Why the Olympics, Taylor Swift mean more to STRs than just a revenue boost


With about 85,000 hotel rooms, Paris is accustomed to handling crowds of tourists.

Yet even the “City of Light” figures to be flashing “no vacancy” signs when more than 15 million visitors are expected for the Paris Olympic Games July 26 to August 11.

Surging numbers of short-term rental hosts are eager to help meet the demand. For a sector that’s been grappling with new regulations and what they mean for the future, the spotlight cast in Paris is just one reason 2024 could prove pivotal in solidifying short-term rentals’ place in the travel industry.

“All of this is leading to a kind of inflection point,” said Merilee Karr, CEO of UnderTheDoormat Group, a London-based operator of luxury short-term rentals. “And I think a kind of marking of the year that short-term rentals come of age.”

Karr’s confidence extends beyond the impact of major events like the Olympics.

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STR supply is more agile, easy to list, operate and remove so it can be done more easily than hotels, meaning it can adapt and change more quickly.

Sean Fitzpatrick – Lighthouse

In its end-of-year market report, hospitality intelligence platform Lighthouse, formerly OTA Insight, predicts a rise in what it calls “destination diversity” will help short-term rentals surpass hotels in terms of average price growth this year.

“Are we witnessing a major pivot in tourism trends?” the report posited. “Are consumers looking further afield to dodge the crowds, unearth new experiences and snag more budget-friendly trips?”

In answering its own questions, the report concluded that current trends and evolving tourist preferences suggest “a significant shift is underway.”

“There is more hunger for bargains and destinations a little more off the beaten path in 2024, with culture and experiences especially valued over a standard vacation experience.”

“STR supply is more agile, easy to list, operate and remove so it can be done more easily than hotels, meaning it can adapt and change more quickly,” Lighthouse CEO Sean Fitzpatrick said.

Phocuswright senior researcher Madeline List agreed.

“There’s a lot of potential for the short-term rental category to get people to new places and to get people that local exposure,” she said. “It’s good on the condition that the neighborhoods are ready to accept additional tourists.”

To take advantage of these opportunities, short-term rental advocates like Karr see a need for the sector to mature. She anticipates seeing more consolidation among management companies and possibly a winnowing of supply in markets that became oversaturated following COVID, especially as more government regulations comes into play.

“We’ve been kind of a spotty adolescent,” Karr said of the sector. “There are lots of good entrepreneurial ideas out there, but we haven’t seen yet the emergence of really strong brands outside of the [online travel agencies]. And I think that’s something that we’ll see more of.

“But I also think consumers are expecting more from our sector than they ever have in the past. It’s no longer, ‘I’m going to choose [a short-term rental] because it’s a cheaper option.’ Their expectations are that you should be delivering the same quality and standards as hotels.”

The “Taylor Swift effect”

Even without the Olympics, this would be a huge summer for destinations in Europe, where short-term rentals account for about one-quarter of the tourist accommodation stays.

Germany is hosting Euro 2024, the continent’s quadrennial football championships from mid-June to mid-July with 24 teams competing in multiple markets. And the Taylor Swift Eras Tour touches down for 48 dates in Europe between an opening show in Paris May 9 and the last of six shows in London’s Wembley Stadium August 17.

All three figure to be huge draws — for hotels and short-term rentals alike.

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I also think consumers are expecting more from our sector than they ever have in the past. … Their expectations are that you should be delivering the same quality and standards as hotels.

Merilee Karr – UnderTheDoormat Group

“Consumers seem to be putting even more of a premium on attending a major cultural or sporting event, happily splashing out on a trip while tightening their purse strings elsewhere,” the Lighthouse report said.

The short-term rental data and analytics company AirDNA has been tracking the Olympics’ impact with an interactive dashboard. The company reports 78,000 listings within the city and another 70,000 in the suburbs. Through February 15, comparing the two-week period of the Olympics to the two weeks just before the event, bookings are up 156% within the city and 289% in the suburbs.

Yet given the numbers of visitors and available hotels rooms, it’s not that short-term rentals are taking business away from hotels, said AirDNA economist Bram Gallagher. Hotels are likely to still reach maximum occupancy, with short-term rentals filling a niche for travelers who desire larger accommodations or filling in when hotel space becomes limited.

When that happens, the rate hotels can charge “is a little bit less explosive,” Gallagher said. “So that’s definitely good for the traveler, for the consumer. It can really help with affordability for some of these events.”

The Taylor Swift Eras Tour concerts last year in the United States are a good example of how both sectors can benefit, he said. “Because of how wildly popular she is, she’s the case where you’re going to satisfy everybody when she comes to town.”

Indeed. AirDNA analyzed the impact Swift’s tour had on the 20 U.S. cities she visited last year. By comparing average nights stayed and booking rate for the weeks prior and after the concert, the report estimated a combined $27.3 million revenue boost for short-term rentals in the weeks of the concerts.

Yet the Swift effect was even stronger for hotels, according to an analysis from STR. Looking at just the first half of Swift’s U.S. tour, the analysis concluded the concerts added $98.2 million in room revenue to the hotel industry.

But short-term rentals may find an extra benefit beyond a revenue increase. External factors that drive more people to try short-term rentals as an alternative to hotels have been good for STR business. The industry saw such a boost during COVID, and it applies as well to big events that stretch hotel occupancy to its limits, Karr said.

“We know that once consumers have tried the product, their consumer preferences change,” she said. “Now that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop staying in hotels. It just means that when there is a journey or a purpose for a visit which short term rentals are suitable for, they then prefer that as an option to a hotel.”

New regulations: Model or mistake?

Short-term rental advocates have long said the options they offer complement what traditional hotels can provide by, for example, accommodating travelers who desire more of a home-like setting for a family or group of friends.

Speaking at Phocuswright Europe 2023 in Barcelona last year, Leda Zanlungo, the general manager for Iberia and Italy at Sonder, said she’s reluctant to see a conflict between short-term rentals and hotels. From a guest perspective, decisions about where to say are often dependent on the nature of the trip and the services, location and price.

“I think we need to stop looking at hotels versus apartments,” she said. “In the end, guests are king. And guests … decide where they want to go, what asset to choose. … Us against them isn’t helping.”

The hotel industry’s stance has been to call for a level playing field in terms of taxes and health and safety standards.

European Union regulators voted last week to adopt uniform requirements for how short-term rental data will be collected and shared.

Karr called the EU’s efforts to set a regulatory framework “absolutely critical.”

“I’m super hopeful the European regulation can be a prototype,” she said. “Things that make this transparent and data-driven are the way to go rather than putting in place onerous requirements and essentially stagnating the way growth happens.”

As the Olympics are demonstrating in Paris, even a city with an apparent surfeit of hotel rooms can benefit from the temporary boost short-term rentals can offer, Karr said.

“The thing our sector is amazing at is that supply and demand balances tend to work themselves out based on the market,” she said. “If you over-regulate short-term rentals, it’s very shortsighted — because the next time Taylor Swift comes to town you can’t adapt.”


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