The once-humble holiday home is going places – heading upmarket while capitalising on a renaissance in popularity that occurred after pandemic lockdowns lifted.
When COVID-19 restrictions allowed us to finally “escape” (if only briefly and within the confines of our island nation), holiday homes triumphed in short-term accommodation for their ability to accommodate large families and multi-generational travel groups, and for being isolated islands of bliss.
With no common areas shared with other holidaymakers, these getaways posed less of a threat for spreading the deadly virus.
And they don’t cost families an arm and a leg to book. A six-night holiday in the Sunshine Coast-Noosa region from April 1 can set you back less than $1000 (perhaps The Cottage at Paskins Farm near Palmwoods for $807 on Stayz appeals, or a 1950s-style beach house guesthouse in Maroochydore from $958 on Airbnb).
For the ultimate in comfort and luxury, though, for the same week, try Airbnb’s Sunday’s Beach House at Sunshine Beach that’s listed for $5684 or Stayz’ Eagles Nest in the hills of Tinbeerwah, with spectacular northerly views over Noosa and out to the ocean, for a touch over $47,591 for those for whom money is no object.
Self-catering keeps holiday house costs down to some extent and all the comforts of home – and then some – are at guests’ fingertips.
So, we asked the experts from two major short-term accommodation platforms what we can expect of holiday homes in 2022 and beyond. Their views may surprise you.
Stayz travel expert Simone Scoppa believes the concept of holiday homes is changing fast and expects many hosts will start advertising “full-service offerings” more akin to hotels.
“There was a time when you sometimes had to bring your own linen to the holiday home, which on most occasions isn’t the case anymore,” she said.
“Holiday homeowners want to create an experience for travellers that is easy, so they don’t have to bring everything but the kitchen sink from home.
“Holiday homes today feature great kitchens, teen retreats, games rooms ‘on steroids’, pantry basics and sometimes not-so-basic pantry items, and some even go so far to have their own concierge service to organise activities and things like a personal butler service.”
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The immaculately styled Barra Luxe Beach House at Point Arkwright, for example, has plenty of room to move and relax individually or as a group with five bedrooms, four bathrooms, swimming pool, covered deck, galley kitchen and all the mod cons in a hassle-free beachside setting.
In August last year, the property, which started life as a 1970s beach shack, took the gold in Stayz’ annual list of Australia’s top 10 holiday homes.
Ms Scoppa expected the doggy-friendly travel to continue this year and in the future “as a result of lockdown puppies that were bought and doggies being a central part to a lot of Aussie families”.
“More than 50% of Aussies now own a dog,” Ms Scoppa said.
“One-in-four of our Australian properties on Stayz is pet-friendly and it is a holiday home type that we get asked about a lot, especially on our social channels.”
In other future trends, Stayz was anticipating the rise of more off-the-grid, rural properties – including tiny houses and eco-friendly retreats – where travellers could experience a slower holiday away from the hustle and bustle of beach living and “high streets”, as well as a greater prevalence of larger multi-bedroom homes catering for growing families and multi-generational groups without having to book separate hotels or accommodation.
Susan Wheeldon, Airbnb’s country manager for Australia and New Zealand, said 2021 had seen the rise of quirky and unusual homes – from tiny houses, eco huts and glamping domes to converted sheds and tree houses and expected that to continue to be in demand.
Research from Airbnb from July 2021 showed guests were craving unique getaways like never before, with unique home searches nearly doubling (up 94 per cent) since the start of the pandemic.
In the first three months of 2021, searches by Aussies for yurts increased by 80 per cent (compared with the last three months of 2020). Demand for tiny homes increased by 76 per cent, while interest in farmstays also was booming with searches up by 66 per cent.
“More than ever, Aussies are looking at their accommodation itself as the destination – and that means homes that are a fun, quirky adventure in their own right,” Ms Wheeldon said.
“The sky’s really the limit when it comes to the types of spaces people can list on Airbnb.
“Whether it’s an earthhouse, treehouse or teepee, guests are craving unique experiences that take them away from the everyday and put nature on their doorstep.”
Doonan’s Little Red Barn, for example, was listed at No.4 in the Most Wishlisted Unique Airbnb listings in Australia.
Sleeping seven guests at a time, the holiday home was popular with couples, families and wedding parties, with features including a fireplace, cast-iron veranda bathtub and heated concrete pool.
“Homes that do really well on our platform are those that are designed for relaxing and unwinding, with features like wraparound balconies, outdoor baths, swimming pools and big backyards,” Ms Wheeldon said.
“In fact, ‘pet friendly’ is the most sought-after amenity among Aussie travellers.”
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Ms Wheeldon said the Sunshine Coast “with its amazing beaches, lush national parks and incredible offering of shops and restaurants” had always been a popular destination for guests on Airbnb.
So it was not surprising the region was much sought-after when border restrictions eased.
“Whether it’s a treehouse in the Noosa hinterland, or a converted barn in Doonan, Airbnb listings on the Sunshine Coast regularly feature among the most wishlisted in Australia, with hosts recognised for their incredible hospitality, attention to detail and wonderful knowledge of the local area,” Ms Wheeldon said.