Vered Schwarz is the President and COO of Guesty, an end-to-end property management software for short-term rentals.
Before the pandemic, those investing in short-term rentals as a side revenue stream knew that they typically demanded 30% more revenue than traditional long-term lets. For that reason alone, many homeowners sought out property management companies that specialized in operating vacation rentals in order to simply hand over their keys and make a profit every month.
But Covid-19 has become problematic for some of these owners who are dependent on this income, and springtime saw a halt in the majority of rental bookings worldwide. And though things are recovering (especially with domestic travel on the rise), their revenue numbers might not mirror what they were last summer.
Here are three ways in which homeowners, and the property management companies they utilize to run their rentals for them, can get creative and innovative to earn revenue off of their properties amid the “new normal.”
1. Go Local
Short-term rentals and hotels weren’t the only ones hit hard by Covid-19. Local shops, sites and restaurants dependent on tourists in the high season also felt the impact. Hosts can use their communication with guests to highlight them, simultaneously promoting community values. When hosts send check-in information, they should include suggestions on the top local eateries that can deliver or that offer outdoor dining. Guests will also appreciate any sites they can see virtually or outdoors while socially distancing, such as nearby national parks.
But going local won’t yield powerful results if you don’t market properties as such. Updating listing descriptions and titles to showcase what local attractions travelers can safely enjoy will make for a great first impression.
Speaking of marketing, guests (in particular, digital nomads) are looking to enjoy the great outdoors while enjoying top-notch connectivity. Make sure to promote your rentals as such, because as this travel persona continues to go “life shopping,” experimenting with stays in new cities, they are also increasingly booking longer stays of one month or more. Our data supports this: In July alone, the average length of stay in the U.S. peaked at 7.5 days, more than double the average length of stay being booked before the pandemic. And in 2020, we have seen a 117% increase in reservations with stays of 90 days or more in the U.S. specifically.
2. Become More Concierge-Like
Guest-centricity will never go out of style, pandemic or no pandemic. In fact, increased guest communication is crucial during a time when consumers are nervous to travel and are canceling trips closer to check-in, breaking their long-term leases in cities to escape to more rural areas and booking last-minute stays due to fluctuating restrictions. In fact, data from our recent survey shows that the majority of bookings across travel platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com in July were made only up to seven days in advance of the booking itself. July also saw a 5% uptick in reservations made within one day of the booking and a 3% uptick in same-day reservations.
In July, short-term rental hosts also saw a big uptick in last-minute cancellations, but what we’re seeing more recently suggests that that travelers have stopped panic canceling. This trend of last-minute cancellations shows the “ugly” side of flexibility because it could result in lost revenue for hosts. In order to try to avoid this as best possible, hosts should:
• Confirm the reservation with guests a few days in advance.
• Inform guests of area-specific updates pertaining to restaurants that are open and local activities they can engage in.
• Make note of special incentives designed to encourage guests to retain their reservation, such as complimentary breakfast or experiences.
3. Be Aesthetic
Nowadays, travelers expect short-term rentals on booking platforms to have that Instagram factor, meaning they should be well designed and comfortable. This expectation has only been heightened recently as travelers use their rentals as work-from-home environments for extended periods of time.
In order to create an aesthetically pleasing environment that guests will be inclined to share on their social channels (and rebook in the future), consider investing in a comfortable WFH environment complete with nice lighting, a comfortable chair, various chargers and greenery (such as real or faux plants). Add character, color and the cozy factor with throw pillows, artwork and rugs. And consider investing in high-quality duvets and sheets — those working remotely will want to sleep well before a big day of meetings.
The New Normal
With the state of the virus changing constantly, each day brings a new trend in travel. For short-term rental hosts, now is the time to be agile, experiment with new tactics and set themselves up for success for when travel booms again in the future — because it most certainly will.
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