With the gradual easing of travel restrictions and the reopening of borders in some areas, people who have been isolating in their homes for months are now beginning to plan ahead for future travel. Despite overcoming many difficult months, this new travel confidence, especially from domestic travelers, is exciting news for the vacation rental industry.
In the United States, the U.S. Travel Association has calculated a $463 billion loss for the travel economy since March. While these numbers are intimidating, the slow road to recovery has already begun.
Disclaimer: We are not encouraging owners or property managers to promote travel if there are risks or restrictions in place. We recommend visiting the World Health Organization’s website and official government websites before accepting any bookings.
How do people feel about travel?
In a survey conducted by AIG and Skift that focused on experts in the travel industry, 87% of participants responded that they don’t plan on traveling internationally for the rest of 2020. However, 42% responded that they do plan to travel outside of their home state. If your vacation rental’s revenue was once mainly driven by international guests, now is the time to change your target audience.
Participants were asked what type of travel has the most potential to come back first. 74% said visiting relatives or friends, 21% said family vacations, 3% said romantic trips, and another 3% said solo trips. It makes sense that families would want to get together in a new yet safe environment. This presents an opportunity in which vacation rental owners can prepare their properties for family gatherings or the holidays.
When asked what would speed up travel’s return, 45% of people responded that more testing with faster results would lead to an increase in travel, 32% believe that travel won’t return until there’s a vaccine, and 23% think it’s too early to know. That said, according to the head of the US coronavirus vaccine program, BBC has stated that the first vaccines could be administered as soon as 11 December.
Changes in the way your guests travel
If you’ve stepped foot in an airport in the past few months, you’ll know how different the whole process is compared to what it once was. While some changes might just be circumstantial, others are here to stay.
An Increase in Domestic Travel
According to the World Tourism Organization, international travel dropped 65% in the first half of 2020. From strict restrictions to people simply being afraid of being stranded in a foreign country, the pandemic has led to an increase in domestic travel.
PwC conducted a Traveler Sentiment Survey back in May 2020. They asked consumers what forms of transportation they consider risky, and while 77% responded with public transportation and 71% with aerial travel, only 17% said “travel using a personal vehicle”.
With travelers like workationers and staycationers now opting for trips closer to home, as a vacation rental owner, you can take advantage of this opportunity and make the necessary changes to target these new audiences. Consider the following:
- Adjusting prices using dynamic pricing
- Removing your minimum stay policy
- Working together with local businesses and increasing revenue with upsells
- Making your vacation rental pet-friendly
- Optimizing your website with keywords
By focusing on domestic travelers, your vacation rental business can continue to generate revenue and stay afloat despite COVID-19.
The Use of Technology in Airports
Before anyone had even heard of COVID-19, the use of technology for travel was already on the rise. From planning the specifics of a trip to checking in at the airport, cell phones have become every traveler’s best friend. However, in the midst of a pandemic, the need for contactless interaction has become fundamental.
Travelers are not the only ones using technology to decrease the spread of COVID-19. Airports and other travel companies are constantly investing in innovative solutions to stop the spread of the virus. According to National Geographic, if your guests are flying, they might come across the following:
UV-C Cleaning Robots
Pittsburgh International Airport has been using cleaning robots to sanitize floors and other surfaces with ultraviolet C. UV-C is such a powerful wavelength that it can damage the virus’s DNA and RNA in a matter of seconds.
Over the past few months, these cleaning robots have been such a success that the airport plans on incorporating more to disinfect air trains as well.
It wasn’t long ago that having your boarding pass on your mobile device was considered “new”. Who would’ve thought we’d be using our faces as boarding passes just a few years later?
The use of biometric devices to scan people’s faces has become increasingly popular since the start of the pandemic. To protect both passengers and staff, the use of biometrics for self-service kiosks, bag drop-offs, and gates drastically reduces the need for human contact.
However, it’s important to note that the introduction of facial recognition technology has become quite controversial, especially regarding topics like the invasion of privacy.
