Travel

Ocean City, N.J., is Airbnb’s most booked destination this fall – The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Some “people want to just enjoy the boardwalks and the beaches and the lakes before things get too cold again,” an Airbnb spokesperson said.
When you think of fall destinations, beaches and boardwalks may not be the images that first come to mind. But Airbnb renters are planning more autumn getaways to one South Jersey Shore town than anywhere else in the country.
Ocean City is the online vacation rental company’s top destination this fall in terms of total nights booked, the company recently announced.
“I think it shows Ocean City is attractive in our ‘second season,’ ” the period after Labor Day, said Michele Gillian, executive director of the city’s chamber of commerce. “We’re such a great destination for outdoor activities in probably the nicest months of the year,” September through November.
Airbnb spokesperson Haven Thorn said he couldn’t share how Ocean City’s number of rentals compared with our Shore towns or just how many nights had been booked there this fall. But it was enough to place the town that bills itself as “America’s Greatest Family Resort” above nine other U.S. destinations, including several big-time college football towns such as Ann Arbor, Mich.; Oxford, Miss.; Baton Rouge, La.; Lexington, Ky.; and Lubbock, Texas.
Some “people want to just enjoy the boardwalks and the beaches and the lakes before things get too cold again,” Thorn said, “and that’s probably why Ocean City, N.J., came in so high.”
» READ MORE: The Shore weathered the pandemic, but changed in the process
Gillian said she’d attribute it to other factors, too. The Shore has seen a boom in tourism since the pandemic struck in 2020, she said, with drivable destinations becoming more attractive for the millions of people in the Philadelphia and New York regions. And, she said, an increasing number of fall events are being held down the Shore.
In Ocean City, the business community began this push about 20 years ago, she said, with an “active” effort to have more “shoulder season” events, Gillian said. Today, its fall calendar includes Ocean City Pops concerts, weekend car shows, a “Fall Block Party” in early October, and the Bike MS: City to Shore Ride, which ends in Ocean City in late September.
While the Shore still remains far less crowded in the autumn months than during the summer, the expanded calendar of activities has drawn in seemingly more and more people each year, Gillian said. At the same time, online rental companies such as Airbnb and Vrbo have given visitors another option aside from hotels and longer-term beach house rentals.
“Ocean City was traditionally a Saturday-to-Saturday rental” town, Gillian said, “but with Airbnb it’s given people the opportunity to do one-night, two-night, and three-night” stays.
Gillian said she welcomes the short-term renters, who can get a taste of the town without a longer and more expensive commitment.
“We find young families that haven’t been here, that maybe can’t come for a week due to different activities,” she said, “and then we have found younger couples coming in to see what Ocean City is all about.”
Anecdotally, she said, they sometimes return for longer stays or come back with a larger group.
Asked if there was any concern that the recent publicity will let too many people in on the secret of the Shore’s fall charm, Gillian laughed.
“We’re not worried,” she said. “We welcome everyone.”
Heading into Labor Day weekend, many are expected to travel to short-term rentals across the country.
Last year, Thorn said, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend was the date with the largest number of single-day Airbnb check-ins across the country.
This year, the company is seeing another trend: More people traveling alone for the holiday weekend. Solo travel over Labor Day weekend is up 20% over last year, Thorn said.
“People are just getting out there, whether with their family, their friends, or by themselves,” Thorn said. “They just want to go.”

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