Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

Like many Americans, Anne Minteer is vacationing longer than ever these days. She has some catching up to do as travel resumes after the pandemic.

But when she traveled to New York recently to visit her daughter, Minteer skipped a hotel in favor of a short-term apartment stay.

A friend had recommended Blueground, a company with a network of furnished apartments in 25 cities globally. She quickly found an apartment in Manhattan that saved her thousands of dollars.

Americans like Minteer are taking longer vacations than they have in generations. The trend started in 2021 when travelers began extending their vacation time in response to the pandemic lockdowns.

Now it’s become one of the biggest U.S. travel trends of 2022.

  • The latest Amex Travel’s 2022 Global Travel Trend Report found that 55% of American travelers say they are willing to go on longer trips in 2022 since they can work remotely throughout the year.
  • Home exchanges of two weeks or more — the definition of an extended stay — jumped 13% between January and May compared to the same period in 2021, according to the site HomeExchange. That’s on top of a 133% increase from 2020. “Longer exchanges of over two weeks are on an upward trend globally,” says HomeExchange spokeswoman Jessica Poillucci.
  • Hostaway, a vacation rental management platform, says trips longer than 28 days have increased 106% since 2019.

But where are travelers going? The newest options range from furnished apartments like Blueground to hotels and traditional vacation rentals. But it helps to know a thing or two about the extended stay lodging business before you book.

Extended stays are a major consumer travel trend this year

So what’s driving this trend?

Travelers say they are making up for lost time in 2020 and 2021 when they couldn’t travel. But the pandemic pivoted much of the American workforce to telework. And that unleashed millions of U.S. workers, who were free to pursue a digital nomad lifestyle.

“The increase in workcations has led travelers to alternative lodging options,” explains Dimitris Chatzieleftheriou, Blueground’s general manager for New York. “In the U.S. especially, Blueground guests were booking initially for less time during the height of the pandemic, but the extension rate doubled as they wanted to continue to live a flexible lifestyle.”

Hotels don’t always fit into this new travel trend. That’s because they’re for short-term guests. But that hasn’t stopped travelers from trying.

Consider the economics of Minteer’s visit to New York. Hotels were running at $500 a night and didn’t have an available kitchen. The Blueground rental, which cost $300 per night, came with a full kitchen and living room.

“We booked an initial six-week stay in a Blueground apartment in Chelsea, a neighborhood on the lower West side of Manhattan,” says Minteer, a retired attorney.

Minteer says she had such a positive experience that she’s booking another Blueground rental in New York later this year.

Travelers who want to stay longer turn to apartment hotels

Some companies are trying to offer extended-stay guests the best of both worlds. That’s the idea behind Rentyl Resorts. It offers the privacy of a vacation home with the benefits of a hotel. Rentyl has a selection of branded residential resorts such as Margaritaville Resort Orlando and Rum Point Club Residences in the Cayman Islands. The rates are typically about the same as a full-service hotel, but you also get the amenities of a vacation home. It’s also a more seamless experience, says Rentyl CEO Nick Falcone.

“There’s no janky guy letting you into his house,” he adds. “No awkward interactions or hiccups with owners.”

Apartment hotels are reaching out to these new travelers with special rates. For example, the Latitude Aparthotel in Cape Town, South Africa, has launched a new business travel package called “rise and thrive.” It offers one-, two- or three-bedroom ocean-facing rooms with a furnished kitchen, lounge, co-working spaces and breakfast and dinner included. Digital nomads from the United States can stay in South Africa for up to three months without a visa.

ROOST Apartment Hotel, another brand that bridges the boutique hotel experience with apartment-style living, is doubling its portfolio with new locations in three U.S. cities. The company, operated by Method Co, just opened a new ROOST Cleveland location. Later this month, it will cut the ribbon on a property in Tampa. And it has plans for locations in Detroit and Charleston.

ROOST Tampa pushes the boundaries of apartment living. It will unveil a new co-living unit — a shared accommodation category for travelers. The property will also include a 30,000 square foot floor of amenities, including a large pool deck with cabanas, outdoor bar and grills, and a movie screening room.

