As any vacation rental owner would agree, guests are the number one priority in our industry. From delivering unmatched guest experiences to ensuring that no detail of the guests’ stay is left unnoticed, we as owners and hosts strive for only the best for our guests year-round.
During this time of uncertainty, these high standards have not fallen.
Due to precautions to stem the spread of COVID-19, there has been a recent cancellation wave, particularly in regards to international travel stays. While we understand this can be unsettling, it’s reassuring to see that there is still a significant amount of domestic travelers looking to escape to a more secluded and safe location.
Here’s what you can do and some extra steps you can take to make sure your guests and their loved ones feel safe while staying at your property.
Let’s do our part in minimizing the spread of the virus
As vacation rental industry professionals, we have a crucial role to play to minimize the spread of the virus. While routine cleanings between guest stays used to be standard, things are different during the pandemic. Given how easily the virus spreads, hosts and managers must go above and beyond, as the virus can live on surfaces for extended periods of time – in ideal conditions, some studies have shown it can last up to two weeks.
Take control of this by creating a finely detailed checklist of all areas of your properties that must be thoroughly cleaned. Check in with any cleaning services that you employ to find out what they are doing to create safe stays for your guests. And be sure to follow the CDC’s guidelines for disinfecting your properties.
Tips for keeping your property clean and guests safe
Here are several takeaways that you can implement right now:
- From what we know as of right now, bleach and soap are the most effective cleaning mitigators of the virus. Clean every hard surface with soap and water or bleach solution.
- When using alcohol solutions, make sure they’re at least 70% alcohol in order to properly kill any lingering germs.
- Wear gloves when cleaning and make sure the area has good ventilation.
- Don’t forget about the soft surfaces. Launder what you can, and use EPA-registered disinfectants. Many vacation rental companies have asked their cleaning staff or crews to wear gloves when handling laundry of any kind.
- Provide hand sanitizer at your properties when possible, and be sure there are enough trash bags and gloves for guests to use.
Protecting and supporting your cleaning staff
If you’re using a cleaning service, check in with them to see how they are taking extra precautions to stay safe while working on multiple properties. Not only will this give you peace of mind about your guests’ stays, but this can create a long-term relationship with the service provider once this all blows over.
For those with cleaners on payroll, the following resources can be useful to share with employees:
- Stop the spread of germs poster by the CDC (English and Spanish). Note that the CDC has other practical factsheets that are easy to understand and updated regularly.
- Guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 by the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services (pdf document).
During this extreme uncertainty, many smaller companies are having a difficult time staying in business with limited resources. Consider that it may be worth increasing their pay slightly to make up for their increased risk and hard work.
Reaching out to your guests before their stay
Just as you would for any regular stay, be sure to stay on top of reaching out to each and every guest prior to their arrival during this time. It’ll give them a sense of security and certainty regarding your attentiveness to their health. The added bonus is that if the guest was on the fence whether to travel or not, your message may deflect a potential rebooking or cancelation.
Offer flexible cancellation and rebooking policies
Consider offering a flexible cancellation or rebooking policy in response to COVID-19. If you typically have a fee for canceling bookings, let your guests know that you’ll be waiving these fees. Another option is to provide your guests with a credit to use on future bookings if they are looking to cancel (i.e.; if the guests are symptomatic).
Providing options to your guests at this time, as well as letting them know about the steps you’re taking to ensure their health and safety, can improve the guest experience. This increases their chances of extending the reservations or a repeat booking.
Consider upgrading to touchless or keyless entry
If you don’t already, upgrade your check-in options to have either a lockbox, wireless or keypad entry. This will allow the guests to make themselves at home without any face-to-face interactions, eliminating the concern of coming in contact with anyone who may be carrying the coronavirus.
This is a good time to market those properties of yours that are private homes without shared amenities. Such features as private pools or gyms allow families to stay busy without compromising their health.
Note that if you implement touchless or keyless entry, you’re half-way there for self-check-in. All you need to do is find a way to convey check-in information to the guests before they arrive. An easy way to do this is through digital guidebooks. They’re a cheap, reliable and versatile tool that can help you eliminate in-person check-in.
Keep your guests safe during their stay
When your guests arrive, make sure they are as comfortable as possible. Provide gloves, hand sanitizer, and cleaning supplies, along with additional trash bags and laundry detergent.
In addition to your guidebook, print out (or include in your digital guidebook with Hostfully) advice for your guests about:
- Going out in public
- Going to restaurants
- Grocers that are providing no-touch delivery
Also provide contacts for:
- Nearby doctors and pediatricians
- Emergency clinics
- Hospitals in the area
If you’re using a digital guidebook, you can also leave information on the pandemic that’s useful for travelers published by credible sources. Non-alarmist and practical information sources include:
Make your guests’ health and safety the top priority
This shouldn’t just be during the COVID-19 pandemic, but now’s the time to double-down. Depending on your property portfolio, consider installing a hand sanitizer dispenser inside the entrance of the property. Some models are small and don’t need a stud to securely fix to the wall making it easy to install almost anywhere. While leaving a travel-friendly bottle is normally the ideal solution, given shortages, you may have a hard time finding them. But the alternative – dispensers (and their refills) – can still be purchased from commercial distributors.
Wrapping things up
By focusing on the safety of guests, there’s a chance to offset the fear and anxiety they feel. And guests that feel safe in your rentals at the onset of the pandemic will likely return if the situation drags on in the summer months. Eventually, they’ll want a vacation and a place they know takes their safety at heart is likely to get them to come back.