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posted on May 28th, 2020

Cautiously optimistic: Bookings are on the upswing

Since we last reported on shifting trends in the Turo business in March, when the coronavirus really started to affect the economy demonstrably and viscerally, we’re happy to report that, based on the emerging trend lines, we believe the worst of the downturn is behind us. Reaching a trough around the end of March and beginning of April, bookings started to inch back up through April, and have started gaining momentum in certain markets through May as city and state economies have started to open up and governments have relaxed stay-at-home restrictions. Relative to late March, Turo booking volume has grown over 500%, since it dropped steeply at the same time as the overall economy began freezing.

In this post, we’ll look at the emerging trends in guest behavior — including lead time, trip lengths, and travel patterns — as the social fabric continues to change day by day so hosts can adjust their Turo businesses to these new behavioral trends.

Trend #1: Short lead times still win the day

As people adjust to the lifestyle changes initiated by stay-at-home orders and perpetuated by a wariness endemic throughout society, trip lead times have broadened out a bit since March. While the trends remain similar — with an hour or two of lead time garnering the most demand with the last-minute segment — the demand for cars with six to 24 hours of lead time has grown, meaning folks are starting to plan trips a bit further in advance.

Overall, listings with short lead time are still in very high demand — 77% of current trips are booked with less than 24 hours of lead time, and 58% of trips are booked less than 12 hours in advance. Hosts who are looking to capitalize on the economies opening up, people easing back into car travel, and the subsequent upswing in Turo demand should consider offering short lead times to cater to this segment of guests.

Trend #2: Trip lengths are contracting (for the time being)

Versus March, May has seen massive growth in trips lasting one or two days — a whopping 57% of trips in May have been shorter than two days! We believe this change is because of both the relaxing stay-at-home orders — inspiring people to get out and about for quick local day trips or running errands — as well as a reluctance to jump on public transportation or into a rideshare. 

Turo conducted a survey recently* among guests who have been booking during the pandemic to learn the why-when-how spurring their trips, and 30% cited concerns over the safety of public transport and ridesharing, favoring the insular, self-contained benefits of booking a private car.

These guests booking for a day or two currently represent the fastest growing segment of guests on Turo, so it’s super important for hosts looking to drive business to accommodate this segment and respond to the changing needs of the market.

Trend #3: Many trips are local, with longer road trips on deck

Most guests are still predominantly locals looking for quick and easy access to a car — based on the aforementioned survey, we’re seeing many guests leveraging Turo to run errands (57% of guests surveyed) and get to work (40% of guests surveyed). Texas-based All-Star Host Aubrey J. has historically seen a lot of commuter-guests booking her cars to get to work because of a deficiency in public transportation in her native Dallas, as has Bill H. up in Detroit. Now that people are more leery of public transit than ever, more hosts in more markets can accommodate this use case to drive business.

Furthermore, as more and more states relax their stay-at-home orders and open up their economies in the coming weeks, we expect an increase in longer distance road travel. Summer is achingly near, vacationers are itching to escape their homes, and car travel is the socially distanced travel means of choice. With international travel likely to continue stagnating during the summer months, summer vacationers are reinvigorated by good, old-fashioned road trips to scratch that itch to get out of town and hit the road. We’ll keep a close eye on these metrics moving into June to see how comfortable people are feeling booking longer trips. Hosts could consider offering higher mileage allowances to encourage longer duration road trips.

What it means for you

While we’re still not out of the woods yet, and it may continue to be a gradual, slow recovery to get back to where you were before coronavirus upended your world, we’re hopeful about these upward trends and urge hosts to accommodate these “new normal” behavioral trends. 

For one, guests are hyper aware of cleanliness and safety these days, so hosts need to thoroughly clean and disinfect their cars between trips, and advertise their cleaning practices in their listings to allay any concerns prospective guests may have. 

Last-minute, local trips are still the use case du jour, so supporting these guests with short lead times, low minimum trip lengths, and “Book instantly” turned on will help you capture more business as business continues to rebound.

While the hope and promise of summer travel glimmers, it’s important for hosts to remember that these trends vary by market and will continue to fluctuate according to local regulations. Cities with relaxed stay-at-home orders are seeing the strongest growth currently, whereas leisure travel-based markets are slower on the upswing. Honolulu, for instance, has been hit particularly hard, as the majority of Hawaiian hosts’ business is driven by tourism from the mainland. Atlanta, on the flip side, has been seeing escalating growth as Georgia was among the first to relax regulations.

If you build it, they will come

Considering the preference for physical distancing these days, car travel is super promising as we head into summer, and represents a unique opportunity for Turo hosts. Keep an eye on your market’s trends and regulations, and adjust your listings to try to be there when consumers are ready to hit the road.

 

* Turo research study, April, 2020. 462 respondents.