Texas Hill Country Views

“Staycation” is a term coined during the financial crisis in 2008-2009. It means spending a vacation at home or near home. During the Covid-19 pandemic, staycations saw a remarkable rise as travelers opted for short road trips over flying to a destination. One trend that is unique to the pandemic is travelers are choosing vacation home rentals, cabins, camping, or RV rentals instead of hotels. The trend makes sense when considering social distancing and recommendations to spend more time outside during the pandemic. Another interesting trend is many remote workers are opting to work from a staycation location rather than from home.

VRBO and Airbnb See Increases

Short term vacation home rentals have seen a significant increasing trend since April. Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) is a booking site for home owners to market their properties. According to their data, there has been a 40% increase in trips booked at properties within 100 miles from the visitor’s home. The site is also seeing demand continuing past the busy summer season all the way into late fall.

Another booking site for residential and bed & breakfast rentals, Airbnb, is seeing a similar trend. They recently conducted a survey and found that 1 in 5 respondents relocated to an Airbnb property due to the pandemic. These remote workers are looking to get out of the city, get more space, and amenities such as a pool, home office, a Zoom room, and strong Wi-Fi. Most of these bookings are families with kids. Over 60% of their bookings are within 300 miles of the visitor’s home, a 50% increase over last year. The majority of these bookings were rural locations.

Hill Country Summer Camps and Guest Ranches Take Advantage of the Trend

Mo Ranch in Hunt, Texas is a traditional summer camp for kids that also has cabins and homes for rent as well as meeting facilities for corporate meetings. According to Julie Chapa, Vice President of Programs & Sales, she has seen a large percentage of business coming from cabin rentals for families. “Our summer camps went on as planned, although we were at about 60% of capacity due to the quarantine restrictions. Our cabin and home rentals far exceeded our expectations. Many of these rentals were families where the parents worked remotely and the kids enjoyed our many activities. Much of our marketing efforts have shifted to marketing to families. We have upgraded our Wi-Fi to accommodate this demand”, she said. She also expects this trend to continue into 2021.

I spoke with some dude/guest ranches in Bandera, “the Cowboy Capital of the World”. Most of them indicated that the spring and early summer were tough due to the pandemic, but they are seeing bookings return to pre-pandemic levels. Before the pandemic, these guest ranches included visitors from national and international locations, but lately they are seeing most of their guests are coming from Texas, particularly Austin and San Antonio.

How This Trend Affects the Hill Country

The Texas Hill Country has always been a popular weekend getaway for people in Texas and the surrounding states. Look for a shift from traditional hotel lodging to rental homes, cabins, and RV parks. If you have a hospitality related business, here are some tips to help you reach these visitors:

  • If you haven’t done so already, consider offering delivery service. Covid-19 has conditioned people to stay isolated and away from crowds. Many of these people are renting properties with kitchens to avoid restaurants. Delivering groceries or meals could help reach these visitors.
  • Build a relationship with RV park and rental property owners/managers. Many times their customers will ask them about businesses in the area. Leave brochures at the locations.
  • Build your online presence on Google, social media, and travel sites. Once families arrive at the campground, they may be looking for things to do and places to eat. Make sure your website is mobile friendly, people are going to be searching on their phones, not their desktops. Make it easy for them to find you and do business with you online.
  • Run Facebook/Instagram and Google display ad campaigns to promote your business to these visitors. Create audiences in Facebook and Google that are targeting your potential customers then run ad campaigns to get in front of those people. Target local geographical areas and nearby cities. This geolocation targeting will extend your advertising budget by focusing on an audience that is most likely to turn into customers. These channels are the least expensive and most targeted forms of advertising.

As the economy continues to open, most experts think that this trend will continue into the foreseeable future, probably through 2021. Adjusting your business accordingly will help it survive. If you are not sure how to reach this new audience, let us know. We are here to help.