The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it unforeseen challenges for property management companies, such as heightened guest sensitivity towards health and safety, the need for technology to limit human contact, and perhaps most notably, the halt of the majority of rental bookings worldwide.
In fact, in a study Guesty conducted on COVID-19’s impact on the short-term rental industry, 86% of respondents (property management companies with 3 – 200+ properties in their portfolios) anticipate a substantial decrease in revenue when comparing 2020 to 2019.
Although we are beginning to see the early signs of recovery with domestic travel on the rise, there are always new and creative opportunities for homeowners, property management companies and hosts to bring their revenue numbers back to what they were pre-pandemic.
Here are a few out-of-the-box ways Guesty users have seen success with for increasing occupancy, securing more bookings and most importantly earning some extra money for their properties while adjusting to the new normal.
1. Connect With Your Local Community
COVID-19’s impact on the travel industry didn’t just affect the hospitality space. Local shops, cultural sites, restaurants and more usually dependent on an influx of tourists in high seasons were also hit hard.
That’s why some property management companies are leveraging their listings to support businesses in the local community, generating mutually beneficial results.
For instance, Nadim Tannous and Alex Haler, founders of Colorado-based property management company High Rocky Homes, promote local eateries to guests who stay at their properties across the state – from Leadville to Aspen to Boulder. It’s a win-win – guests get to have a local experience in the safety of their accommodation, and the restaurants get the business they need. This is even more meaningful as Tannous and Haler report that their guests are increasingly booking stays of one month or more.
In addition, Mel Hignell, Founder and CEO of White Spider, a vacation-rental design and management company with hundreds of Airbnb listings across several US cities, has been using her properties with significant outdoor space for local, socially-distanced events. For example last month, a Women of Color photoshoot was hosted on her half-acre property outside of Portland to raise awareness for prejudice against underrepresented communities in the city. Events like these are able to generate income for owners whose properties may have been sitting empty before. Mel’s unique tactics are working – recently she was able to bring her team back to almost 100% capacity.
2. Emphasize Guest Experience With Concierge-Like Amenities
Putting an extra emphasis on guest satisfaction and comfort is more crucial now than ever before. If pre-coronavirus guests were worried about their digital key code working for check-in, now they are also concerned about fluctuating travel restrictions, measures that have been taken to ensure their health and safety and city-wide lockdowns.
Overall, nervous consumers are canceling trips closer to check-in, booking last-minute stays and breaking long-term leases to escape crowded cities. In order to combat traveler uncertainty and sensitivity, property management company D. Alexander took creative action to stand out.
The company launched Destination Isolation, a campaign that offers 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. This is ideal for those looking to work remotely with their families for extended periods of time, while simultaneously scratching that travel itch by staying in a new and exciting location.
D. Alexander’s focus on “made to live” long-term stays isn’t surprising. In the survey mentioned earlier, 38% of respondents reported that they are diversifying their business model to include extended stays of 28+ days to attract more bookings during COVID-19.
3. Create Aesthetically Pleasing Rentals
In order to stand out from the competition in today’s short-term rental market, property management companies need to have that “instagramability” factor, meaning they should be well-designed, comfortable and photogenic enough to garner multiple likes. This expectation has only been heightened amid COVID-19, as travelers also use their rentals as work from home environments.
In the words of Pierce Atkinson, Chief Design Officer at Fülhaus, a company offering furniture packages for short-term rentals: “In the age of the digital nomad, a functional, yet aesthetically pleasing, work-from-home rental is a must.” Thus, if a host hasn’t already upgraded their listings to create suitable working environments for guests, there’s no time like the present.
Atkinson cites important aspects such as a comfortable chair, a charging station, storage space (such as a filing cabinet) and lights that boast dimming features or the capability to produce natural white light, as crucial to make your business traveler guests feel right at home.
Adapting To The New Normal
While we cannot predict when Coronavirus will be a thing of the past, we do know that the short-term rental industry has a promising future. Now is the time for property management companies to experiment with new marketing strategies, host different types of travelers and work with their local communities to earn money and secure booking even during slower times.
For more information on navigating COVID-19 and ensuring business stability as travel begins to resume, visit our Coronavirus Infocenter.
A previous version of this article was published on Forbes.com. Read it here.