Despite the current challenges still facing the travel industry in light of COVID-19, recovery is on the horizon in Australia as the demand for domestic tourism and “staycations” continues to rise. In response, Guesty and ASTRA (Australian Short-Term Rental Association) hosted a virtual event to discuss how property management companies can move forward on the path to recovery and prepare for the new travel norms emerging post-pandemic.
During the online meetup, our panel of experts from the Australian short-term rental industry – including Yoav Tourel – Managing Director (APAC) at Guesty, Robert Jeffress – Chairman of ASTRA, Phil Spyrou – Managing Director at ASTRA & Swainson Apartments, and Trevor Pugh – Co-Founder of JAK App – shared tips on how property management companies can adapt to the new business models emerging from COVID-19, such as incorporating extended stays or flexible inventory in their portfolios.
Yoav kicked off the discussion by sharing new guest expectations and introducing new travel personas that have emerged in Australia during this time. He cited that travelers want to vacation locally and are increasingly booking longer stays, with Airbnb data showing a 20% surge in longer-term bookings compared to this time last year. Yoav then offered tips to how property managers could incorporate extended stays to their business models by adjusting their pricing, automating guest communication, centralizing all guest bookings to one multi-calendar, and more.
Following Yoav’s presentation, we conducted a panel discussion and addressed questions from our live audience. Here are some highlights (edited for clarity):
Q: What will be the biggest change for the Australian short-term rental industry post-COVID-19?
Phil (ASTRA): I see it as an opportunity for our industry to prove that we’re here for the long run and that we should be considered seriously compared to any other accommodation. We all need to be responsible, especially with the heightened regulations and screening guests, to strengthen our position as an industry.
Trevor (JAK): From an operational perspective, building trust through the implementation of safety protocols is the biggest change. Guest expectations in particular will heighten in relation to cleanliness, hygiene, and a contactless environment. With social distancing and fewer meet-and-greets with guests, property managers will need to implement more tech solutions and contact-free options moving forward.
Q: What are some recommendations you have for property managers to appeal to domestic travelers?
Phil (ASTRA): For managers and owners who have their own websites, they can advertise their listings through social media, specifically Facebook, which allows you to target specific demographics and locations.
Q: What are the top 3 tasks that every property management company should have on their cleaning/operations checklist?
Trevor (JAK): We recommend that they provide a step-by-step guide for cleaners to enhance their sanitation and disinfection processes. Secondly, implementing technology that will minimize contact and physical interactions will be key. If the property has been vacant for an extended period of time, we ensure that there will be a checklist to make sure plumbing, electrical appliances, smoke alarms, pool pumps, and so on are all working as they should.
Q: Are there any third-party standards or certifications for cleaning and safety in the Australian market?
Trevor (JAK): There’s a general cleaning certificate in Australia (Certificate III in Cleaning/Operations) and cleaners can also complete a COVID-19 infection control training online that is pretty simple and easy to participate in as well.
Q: Do you have any tips on how to incorporate mid-term/extended stays in rentals?
Phil (ASTRA): It’s important to check across each booking platform ahead of time if they will allow those longer-term stays and that you’re pricing accordingly.
Q: Because listings have been seeing fewer bookings for months, what strategies can we implement to increase the SEO of our properties on various listing sites?
Phil (ASTRA): The only thing you can control is making sure that all the correct amenities are selected and your listing is up to date with high-quality photos. Also, the most obvious one: adjusting your pricing regularly. Every time you adjust your price, Airbnb picks up that you are actively updating your rentals and it will ultimately increase your SEO.
Robert (ASTRA): For many rental managers, Airbnb is the only channel they’re using but there are many others – including Booking.com, VRBO and Stayz. One of our biggest responsibilities as short-term rental owners is to find quality guests and they are not all limited to Airbnb. That’s why channel management is important and you should ensure your listings are posted in every space, including on social media as well.
Q: Do you have any predictions where the STR industry will be in the next 3-5 years?
Robert (ASTRA): We have an amazing future. Together we’re defining a new sector of the accommodation industry because we’re now responsible for over 20% of the Australian accommodation and that will only continue to increase.