Be Our Guest(y): How to Reposition Your Listings in the COVID-19 Era
Last week, we teamed up with our amazing users and key players in the short-term rental sector from around the world to host a virtual meetup on navigating guest experience and repositioning your listings amid COVID-19. With over 1,800 registrants and 550 live attendees, it was our biggest online event to date.
During the event, our panel of industry experts — led by Guesty’s own Omer Rabin (Managing Director, Americas) along with Guesty users Anthony Lee (Head of Operations at ALTIDO), Moriya Rockman (Founder & CMO of Smiling House), and Rafael Barbosa (Director of Operations & Marketing at Maverick Suites) — provided best practices for attracting more bookings during this time and prepared property managers for the return of travel.
Omer kicked off the event by introducing Guesty’s Coronavirus Infocenter, which provides property management companies with information and actionable advice to work through the challenges of COVID-19. He then shared the latest Guesty industry data, highlighting several reasons to be optimistic about the future of travel.
Following that, we heard from Anthony, who provided tips on how to reposition listings from an operational perspective. He suggested that property managers must now adapt their current strategies to a ‘guest-centric approach’ by providing alternate check-in experiences, increasing minimum stays and offering discounts on future stays. Other strategies he mentioned included updating cleaning procedures in accordance with government guidelines, remaining transparent with guests via over-communication and taking advantage of tech solutions.
Moriya then addressed key ways property management companies can market their listings. She also shared travel trends to watch out for, noting growing demand for remote getaways, luxury properties and family-oriented listings. As travel restrictions begin to loosen in some regions, she advised property managers to add facilities to their listings that guests most likely don’t have at home — such as hot tubs, saunas, and even swing sets for children outside. She also emphasized that now is the time to post listings on niche vacation rental property sites and increase brand exposure on social media as well as strengthen industry relationships to ensure business longevity.
Rafael wrapped up the presentations with a discussion on what property managers can do now to prepare their marketing strategy for the future of travel, including targeting domestic, niche travelers, like medical professionals. He explained the importance of a comprehensive health and sanitation program and promoting these new procedures through ‘front of house’ marketing efforts. Rafael also urged property managers to develop their brand and add value any way they can throughout the guest experience as well.
As always, we invited our audience 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: If you could give one piece of advice to property management companies right now, what would it be?
Anthony & Rafael: ‘Be adaptable’ is the number one piece of advice we can give property managers now. You have to be adaptable to the new norms, new revenue sources and new guest expectations — whether that means being agile with your pricing or amending your operations model by implementing self check-in, improving cleaning procedures, going digital with your manuals or providing virtual tours of your properties.
Q: Do you think short-term rental property management companies should be optimistic about the future of travel?
Anthony: We are optimistic about the future because we believe there will be a desire for travel. We feel hotels will take more time to recover post- COVID-19 as travelers will be more cautious about maintaining social distancing protocols and will be more comfortable in less crowded environments. Thus, we think guests will appreciate the self check in experience with short-term rentals.
Q: Why should property managers increase minimum stays? Have you implemented this in your own companies?
Moriya: In the luxury segment, we have been more flexible with minimum stays. Many homeowners wanted a minimum one-week stay — so, we allowed guests to stay a minimum of three or more days. We also started offering credit vouchers for those who can’t travel now or need to make last minute cancellations.
Rafael: We had to diversify our inventory by increasing our stays to target niche audiences. Our minimum stays thus got extended from one night to two weeks. There is not one right answer, but we took on the business we were able to take.
Q: Do you see an increase in bookings when you decrease price nowadays? Would you consider increasing the price for the mid-long-term stays for the fall and winter?
Rafael: We had to be flexible with our pricing to match the budget of our niche audience and decided to take longer reservations at a historically lower price just to drive down vacancy. We suggest property managers keep an eye on the market as we don’t know exactly what the demand for travel will be when everything returns to normal. So, it’s not recommended to raise prices hoping to maximize your rentals and compete with hotels — but I do recommend keeping an eye on your occupancy and comparing it to previous years. These are the metrics we have to depend on to dictate our pricing.
Q: What is your recommendation for cancellation terms? Should we stick to flexible cancellation policies during the holiday season or should we go back to stricter policies?
Anthony & Rafael: It depends on your organization and who you are marketing to. Guests are now extremely anxious about traveling, so they are more likely to make a reservation if there is a flexible cancellation policy.
Moriya: Considering that we have luxury properties, we believe people who are making expensive future decisions for the summer and winter have taken extra planning into account, so we are emphasizing our strict cancellation policies while offering other alternate solutions, where possible.
Have a question we didn’t get a chance to cover? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you everyone for joining and we look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events!