PORTLAND, Ore. — These are tough times in the travel industry, including vacation rental properties. There are thousands of short-term rental owners and managers in Oregon and Washington who have seen bookings wiped out due to concerns over coronavirus.
“Some owners will probably have to close their operations because of this,” explained Becky Burnett, who owns one short-term rental and manages four others in Oregon.
Burnett has seen 90% of her reservations canceled in March and April.
Unlike hotel chains, most short-term rentals are owned by individuals. They are small businesses that will have a tough time withstanding a prolonged slump.
“There’s a big question how my business is going to be affected in the next couple of months,” said Kate Simer of Descansa, a Portland-based property management company.
Simer explained one rental property reserved for the entire months of June and July was canceled, along with other bookings throughout spring and summer.
“This is my income,” explained Simer. “Having 50-percent of my income taken away in 48 hours is a hit.”
Another consideration is the health of property owners. Jill Palamountain normally rents space in her Northeast Portland home on Airbnb.
“All of our bookings got cancelled and so we decided to close for a few months because we share space and we want to be safe,” said Palamountain.
Palamountain, the executive director of Host2Host, an association of short-term rental owners in Portland said despite the losses, hosts are working to accommodate the last-minute changes.
Two of the largest short-term rental platforms Airbnb and Vrbo have taken different approaches to handling cancelations.
Airbnb is offering guests full refunds and hosts no charge cancellations for reservations booked on or before March 14 with a check in date of April 14 or earlier.
Vrbo, owned by Expedia Group, is encouraging homeowners and property managers to adopt more flexible cancellation policies in light of the pandemic and offer full refunds to those who wish to cancel for concerns of their own well-being.
On Twitter, numerous Vrbo customers complain they have not received refunds on cancelled reservations and Vrbo hosts refuse to provide their money back.
Vrbo did not respond to KGW’s request for comment.
With mounting losses, some property owners are looking into options including reducing prices, alternative uses for their property or finding long-term renters.
Some short-term rental owners with small, single units said they’d be willing to help families with loved ones under quarantine.
“We’d be happy to offer great discounts to those families,” said Simer. “Whatever we can do to help those families.”