To an extent, certain trends are fabricated out of thin air. Like portable music for instance. Before the iPod came along, we could have never even fantasized about carrying tens of thousands of songs inside a block the size of a mousetrap.
But sometimes trends just sort of organically evolve. All the individual components of their making pre-existed: it just takes some kind of thought leader or tastemaker (or in some cases, time) to smush them together like tectonic plates into a convenient and marketable trend.
The highest-profile current example of a trend like this in the travel sector is vacation rentals and their rise to popularity is a confluence of two major dynamics:
1) A Generation of Repurposers
Almost 80 million individuals in the United States associate themselves one way or another with the Baby Boom, a post-WWII childhood that saw Americans get very proficient at making due with what they had. Raised by family that weathered the Great Depression, this generation made a lifestyle out of reusing, recycling, or repurpose just about everything from envelopes to mason jars.
It should be no surprise then, that as adults (now in their 50s, 60s and 70s) a trend has emerged that takes something that already exists and adapts it to fit something else.
The first wave of vacation rental owners already owned vacation homes. They simply realized there was a way to make some money on the side, tossed their property up on a listing site, and refashioned their family’s beach house or lake cottage into a thriving business.
2) A Shift in the Way People Explore the World
Of course, our generation of second home repurposers wouldn’t have a foundation without demand for their services, which is where today’s emerging travel preferences come in.
Besides obvious technological advances and increased globalization, the past few decades have seen a major shift in the way people choose to experience new places. Slowly withering away are the days of escorted tours, staged cultural events, and all-inclusive resorts. In their place, traveler personalities are becoming more and more adventurous, independent, and in stealthier search of the true and the authentic.
When choosing a place to stay, the “unique” travel seeker seems to be a superlative ideal match for vacation homes. The traveler enjoys the ability to live like a local and immerse him or herself in a new and foreign environment, not to mention, at a reduced cost when compared to traditional hotels.
Considering this desire to rent homes is just sparking and considering the “supply” of these homes is pretty much infinite (that is to say, if one out of every two tourists in the world suddenly wanted to stay in a vacation home instead of a hotel, I’m pretty sure their demand would be met), there are very few reasons to doubt that this is the start of perhaps the biggest smallest niche the travel industry has ever seen.
This is all a complicated way of saying that vacation rental industry didn’t just magically evolve over night. It’s been a progressively brewing stew that seems to be hitting a stride.
Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.