US: Following one of the most fraught and polarising elections in the history of the United States, ShortTermRentalz spoke to seven leaders from the country’s short-term rental industry to get an insight into what the eventual result could mean for the space and for the travel sector in general.
At the time of writing, the race for the White House could hardly be closer: with 43 states’ results officially declared [BBC], the Democrat nominee, Joe Biden, appears to be edging closer to the all-important 270 Electoral College votes to be elected. Should the current presidential Republican incumbent, Donald Trump, lose the election, he would be the first President to fail to win re-election since George Bush Senior was ousted in the 1992 Election.
However, with President Trump now citing alleged voter fraud through the early mail-in ballot [despite no evidence thus far to substantiate this] and threatening to take the matter to the US Supreme Court, the result remains in the balance and may even take weeks to come to its conclusion.
With the backdrop of the outbreak of Covid-19, and two presidential candidates advocating seemingly contrasting approaches to combating the virus, the election leaves many questions to be answered and the delay in declaring a winner will only add to the growing uncertainty for an already-divided nation.
Here is what the industry thought leaders said about the potential impact of the election on travel and the short-term rental industry:
David Krauss, founder, Rent Responsibly:
“While we wait for the final results of the election, my main takeaway from the 2020 US Presidential Election was that Americans channelled their energy into voting at historic levels. The voter turnout is projected to exceed 68 per cent, a high water mark since 1900. So, if voter turnout is a proxy for the engagement of the political process, then the fact that more people are involved in the political process in 120 years gives me confidence in our future.
“Now, how does voter turnout impact the short-term rental space?
“Voting is the ultimate form of advocacy. Both voting and advocacy work better the more people that get involved. It is my hope that the historic levels of engagement generated by this election has primed the pump for supercharged local short-term rental advocacy efforts in 2021 and beyond.”
Philip Kennard, CEO and co-founder, Futurestay:
“There are three clear ways a Biden Presidency would alter the course of short-term rental industry in 2021:
“Short-term, as in the day the winner is decided, every large, acquisitive property manager in the US market will rejoice.
“Why? It will be incredibly advantageous for small and medium short-term rental businesses to sell immediately, before Biden is sworn in and the proposed tax plan becomes law. While Biden’s proposed tax plan provides lowers rates for about 95 per cent of Americans, anyone selling a business worth over $1 million would pay almost 40 per cent tax on their gains instead of about 20 per cent. The ongoing pandemic plus the impending tax hike may accelerate the buyer’s market we’re already seeing, which would ultimately hurt sellers by driving down prices.
“In the medium-term, a Biden presidency could stave off a slow pacing late winter and kick-start the early spring travel surge.
“Biden intends to pass a $2 trillion stimulus largely focused on re-energising household spending, throwing small business a lifeline, and allowing state / local governments to expand infrastructure and Covid response via hiring. As we saw with the $1200 Covid stimulus checks to middle class Americans in Q3, a direct injection of billions into the economy caused a surge across retail and travel activity. If it passed soon after the Inauguration Day in late January 2021, this could jumpstart a strong spring travel season in short-term rentals.
“And most importantly, in the long-term, a Biden presidency means a mandated, coordinated Covid response – possibly even one that the international community can align on.
“I’m not a medical professional so I’ll refrain from predicting what impact that will have on infection curves, but here’s why that matters. In a July study, 71 per cent of travellers indicated they preferred to stay in accommodations with contactless and touchless options over those that didn’t offer them.
“Many consumers, including myself, feel more comfortable shopping, dining out and even flying, when I know there’s a shared set of rules, tools and protocols in place to protect me and my family. Biden’s plan to mandate Covid standards for businesses may increase demand by reducing risk and fear of infection, in addition to any impact it has on the pandemic.”
Jill Mason, CEO, VRScheduler:
“I honestly don’t think the election results will affect the vacation rental industry significantly, people will always want to travel.
“With that said, the expectation is that if Biden wins, our borders will open quicker. A bigger stimulus package will help the economy in the short-term, which could increase discretionary spending. We also expect more regulation – which could arguably be good for the industry.
“If Trump wins, the markets may do better, giving the top one per cent funds to continue to travel. However, his dismissive stance on Covid may keep our borders closed longer.”
Alex Nigg, founder and CEO, Properly:
“The US Election highlights just how divided we are. The pandemic made borders a key geographic feature again – not just borders between countries but also borders between states, counties and even cities.
“While in the very short term, this division – spatial and cultural – has boosted super-local travel, I’m looking forward to a time where we can overcome division by crossing and erasing those borders again.
“An old Airbnb ad, “Is man kind?”, comes to mind: “Go look through their windows so you can understand their views. Sit at their table so you can understand their tastes. Sleep in their beds so you can understand their dreams…”
“I hope that this US Election, which endlessly emphasised what divides us over what unites us, marks a turning point to a different time. And hopefully, vacation rentals will be the place again where you unite family and friends, so together you can experience a different place, culture, language or cuisine, and realise that our biggest strength comes from our differences.”
Bill Evans, CEO, BlueZoo:
“Our business has thrived as people have focused on preventing large gatherings such as parties. It is not clear that the outcome of the election will dramatically impact the short-term rental market directly. However, if Biden wins, we could see a bigger emphasis on measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 resulting in more near-term restrictions on gatherings, parties, and travel.
“As we have seen so far in the pandemic, an even greater focus on restricting large gatherings could continue to damage some segments of the short-term rental market while helping other segments, such as longer term ‘staycation’ bookings. In the mid and longer term, these policies will probably better control Covid-19 resulting in an earlier economic recovery than otherwise. The industry will likely be better off in the long term with a Biden victory.”
Nancy McAleer, co-founder, Florida Rental by Owners [FLARBO]:
“We are closely following the US Elections. It’s a tight race and there has been a lot of volatility this year. No matter who wins, we need a strong leader focused on a strong recovery to the remainder of the year and into 2021.
“FLARBO as the premiere regional state listing site needs to continue to be a strong advocate for the short-term rental industry which is why we are the first Florida listing site to unite the segmented voices of homeowners and property managers through our partnership with FVRMA [Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association]. There will always be a need to fight vacation rental restrictions and overreach by government officials no matter who is in power.”
Parker Stanberry, co-founder and CEO, Oasis Collection
“1) A Biden win likely moves the USA towards actually addressing the pandemic and trying to mitigate it, vs. the herd immunity-type approach that Trump favours. I think that makes America and Americans safer, which should encourage open borders and make domestic travel safer, which helps everyone in travel as well as short-term rentals.
“2) The general mood in, and tone of, the country will be lighter – especially vis-a-vis foreigners, which again may encourage travel.
“3) Regardless of the outcome, the incredibly tight race and the fact that Trump is going to challenge the outcome could well create some real unrest in the near term, which doesn’t help anyone.”
[US vote counting remains ongoing]