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Guesty & friends: Takeaways from our US virtual meetup on Covid-19

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting the entire world, but it’s clear that the travel and short-term rental industries are some of the hardest hit. In response, we’re bringing together property management companies and industry professionals at virtual events around the world to discuss best practices for navigating coronavirus and ensuring business stability.

In our first virtual event, Guesty’s own Omer Rabin (Managing Director, Americas) — along with our partners Pierre Becerril, CEO of Transparent; Quinn Hubertz, Product Manager at Wheelhouse; and Alex Nigg, CEO & Founder of Properly — leads us through a discussion on how to assess the impact of the virus, encourage new bookings by focusing on domestic travel, optimize operations for health and safety and more.

Omer kicks off the event, introducing us to Guesty’s new Coronavirus Infocenter, a resource point for property management companies to find information and actionable advice to help them stay on top of this global health crisis.

Pierre then takes the audience through a demo of Transparent’s Coronavirus Impact Report, a timeline of events with a focus on data most relevant to the hospitality industry. He interprets the data at both a local and global scale, identifying trends that show where the future of short-term rentals may be heading in light of coronavirus.

Quinn then explains how property management companies can use pricing strategies during a crisis that is unprecedented and changing almost every single day. While there is no “silver bullet” that will work for everyone, Quinn delivers actionable tips and tools that property management companies can use to mitigate significant revenue loss by examining how four areas have been hit: New York City, the Catskill Mountains, Rome and Big Island, Hawaii.

Rounding off the virtual event, Alex explains what resources property managers should rely on to ensure health and safety for owners, guests and cleaning professionals during COVID-19. He takes the audience through a discussion on substitution vs. recovery and what property managers can be doing to pivot to different consumers at this time, as well as how they can plan for the future of a post-coronavirus world.

As always, we invited those tuning in 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&A Session

Q: Has Guesty seen any specific trends in the market in the last few weeks? Are there any parts of the market that are still active?

Omer Rabin: We’ve seen that “drive-by destinations” are one of the few segments of the market that are maintaining relatively normal numbers during this time. These rural and suburban areas — Upstate New York, Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Joshua Tree — are seeing more reservations for August and September 2020 compared to urban or city short-term rentals. This trend is largely due to a new category of travelers that has emerged in the COVID-19 era: “city escapers,” young couples or families who live in small apartments in the city and are looking for a countryside escape. Mountain cities are also doing relatively well compared to urban rentals, for this same reason.

Another major shift we see is in the length of stay. Some hosts in urban cities are offering discounted rates on 14-day stays for guests who must quarantine after coming back from abroad, and wish to stay away from their families. Similarly, hosts in suburban and rural areas are offering 2-4 week stays for “city escapers” who wish to spend this period of time with their loved ones in different scenery in the countryside.

Q: Is there enough data to speculate on the effect of increased unemployment on demand or pricing over the long-term? In other words, we know people will want to travel once it’s safe to, but will they be able to? 

Pierre Becerril: We’ve seen a few reports on how this is affecting GDP globally. Everything is very volatile in a crisis, so it’s hard to predict the long-lasting effects on the economy. Some scenarios based on the data show no travel for 9 months, while others predict travel will pick up again after a few months. We need to prepare and be mindful that there will be a few weeks ahead of us that are complicated when it comes to demand. We don’t yet know how unemployment will affect the rate of travel, as it’s not just affecting our industry, but the entire world. We can look at countries that are starting to bounce back (China, South Korea) for some guidance, but in general we need to be prepared for a few weeks of uncertainty.

Q: Is there a noticeable difference between tier 1 and tier 2 urban US markets in terms of bookings and cancellations?

Omer & Pierre: Right now, we are seeing an impact on all tier 1 and tier 2 urban markets across the US. These major cities are on lockdown, and we’re seeing the effects of that across every state. We do see that booking and cancellation rates are based both on how impacted the city has been by coronavirus, and the regulations and the reactions of governments in terms of containing the spread of the virus. 

Q: Let’s say we are leveraging all different strategies to market towards the new COVID-19 traveler, should we be marketing ourselves this way? Or is it insensitive to market a “clean” or “quarantine-friendly” apartment? What clear messaging do you recommend?

Alex Nigg: Definitely make it explicit, but there are different ways to do so. Don’t label your property as COVID-19-friendly, but draw attention to special cleaning procedures in the listing description. Open your listing with a sentence or two about what processes you are employing right now to ensure health and security. You can also increase cleaning fees, a move guests might expect as more stringent cleaning inspections and policies are in place. Bottom line: absolutely draw attention to anything you are doing differently right now to promote health and safety for guests, but be mindful as to how you speak to it.

Have a question we didn’t get a chance to cover? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected]! Thank you everyone for joining, stay safe and healthy!

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