Be Our Guest(y): Preparing for the Return of Travel
For several countries, the road to recovery from coronavirus has already begun. That’s why we invited global thought leaders from the short-term rental industry to join us at a virtual event and share projections for the future of travel, as well as provide tips on how property managers can optimize their business post-pandemic.
During this event, Guesty’s own President & COO Vered Schwarz — along with industry professionals Jesse DePinto, Co-Founder of Frontdesk; Scott Shatford, CEO of AirDNA; Amy Hinote, Founder & Editor of VRM Intel — shared best practices on navigating COVID-19 along with industry-wide data, recovery strategies and forecasts on what’s to come next for the short-term rental ecosystem.
Vered led the discussion by highlighting several reasons to be optimistic about the return of travel, from the new traveler personas that have emerged during this time to our data revealing an uptick in bookings for the upcoming holiday seasons. She then presented insights collected from our new industry report, which surveyed nearly 400 property management companies about the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses.
Scott then followed by displaying key data trends in vacation rental bookings worldwide. He explained that reservations increased in most markets around the world as travelers began to flee metropolitan cities for remote destinations and chose to stay in short-term rentals as opposed to hotels. He also went on to describe the growing demand for longer-term stays (greater than two weeks) and drive-to vacation spots.
We then heard from Jesse, who offered optimism for the future of the urban, short-term rental space while sharing how his company managed to thrive during the pandemic. He listed a few industry predictions for 2021: the rise of professionalization, flexible living communities, and the new mainstream trend of digital nomads. For those seeking more advice on the current state of the multifamily short-term rental industry, Frontdesk has recently created a “Navigating Multi-Family Short-term Rentals in a Post-Covid World” whitepaper with anecdotes of how property managers are handling the crisis across the U.S.
Lastly, Amy wrapped up the event by breaking down COVID-19’s impact on different segments in our industry. She addressed the current challenges and trends emerging in the urban and leisure rental markets as well as how funded, multi-destination vs. local companies have reacted to the current pandemic. Some useful tips she touched upon for property managers included implementing new marketing strategies, fostering guest and vendor relationships, having flexible booking windows and leveraging tech strategically with an emphasis on cleaning and safety.
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: What do you think will be the biggest change for short-term rentals post-COVID-19, and how can property managers prepare for it?
Amy (VRM Intel): The biggest change right now will be around marketing and pricing. I think that the target market has shifted quite a bit and mostly everyone is ‘radically local.’ You must now learn how to geo-target. Property care will be a close second.
Scott (AirDNA): Flexibility — as that’s one thing that vacation rentals lacked compared to hotels, and which has changed dramatically in the past month. We will see consumers who are booking nine months in advance need to be sure they will be able to get a 100% refund in return. As a result, hotels and vacation rentals will act more similarly in the future when it comes to cancellation policies.
Q: How do you see guest experience shifting in a contact-free world?
Jesse (Frontdesk): Consumers don’t want to interact with people, so self-check-in and secure remote access (digital door locks) will be essential. Cleaning will be important too as the expectations have certainly increased — we had to take many measures to not only vamp up our own cleaning standards, but to also promote this fact in our listings.
Q: As a result of travel restrictions and travel habits, how much longer do you think that property management companies should continue to cater to extended stays moving forward?
Amy (VRM Intel): I think if you have a strong peak right now and you’re open, that it’s very valuable to keep up the longer stays. The holiday season will also be a huge opportunity for extended stays.
Jesse (Frontdesk): A lot of it is temporary. Certainly, rates have dropped, so this trend is greatly influenced by price. I do think once rates go back up to a healthy level, it probably won’t be in the best interest of people to book longer stays in a major destination market.
Q: How can I address local markets when I’ve not catered to them previously?
Amy (VRM Intel): Shift from copywriting to journalism and hit that PR circuit hard as local media has become more popular. Local media is more relevant for a lot of people now, so your feeder markets can be targeted in a more authentic way.