BOZEMAN, Mont. — During the pandemic, the popularity of short-term rentals for travel increased as an alternative to traditional stays like hotels.
Over a year and a half in, they remain a favorite as tourism in Montana spikes.
People flock to Montana for scenic mountains, picturesque views, outdoor recreation and more, but as travel skyrocketed this year, so did stays in short-term rentals.
“The popularity of it is growing,” said Jeremy Sage, a research associate professor at the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana.
In Airbnb's most recent report released in early November, they logged over 79 million nights booked in 2021, a 29% increase from last year.
Places like Montana are becoming more popular destinations.
Airbnb says bookings in rural destinations increased more than 40% from 2019.
During the pandemic, more than 100,000 cities had at least one Airbnb booking, including more than 6,000 cities and towns receiving their first booking ever.
Most recent data from September of last year reported over 12,000 active short-term rentals in Montana.
A quick search shows 88 stay options in the Bozeman area available the first weekend in November, with 44 in Missoula and over 200 in Whitefish.
“I really think that's due to Whitefish being a destination for people,” said Dave Taylor, Whitefish Planning and Building director. “It’s an amenity-based town with a lot of fun things to do here.”
However, with increasing availability comes rising prices.
Airbnb's average daily rate was about $149 in 2021, a 33% increase compared to the same period in 2019.
In Bozeman, the average price per night is $238, nearly 60% more than the national average.
Missoula is lower, showing an average of $138 a night, 7% less than Airbnb’s average daily rate.
Whitefish is the most expensive of the three, with a 113% higher nightly average of $318.
A spokesperson from Airbnb wasn’t available to talk on camera, but said in a statement, “Airbnb is focused on supporting the return of the local tourism economy by empowering residents to supplement their income by sharing their homes, and working with elected officials on sensible policies.”
It seems these short-term rentals are everywhere, and with winter travel picking up in the coming months, they won’t be going away any time soon.