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Short-term vacation rental bookings are surging across the Mountain West, even as the region grapples with a growing number of coronavirus cases.
"[Earlier] this year we had everything cancelled," said Chris Kohler, who manages two vacation rentals in Tetonia, Idaho. "Now it's fully booked out for the next two months."
Bookings are up 45% in Idaho compared to this time last year, according to data from the tracking firm AirDNA. Wyoming boasts an almost twofold increase, while Red Lodge, Montana, has seen a whopping 230% rise in bookings.
"Vacation rentals in the United States have been making an extremely notable comeback," the report said. "Three months of unprecedented cancellations and empty calendars have now given way to new bookings and cautious optimism."
The data suggests that towns near national parks in the West are seeing heavy visitation despite the pandemic, including Jackson, Wyoming and Moab, Utah, where bookings are up by 80% compared to 2019.
At the same time, the number of COVID-19 cases in the region has risen sharply over the past few weeks. With the exception of Colorado and New Mexico, every state in the Mountain West currently has a rate of transmission over 1.0, meaning the virus is spreading quickly. Montana has the second highest rate of transmission in the country, according to analysis from the data tracking website rt.live, which was created by the co-founders of Instagram.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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