The short-term rental sector has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve experienced a year like no other: diminished bookings, last-minute cancellations, new cleaning protocols, and in some regions tighter restrictions compared to hotels, resulting in a loss of business for vacation rental owners.
In this rapidly changing landscape, what should we expect as we look forward to 2021?
Between changing consumer behaviour and evolving trends in the sector, rental owners and property managers need to up their game to secure bookings: learning new and seamless processes for the guest experience, putting safety of guests as the top priority and reaching out to new traveller types.
Here are just a few ways to step up to the new short-term rental landscape.
Moreso than ever travellers want to travel. After nearly a year of lockdown and restricted travel borders, we are all itching to break free and take a vacation. However, we want to get away with confidence, staying in accommodation that has a seal of approval in terms of cleanliness and hygiene.
From region to region there are stricter cleaning protocols and guidelines to follow. As owners, we should be putting the safety of our guests as a top priority in 2021.
It’s also essential to let your guests know that you are committed to their safety. Add a hygiene safety badge and detail your cleaning protocol on your website and within your listing description, so they have confidence to book with you.
Target domestic travellers
Whilst many travellers are determined to travel far and wide as soon as possible, many other vacationers will be staying closer to home next year, so targeting domestic travellers and staycationers should be an essential part of any vacation rental marketing strategy in 2021.
Attracting domestic travellers to your accommodation means understanding their nuances, cultural differences, festivals, etc, and of course, your marketing must speak their language. If you are a British owner in Spain, take the time to professionally translate your website and listing into Spanish and look at Spanish-based OTAs and niche marketing channels.
What attracts a foreign traveller to your destination, may not be the same thing that attracts a domestic traveller. Do your research and find out what attracts domestic visitors to your destination: what they like about the local area and how they will arrive. Finally, adapt your tone and content to their expectations.
Family and friend reunions
We miss our friends and families. We make plans to meet up and then they get cancelled by extended lockdowns. We’re hoping that Christmas will bring us together, but realistically speaking most of us are cautious, preferring to wait until a future date in 2021 to get together. When we do, it’s going to be epic!
And what better way to get together than in a home-from-home vacation rental setting? This will create a higher demand for large and spacious rental properties, which offer comfort and flexibility for multi-generational family or friend group stays.
Τhe present quarantine seems to have taken an especially high toll on city dwellers that live in small apartments and confined spaces. This has created a new category of travellers called city-scapers: people who are desperate to escape the confinements of lockdown in the city and escape to a rural setting, where the air is clean, natural beauty abounds and offers open spaces for everyone to enjoy.
Work from anywhere
The way we work has changed so much this year. Remote working has become the norm and will continue to stay that way for many who were tied to an office from 9 to 5, five days a week.
So who’s to say that once restrictions are lifted, our home office can’t be located in any home, anywhere in the world? To attract workation guests you’ll need to have a strong Wifi connection and a comfortable workspace set-up in your accommodation.
Working from anywhere isn’t a new trend. Digital nomads have been seeking unique and natural places to work from for years, but with the rise of work-from-home, I believe we’ll be seeing a lot more people taking their work on holiday with them. And this market will potentially fill your out-of-season and/or shoulder season weeks.
How to deal with cancellations
This year we’ve had to take a wholly pragmatic approach to how we deal with cancellations and we’ll need to take that approach into 2021. Typically, a cancellation is made 2-3 weeks in advance of the booking, but as people panic about new waves of Covid-19 or new restrictions put in place without notice, we must accept that panic cancellations can and will happen.
What’s important is having a clear incentive to get them to postpone rather than cancel their booking completely and being empathetic when they do cancel. Remember that you might be losing a booking, but they are losing a much needed holiday.
On the flip side of cancellations come last minute bookings, so make it easy for people to book and welcome those last-minute bookings. Preparation is key!
Should we avoid in-person greetings?
There has been a lot of talk of eliminating in-person greetings in the vacation rental industry. Should we switch to automated guest access and check-in completely? Many of us already use applications and email to share key information about our vacation rental home and the destination, but we also understand that many guests – especially mature guests, prefer a more personal touch and appreciate having someone at home to explain everything when they arrive.
I believe that as we move into 2021 we need to be prepared to welcome both types of guests. Let your guests decide if they want automatic access (like the one offered by Spanish-based Chekin) or if they prefer a welcoming face upon arrival. If they do want a meet and greet, make sure you follow social distancing protocols at all times!
Improving your processes with technology
And on the subject of automation. As owners and managers, we should be working towards a simplified process for guests – pre, during and post-stay. The objective is to make it effortless for them to book, arrive and enjoy their stay in your vacation rental and the best way to do that is through rental technology.
Many owners have been prioritising the introduction of a contactless check-in since the start of the pandemic, but there are many technologies designed to ease the process for both owner and guest: distribution platforms and synchronization apps such as Syncbnb, digital guestbooks such as Touch Stay, dynamic pricing tools such as PriceLabs, smart noise monitoring apps such as Noiseaware or transportation companies for travellers like Welcome Pickups are all on hand to help owners create a seamless guest experience from the first contact to check out and beyond!
The key to success in 2021 will be embracing this new short-term rental landscape, be prepared, be empathetic, take on new technology and processes, and be ready to welcome new guests. Here’s to the future!