The short-term vacation rental industry has always required some degree of flexibility from both homeowners and travelers.
Early in 2020, though, each group was blindsided by COVID-19 and forced to reevaluate what really matters. As time passed and restrictions loosened, data began to reveal some consistent industry trends.
Health and hygiene protocols, for instance, are more important than ever. That isn’t necessarily a shocking revelation during a pandemic, but still: research shows more than 90% of travelers are making decisions based on cleaning protocols. Domestic car trips are also way up, and the most popular type of vacation right now is the simple family getaway—which, of course, isn’t as simple as it used to be.
We’ve already covered many of these numbers and how homeowners can maximize revenue during COVID-19. On the flip side of that coin though, it’s also important to ask: what are travelers looking for right now? They definitely want to know about hygiene protocols, but what does that entail? Is there anything else homeowners need to consider?
Here’s a quick crash course in what travelers want during COVID-19.
Stringent Cleaning Protocols
In a year chock full of adjustments, the biggest one homeowners have had to make is how they clean their rentals. It can be an overwhelming subject, which is why esteemed organizations like the Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA) have established very specific COVID-19 guidelines that rental owners can and should follow.
Beyond a stringent cleaning protocol, it’s also good practice for homeowners to become familiar with what makes travelers comfortable during their stay. Clean linens are especially of high concern these days, but homeowners who go the extra mile—by staggering their check-in and check-out times, by installing keyless locks, and so on—are racking up positive reviews.
Cleaning Protocol Marketing
Online travel sites have needed to adjust, too. One change to note: some channels now allow homeowners to merchandise their cleaning practices, because cleanliness is a legitimate selling point at the moment.
Is your property being sanitized with disinfectant? Are guests able to check in and out without any person-to-person contact? Is your property unavailable for a certain amount of time between guests? These are now standard questions that travelers want answered before they book a stay; in that way, merchandising your advanced cleaning practices not only keeps guests safe, it also shows potential customers how committed you are to their safety.
Flexible Cancellation Policies
On one side of the spectrum, there are rigid hygiene protocols. On the other side, though, it’s all about being flexible—especially with cancellation policies. Data reveals that 77% of travelers are more likely to book accommodations that have flexible cancellation arrangements, meaning homeowners need to remain adaptable, as well. Handling cancellations on a case-to-case basis (instead of relying on a strict, blanket policy) is among the most effective approaches at this time. You can also experiment with creative solutions, such as giving cancelled guests a credit toward future stays.
Flexible Lengths of Stay
Still on the “Flexible” side of the spectrum, length-of-stay patterns have also shifted since the start of COVID-19. Online travel sites have seen a significant increase in customers searching for multi-week stays, which isn’t too surprising. Oddly enough, though, shorter lengths of stay have also swung upward, especially because families are looking for quick getaways within roughly 100 miles of their home. As a rental owner, you can absolutely take advantage of either trend by adjusting your minimum night stay; ultimately, it comes down to knowing your market and developing an airtight revenue management plan.
Of everything travelers want during COVID-19—flawless cleaning protocols, flexible cancellation policies, and adjusted lengths of stay—what they still value more than anything else is what they've valued since the beginning: transparency.
No matter what pandemic-driven audibles you decide to call, be sure to remain transparent about your pricing, especially. 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.