With guests cancelling left and right due to the Covid-19 panic, hosts need to adapt quickly or else face the ruinous prospect of almost no income during what should be our busiest months, spring and summer. There’s no question this is the most challenging time hosts have ever faced, but these three steps can keep bookings coming in so that vacation rental businesses can survive until travel bounces back.
Market your unit as a Place to Get Away!
With everyone eager for social distancing and with all of the stress the coronavirus and economic collapse have brought into our lives, nothing could be more appealing than tranquility and solitude. While guests may be reluctant to fly, so many people are now working remotely or have been displaced due to dorm closures or travel bans or are eager to get out of dense environments that you can attract guests already in your region. All they have to do is gather supplies, and drive to your short term rental and then they can go weeks or even months with limited human contact.
To market your vacation rental to guests seeking their fortress of solitude, it’s time to optimize your Airbnb and Vrbo listings:
- Use buzzwords that suggest a peaceful place to get away, like “retreat,” “sanctuary,” “peaceful,” “quiet” and “tranquil.”
- Describe relaxing activities guests can enjoy while still social-distancing, like soaking in a hut tub, sunbathing by a pool or beach, cooking out on a grill, fishing on a lake, hiking in the great outdoors or taking in whatever great views your unit may offer.
- Feature relaxing images associated with these activities. This is the time to put up serene nature shots from around your property, cozy pictures of well-furnished interiors, and images to help guests imagine themselves relaxing such as 2 glasses of wine with a fireplace or bathtub full of suds in the background. Photos with captions perform better. And, of course, de-emphasize or take down any pictures you may have of crowded attractions nearby that are closed for the foreseeable future.
- Say your unit is a perfect getaway for remote work! If your short term rental has wifi, a table or desk, and comfortable seating, your guests for the next few months could be more people taking advantage of the temporary opportunity to get away while working remotely than traditional vacationers.
Say that your rental is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between guests and follow-through!
In your listing, it’s important to put your guests’ minds at ease and not let them worry that they might contract coronavirus from your previous guest. The coronavirus can survive on surfaces for up to three days, so unless your unit will be vacant at least 72 hours before your next guest arrives, in addition to your standard thorough cleaning, you’ll need to:
Disinfect everything guests are likely to touch:
- Light switches, and any knobs, dimmer switches, or lamp pull chains
- Door, Drawer, and Cabinet knobs (if they don’t have knobs, you should disinfect the entire edges since they are what guests grab to open and close them).
- Window pulls and handles
- All buttons, knobs, switches and handles for appliances guests might come into contact with: (dishwasher, stove, refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker, toaster, washer/ dryer, tv , hair dryer)
- Hangers and luggage racks
- Remote controls
- Any condiments, or opened but not fully consumed bottles or food packages left for a succession of guests. (e.g. a jar of tea bags, or a box of cereal)
- Amenities like soap and shampoo (or, rather than disinfect used containers, guests will find new individual-sized toiletries more sanitary)
- Any toys, bicycles, games or other recreational amenities guests are likely to hold.
- Stair, balcony, and porch railings.
- Arm rests
- All chairs and couches (Lysol spray works great for cloth furnishing. Thoroughly disinfecting leather while protecting it is more challenging, but this article discusses it.
- Trash cans
- Cleaning supplies and tools left out for guests (disinfectant spray handles and broom handles need to be disinfected themselves!)
Encourage Longer-term and more Local Bookings
There’s a reason most hosts prefer shorter stays from more distant travelers–the nightly rate is generally higher and the probability of the rental being used for destructive purposes like parties is much lower. But because the coronavirus has created such a shortage of distant vacation travelers, hosts have to tap into the demand that exists, and at least parties are less likely because large groups of people are afraid to assemble. If you open your rental up to longer stays, you can attract guests looking for a place to hunker down and wait out the entire coronavirus scare, as well as displaced college students whose dorms have shut down and people looking to reduce their risk by moving out of shared living spaces. Also, most urban environments have a standing unmet demand for residential housing that existed even before the coronavirus.
Hosts are in a position to meet this demand by posting their vacation rentals as month-to-month furnished rentals on corporate housing websites, furnished housing websites and real estate sites like Zillow. If hosts aren’t set up to take their own direct bookings, they can refer guest inquiries to their Airbnb accounts so they can be covered by Airbnb’s insurance and background checks. Hosts can also increase the discount for longer-term stays on their existing Airbnb and Vrbo listings. While nightly revenue may be lower, at least with a long-term guest locked in you won’t have to worry that upcoming short-term guests will keep cancelling their travel for a full refund when the coronavirus doesn’t resolve itself as soon as they might hope.