This is undoubtedly a difficult time for vacation rental hosts. With bookings decreasing due to travel restrictions and country lockdowns, they are experiencing an influx of cancellations, yet still face the challenge of maintaining their properties for when restrictions ease.
Here we look at some key ways hosts can use this time proactively.
Financial support for property hosts
In regards to financial support in the short term, rental host sector Airbnb announced several key initiatives and policies including a $250m (£201m) fund to help short-term rental landlords impacted by COVID-19-related cancellations.
It works if a reservation is under Airbnb’s extenuating circumstances policy. The trip must have been booked on or before March 14th, 2020 with a check-in date between March 14th, 2020 and May 31, 2020. Airbnb will pay 25% of what you would’ve received for a cancellation based on your cancellation policy. For example, if you would normally receive £400 through your cancellation policy, Airbnb will pay you 25% of that, or £100.
Airbnb has also created a $10m (£8,134,000) Superhost Relief Fund, offering grants of up to $5,000 (£4,067) for hosts who rent their own homes and need help making rent or mortgage payments. However, this fund is only available to top-rated Superhosts, and some Experience hosts.
Restructure your marketing strategy
Now is a great time to consider restructuring your marketing strategy. Below are some key suggestions on what you can focus on at the present moment to advance your marketing:
- Reach out to cancelled guests: A place to start may be to prevent future cancellations by trying to reach out to canceled guests offering discounts for re-booking in the future. Special offers and discounts are easy ways to influence and motivate travelers to book with you. Consider offering discounts based on the date, and the length of the stay (see below for our ideas on longer-term stays). If guests do still want to cancel their reservations, you can try to change their decision by offering them later dates to re-book their stay or to move the reservation to 2021.
- Reach out to previous guests: Reaching out to these guests through email newsletters to encourage them to make bookings in the future is a great tactic. You can also consider social media advertising via sponsored posts. Create discount codes for your property and share them along with other promos you have on social media channels to ensure more visibility for your business and, thus, more bookings.
- Rethink your marketing and communication touchpoints: Redesign your newsletter and the way you reach out to guests after they leave. This is the best way to stay in touch with guests and keep them updated. Create something eye-catching, interesting, informative, and funny to help readers stay positive at this time. You can also adjust your marketing and listing descriptions to reflect the efforts you’re making to support guests. Mention what you’re doing to keep your properties sanitized (using CDC-approved cleaning supplies or practices, deep cleaning) and to limit human contact (for example, keyless entry solutions so an in-person key exchange is unnecessary). In general, this is a great time to renew your website and optimise your listing. Whilst doing the aforementioned deep cleans, take this time to rearrange your furniture and take brand new photos to update your listing.
Conduct some competitor research
We also recommend looking at competitors with similar properties in your area to understand what they are offering to potential guests and how you can remain competitive. The domestic staycation market is likely to pick up fast post-Coronavirus, so it’s a good time to get ahead of the competition!
Follow our three-point competitor analysis plan:
- Identify your unique selling points (USPs). USPs are the things that really make your property stand out. Some examples might be a private hot tub and quiet countryside seclusion, a city penthouse with amazing views and a luxury interior or a cosy cottage close to a seaside village. Take a look at your reviews and pinpoint the things guests liked best. These are the USPs that stand out to guests, so ensure you showcase them in your photos and description.
- Use booking sites like Airbnb or Booking.com to identify your competition. Add filters such as the number of bedrooms and hots tub etc for a more accurate view of what else is available and choose dates reasonably far in advance.
- Look for ways to improve. Channels tend to present higher rated properties at the top of search results so you will quickly establish your main competitors. Compare their listings to yours and make an action plan. Do your photos, description, amenities and nightly price seem comparable or could you make some changes to improve your listing?
Build out your social channels
We recommend spending some time developing your social channels including Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. With people now spending more time online, you can use this time to engage with your existing audience and reach a new audience with inspirational or throwback content.
Your aim is to inspire people to think about future holidays so that when the time comes your property is front of mind for booking! On Instagram, check out @craigmaddiemuir, @solid.luxury, and @glampingstays for some content ideas.
Research emerging trends in the industry
You could also use this time to research emerging trends across the vacation rentals industry and identify whether you could tap into them and make them work for you.
For example, could you look into attracting different types of guest post-Coronavirus e.g business travellers or perhaps branch out into offering or partnering with outdoor activity suppliers? These are two trends which are set to rise once travel restrictions lift, so it makes sense to get ahead now. We recommend subscribing to newsletters, attending Webinars and listening to podcasts for further inspiration.
Cameron Boal, VP Operations, TravelNest says “The travel industry is paused right now and there is a big question mark around when we’ll all be able to travel again. This said, we’re confident that when travel is permitted, the travel industry will be able to begin its recovery period. Isolation is showing us that the desire to travel is still there– from viral videos of virtual front-room holidays to throwback holiday Instagram pictures. So while the world definitely has more important things to worry about right now, we’re encouraged by the fact that people still want to travel and are making plans to do this as soon as it is safe to do so”.