemic-prompted travel trends, southern coastal and mountain west destination markets are about to get more direct flights from large, small, and medium-sized cities. In summer 2021, travelers will have many more options to escape the confines of the city and get some breathing room.
Spring Break Boom Bodes Well for New Airline Routes to Florida, South Carolina
Beaches, national parks, and West Coast wine regions are set to see more travelers in what airlines anticipate to be droves. But it’s Florida that’s seeing significant route expansions beyond any other state or region.
AirDNA reported in April that Spring Break travel to Florida drove short-term rentals’ highest occupancy levels in March, with four Floridian markets outpacing all others:
- Sarasota had the highest occupancy of the Top 50 largest STR markets, which should be welcomed news for airlines operating Sarasota-bound routes
- Cape Coral/Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, and St. Petersburg made up the other top destinations for occupancy in March
- Low-cost carriers Allegiant and JetBlue invested in new routes to Jacksonville and Sarasota, while Southwest resumed its summer route to Sarasota and announced a flight from Denver to Miami
- American launched new routes to Daytona Beach, Panama City, Destin-Walton, and Key West
- Allegiant and ultra-low-cost carrier, Spirit, also announced routes to Fort Lauderdale and Pensacola, as did United
- Allegiant was the sole airline to launch a new route to St. Petersburg
The Sunshine State has become a battleground of sorts for airlines; each hopes to corner demand in some of the States’ hottest destinations and short-term rental markets. In welcomed news to sunseekers, competitively priced flights to Florida are soon to be the norm.
Some of South Carolina’s most-visited destinations are sure to see tourist numbers increase with new routes to Charleston, Hilton Head, and Myrtle Beach. Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United will serve the southern market with both new and resumed routes, tapping into and expanding their presence in one of the region’s most-visited states.
Way Out West: Flights to Yellowstone and Other National Parks Just Got Easier
America’s national parks saw 28% fewer visitors in 2020 than in 2019 due to complete or partial park closures. However, 15 parks broke records, and five broke records set in 2019. While Yellowstone saw its visitor count decrease relative to 2019’s numbers, September and October were its busiest months on record.
Yellowstone remained the second-most-visited national park in the U.S — and Alaska, Allegiant, Avelo, Delta, Southwest, and United hope that trend routinely repeats. Each airline announced new flights to Montana, with Bozeman poised to grow as an entry point to the national park.
But besides the small West Yellowstone, MT, airport there are few airports near Yellowstone National Park. Still, United announced a new, seasonal route to fly travelers direct from Denver to West Yellowstone, opening up a number of east and west coast connections. The route is the newest among United’s more than 500 daily flights to 66 national park destinations.
3Victors Flight Search Data and AirDNA STR Bookings Data Show a Demand for Wide Open Spaces Grows
An overall trend is clear: travelers continue to crave rural, destination markets close to natural wonders over large cities. Flight data from 3Victors, a big data travel ai company, shows that searches between densely populated East and West Coast cities to popular destinations like Bozeman, Kalispel, and Great Falls, MT, and Jackson Hole have increased significantly since 2019. Similarly, searches between New York and Boston to/from Myrtle Beach, SC, have taken off since 2019 as well.
AirDNA data shows that traveler demand in these and other popular destinations markets has risen sharply since 2019 — and airlines have clearly taken notice.
- Boston <-> Bozeman, MT
- Boston <-> Myrtle Beach, SC
- Los Angeles (LAX) <-> Bozeman, MT
- Los Angeles (LAX) <-> Kalispell, MT (Glacier National Park)
- New York City <-> Bozeman, MT
- New York City <-> Kalispell, MT
- New York City <-> Great Falls, MT
- New York City <-> Jackson Hole, WY
- New York City <-> Myrtle Beach, SC
The increase in both flight searches and short-term demand during 2021 is roughly aligned with vaccination rates in the United States, signaling that, while Americans are becoming more comfortable with boarding flights, they’re still seeking space from others once they land.
