Why Interior Airbnb hosts may have a decent summer after all | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Why Interior Airbnb hosts may have a decent summer after all

The deck at a Brendan Cooke's vacation rental.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED: Brendan Cooke
June 14, 2020 - 6:31 PM

Signs that tourists are starting to return to the Okanagan's vacation rentals are trickling in.

B.C. Premier John Horgan told reporters June 10, that he looked forward to giving the "thumbs up" to travel within the province and hinted the government would be lifting its essential-travel-only advisory soon.

According to one Airbnb host, it's already happening.

Peachland resident Brendan Cooke said he's had guests stay in his rental suite for the last two weekends, and he's started to see bookings for the summer trickle in.

"It's picking up pretty good," Cooke said. "I feel like the majority of people are from Vancouver or Calgary and they just want to get out of the city."

Cooke started renting the upper section of his home on Airbnb last summer and simply moves downstairs to his basement suite when he gets a booking. As the co-owner of Sun-Oka Valley Cleaning he'd been cleaning other people's vacation rentals for several years when he thought he'd give it a go himself.

With a swath of great reviews under his belt, he was hoping for a bumper season this year but then COVID-19 struck.

"Everybody cancelled," he said.

With contracts to clean a dozen or so vacation rentals, he also saw his clients' bookings get cancelled. He estimates one high-end property probably lost "tens of thousands of dollars."

But with COVID-19 restrictions being gradually lifted, and the message of vacation locally being discussed, he's seeing bookings for his place, and those he cleans, slowly spring back to life.

One Vernon resident who rents her lakeside home only in July and August said she'd had just one cancellation. The majority of guests, who pay $1,000 a night for the property, are coming from Alberta.

However, Cooke said he's seeing most bookings coming from people within the province – with a few from Calgary.

According to Airbnb, one third of all bookings are now from guests that live within 80 kilometres. Prior to the pandemic, it was just 13 per cent.

Airbnb told iNFOnews.ca that worldwide more than 90 per cent of Airbnb hosts plan to continue doing so once the pandemic is over. But the company said it didn't have local data to share when asked how many hosts the region currently had.

Whether the number of vacation rental hosts has changed is very difficult to quantify, but Cooke says he has seen a higher number of fully furnished rental suites looking for tenants.

Take a look at any rental property listing site and there does appear to more fully furnished units up for grabs than the scant few that normally appear in the region's tight rental market.

The increase in vacation rental bookings will no doubt be a much-needed boost to an industry that's been hammered by COVID-19.

According to statistics released by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association by the week of April 19, visitations were down by 82 per cent – a touch higher than the provincial average. By the end of May, the number had improved with overnight visits down by 50 per cent compared to the same month in 2019.

For Airbnb hosts like Cooke – who don't rely on the income for their bread and butter – it appears local travellers may make this summer season better than first thought. However, for those trying to make a full-time living in the tourism industry, the lack of international travellers will surely hurt.

While talking-up the province as a great place to vacation, Premier Horgan admitted domestic travellers wouldn't "fill the void" left by the lack of international tourists.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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