Be Our Guest(y): Navigating Guest Experience in the Age of COVID-19
As coronavirus continues to have a significant impact on the travel industry, we invited prominent property management companies — and valued Guesty users — from the short-term rental ecosystem in APAC to discuss how they are navigating coronavirus while still providing a top-notch guest experience.
During this virtual event, Guesty’s own Yoav Tourel (Managing Director, APAC) — along with industry professionals Aaron Zang, Co-Founder of OptiNest Holdings; Joseph Leung, Founder of KozyGuru; Jon Lawry, Founder of The Urban Butler; and Mark Hodge, Director of MaisonNets — led us through a discussion on best practices and marketing strategies for managing guest communication and experience during COVID-19. In an effort to help fellow property management companies, panelists shared personal advice, suggested tactics and discussed tech solutions that have worked for them.
Yoav kicked off the event, highlighting recent data that shows a few reasons to be optimistic about the future of travel. He also introduced the audience to one of Guesty’s newest initiatives, a directory for self-quarantine rentals. The directory, hosted live on Guesty’s website, promotes available short-term rental properties so that guests looking for a self-isolation rental can be automatically directed to relevant listings.
Aaron then led the audience through a discussion on how to retain existing listings. He recommended that property management companies reach out to property owners proactively, staying ahead of any concerns they may raise, in order to keep them updated with important news or policy changes. Some useful tips Aaron shared include opening calendar dates for long-term periods in the future (November, December), reaching out to canceled guests to see if they will need accommodation in the future and staying positive!
We then heard from Joseph on how to attract long-term stays during this time. Joseph suggested property managers improve their webpages and social media sites, adding keywords for quarantine stay packages on booking engines or using related hashtags. He added that property managers should stock rentals with enough supplies for 14 days, such as dry food, toilet paper, and even sources of entertainment, like Netflix or board games, to keep guests occupied.
Following him, Jon spoke to effective communication during the COVID-19 crisis, addressing all parties involved in the short-term rental ecosystem — owners, guests, staff, contractors, cleaning staff and more. Jon said the biggest opportunity from this uncharted territory is the chance to go above and beyond to help guests with more than just a dinner recommendation or free WiFi. He explained that COVID-19 has taught us the importance of empathy.
Wrapping up the virtual event, Mark discussed lessons we can learn from the media, especially the danger of misinformation regarding the legality of short-term rentals across APAC. Mark introduced the audience to MaisonNets’ Facebook group “Australian Self Isolation Accommodation” — property managers can use this group to find potential trends or demands in the market, such as stranded travelers or those looking for self-quarantine rentals.
As always, we invited the 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: How have you been using technology to mitigate the revenue loss from coronavirus?
Aaron: We have been using the Guesty yield management function to keep our prices streamlined with the market price.
Q: Do you see a strong trend in Australia of short-term rental property companies shifting to mid to long-term portfolios? Will this be a temporary business decision? Or a permanent shift in the market?
Mark: We are seeing a lot of that in the market, for example, 2-3 week bookings evolving into 3-6 month ones. However, these long-term rentals are priced much lower than we are used to. Down the line, I think we’ll see more of a hybrid — there will be a shift in the market in which people are prompted to be a little bit more fluid with the length of stays they permit.
Q: Do you think that property management companies should be optimistic about the future of travel? Especially short-term rentals?
Joseph: I’m an optimist that the tourism market will come back, and the short-term rental market will follow suit.
Q: How do you ensure that cleaning standards are being met by your staff? Are you changing your operation at all? Are you marketing these new cleaning standards?
Jon: Recommendations are changing daily, so we are making sure that we are always following the newest and most updated guidelines. We are also looking into new products and solutions that we can use – for example, Zoono. We are definitely communicating any new cleaning procedures to owners and guests, informing them of all that we are doing so that everyone feels comfortable. These updates are part of the communication that goes out through our auto-messages from Guesty and we’ve also added them into listing descriptions.
Q: Do you think it’s imperative for guests to sign a disclaimer around COVID-19? For example, to answer a list of 10 or so questions about if they have traveled overseas, etc?
Joseph: Yes, as soon as the travel ban was announced, we prepared a questionnaire to automatically send to potential guests. It asks where they spent the last 14 days, what they’re planning to do during their stay, etc. It’s more like a declaration form to protect ourselves and the buildings, in case neighbors or building managers need to know more.
Q: Do you see yourself providing additional cleaning services for guests who are stuck in the country?
Jon: We have been doing that but only for certain guests as the health and safety for the guests themselves and our cleaners is paramount. It comes on a case-by-case basis.
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 for joining, stay safe and healthy!