Several airports have incorporated walk-through thermal screening cameras to detect people with a fever. This device, while it may help to some extent, won’t be able to detect the many asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. Nonetheless, new devices that do a more thorough screening are already being tested out.
Switching From Hotels to Vacation Rentals
Accommodation data companies STR and AirDNA joined together to analyze the effects of COVID-19 on short term rentals and hotels in 27 different markets. Because the length of stay in accommodation has increased by 58% in the past year, hotels have experienced a much more significant drop in occupancy. In a time where people are looking to self-isolate and potentially book long-term stays, vacation rentals are the perfect solution.
Study shows that the reason why vacation rentals are outpacing hotels is that they are much more adaptable and flexible to a guest’s needs. Not only do these properties offer a space that actually feels like a home, but they also provide fully-equipped kitchens and other amenities that hotels don’t offer.
While both hotels and vacation rentals are required to follow the necessary COVID-19 cleaning guidelines, it’s also likely that travelers are choosing vacation rentals because they are trying to get away from dense cities where COVID-19 cases are higher.
Using Technology for Your Vacation Rental
The use of technology to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 isn’t exclusively for airports and travel companies. There are affordable ways to incorporate contactless technology into your vacation rental to make it safer for both you and your guests.
Not only is it extremely time-consuming to welcome each of your guests in person, but it is now also a safety hazard. Because unnecessary interactions should be avoided whenever possible, the use of smart locks has become the norm in many vacation rentals.
Many vacation rental owners are also using online check-in options.
Where hosts once had to prepare a folder or book with information that guests might need during their stay, voice technology now presents the opportunity to have a 24/7 concierge service. Virtual Concierge Service offers an AI-powered technology that connects with Google Home, Alexa, or even your guest’s phone. Similar to communicating with Siri, guests can ask whatever questions they might have and hosts can prepare this information in advance.
Vacation Rental Software
Using a vacation rental software is beneficial year-round but it has become especially helpful in the past year. From efficiently managing your bookings and cancellations on one centralized platform to using automated messaging tools, a property management system can help you save time and money.
Guest communication has never been more important. By communicating with your guests 24/7 (without going crazy in the process), you’ll enhance guest experience and build a trustworthy brand image.
Create a personalized website that allows direct bookings and watch your bookings grow. Now more than ever, having a website that specifies the cleaning protocols that are being followed and safe activities that guests can look forward to is crucial to the success of your business. Potential clients want to be informed before booking any trips and this is the most effective way to do it.
Other ways to prepare your vacation rental
When asked what people planned to do in the coming months in a WorldPackers survey, 47% of participants answered with “saving money to travel in 2021”. That said, while traveler confidence is definitely present, there are still certain steps you can take as a vacation rental owner to better prepare your property for future travelers.
Continue to prioritize cleanliness and proper sanitation
When asked to rank what factors were most important when booking future flights and hotels, 35% of participants of PwC’s Traveler Sentiment Survey chose “Brand trust, including confidence in safety and cleanliness” as #1. Go above and beyond when following the COVID-19 cleaning protocols but also make sure that your guests know what procedures are taking place. While it’s necessary to do a proper cleaning, informing your guests on the details will allow them to feel much more comfortable when booking.
Make all the necessary changes to your property
Take advantage of possible gaps in bookings and update your property. Have you been meaning to renovate your kitchen or change the heating system for a while? Now is the chance to get working! With the colder months creeping in, you can even consider some winter upgrades to make your vacation rental more attractive to guests.
Analyze your competition and their strategy
It’s likely that there are several vacation rentals in your area that your business is competing with. However, this can be seen as a good thing if you know how to target your competitor’s customers. Take a look at their social media and pricing strategies and start learning what you can do differently to earn more bookings.
The Future of Travel for Vacation Rental Owners
The great news is that even after nearly a year of fear, people are still looking forward to traveling. With major advances in technology and the talk of vaccines, the motivation to explore new places is back in action. As a vacation rental owner or property manager, take advantage of the calm before the storm and prepare your business for the gradual return to normality.