Gadling exclusive: Online vaca rental market to hit $4.6bn

Gadling gets the news first. According to a report that won’t be released for another 10 days, online vacation rental bookings are set to soar over the next two years. Thanks to an anonymous tipster, we’re able to give you an early look at this hot corner of the marketplace.

Online vacation rental bookings are expected to exceed $4.6 billion by 2010, according to a study by travel research firm PhoCusWright, which will be published at the end of January (you heard it here first!). That’s an increase of more than 50 percent from last year’s $3 billion. Travelers are voting with their dollars, it seems, preferring the flexibility of accommodation that comes with the rental market.

Currently, there are 1.26 million rental units (homes and condos) available in the U.S. vacation rental market, and 46 percent of them are on the beach or ocean. Obviously, these destinations are popular. Ten percent of the adult population of the United States (21.5 million people) use vacation rentals instead of hotels and spend an average of $1,300 per stay. The merrymakers who book these spaces account for 22 percent of hotel revenue in the United States.

When you think about it, the cost works out pretty well. Six nights in a hotel at $200 a pop will set you back roughly the same amount as the average vacation rental stay. And, let’s be realistic, when is a $200 hotel room only $200? In this tough economic climate, making the up-market move may actually be cost-effective!

The full report, Vacation Rental Market: Poised for Change, will be available for purchase on January 30, 2009.