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.
As the COVID pandemic continues, many are starting to accept that COVID is here to stay in one form or another. Therefore, we need to consider ways to make our guests as comfortable as possible in this new normal. Like the pandemic’s beginning, guests will continue to prefer rental properties and Airbnbs to large hotels since they provide separation from other travelers. They will feel safer in a smaller space, and for most guests, heightened sensitivity means higher expectations in terms of attention to details around cleanliness and quality protective practices. If you spend time addressing health and safety and offer detailed cleanliness preparation, your guests are sure to thank you.
Here’s what you can do to make sure your guests and their loved ones feel extra safe while staying at your property.
Cleanliness is now everything
As vacation rental industry professionals, we have a crucial role in minimizing the spread of the virus and helping people adjust to this new normal. While routine cleanings between guest stays were standard before the pandemic, they are even more critical now. Given how easily the virus spreads, hosts and managers must go above and beyond to clean all services and minimize the spread. After all, we know that the virus can live on surfaces for extended periods; in ideal conditions, some studies have shown it can last up to two weeks.
You can protect your guests! Create a detailed checklist of all areas of your properties that must be thoroughly cleaned. Most cleaning services now offer even more protections for clients. Check in with any cleaning services you employ to find out what they are doing to create safe stays for your guests.
Tips for keeping your property clean and guests safe
Here are several takeaways that you can implement:
- We know that 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 to kill any lingering germs properly.
- Wash thoroughly with soap and disinfectant your wine glasses, silverware and other kitchenware you offer. Even other amenities in your vacation rental home such as coffee makers, rice cookers, blenders, kettles, and other cookware should be cleaned between bookings.
- Wear gloves when cleaning and make sure the area has good ventilation.
- Don’t forget about the soft surfaces. Launder what you can (linens, towels, and the like), 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 plenty of hand sanitizer at your properties, and be sure there are enough trash bags and gloves for guests to use. You may want to include both pump bottles of hand sanitizers and little to-go containers to keep your guests safe when they leave your rental. Remember to also replace other cleaning items such as sponges.
Protecting and supporting your cleaning staff
If you use a cleaning service, check in with them to see how they take extra precautions to stay safe while working on multiple properties.
If your cleaner is looking for extra resources, they may find the following resources helpful:
- 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 transition to our new normal, many smaller companies may have difficulty staying in business with limited resources. Therefore, consider that it may be worth increasing their pay slightly to make up for their increased risk and hard work.
Communicate with your guests before their stay
Just as you would for any regular stay, be sure to stay on top of reaching out to every guest before their arrival during this time and let them know what you have implemented for their safety. 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 about whether to travel or not, your message might deflect a potential rebooking or cancellation. Be sure to share information about the precautions your area is taking so they can be better prepared. Also let your guests know that you are available to answer their questions and provide support throughout their entire stay. All of this extra attention will make your guest feel very safe and give them an extra boost of security.
Offer flexible cancellation and rebooking policies
Travel plans can change quickly, so consider offering a flexible cancellation or rebooking policy. For example, if you typically have a fee for canceling bookings, let your guests know you are waiving those fees if the cancellation is COVID-19 related. Another option is to provide your guests with a credit for future bookings if they want to cancel. This way, if your guest or someone in their party is sick, they’ll probably just choose a different date with you.
Providing options to your guests now is just as important as at the beginning of the pandemic. Taking this step lets them know about the steps you’re taking to ensure their health and safety, which can improve the guest experience. In addition, this increases their chances of extending the reservations or a repeat booking.
Consider upgrading to touchless or keyless entry
If you haven’t already, upgrade your check-in options to have either a lockbox, wireless, or smart keypad entry. This will allow the guests to make themselves at home without any face-to-face interactions. In addition, this will eliminate the concern of coming in contact with anyone who may be sick.
This is a good time to market your properties that are private homes without shared amenities. Such features as private swimming pools, hot tubs, or gyms allow families to stay busy without compromising their health.
If you implement touchless or keyless entry, you’re halfway 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. Digital guidebooks are a cheap, reliable, and versatile tool that can help you eliminate in-person check-in.
Use Hostfully’s free guidebook to communicate with your guest
Digital guidebooks are a traveler’s best friend. Become a regular Rick Steves, and give your guest a true first-class run-down of your town. You can share the fun stuff like restaurant recommendations, favorite breweries, and the best parks to enhance your guests’ getaway. You can also share helpful information like how to run the jacuzzi by your pool and essentials such as the Wi-Fi password. And the best part is that you can create an entire self check-in and check-out process free of face-to-face interactions. Hostfully’s digital guidebooks give you space to provide all essential information for a fantastic stay.
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. You can pretty easily find larger, refillable hand sanitizer bottles to affix to a wall at the entrance of your rental. You’ll find that they are available through commercial distributors. A COVID protection kit would also be a welcoming and kind gesture. You could include masks, to-go hand sanitizer bottles, and some handy surface disinfecting wipes.
In addition, you can print out information about:
- Going out in public
- Going to restaurants
- Grocers that provide no-touch delivery
You should also provide contacts for:
- Nearby doctors and pediatricians
- Emergency clinics
- Hospitals in the area
- COVID testing sites nearby
If you’re using a digital guidebook, all this information can be easily added in there. You can also provide information on the pandemic from reliable sources that’s useful for travelers. Non-alarmist and practical information sources include:
A list of must-have amenities (the bare minimum)
When keeping your guests’ health and safety in mind, there are a few items you will want to have at the house in this “new normal.” Here’s a handy checklist of vacation rental amenities to ensure that you are well prepared:
- Hand sanitizer
- Disinfectant surface cleaner
- Local doctor numbers and recommendations
- COVID testing site information
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 will likely return. Everyone wants to vacation in a place they know takes their safety to heart, which will probably be a solid reason for them to return.