Flexibility has always been a necessity in the short-term vacation rental industry.
In 2020, though, that’s been more true than ever as property managers and travelers have been forced to reevaluate what really matters.
Months of uncertainty at the beginning of the pandemic eventually gave way to stabilization; restrictions loosened in most parts of the country, and data began to reveal some consistent industry trends.
Health and hygiene protocols, for instance, are more important than ever. That isn’t necessarily a surprise, but still: research shows more than 90% of travelers are making decisions based on cleaning protocols.
Another question to consider: who’s been traveling? Family trips are the most popular type of getaway at the moment, followed closely by trips to visit friends and family. Travelers haven’t been hopping onto airplanes, either—domestic car trips skyrocketed during the summer, with about two-thirds of trips maxing out at distances of less than 1,000 miles.
Clearly the landscape has shifted and will probably continue to do so in the months ahead. For property managers, it’s a critical time to step back and ask: what are travelers looking for right now?
Here’s a quick breakdown of what your guests want during COVID-19.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment property managers have had to make during the pandemic is how they clean their rentals. It’s a potentially overwhelming undertaking, which is exactly why trusted organizations such as VRMA have laid out specific COVID-19 guidelines that property managers can and should follow.
It’s also good practice for you to become familiar with what makes travelers comfortable during their stay. Clean linens are especially of high concern these days, but you can really satisfy guests by staggering check-in and check-out times, installing keyless locks, and cutting down on contact points, in general.
Online travel sites have adjusted, too, by encouraging property managers to merchandise their cleaning practices. That’s because cleanliness is a legitimate selling point.
Are your guests free to check in and out without any person-to-person contact? Are your rentals unavailable for certain amounts of time between guests? Are they sanitized with disinfectant? These are the types of questions travelers need answered before they book, which is why some channels have gone as far as making them available to software providers via API. When you address these inquiries up front, you show potential customers how committed you are to their safety.
On the other side of the spectrum, it’s all about flexibility—especially in regards to cancellation policies. Data shows that 77% of travelers are more likely to book rentals that have looser cancellation arrangements, which VacayHome Connect has noted previously. A few things to consider:
If ever there was a time to diversify your strategy in order to drive bookings, this is it. Case in point: length-of-stay patterns have noticeably shifted since the start of COVID-19. Online travel sites have seen a significant increase in customers searching for multi-week stays, but oddly enough, shorter lengths of stay have also swung upward.
Ongoing API updates have adjusted length-of-stay models to allow for significantly longer stays, and that is definitely something to keep an eye on. More than anything, though, you can benefit from these oscillating trends by knowing your market(s) and its demands.
Above all else, travelers still value transparency more than anything—especially when it comes to pricing. Flawless cleaning protocols, loosened cancellation policies, and flexible lengths of stay have certainly risen to the top of guest necessities, but ultimately, your honesty about each component still holds the most weight.
By that same token, travelers want to stay informed about changes or updates you’ve made or plan on making, so keep them in the loop whenever it makes sense to do so.