As property management companies continue to navigate coronavirus, we invited thought leaders from the global short-term rental industry to discuss providing top-notch and contact-free guest experiences in the COVID-19 era, while maintaining that personal “touch.”
During this virtual event, Guesty’s own Omer Rabin, Managing Director, Americas — along with industry experts Dipen Gala, Co-Founder of Lynx; Assaf Karmon, Co-Founder and CEO of TurnoverBnB; and Hagar Sened, Product Manager at Guesty — led us through a discussion on cutting-edge strategies and innovative tech solutions to create a better guest experience at this time. Panelists shared best practices on catering to the new travel personas that have emerged, such as equipping listings to meet new cleaning standards, implementing tech to limit human interaction, elevating communication tactics with guests and more.
Omer kicked off the event discussing the types of travelers we should now expect to see, from guests who need to isolate and stranded or displaced tourists, to “work-from-homers” or families who need outdoor space. The rise of these travel personas has resulted in different guest expectations, including an increased focus on health and safety, and the need for extended stays of 14 to 30+ days.
Omer also introduced the audience to one of our newest initiatives in the COVID-19 Infocenter, a Guesty User Case Study section. The case studies showcase how property management companies from all over the world have responded to the current situation, from providing shelter to COVID-19 frontline workers to empathizing with guests who may be stranded and unable to travel home.
Dipen led the audience through a discussion on keyless entry and self check-in tools hosts can use to limit interaction with guests. These contactless solutions have benefited one of Lynx’s users, a property management company with over 500 units in the US, whose occupancy went from 0% to 96% in a matter of days. He went on to recommend that hosts use tech solutions to make sure all guest expectations are met: seamless self-check-in, humidity and temperature monitoring, enhanced cleaning and safety measures and more.
We then heard from Assaf on practical tips and important information regarding enhanced cleaning measures. According to Assaf, taking at least a day in between guests can resolve most safety concerns. He also recommended switching to single-use disposables for kitchenware, ventilating before cleaning if possible and laundering linens at the highest heat possible. For those seeking more advice on cleaning procedures during this time, TurnoverBnB recently created a “COVID-19 Education and Safety Course” for vacation rental cleaners based on CDC and WHO recommendations.
Wrapping up the virtual event, Hagar shared some tips on automated messaging tools, including those offered in Guesty’s Unified Inbox, to ace guest communication. She covered the ways that property management companies can use different tools to support guest needs, streamline check-in procedures, make the most of canceled reservations, integrate with WhatsApp and more.
As always, we invited the audience to contribute questions throughout the virtual event, which we then addressed in a Q&A session following the presentation. Here are some highlights (edited for clarity):
Q: What is the number one request from short-term rental guests today?
Hagar: From what I see, the most important part for guests is knowing that you are accessible and available for them when they need you. They’re going to have a lot of questions, so hosts should try to provide them with all relevant information beforehand. Still, during their stay they are going to expect you to be available to them and to answer their questions. They are very concerned about having the line of communication open constantly.
Assaf: People are mostly concerned about cleaning and safety, and making sure that you have taken all the necessary steps, including time buffers and enhanced cleaning. They want to ensure they are going to a place that is not only comfortable and inviting, but one that is also safe.
Dipen: I have seen a lot of demand for “city-scaper” properties — the markets just outside a two-hour drive from major city sectors. We are seeing hosts in those areas very much keen on implementing keyless entry and self-check-in tools.
Q: A lot of hosts that have not used tech automation before are really wary of issues (guests being stuck outside, cleaners not showing up). Any tips for making this leap?
Assaf: Our platform works with cleaners you already work with or you can find cleaners on our marketplace. The ones on our marketplace are conscious of their reviews — the same way hosts don’t want to provide a bad experience because they want reviews to be good. So there is built-in accountability. You can also have multiple cleaners attached to your properties, which can be automatically scheduled if someone cancels, so you have fall-back options that you can tap into.
Dipen: We have built-in systems and fail-safe mechanisms. A power outage could happen, there could be no WiFi for months, but no matter what our guests can get in with backup access requirements. Guests getting locked out and stranded is our highest priority and it doesn’t happen. People sometimes have key safes near the property for their own assurances in case worse comes to worst.
Q: What are guests going to care about in the next few months and over the summer, as we move to a new normal in the post-COVID-19 era?
Assaf: I think people’s comfort level is going to change. With anything new, we are worried and anxious and as we get used to it our anxiety level calms down. Business as usual is going to return, but I think urban destinations will be less desirable. I think the countryside will still be the star of the show for quite some time.
Hagar: I think people are going to get comfortable with the situation, but there will still be limitations — things they can’t do, places they can’t go. What’s interesting about short-term rentals is that it’s a home away from home, you can still quarantine yourself and protect yourself while on the road. So I think the discussions will turn to how to entertain your guests inside or in apartments for long periods of time.
Dipen: I think the summer will be good. I think a lot of guests will look for bigger places with pools so that they can get away from the city with their families. Summer will be fine, I think we will have to keep an eye on the fall and see if business travel picks back up.
Have a question we didn’t get a chance to cover? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org! Thank you for joining, stay safe and healthy!