Article by Lucy Cromwell
Follow Lucy on Twitter @LucyCromwell7
Let’s set the scene
You run a relatively successful vacation rentals website, bringing in more and more new clients when, suddenly, the coronavirus pandemic hits.
Cancellations start coming in left, right and centre and, as time goes by, you’re given no choice but to issue a huge number of refunds to customers.
You start to worry how long the pandemic is going to last, what the economic impact is going to be and, most importantly, how your business is going to survive throughout.
You implement a number of strategies to try and stay afloat, keeping your business in the minds of your target market throughout lockdown. You cut non-essential spending, furlough several employees and try to foresee what the post-COVID-19 landscape will look like.
It is ultimately this which brings you to this article today, seeking advice on how your industry and workplace environment is likely to change moving forward.
Without further ado, here are four key ways the vacation rental management sphere has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. The Holiday Rentals Market Will Prosper
First things first, let’s start with some good news – now that the lockdown restrictions have finally been eased, the short-term holiday rentals market is expected to prosper.
After all, postponed or cancelled holiday plans don’t tend to sit well with customers. And, if anything, having a temporary lifestyle forced on them during the pandemic will have only heightened their desire and need to get away as a result.
That said though, it might be quite some time before we see holidaymakers travelling as far afield as they were before the pandemic hit. With quarantine restrictions still in place across a number of countries, many people will be putting far-flung destinations at the bottom of their travel bucket list for now, favouring UK staycations for the time-being instead.
A key reason behind this ties into the UK government’s recent marketing campaign, which highlighted the need for money to be kept within the UK economy so that the country can rebuild and financially recover.
As such, rental holiday platforms like Airbnb are expected to become more and more popular over the coming months of the year, bringing with it fresh home-based competition for you as a property manager to think about.
Without further ado, here are four key ways we predict the vacation rental management sphere will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Hygiene Is A Priority
While vacation rentals have always needed to meet high hygiene standards, the coronavirus pandemic has now effectively raised those standards even higher.
It is no longer good enough to simply keep properties clean and tidy. Sanitising from top to bottom in between guests is now imperative towards minimising the virus’ spread and ensuring your guests’ have a positive experience during their stay.
Similarly, ensuring your guests and employees have the correct equipment and materials will be vital in keeping them safe. As recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), disposable materials like paper towels should be used over microfibre cloths or absorbent rags, and hand sanitiser should be available in all common areas and walkways.
Likewise, any bed bug or insect populations will need to be controlled effectively – especially during the warmer summer months.
Without these effective COVID-preventative hygiene measures in place, guests may refuse to stay at your properties, only damaging your reputation and turnover as a result.
3. Embrace Technology For Property & Guest Management
As strange as it may sound, the coronavirus pandemic could have actually done the vacation rental industry a favour, finally giving business owners enough time to hone and rethink their processes.
The systems used within property management are fairly outdated, after all, and – when compared to a host of other industries – they are in dire need of an upgrade.
So, now that the COVID-19 pandemic has given property managers the chance to pause and reflect, there appears to be a pretty high likelihood that, moving forward, technology will finally become more and more implemented within management processes – and for good reason.
Technology has moved so far forward in recent years, we’d be here for hours explaining what can now be done at only a few clicks of a button.
Whether it be responding to initial enquiries, logging maintenance requests, sifting through emails, prioritising tasks or automatically recording data, advances in cloud and AI-based technology help free up a lot more time, enabling you to focus on any other areas of your business in need of your attention.
4. A Positive Guest Experience Is Key
As with nearly every other industry across the planet, maintaining a steady stream of revenue will be at the very top of every business owner’s priority list. And, within the vacation rental management sphere specifically, the easiest way to do just comes through either increasing or stabilising the occupancy of your properties.
Due to the current climate, that may be more difficult than it sounds, but it doesn’t have to be. By providing your guests with the best experience possible, the more likely they will then be to give you repeat business or recommend your services out to others.
So, how exactly do you ensure this guest experience is as positive as possible?
Well, put yourself in your customer’s shoes and ask what you would expect from a short-term vacation rental. In light of the pandemic, a flexible cancellation policy is now a must-have, as is reassurance beforehand that the property has been maintained and restructured to be as COVID-secure as possible. A seamless booking process is also important, as well as a contactless self-check-in procedure to take the stress away from complicated key handovers.
In essence, the more focus you can put on improving your guests’ experience, the happier they will be during their stay and the lower the likelihood will be that you’ll encounter any unexpected turnover loss.
At first glance, the post-COVID-19 landscape may seem bleak but – when you delve deeper into it – it actually represents a fantastic opportunity for the vacation rentals industry.
While yes, it may be difficult to deny that coronavirus has had a significant impact on businesses, only those who embrace the change and think optimistically will survive the aftermath.
By putting your guests first, improving your internal procedures, incorporating technology and being adaptable to change, you’ll help put your vacation rentals business in the best possible position. Why settle for simply surviving the pandemic when your business could thrive from it instead?