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Be our Guest(y): Marketing to families in the era of domestic travel

Amid COVID-19, more families are choosing to travel domestically to escape condensed cities, explore the great outdoors and enjoy more space. In response, Guesty held an online meetup with short-term rental industry professionals from around the world to provide insights and best practices on how property managers can successfully cater to families with children in today’s new normal. 

During the virtual event, Omer Rabin, Managing Director of Americas at Guesty; Damian Sheridan, SEO Expert and Director of Book Direct Show; Fran Maier, CEO of BabyQuip; and Stephen Krikelis, VP of Direct Marketing at Tentrr discussed marketing, listing and branding strategies to target traveling families, such as promoting clean and safe rental environments as well as utilizing SEO keywords and direct booking websites to drive traffic. 

Omer started the discussion by introducing new traveler personas and guest expectations that have emerged due to COVID-19. For traveling families, that means offering more outdoor space for children, flexible cancellation policies, last-minute reservations, and more stringent cleaning protocols. In addition, hosts have begun implementing flexible inventory to support extended stays, increase occupancy rates and ultimately drive more bookings even after COVID-19. Omer also shared some optimism for the future of the short-term rental industry: Guesty’s data shows an uptick in bookings within major US metropolitan cities for the first time since March of this year.

Up next, Damian spoke about the importance of search engine optimization and capitalizing on direct booking websites to increase direct bookings and drive return guests. He shared his 10 essential tips for SEO and urged attendees to utilize keyword research tools, such as Keywords Everywhere and Answer the Public, to stay up-to-date on popular search terms and help make their listings stand out when competing with other property management companies on OTAs or search engine websites. He then recommended several ways property managers can incentivize guests to book directly, such as providing guest discounts, no booking fees, and flexible cancellation policies.

Fran then followed by presenting insights as to how BabyQuip responded to the new normal by sharing stringent cleaning processes as well as tips to help property managers provide child-safe amenities to cater to millennial families traveling with babies and young children. Fran recommended that property managers embrace new health and safety protocols such as contactless check-in, delivery and take-out options for guests, as well as utilizing non-toxic, eco-friendly cleaning products that are child-safe.

Lastly, Stephen discussed how marketing Tentrr’s properties as family-friendly getaways has helped his business thrive during COVID-19, especially as domestic travel becomes increasingly popular. Tentrr provides private camping experiences that include fully-equipped campsites, tents, and outdoor stays for travelers looking to escape condensed cities. He shared some of the protocols his company initiated during this time from highlighting privacy and seclusion in listing descriptions, to implementing and communicating COVID-19 health guidelines on their company website and major OTA platforms. As a result of Tentrr’s proactive measures, they have seen a significant increase in bookings and website visits from families compared to this time in 2019. 

Following the presentations, we conducted a panel discussion and addressed questions from our live audience. Here are some highlights (edited for clarity): 

Panel Discussion:

Q: Why is it important for property managers to cater to families during this time?

Stephen (Tentrr): It’s an amazing opportunity to increase bookings during this unpredictable period. If you don’t cater to families, you’ll be missing out on a huge market and potential clientele. 

Fran (BabyQuip): Although it can be overwhelming for vacation rental hosts to create a family-friendly space, especially when it comes to child-proofing furniture and equipment, don’t let the hard work prevent you from targeting this market. You can always reach out for help and rely on services that supply child-safe amenities to help make the transition easier. 

Q: When it comes to guest expectations, what are the key amenities property managers need to provide in their listings to be considered a family-friendly property?

Fran (BabyQuip): Offering toys is extremely important to provide in your listings. This will not only help your properties stand out, but toys will also keep children entertained when their parents are working from home or occupied in an important Zoom meeting. 

Stephen (Tentrr): It’s important to supply non-toxic cleaning products around the property that are easily accessible to give guests peace of mind and allow them to practice safe hygiene during their stay. 

Damian (Book Direct Show): When catering to traveling families, you want to be sure there are plenty of entertainment options available for them, such as providing TVs with available streaming options including Netflix or Disney+, or recommending local outdoor activities they can do together as a family. 

Q: What is the one thing you advise property managers to do when marketing to families at this time?

Damian (Book Direct Show): In terms of SEO and catering to new demographics, it’s important to know your target market and what facilities and amenities they are looking for. Make sure you cater to them appropriately rather than just adding in a few buzzwords on your listing descriptions and titles.

Fran (BabyQuip): Stay agile and adapt your business to the changing demands.

Stephen (Tentrr): Companies must be careful not to appear tone-deaf during this time. Find the middle ground between promoting your offering and amenities that adhere to the current market while also not appearing as though you are capitalizing on the situation. 

For more information on catering to traveling families during this time, take a look at our new guide on How to Make your Short-Term Rentals Family-Friendly During COVID-19. Thank you for tuning in and we look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events!

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