How property owners can safely and effectively protect their rentals against COVID-19 to improve the guest experience.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it since March of this year, but its effects on travel, hospitality, and the short-term rental industry have made the summer season even more difficult than the spring. Owners of vacation rentals have been forced to adapt their business strategies to a new and uncertain environment, while travelers are seeking safer, cleaner, and more convenient vacation experiences. Read on for insights into how the industry is positioned to flourish in the coming months, and how you can deliver a memorable, safe, and secure experience for your guests during the age of COVID-19 and beyond.
In an age of uncertainty, one thing is for sure: We all need a vacation. This summer, travel plans and family trips — particularly those in international locations — have either been postponed, canceled, or reimagined to at-home hideaways or more local getaways. Guesty, one of our integration partners, performed a global survey in April that included 394 property management companies with three to 200+ properties. While reservation cancellations are up by at least 76% compared to the same time period last year, the outlook for vacation rentals in the coming months remains positive: Travelers are itching to get away, and the benefits of short-term rentals outweigh those of hotels, according to Guesty’s CEO Amiad Soto. “When individuals travel again, they will likely increasingly opt for private properties with more space over traditional hotel stays,” he says. With fewer common areas, less human-to-human contact, and a higher perception of cleanliness as compared to hotels, short-term vacation rentals are in high demand among travelers; but property owners now have even greater responsibility to deliver a safe, convenient, and memorable experience for their guests. Use our checklist for a few recommendations to follow before, during, and after a guest’s stay to protect your properties and to maintain revenue during — and after — the coronavirus pandemic.
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Before your guests arrive
Making your guests feel welcome begins long before they enter the front door. Communication is key, especially given the current climate, and keeping your guests comfortable and aware of all policies will be critical to their satisfaction. Consider leveraging a digital messaging platform, such as Guesty’s 24/7 guest communication service, to provide any updates on cancellation policies or reduced daily rates. And prepare to be flexible: Vrbo's internal polling during the pandemic suggests more than 75% of guests are more likely to choose accommodations with flexible cancellation policies when booking their next vacation home. If your guests do cancel, offer coupons or discounts toward a future stay to encourage their return.
Next, to ease uncertainty and provide a personal experience, prepare your rental with informational packets on local laws regarding coronavirus, and provide masks and portable hand sanitizer for them to keep. The more you make your guests feel at home in your rental, the more likely they are to treat it like their own — and to come back for a repeat visit.
During your guests’ stay
The new environment of short-term rentals amid COVID-19 is accelerating industry trends for 2021. Among Guesty’s top-identified goals for next year, 39% of respondents reported aiming to focus on improving and simplifying the guest experience, with investments in tech leading the charge. Contactless solutions for check-in procedures, such as CheKin, and platforms enabling keyless entry and smart lock technology like RemoteLock not only provide a safer experience for guests traveling during coronavirus, but they also improve mutual efficiency and convenience for a more enjoyable stay.
Making technology readily available for guests also extends to deliveries: Is your property within the radius of delivery services such as Instacart, AmazonFresh, DoorDash, or Drizly? Ensure ultimate comfort by providing a list of available delivery services, and add a personal touch with a few of your favorite choices. If voice-enabled technology is available in your rental such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home, get creative by leaving customized messages for your guests detailing cleaning procedures, or use it to leave a personalized “hello” when they arrive.
After your guests leave
After your guests complete their stay, consider allowing 24 hours to pass before your next renter arrives, leaving ample time for hiring a professional cleaning service and ensuring your rental is in tip-top shape for the next guest. In Guesty’s study, 60% of property managers reported implementing more stringent cleaning policies, and for good reason (as though avoiding infection won’t suffice): Vrbo now allows renters to filter listings by cleanliness ratings — ratings that are determined by previous guests. Regardless of whether your properties are listed on vacation rental sites, you can expect cleanliness to become an even stronger deciding factor in a guest’s experience than before.
Make quick turnarounds for cleaning services even easier with RemoteLock’s access management platform, which allows you to send self-expiring access codes to simplify entry to your property, while you track access history in real-time. By monitoring and auditing when maintenance users enter the rental, you can ensure there’s no overlap between users for a truly contactless experience. Finally, encourage guests to leave a review, and follow-up with their suggestions or requests they may have for possibly improving your vacation rental. COVID-19 has proven to be a learning experience for all of us; remaining resilient and open to feedback could mean all the difference in the long-run.