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Pivoting Your Business Model in the Covid-19 Era

Learn how Guesty customer D. Alexander reinvented their business and adopted new strategies to forecast the evolving needs of their customers during this time period. 

D. Alexander is a pioneering hospitality company with primary markets located across Florida, Tennessee and Arizona. The company owns and operates luxury homes designed for families and groups, with four bedrooms or more, running all of its properties like boutique hotels. D. Alexander provides an elevated hospitality experience, with a focus on quality, consistency, and top-notch amenities, including fine Italian linens, eucalyptus throw blankets, spa care products, a hospitality-grade sleep experience and more.

Introducing ‘Destination Isolation’

As COVID-19 began to impact the short-term rental industry, D. Alexander was among the first hybrid-hospitality companies that quickly considered how their customers needs would change and along with their business. 

The company unveiled its “Destination Isolation” campaign in March —  retreats of two weeks to three months in beach, desert or mountain area properties, giving anyone looking to isolate alone or with family a rare combination of quality, comfort and open space. 

In keeping with their elevated hospitality brand, packages include professional cleaning, personal care products, renters’ insurance, free gas to drive to the destination, and a portion of the proceeds go toward virus testing and more. 

D. Alexander is offering these isolation homes — including a one-month stay at a five-bedroom house in Sedona, Arizona, or at a five-bedroom unit on the Emerald Coast of Florida — at a dramatically lower price than usual.

Repositioning Listings in Light of  COVID-19

Since launching “Destination Isolation,” D. Alexander has deployed an inventive marketing campaign that aligns with the new needs of those looking to get away. The company is now completely focused on providing travelers with “safe, clean escapes to heal, rejuvenate, be productive and continue to keep living mindfully.”

In order to target those looking for long-term quarantine stays, D. Alexander has revamped its website, putting “Destination Isolation” at the forefront and showcasing the properties’ ideal amenities for a two-week (or longer) stay. They’ve also begun producing content around relevant topics, like staying mindful during this time and traveling safely while adhering to CDC regulations

Understanding Your Guests’ New Needs

Guests have changed. The new types of guest personas amidst COVID-19 include self-quarantiners, stranded tourists and healthcare professionals who need to isolate. And with these new types of travelers come new needs and expectations. Above all, they want flexibility, contact-free experiences and the ability to book instantly. 

With the unpredictability of COVID-19 and the onset of social-distancing, many travelers are wary of booking rentals that don’t have a forgiving cancellation policy. With that in mind, D. Alexander has updated its listings to offer options for flexible scheduling, length of stay, property selection, cancellation and more. D. Alexander also recognized increasing demand for rentals where guests could work comfortably for long periods of time, so they focused their efforts accordingly. The company has also put a strong emphasis on tech-first, contact-free interaction between guests and hosts. “Conceived with the idea of using technology to minimize physical contact with hosts or their surrogates, D. Alexander units are ideal for those seeking isolation,”  Alex Allison, Founder and CEO of D. Alexander told The New York Times. “Guests are given unique mobile entry codes and high-speed internet access and don’t have to interact with a soul.” 

D. Alexander uses Guesty to tackle many of its complex, daily operational needs. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the auto-messaging feature has been especially useful, enabling the company to connect with guests via automated messages prior to arrival. These messages include check-in instructions as well as information about what guests can expect to find in-property to keep them occupied.  With technology and innovation at their core, they doubled down on their tech stack, leveraging the Guesty API and partners like APINation to build native integrations that enhance, automate and streamline other areas of their business and the customer journey, to further accelerate growth and massive scale. 

In addition to new guest profiles, booking patterns are also changing. Alex noted a significant decrease in the time between a customer booking a property and when they actually begin their stay: “If you booked a property today, you wouldn’t stay there for 115 days. That’s now shortening from 115 days to one week.” 

Looking Towards the Future

So, with all these changes in the present, what does the future hold for the short-term rental industry? According to Guesty’s data, we’re seeing an uptick in reservations as early as fall. While travelers usually make reservations for the fall and winter holidays in the summer, they are now taking advantage of discounted rates and relaxed cancellation policies. Right now, the number of reservations in Guesty’s system for fall is 75% of the volume compared to last year. And the number of winter reservations is at 85% compared to last year. 

Another major shift we are seeing is in the length of stay. The average number of nights booked among short-term rentals per stay globally has doubled from 4.5 pre-virus to nine today. Property management companies should be prepared to host guests for longer than usual, as travelers are looking to either self-isolate for 14+ days in the near-term or take longer trips with all their saved up vacation days in the future.

Top Takeaways

D. Alexander’s quick pivot to “Destination Isolation” rentals has shown us that in times of economic uncertainty, pinpointing and targeting unexpected demands in the market is key to business continuity. No matter what your new strategy is during COVID-19, don’t forget to:

  • Showcase any relevant changes or updates you’ve made to your properties across all listings
  • Provide your guests with the amenities they will need for extended stays
  • Empathize with your guests by loosening cancellation policies or easing booking restrictions
  • Use technology to limit human interaction 
  • Prioritize health and safety for guests, staff and hosts 

Want more information on COVID-19’s impact on the short-term rental space? Browse through our Coronavirus Infocenter for all the latest resources, guides and articles on navigating this global pandemic as a property management company.

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