Timeshares also see a longer vacation trend

Even timeshares, traditionally the domain of short-term leisure travelers, have been affected by this trend.

Travel + Leisure Co., which operates the world’s largest vacation ownership company, Wyndham Destinations, has seen a 10 percent increase in length of stay across its vacation ownership resorts.

Wyndham’s properties are ideal for a longer stay. Its 245 timeshare properties feature multi-bedroom suites with full-service kitchens and separate living spaces. I’ve spoken with Wyndham property managers, who say some guests live in their timeshares full-time.

This summer, many Wyndham properties are booked solid. “Properties located nearby national parks are soaring in popularity,” notes Michael Brown, CEO of Travel + Leisure Co.

Vacation rentals are upgrading for long-term travelers

Travelers with extended itineraries are also turning to Vacation rentals. Jurny, a vacation rental app that launched in 2019, saw $1.3 million in booking revenue last month, a 98% increase from the same period a year ago, according to CEO Luca Zambello. It now lists over 1,000 units in the U.S., and is also experiencing strong growth in international markets.

Competition for long-term rental guests is fierce. Onefinestay, a luxury rental company, is offering discounts for longer-term stays. They range from 10% off for stays of 30-59 nights to 25% off for visits longer than 90 days.

“The trend toward longer stays has gained momentum,” says Dan Driscoll, co-founder of Boutiq, a network of luxury vacation rentals. “We are definitely seeing this trend persist across Boutiq’s portfolio of upscale vacation rental properties.”

The trend continues into the slower months of the year, when leisure travelers have typically stayed home. But Driscoll also says there’s a lot of competition from other accommodation options.

“To win these bookings, we have made sure that our homes feature high-speed internet and dedicated workspaces so our guests can seamlessly integrate their vacations with their work and school duties,” he says.

Boutiq’s portfolio is mostly larger single-family vacation residences. So its homes are intended as gathering spaces for families and friends, with discreetly functional places for working comfortably and effectively when necessary.

“And who doesn’t want to sit on a porch looking out at mountains or a beach while working?” he adds. “It sure beats a cubicle.”

Even hotels are joining the extended-stay trend

Hotels are trying to be part of this consumer travel trend. For example, Element Hotels, Marriott’s extended-stay brand, has a new “Studio Commons” room concept. It blends a hotel room with a home rental by connecting four private bedrooms with a shared kitchen and living room area.

Hotels are encouraging guests to stay longer in other ways. IHG offers IHG One Rewards members a Stay Longer & Save rate with up to a 15 percent discount whenever they book three or more nights in the U.S.

The Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa, which already offers condo-style rooms with full kitchens, washers and dryers, just introduced a Stay Longer and Save rate of up to 20% on stays of four nights or more. (Available now through September 5; rates starting at $550 a night.)

Tips for your next extended stay

Experts say there are so many choices that finding the right extended-stay accommodations can be difficult.

Here are their tips:

Find the right site for your stay. After you’ve checked Airbnb, Booking.com, Vrbo, and Agoda (in Asia), try specializing in the type of accommodation you want. Chris Cerra, founder of RemoteBase, a newsletter for remote workers, suggests checking sites like Sonder, which specializes in serviced apartments. If you’d prefer a co-living space, check The Collective and Selina. And don’t forget booking platforms for digital nomads like Flatio and Nomad Stays.

Read the terms carefully. Some vacation rental companies will ask you to sign a lengthy contract. Other rentals require a monthly subscription. Still others charge cleaning fees or take large security deposits. When it comes to extended stays, there are no industry standards — at least not yet. So review the paperwork before you make a booking decision.

Ask about the amenities. For example, onefinestay’s list of standard amenities includes weekly professional housekeeping, Wi-Fi, 24/7 local support, complimentary bath amenities and a welcome pack with tea and coffee. Other extended-stay properties will stock your refrigerator with groceries or include happy hour drinks or breakfast. Again, there’s no industry standard when it comes to amenities, so you have to ask.

Extended stays are one of the biggest U.S. travel trends of 2022. If you think a longer vacation is in your future, get familiar with all the options. And don’t forget to read your contract.

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