May 25, 2016 Bookings for weekly vacation rental homes listed with WeNeedaVacation.com are running about even with this same time last year. Overall, throughout the Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket region and for the full spring/summer/fall season, bookings are up 0.7%, with the greatest gains for post-Labor Day rentals. Full-season bookings on the Cape alone are off slightly at -0.9%, while Martha's Vineyard's are up 3.9% and Nantucket's up 4.3%.
The strong early bookings reported in our February press release appear to have leveled out during the last 3 months, and available inventory of rental homes remains fairly high.
In February, we also reported that homeowners had raised their weekly prices at a higher than usual rate (3.3% vs. the average of 2.5%), indicating their confidence that bookings would be strong for the coming season. To date, pricing has held fairly strong, although the past 3-4 weeks have seen some softening as the season nears and some homeowners continue to have remaining availability.
One reason for the increased inventory and ample vacancies results from recent controversial developments in the online booking industry resulting in our witnessing an unprecedented furor from Cape and Islands homeowners. Three of the major "big box" rental sites now require vacationers to pay a fee to book homes through them, in addition to the fee for homeowners to list their properties. In an effort to automate the booking process, the websites are in effect restricting homeowners from communicating freely and easily with prospective guests prior to accepting a booking, requiring that the payment process be online and through their website, and often preventing homeowners from receiving rental funds until after guests have arrived. The result is that we have seen an unusually high migration of listers from competitor sites to ours.
Vacationer traffic to our site, however, is also strong. Such factors as our not charging them a booking fee, successful marketing campaigns, improved SEO, and increased social media marketing has resulted in a 26% increase in visitors to the site since January.
Many vacationers at this time of year are worried that all the "good" rental properties are already fully booked. But there are plenty of exceptional homes, which, due to a variety of circumstances, still have availability - and many new listings are continuing to come online every day. Some of the busiest vacationer traffic times of the season occur between now and July, when last-minute vacationers are ready to finally make commitments and homeowners are anxious to fill any remaining vacancies.
The unusually cool spring is finally giving way to hot, summer-like temperatures, too, which tends to spur more vacationers to book their Cape and Islands get-aways. Additionally, the outlook for summer travel includes horror stories about long security lines at airports, which could drive even more vacationers to the region as it is within a day's drive for 46% of Americans.