Cape and Islands vacation rental bookings for the 2017 season are running just below last year’s fairly strong season. For the full spring/summer/fall season, bookings to date for the entire Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket region are off 1% from the same period in 2016. For just the high summer season of July and August, Cape bookings are only off 0 .5%, while Vineyard bookings are down as much as 5.9%, and Nantucket’s are actually up a modest .8%.

Are we concerned that bookings so far are slightly softer than expected? No. In fact, taking a number of factors into consideration, it’s fairly surprising that booking numbers are holding as strong as they are. These factors include:

  • According to the Cape Cod Chamber, the region’s tourism budget was slashed by 50% this year!
  • The relative strength of the dollar is enticing Americans to travel abroad this summer, and discouraging international visitors from vacationing here.
  • The proposed travel ban and visa restrictions, too, are having a substantial impact on tourism to the US from other countries. While vacationer traffic to our site from the US and Canada (which accounts for the vast majority of our vacationers) has increased by 9.4% and 5.3% respectively, traffic from most European countries is considerably off this year: the UK -20.5%, Germany -28.4%, France -22.9%, and Ireland -6.6%.
  • Pricing: Homeowners this year raised their prices on the Cape 2.8% over last year, while those on the Vineyard raised them by as much as 6.3%, and on Nantucket 5.4%. These are fairly significant increases, given that the normal year-to-year increase is around 2%-2.5%.
  • The cool, damp spring has not been conducive to vacationers making plans to enjoy a Cape or Islands beach vacation.

Increases in rental home volume: Due to recent changes in the online vacation rental industry, the inventory of homes on our site has grown 12% from last year. (Note: For greater accuracy of our booking numbers, they have been adjusted for inventory. In other words, actual bookings have increased by 11%, but a 12% rise in rental homes results in a net 1% decrease in inventory-adjusted bookings.)

What’s changed? The vacation rental industry was significantly impacted by HomeAway/VRBO’s decision last year to join the other “big box” vacation rental websites (Airbnb and FlipKey) in requiring vacationers to pay them a fee when booking online in addition to the advertising fee they charge homeowners. Naturally, vacationers are displeased and are searching for alternative options to find their vacation homes. But homeowners, too, are frustrated by this new business model that significantly restricts their ability to communicate with prospective tenants prior to booking. This also inhibits homeowners from controlling the booking/payment process, which now must be conducted through the website in order for the traveler fees to be assessed. The result is that both homeowners and vacationers have been seeking local and trustworthy alternatives that allow direct communication between the parties and do not charge vacationers for their services.

The staff at WeNeedaVacation.com remains cautiously optimistic that bookings will continue to remain firm for the remainder of the 2017 booking season. Due to constantly improving technology, vacationers are capable of identifying and booking their vacation home faster than ever before. And due to the large inventory of homes to choose from, they can afford to wait right up to the last minute to do so, particularly if they can avoid the most popular weeks of the end of July and first 3 weeks of August. It will be interesting to see if homeowners are able to hold to their aggressive pricing or whether they will be forced to reduce their rates as the summer quickly approaches.