Ask RedWeek / January, 2021

What does travel look like in 2021?

What does travel look like in 2021? What are people booking, and what things should I consider when renting directly from an owner (or renting out my own)?

Happy 2021!

Though the year has certainly had a rocky start, most of us are clearly ready to move on from 2020, and hopeful for what the year ahead will bring. Starting with travel. Many surveys and news reports have indicated that most Americans are looking forward to traveling again, as soon as it is safe.

A Vaccine on the Way

The first COVID-19 vaccines have already started being distributed worldwide - 20 million have been shipped as of January 8 to locations in the United States, with most locations prioritizing health-care workers, nursing home residents and employees, and other high risk groups. There are reports that everyone who wants one in the U.S. should be able to get one by April - with some experts weighing in that it may be summer or early Fall. But, bottom-line, help is on the way.

Travelers Are Looking Forward to Traveling

There are certainly fewer travelers flying now than last year at this time. TSA's checkpoint numbers indicate 62% fewer travelers in the month of December, 2020 - compared to the same weekdays in 2019. Road travel appears to be down, too.

Though, with help in sight, many travelers are taking advantage of lower travel prices right now, securing their trips for later in the year.

COVID Closures - What to Watch

We have all seen things close, then re-open, then close again in our communities. This is the unfortunate reality of living through a pandemic.

If you want to book travel, you should be aware of the progression of things in each destination, and decide if you are willing to take that risk. Some examples:

Hawaii had a two-week quarantine in place about seven months, which meant you could not leave your hotel room if you arrived there. In October, they started allowing negative COVID tests to allow you to bypass that. Kauai opted out of that program soon after - requiring a quarantine yet again. It is very possible the quarantine orders will come back.

Aruba closed their airport to nearly all incoming flights from mid-March to early July. Testing & other requirements are in place now, so visitors need to prepare for some hoops and added expense. Curfews are common. The island remains open and people are going there - there is always some risk of the COVID rates climbing and tourism retreating.

Some states - Florida, South Carolina, Arizona - have had minimal disruptions after the initial reactions, though with fewer restrictions on travel, they also have some of the highest infection rates.

Don't forget to consider what is happening in your community as well. If you are traveling from New York state where quarantine requirements have been common, consider how traveling out of the state will affect your ability to return to work or school when you return.

The bottom line is: do your best research. There is always some risk involved in booking travel, but do what you can to make sure the risk is worth taking. Don't count on the current status being the future status.

Minimizing Surprises

Some ideas of what you can do to avoid unpleasant surprises if you want to travel: book closer in, book further out, or book longer trips.

Booking 14 days out, you can see the trends in a region to see if there is risk of the local government dialing back. California's numbers climbed weekly before hospital capacity concerns prompted the government to enact a fairly disruptive travel restriction. You may be able to make a better decision two weeks out than two months.

If you can't travel within the next couple of weeks, consider booking further out - no, you can't guarantee COVID will be entirely in our history by then, but it is far more likely things will open back up as people get a vaccine.

Look for flexible cancellation policies on RedWeek - these are weeks where the owner has agreed to provide a 100% refund as long as you give them a 60-day notice. If you book one of these for the end of the year, you should have a much better idea whether your trip will move forward as planned.

If you can, try to stay in a destination for a longer stay than normal - plan on doing work or school from your destination. Then, if you need to quarantine, at least it won't be for the full time.

Our Rental Agreement - and Why

When the pandemic hit in March, it was a mess for nearly all businesses - and travel especially suffered a crush of cancellations. As you know, the nature of RedWeek's business is facilitating renters renting directly from owners. Unfortunately, that means when something affects reservations on a mass-scale such as what we saw in the spring, there was someone losing in every single transaction where the renter couldn't travel. Our rental agreement was modified in late March to make sure all parties knew what to expect in the event of a further issue.

On new rental agreements using RedWeek's online booking, all parties should be aware COVID is considered a known issue. Both parties are taking some risk. On new bookings, if the resort is closed or refuses to honor a reservation, there will be a cancellation with full refund. If there are any other COVID related closures or restrictions, the renter should expect the cancellation policy in the agreement to apply. Sometimes owners can cancel within a 60-day window, depending on the circumstances, but it's often not possible without incurring some loss.

If you have a reservation made prior to October 1, your rental agreement terms may vary - please see your contract for specifics.

What About Rentals That Aren't Verified & Protected?

Many rentals on RedWeek are still offered directly by owner - not using our online booking system. In these rentals, the terms of your rental agreement are completely between the renter and owner.

In these direct rentals, we recommend you have a written rental agreement. Discuss what will happen if there are any COVID-related changes, restrictions, closures, or you just can't travel. This should be in writing. Keep in mind that RedWeek doesn't get involved in resolving disputes on these transactions. Only rentals booked through our online booking system has our rental agreement & RedWeek as the arbiter in disputes.

Doesn't Travel Insurance Cover COVID-Cancellations?

Usually not. Most travel insurance policies, including the one we sell with online bookings, might cover your non-refundable travel fees if you prove you have contracted the disease, but health concerns or worries, government restrictions, or the inability to fly due to not meeting a testing requirement are not typically covered.

What Are People Booking Now?

The Caribbean is again on the rise - we have seen monthly bookings literally double from October to December. Aruba rentals accounted for 30% of the bookings on RedWeek during the first week of January. More than half of these rentals are for check-in dates fewer than 60 days out.

Arizona and Colorado are also increasing - 50% more bookings in those states since October. South Carolina summer trips are also on the rise.

On the other end of the spectrum, California, one of our historically popular locations, has been dropping since the state's most recently imposed travel restrictions. Those who are booking California are booking out into spring and summer.

As an Owner, Is This a Bad Time to Rent?

Not necessarily. Though volume and prices have seen a bit of a drop, we have had days over the last week that were nearly identical to this time last year. People are booking. There is a very clear seasonality in travel booking: January and February are historically the months when most people book their vacations. If you have a week you aren't going to use, get it posted. Keep in mind that full-service rentals can remain up for much longer than the standard six months - nearly all the way up to your check-in date, regardless of when that is.

If you own in California, try to get your reservation pushed out into spring or summer. If you own the Caribbean, you may have success with dates much closer in.

If travel trends continue, and the vaccines prove as effective as initial trials, travelers will be roaring back in 2021. If you have a week later in the year, hang tight, you may need to hold on to it for a little longer, but there are strong signs that most destinations will see a comeback.

2 Comments

  • Avatar for jeanned92
    jeanned92
    Jan 13, 2021 (1 week ago)

    is there a rental agreement to use when we don't have the full-service plan?

  • Avatar for kyliec
    kyliec
    RedWeek Team
    Jan 13, 2021 (1 week ago)

    @jeanned92 - we used to provide this one as a reference - though, it certainly doesn't have everything you'd want to include related to COVID.

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