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COVID-19 Is Pushing Americans To Rediscover Small Towns Instead Of Cities: Airbnb

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According to a recent Airbnb survey of 2,200 Americans, more than 50% of travelers are ditching their big city travel plans for nearby destinations

Although the coronavirus halted Americans’ plans of a globe-trotting summer, that hasn’t stopped them from discovering travel gems right outside their front door. According to an Airbnb survey released on Monday, 50 percent of 2,200 respondents’ first post-lockdown trip is within 200 miles of their home.

From February to May, bookings to nearby locales increased from 33 percent to 50 percent, with smaller cities making Airbnb’s top 10 summer destinations list. Famous beach towns, natural parks, and little-known cities dominated this list, reflecting Americans’ thirst for open, uncrowded spaces after months in lockdown.

Big Bear Lake, California; Miramar Beach, Florida; Panama City Beach, Florida; the Smoky Mountains, and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, were the top five locales, with 55 percent of travelers shelling out the extra cash to spend their vacations at a ‘superhost’ listing.

Destin, Florida; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Branson, Missouri; Palm Springs Desert, California; and Port Aransas, Texas rounded out the top 10.

In response to the survey and booking data, Airbnb launched on Monday “Go Near,” a marketing campaign aimed at highlighting local travel treasures for Airbnb users.

“Tapping into the demand for nearby trips, we are updating our app and homepage to help guests rediscover the magic in their own backyards by making it easier to book local travel, including at the last minute,” the press release read. “This includes featuring local trip ideas and highlighting nearby getaways.”

Beyond reconfiguring users’ homepages to display nearby listings, Airbnb is partnering with 15 national and international park and travel authorities to bolster the local economies of lesser-known parks and vacation towns in the United States, Puerto Rico, the United Arab Emirates, Denmark, France, South Korea, China, Brazil, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and South Africa.

“Today, we are unveiling a new engagement program and announcing our work with local authorities, charitable partners and tourist bodies from around the world, including with the National Park Foundation (USA) – the official nonprofit of the National Park Service – on a national marketing campaign to engage Airbnb guests with lesser-visited parks, trails, and rivers near their destinations,” the announcement read.

“Through other partnerships, Airbnb will share travel data and insights as well as allow these organizations to leverage our platform and channels, reaching hundreds of millions of people globally.”

The partnership includes access to Airbnb global and local trends data travel authorities can use for strategic planning, marketing support through highlighting little-known and nearby travel destinations, and partnering with hosts to create safe in-person and online Airbnb experiences for guests.

In addition to upping its support of travel authorities and hosts, Airbnb doubled-down on its commitment to providing guests with safe and clean listings with the launch of an ‘Enhanced Cleaning Protocol.’ 

Created by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, the ECP is a five-step process that requires hosts to wear protective gear as they clean, follow proper sanitizing procedures, complete and submit cleaning checklists, and if they wish, provide booking buffers that give them time to properly clean between stays.

Airbnb’s new listing cleanliness badge.

Hosts who follow the protocol will receive a special badge on all their listings, so travelers will know their room or vacation home is clean.

“Airbnb will continue to follow guidance from local officials and encourage safe, responsible travel and work to ensure guests have amazing experiences,” the announcement concluded.

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