Desperate Americans Rent Out Backyard Tents On Airbnb During Pandemic

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Written by Dana Sanchez
backyard tents
Desperate Americans Rent Out Backyard Tents On Airbnb During Pandemic. Photo: Airbnb

Millions of workers have taken a massive covid-19 hit, and some, desperate for an income, are turning to the sharing economy to provide socially distanced getaways by renting out backyard tents.

Brandon in Long Beach, California, is advertising on Airbnb a “private room” in a tent that sleeps four guests for $20 a night. Guests gave the accommodations high marks for cleanliness, accuracy, communication,
location, check-in and value.

“Awesome place,” Shaniqua posted by way of a testimonial in July 2020.

Private-sector hiring and job openings fell in August as the U.S. economic recovery slowed. The hiring surge from the summer tapered off, threatening to leave millions unemployed. At the peak of the pandemic in March and April, the U.S. lost more than 24 million jobs. So far, only about half of them have been recovered, according to Marketwatch.

In July, California Gov. Gavin Newsom instituted a furlough-like leave program for all state civil service employees to help address the projected $54 billion deficit caused by coronavirus. The leave program generally reduces workers’ pay in exchange for two days off per month.

Hospitality and tourism job postings are down nearly 50 percent from a year ago, and food prep and childcare are down about 20 percent, according to Indeed Hiring Lab US. Jobs in retail or jobs that require driving or delivery are near or above levels seen a year ago, Reuters reported.

Domestic air and hotel bookings to New York state for the week of Sept. 21 were down 81 percent compared to a year ago, according to a U.S. Travel Association report.

Workers may need to be trained for new careers, policymakers say.

Los Angeles resident Billy Scafuri told Marketplace.org that he chose a camping trip for his first wedding anniversary because flying or even spending time in a hotel felt like a bad idea.

He chose a camping spot in small town near Santa Barbara that offered a camp kitchen and a private waterfall hike.

“Camping was the perfect socially distanced getaway,” he said.

A company called Hipcamp offers an online reservation platform similar to Airbnb where landowners rent private campsites. Vacationers can stay in yurts, tiny homes and treehouses that range from comfortable to glamorous, aka. “glamping,” Marketplace reported.

“We see landowners join and make tens of thousands of dollars just in their first couple months right now,” said Alyssa Ravasio, CEO of Hipcamp. 

The company told Marketplace.org it is currently sending more than three times as much money to its hosts that this time last year.

Other companies are boosting incomes of landowners in rural and urban areas by offering easy ways to rent out private campsites to potential campers.

Tentrr, Under Canvas and even Kampgrounds of America (KOA), the largest private U.S. campground operator, have expanded from traditional campgrounds into glamping.

Tentrr owns and builds equipment on-site such as wooden platforms with canvas tents, full-size beds, and outdoor kitchens with adirondack chairs so urban campers don’t need to store camping gear at home. 

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Itr has a revenue-sharing agreement with landowners who receive the 80 percent of the listing price in exchange for use of the land and the license to operate a Tentrr location. Its sites were almost completely booked in August.

“People make people uncomfortable now,” Jenni Corwin, director of consumer insights for J.D. Power, told Marketplace.org. “We’re seeing this become more widespread across all generations, based on necessity at this point.”

In Berkley, California, Cece sees the value in backyard tents. Cece rents out a guest tent “in the back of our large and quiet garden, tucked into a private corner.” Photos on Airbnb show stone pathways, flowers and shady spots with chairs to relax under the trees. The cost: $35 a night. The household includes Omar, a sweet orange tomcat.

Read more: Covid-19 In The Wallet: Nearly 25 Percent Of All Loans, Credit Cards And Mortgages Are In Financial Hardship Programs