Americans are reportedly booking Airbnb again — particularly in the Smokies

After months of cabin fever during the pandemic, Americans are starting to get away again, and it's reportedly causing a spike in Airbnb vacation rentals — particularly in the Smokies.

The number of nights booked in the USA was higher from May 17 to June 3 compared with the same weeks in 2019, according to Airbnb via Bloomberg. Among the most popular sites for stays are Southern California’s Big Bear Lake and the Smoky Mountains, per the report.

The Smokies, a half-million acres of rugged, mountainous wilderness on the North Carolina-Tennessee border, had 12.5 million visitors in 2019, a nearly 10% increase from the 11.4 million people who visited in 2018.

The country's most-visited national park was closed for several weeks in effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The park reopened all its trails on May 23.

Most attractions around the park in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge reopened late last month while Dollywood — the tourism hub's crown jewel — will begin welcoming guests back next week.

The travel industry across the world was rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus as people were instructed to stay at home. In May, Airbnb let go of 25% of its workforce after people curtailed plans to rent homes belonging to strangers.

Other vacation rental sites, including Expedia Group’s Vrbo and Booking Holdings, are seeing a rise in reservations as states reopen, Bloomberg reported. Travel and vacations still aren't back to normal as Americans aren't flying nearly as much as they used to.

Sunday, the Transportation Security Administration noted 441,255 domestic travelers in the USA, far fewer than the 2,669,860 people who took to the skies on that day a year ago.

It's unclear if or when travel will return to pre-pandemic levels, though the hotel and hospitality industry rushed to update cleanliness procedures to boost confidence among wary travelers.

Airbnb rolled out sanitary guidelines for hosts, and the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) launched an industrywide initiative to use cleaning products with high concentrations of bacteria-killing ingredients.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Dalvin Brown and Kelli Krebs

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Published June 11, 2020