A total solar eclipse [Rick Meyers on Unsplash]

AirDNA: Total solar eclipse leads to occupancy surges in US cities

US: On Monday [8 April], North America witnessed a total solar eclipse, an event starting on Mexico’s Pacific coast, traversing through Texas, sweeping across 14 other US states, and exiting over Canada. Such a rare astronomical event had short-term rental hosts gearing up for a day when the sun’s absence would be their brightest moment.

The moon cloaked the sun for up to four minutes and 28 seconds, with cities such as Dallas, Indianapolis and Cleveland directly under the path of totality. The path of the totality is the stretch where the moon appears between the Earth and the sun and blocks the sun completely.

Approximately 44 million people living under the path and hundreds of millions more within driving distance were expected to witness the eclipse, marking an unprecedented eclipse viewership for the continent.

When nature puts on a headline act, travellers are more than willing to come from far and wide.

According to short-term rental data and analytics provider, AirDNA, cities and towns located within and near the path of the eclipse experienced a surge in demand leading up to the event as millions sought out the perfect vantage point.

This rare astronomical event has significantly impacted the short-term rental (STR) market. Cities and towns located within and near the path of the eclipse have experienced a surge in demand as millions seek the perfect vantage point to view the event.

While AirDNA’s initial investigations into the pace of eclipse demand focused on just a few locations, including Dallas and Austin, the company identified 2,332 cities in Mexico, the United States and Canada in the eclipse path that had active short-term rental listings in an effort to capitalise on the effect of the event. In total, the cities hosted more than 110,000 active listings during the week of the eclipse, according to AirDNA.

As of 25 March, occupancy rates for 7 April had soared to 88 per cent across all listings in the locations, representing a significant surge in demand for accommodations on the night before the rare celestial event.

The top 25 cities with the highest occupancy for the eve of the eclipse included cities such as Texas, Oklahoma, New York, Ohio, Arkansas, Indiana and Vermont. Austin, Texas had the most listings at approximately 9,600, almost double the second largest short-term rental market on the list, Dallas, boasting an 86.9 per cent and 95.3 per cent occupancy for 7 April, respectively.

Meanwhile, some of the highest occupancy rates were found in smaller towns with fewer listings. Buffalo, New York, reported a 98.2 per cent occupancy rate among its 1,297 STR listings, compared to Jefferson, Vermont, with 512 listings, which had the highest occupancy rate at 99.2 per cent.

For its research into the effect of the total solar eclipse on the short-term rental market, AirDNA analysed three sample groups with varying proximity to the path: 1) listings outside eclipse states; 2) listings in eclipse states but outside the path; 3) and listings directly in the path of totality.

Outside the eclipse states, AirDNA observed that listings were exhibiting a modest growth in demand pacing at 3.9 per cent year-over-year. This pacing was slightly lower than in 2023, likely due to the early Easter calendar shift, which changed many Spring Break dates from the second week of April to earlier weeks.

In eclipse states where listings were outside the path, the data provider said that listings had seen a dramatic uplift in interest, with demand pacing 22.4 per cent higher than the same week in 2023.

Listings directly in the path of totality, however, experienced a skyrocketing demand, with a pacing increase of 207.4 per cent YoY for the eclipse week.

The solar eclipse’s impact on pricing within the STR market varied distinctly by location – while the average daily rate [ADR] for states outside of the eclipse path did not change significantly, the ADR for listings directly in the path of totality increased by 18.4 per cent compared to the previous year.

In terms of total demand growth YoY, the United States was due to host the highest number of guests in places in the path of totality.

In Canada, listings have had lower occupancy but substantial ADR growth, driven by eclipse watchers seeking premium accommodations that would typically be reserved for the summer, whereas travellers and locals would usually seek warmer climates during an annual April downturn in STR demand.

In contrast, Mexico had the highest occupancy rate but showed the least change in ADR, when one factors in that April is considered a peak season due to Spring Break, resulting in high ADRs. The additional demand from the eclipse would not have significantly altered existing high prices, meaning that visitors for the eclipse may have found that the most luxurious accommodations would have already been fully booked.

According to CNN, a total solar eclipse will not be visible again from the contiguous United States until 22 August 2044, but totality will only occur over North Dakota and Montana and northern Canada, marking the scarcity of such an event. The next total solar eclipse with a coast-to-coast path spanning the lower 48 states is projected to occur on 12 August 2045.

Read the full AirDNA total solar eclipse blog piece at this link.

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