New data on Air BNB
THIS ARTICLE APPEARS IN THE RED ROCK NEWS
November 19, 2021
The world has changed. The pandemic has turned the world upside down.
CEO, Air BNB
Brian Chesky made that remark earlier this month, and the revolution he’s referring to is beginning to be felt in Sedona.
We already know short-term rental overnight visits are up YOY as well as Day Trippers by 10% from the booming Phoenix area and throughout Arizona resulting in increased traffic, trash and trailhead congestion. Population growth and sprawl is a big part of the story. The arrival of 120,000 new residents into the Phoenix metro area in 2020 is indicative of the surge of people ready to explore the Grand Canyon State and discover Sedona. The literal growth of Phoenix, particularly to the north with a widening of I-17, means Red Rock Country feels closer than ever.
But Chesky is right to note the pandemic’s impact on the growth of travel generally. Driven by pandemic fatigue and the work-from-home trend, people feel the urge to get into the wide-open spaces. Escaping the city for a day two is a readily available option for people with newly flexible work lives. This is a new, and probably permanent, part of the American travel landscape. The initial impact on Sedona seems to be more first-time, in-state visitors who come for a quick visit and need direction on recreating responsibly.
Chesky says AirBNB is also seeing a parallel but opposite effect: people are booking longer stays in short-term rentals, sometime much longer. “Because more companies have more flexible policies, at least for office workers, people say, “If I don’t have to go back to the office, I have flexibility on where and when I travel, and I can go away for longer.’”
“Because of this, 20% of our business by room nights are staying for a month or longer,” he adds. “Nearly half of our business is staying longer than a week. This is an entirely new segment. It’s really accelerating.”
Economies react to new opportunities like these, and Sedona is no exception. The City of Sedona’s short-term rental tracking firm recently fine-tuned its analytics and uncovered a startling fact. The true number of short-term rooms in the Sedona area is 3,277, almost 500 more than previously believed. Before this enhanced analysis, the City extrapolated a best-guess number based on registered short-term rental properties, producing an estimate of 2,800. The new, actual number is more than 15% higher. This is like discovering a major hotel has been operating invisibly in town, with the commensurate traffic and crowding of restaurants and trails.
Chesky also noted an immediate jump in demand sparked by Presidents Biden’s reopening of international travel into the US on November 8th. “The week after he said that, we saw a 44% increase in bookings cross-border coming to the United States,” Chesky said, adding that the new travel trends are now converging with the “old travel” of international tourism. The overall result is travel volume on an increasingly unprecedented scale.
These vast forces driving the immense travel industry will continue to play into how Sedona manages our tourism economy and our related sustainability initiatives: addressing the challenges of STRs, impacts of Off Highway Vehicles, traffic and transit, housing, and appropriate land use. To stay nimble in the face of such rapid, systemic change, our community will need flexibility, imagination, willingness to innovate, and an open-minded welcoming of all perspectives.
-Candace Carr Strauss,