But it’s Great Falls, MT, that’s seen the most growth in STR bookings between 2019 and 2021 for the months listed. The city saw bookings increase 150.12%, 153.69%, 213.92% for March, April, and May 2021, respectively.
New Flights to Yosemite and Glacier National Parks and the Badlands
The new routes to Yellowstone will likely help it maintain its rank among the most-visited national parks, but additional routes from Delta will make getting from the Fresno airport to Yosemite National Park much easier for more travelers.
But it’s Glacier National Park that may see a sizable uptick due to new service from Alaska, Delta, Frontier, and JetBlue Airlines to Kalispell. Already, STRs in the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park area are pacing at 107.2% relative to 2019. And, at just under an hour from the park’s entrance, more travelers can easily get from runway to rapids easily and quickly.
The same goes for new routes to Rapid City, South Dakota. Allegiant will offer a new route between LAX and Rapid City while offering limited routes between mainly Midwest and Southern cities to serve travelers heading to South Dakota for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The new routes will make it easier for travelers to get to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore — and the country’s largest motorcycle rally.
As of May 1st, Rapid City’s short-term rentals were pacing at 94.4% compared to the same time in 2019. And, at 91.4%, Black Hills wasn’t pacing far behind.
New Airlines Avelo and Breeze Seek to Rank First in Secondary Markets
As the pandemic pushed travelers further from population centers, seasoned airline professionals took notice. Newly-launched, low-cost carrier Avelo airlines operates 11 flights per day from Hollywood Burbank Airport to smaller, regional airports along the West Coast and Mountain West, making it easier (and cheaper) for travelers to take in wine regions and the great outdoors in second-tier airports in Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
Just one week after its inaugural flight, Avelo announced a second base on the other side of the country at Tweed New Haven Airport. No routes have been announced and won’t be until Q3 2021, but Avelo could become key competition for another low-cost upstart.
Breeze Airways, another 2021 newcomer, offers low-cost, point-to-point flights to smaller airports to several destination markets in the South and Southeast, as well as underserved airports in the Northeast and Midwest. But it’s Charleston, SC, that will likely see a significant traffic increase; the popular coastal city will connect with 11 cities across the Southeast, Northwest, and Midwest.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg for Breeze CEO, David Neeleman. He told attendees at the World Aviation Festival that 80% of Breeze’s nonstop summer routes have no competition. If that’s the case, Breeze may become the go-to, economically friendly airline that corners new markets in one of the country’s most popular regions for short-term rentals.
A Stellar Summer for Short-term Rentals is Here
With new airline routes set to help travelers live out their revenge travel dreams, short-term rentals in many markets are set to see a summer like no other. And, as 3Victors’ flight data shows, more and more people are looking to take in some of the United States’ most astonishing mountain destinations, national parks, and popular beaches.
Travel is back. And the skies are soon to be punctuated with travelers making up for a year spent on the ground.
3Victors is a data science company, led by a team of top data scientists and industry experts, leading generational change to real-time, data-driven insights in the travel industry. 3Victors is the nexus between data volume, variety, and velocity, and has built the industry’s first travel data analytics as a service platform.
3Victors provides solutions with a new way to think about data and analytics for the travel industry. They serve customers through feed and SaaS subscription products, having done 80% of the work, saving their customers millions of dollars on overhead expenses.
3Victors are your data partners, not just data vendors.
AirDNA turns industry-savvy, short-term rental data into strategic, actionable analytics. As the world’s leading provider of short-term vacation rental data and analytics, we track the daily performance of over 10 million listings in 120,000 markets globally on Airbnb, Vrbo, and more.
Our machine learning algorithms have revolutionized the industry by deciphering true revenue potential and market demand based on booked, and not blocked, reservations. Airbnb hosts, vacation rental managers, hoteliers, and real estate investors all rely on AirDNA’s vacation rental insights to optimize their listings, find lucrative properties, and outperform the competition. With over 1 million partners who trust our data, AirDNA is the leader in short-term rental data and analytics.