What the Latest COVID Restrictions Mean for Your Holiday Home

Craigeanie Farmhouse, Glen Lyon

On 23rd September, new COVID measures were announced in the UK, placing tighter restrictions on household mixing and gathering in groups. These changes will have a significant impact on vacation rentals. For the time being, self-catering holiday homes can remain ‘open for business’, however, restrictions on guest numbers means that hosts need to get creative to continue attracting bookings. Here’s five changes you can make to your listing now to encourage guests to book your property.

1. Lower your pricing

This is the most important thing to consider doing to attract bookings in the current market. If your holiday let property is usually booked by groups or multiple families, it’s likely that your current pricing will more likely be set-up with maximum occupancy in mind. With the introduction of ‘the rule of six’ in England, and household mixing currently banned in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, the number of people who can stay in a self-catering property is dramatically reduced. 


It makes sense to lower your price, so that your property appeals to people traveling as a single household or family group/bubble. Lower your pricing from now until the end of the year, as well as into January will help you attract holiday season bookings. In terms of what price to set, we recommend a reduction of between 10 and 15%.

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2. Offer a discount

Getting a discount or deal

In addition to lowering your pricing, it is a good idea to offer discounted stays e.g. a percentage discount for a weekly stay. This can be particularly useful for selling specific weeks you have available e.g. low-season weeks that are typically more difficult to fill. 


Remember though, that your discount needs to be low enough to appeal, but high enough to cover costs and turn a profit. Don’t be tempted to fill dates at drastically low prices – there’s no point in filling those winter months if it doesn’t make sense financially. We also recommend taking a look at similar properties in your local area to see how they compare on price. This will help you ensure you offer a competitive deal to fill those dates.

3. Throw in some extras

Welcome hamper

Everyone likes to feel like they are getting something extra, and your potential guests are no exception! It’s a good idea to throw in some extras to entice guests to book with you. For example, you could put together any of the following hamper ideas for your guests:

  • A welcome hamper with essentials like tea, coffee, milk, biscuits and bread etc.
  • A breakfast hamper with eggs, bread, bacon, sausages etc.
  • A movie night hamper with popcorn and a selection of DVDs etc.
  • A pamper hamper with face masks, bubble bath and a candle etc.
  • A kids hamper with a selection of toys, books and snacks
  • A Halloween or Christmas themed hamper with luxury food and drink items etc. 

 

An alternative to hampers, a nice bottle of wine or champagne makes a lovely touch, or you could team up with local businesses such as restaurants, pubs or spas to offer exclusive discounts.  

Make sure you update your listing description to describe any extras you plan to include. If you are going with a free hamper or bottle of wine, take some photos and add these to your listing so guests can see exactly what they’re getting.

4. Flex your cancellation policy

Due to the uncertainty of COVID, the cancellation policy you choose for your holiday property has never been more important. Guests want flexibility, and are far less likely to book a property that only offers a strict cancellation policy with no or partial refunds only. Recent data from top booking site HomeAway shows the difference in bookability by cancellation policy. In July 2020,

  • Properties with a relaxed cancellation policy received 27% of total bookings
  • Properties with a flexible cancellation policy received 24% of total bookings
  • Properties offering no refunds received 8% of total bookings

 

This shows that moving to a relaxed cancellation policy results in a higher percentage of bookings. Many channels (e.g. Airbnb) allow searches to be filtered by cancellation policy, meaning properties with strict cancellation only will be omitted from searches.

5. Give guests the confidence to book with you

Colourful cleaning equipment and supplies

There are a number of additional things you can do to give guests the confidence to book with you. First and foremost, make it really clear that you are following recommended cleaning protocols. Our blog on COVID19 Cleaning Tips for Your Vacation Rental has some key points to follow. If you can offer self-check-in via a lockbox or door entry code this also helps to give your guests peace of mind and limits unnecessary interactions. It’s important to let potential guests know about any additional steps you are taking as a result of COVID19.

We recommend doing this:

On your listing: Whilst it is important not to declare your property ‘COVID-19 free’, start by updating your description to mention any enhanced cleaning e.g. “This property is professionally deep cleaned after every stay, and we’re taking extra care to disinfect high touch areas between stays and provide a selection of recommended cleaning products for guests’ use.” Finally, do not use words such as ‘Coronavirus’, ‘COVID-19’, ‘quarantine’ or ‘self-quarantine in your listing titles – the majority of channels do not allow this.

As part of your guest communications: You could include information about how the property has been cleaned before each stay as part of your guest communications e.g. in your welcome email and any further emails you send with arrival details/directions to the property.

In the property itself: If you don’t already have one, consider adding a noticeboard somewhere visible in the property. This should highlight essential information about how the property has been cleaned alongside other important information such as WiFi details, check-in/check-out times, if cleaning supplies are provided in the property and where these can be found. If you have a larger property, you could save on cleaning/changeover costs by limiting access to some areas of the property that will not be required by smaller groups e.g. bedrooms/bathrooms. 

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