Before COVID-19 hit, marketing out your space as a short term vacation rental was a great way to make some extra pocket change. Being an Airbnb host has dramatically changed in 2020. The biggest change for hosts was the significant decline in guests due to a multitude of travel restrictions.
Guests across the world began to cancel their reservations starting in early March, and hosts felt the financial crunch almost immediately. Some websites, like Airbnb, offered their hosts compensation to cover 25% of the waived cancellation fees. But, unsurprisingly, many of these property owners rely on short-term rentals to cover their mortgage. The lack of cash flow led to a quick spike in available rental properties, as the decision to find a long-term renter suddenly became appealing.
As the bottom has fallen out of the tourism industry, short term vacation rental hosts are scrambling to do what they can to reassure potential guests that they offer a safe space.
If you find yourself in this situation, here are some things you can do:
#1. Go the extra mile in regards to cleanliness
Travelers are looking to know things are clean, of course. But rather than a spot-clean, using germ-killing cleaners, like Lysol, is now a requirement. As it is common-knowledge that coronavirus can survive on surfaces up to seven days, cleanliness no longer means just a general sweep and dust.
Hotel chains introduce disinfecting protocols every day, like the Hilton Cleanstay Program and the Clean Council at Marriott. For a traveller to opt for a vacation rental, you need to meet and exceed those standards. Many of the vacation rental companies are helping owners do the best they can in this regard. The VRBO owners’ portal has a category of COVID-19 resources, including guides to enhanced cleaning. Airbnb is also encouraging owners to take sanitation up a notch, with detailed checklists describing how to clean the rental.
#2. Give it some time (between bookings)
In times past (and, we have faith, times to come!), a full calendar for a short term vacation rental was a thing to gaze upon and enjoy. While empty spaces in the calendar may represent missed earnings, it is worthwhile to build some vacant days into your schedule between bookings.
The cleaning protocols you will be following require extra time, and guests will be grateful if you can reassure them there has been ample time between when someone last stayed in the rental and their arrival.
#3. Contactless check-in and out
If you hadn’t already devised contactless check-ins and departures at your rental property, now is the time. The less contact you have with guests, the better –for both of you.
Don’t go to the property unless you have to while guests are there, and if you can’t avoid meeting your guests in person, make sure you wear a mask, request they wear a mask and stay two metres away from each other. Even better, any in-person meetings can be outdoors.
#4. Compromise on cancellations
People are feeling necessarily hesitant about leaving the relative safety of their own homes. You likely feel the same way. But a vacation, especially after being cooped up for months, facing work-from-home and home-schooling ordeals can feel like a necessity for mental health. Not too many people are booking without at least a few pangs of internal conflict, though. You can help build the confidence of your visitors by relaxing your cancellation policy a bit.
VRBO lists many suggestions, including extending the cancellation deadline and offering at least partial refunds. It is far from ideal as the business owner, of course, but for a visitor, knowing that they won’t be losing all their money if they decide it is best to cancel may make the difference between booking and not booking your property.
#5. Offer your space to COVID-19 responders
Airbnb has designed a program matching willing hosts with medical personnel and some essential workers who are unable to stay at home during the pandemic. If you are finding your rental has a higher-than-normal vacancy level, offering it in this way can be a win-win. You will have guests while simultaneously performing an act for the good of society. Not to mention, they will have a place to stay without the stress of potentially bringing the virus home to their family.
Airbnb is asking their hosts to discount the property steeply or even offer it for free. It does come with some fairly strict protocols, including the provision that you will allow the guest to convalesce and self-isolate on-site if the need arises. However, if space is sitting empty anyway, this could be your chance to do something undeniably good for someone who is risking a lot by helping others.
#6. Spread the word
As important as taking steps to protect visitors is, it is even more important to let them know what you’ve done. Make sure you update your listing to include a list of the things you are doing to help keep them safe when they stay at your vacation property.
For example, your rental needs to be clean. The more you convey the rigorous disinfecting protocols you are following to guests, the better off you will be. You can go as far as leaving a copy of the Airbnb cleaning checklist with your information binder in a conspicuous spot.
On your list of amenities, you may want to consider adding disinfectant wipes and disposable masks. Small things are going to make the difference for some guests, and you want them to choose your property. Since you are going to all the trouble to make sure guests stay healthy, it only makes sense to market these measures. It will reassure potential visitors the bonus of making your property more attractive than properties whose owners haven’t done the same.
Take time to provide excellent service to your short term vacation rental guests
In light of recording-breaking COVID-19 numbers continuing to appear from vacation hot-spots like Florida, the current level of travel hesitation isn’t likely to wane anytime soon. For anyone in the tourism industry, it is a tough time, but by making some thoughtful changes, you can make the most of COVID-19 and your short term vacation rental.