It’s important to start by shoring up the financial health of your vacation rental business as much as possible. Talk to your bank or lender and find out if you can apply for a mortgage payment holiday. If you employ any staff, investigate whether it is possible to furlough employees. You may also be able to apply for a self-employment grant and taking advantage of host-specific financial support offered by some channels.
With regard to financial support offered by booking sites, Airbnb recently announced several initiatives including a $250m (£201m) fund to help short-term rental hosts affected by COVID-19-related cancellations.
This applies to bookings made 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.
Now is also a good time to assess your marketing strategy, and make some changes to optimise your marketing activity to attract bookings once travel restrictions and lockdowns ease.
Reach out to cancelled guests: Contact guests who have had to cancel as a result of COVID-19, and offer them discounts for re-booking with you in the future. Special offers and discounts help motivate travellers to book with you. Consider offering discounts based on the date, and the length of the stay. If guests do still wish to cancel their booking, you can offer them later dates to re-book their stay or move the reservation to the same dates in 2021.
Reach out to previous guests: Contacting previous guests through email newsletters to encourage them to make future bookings can also pay dividends. If budget allows, you could also do some social media advertising using 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 communicate with guests after they leave. This is the best way to stay in touch with guests and keep them updated. Use eye-catching and informative content to inspire people and help them stay positive at this time.
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:
1. 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.
2. Use booking sites like Airbnb or Booking.com to identify your competition. Add filters such as number of bedrooms and hots tub etc for a more accurate view of what else is available and choose dates reasonably far in advance.
3. 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?
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.
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.
TravelNest gets your property seen in all the right places. We can list your property on over 30 of the best booking channels including Airbnb, Booking. com, Expedia, HomeAway, TUI and TripAdvisor.