KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Kissimmee has been called the “Vacation Home Capital of the World," and according to the city's tourism arm, 50,000 of its 70,000 accommodations were vacation homes before the pandemic hit.

What You Need To Know

  •  Kissimmee has been called the "Vacation Home Capital of the World" with 50,000 rentals available before the pandemic hit

  •  That number has decreased to about 40,000, but owners expect things to get much better, especially in the next couple months

  • According to Airbnb and Vrbo, short-term vacation rentals are up 377% nationwide from 2020

That number went down to about 40,000 after COVID-19 hit, but in the next two months those remaining expect to be cashing in.

Airbnb and Vrbo report that for holiday travel this year, short-term rental reservations are up 377% over 2020. That number shouldn’t be surprising because of the pandemic. What is surprising, is that the 2021 numbers are 91% over 2019, before the pandemic hit.

Kim Brown, who owns a vacation rental home in the Reunion Resort, said he has his property fully booked for both November and December.

“It sounds really good for my wife,” he said, laughing with his wife nearby. “She is the person that watches the numbers, so I am sure she is tickled to death.”

And those numbers are trending really good county wide.

According to Experience Kissimmee, October vacation home rentals saw a 35% decrease between 2019 and 2020. But from 2020 to 2021 things rebounded with a 56% increase, which turned out to be a 1% increase over pre-pandemic 2019.

Sharon Harley, CEO of Jeeves Floria Rentals, rents about 500 vacation homes in Osceola County. This November, she said, 97% of them are already booked.

“Florida does have a reputation for being open and welcoming all the travelers,” Harley said. “There is so much for them to do. Not too many restrictions, but the vacation home they can literally drive in from all the different states.”

AAA estimates 48.3 million Americans will hit the road for the Thanksgiving weekend. One of those families is staying at Brown's vacation rental in Reunion. 

“You see a lot of Thanksgiving and Christmas rentals, especially since the family can be together in a home very comfortably,” Brown said. “In Florida, it’s one of the rare places where you can go swimming on Christmas Day.”

Not only is business good for Brown, its also good for other owners. Experience Kissimmee says that since the start of the pandemic, vacation homes have exceeded hotel occupancy rates month after month.

A further sign that tourism business is getting back to normal in Osceola County: In September 2019, the tourist development tax brought in $3.5 million, while this year is only slightly less at $3.1 million.