When businesses, beaches and other activities closed last spring due to COVID-19 public health orders, short-term rental bookings dried up at San Diego County’s most popular destinations.
“I actually thought it was the end of the world,” said Kimberly Jackson, founder of a vacation rental company that operates in Solana Beach and throughout North Coast County. “I was afraid my business would never come back”
But once the beaches reopened in time for the summer, short-term rentals were suddenly in demand again, giving hosts a boost and a surprisingly high level of income for the town of Solana Beach. Jackson said there was an influx of inland residents of San Diego taking vacations, as remote working and distance learning gave them the opportunity to leave their homes. She was also able to secure a paycheck protection program loan of just over $ 50,000 last spring to bring back her staff.
On June 15, the state eased most public health restrictions that were in place over the past year and resumed welcoming tourists.
“Our summer is stronger than ever,” Jackson said, adding that she was starting to see an increase in out-of-state visitors. “We have higher occupancy rates than ever with pent-up demand. “
Among the many budget adjustments made in the aftermath of the pandemic, the city of Solana Beach reduced its planned transitional occupancy tax revenue. Initially budgeted at $ 420,000, city council reduced it to $ 270,000 in anticipation of a sharp drop in tourism. This would have been the lowest total since 2014-15.
But in a budget update at a March city council meeting, city staff and council members revised the city’s projected revenue from short-term rental taxes to around $ 490,000. The projected income from this tax is expected to be $ 475,000 in fiscal year 2021-2022 and $ 485,000 in 2022-2023, according to the biennial budget that the board recently approved.
“Short-term vacation rentals have really exceeded expectations,” Ryan Smith, City of Solana Beach Treasurer, told City Council members at the meeting. “It seems that holidaymakers are opting for this type of accommodation as opposed to a more traditional hotel.
Debbie Tremble, managing director of Stubbs Real Estate, which operates vacation rentals in Solana Beach and throughout the North Coast County, also said beach closures made rentals difficult at the start of the pandemic.
But, she added, “as things started to open up, (bookings) started to increase rapidly.”
She said many travelers prefer short-term rentals because they offer more seclusion than hotels, which have lobbies and other common areas that could increase exposure to COVID-19. The company has also added more stringent cleaning protocols over the past year.
Stubbs received just over $ 80,000 in the first round of P3 loans last spring. But the company, along with the rest of the industry, is experiencing a post-pandemic rebound this summer.
Public health officials are monitoring the spread of the delta variant of the coronavirus, but about 2 million San Diego County residents were fully vaccinated by the end of June and about 3 million received at least one injection. These factors, along with a slowdown in the rates of new COVID-19 cases and the elimination of the color-coded tier system that determined the restrictions in place, have resulted in increased travel.
“Short-term rentals this year have gone crazy,” said Tremble.