It’s all over the news and everyone’s talking about it: the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is rapidly spreading around the world. At the time of writing, 115 countries have been affected, with 114,545 known cases, of which 64,267 have recovered. 

The virus, which causes severe respiratory problems, has started a global epidemic that’s impacting the economy and the travel industry. Major events like the MWC, ITB and VRMA have been cancelled; airlines are reducing flights and companies are cutting back on corporate travel. 

Once the virus is contained, the industry will surely bounce back quickly and everything will continue as normal. In the meantime, there are precautions you can take to protect your guests and tactics you can use to optimise your distribution so you continue to get bookings.

Here are some tips for short-term property managers on how to mitigate the drop in demand and lessen the impact of cancellations amid the coronavirus panic. 

1. Get listed on more channels

For vacation rental, there’s a bright side to the sudden recession – travellers are more likely to avoid hotel crowds and pick private homes instead. Self-check-in options may also appeal to travellers who want to keep human contact to a bare minimum. 

However, it’s more important than ever for short-term rental property managers to improve their marketing mix because demand is still lower than usual and the race for bookings is a lot more intense. 

People still travel – it’s just a matter of getting your brand out there and maximising your reach. Now’s the time to get listed on as many channels as possible. 

So what can you do to optimise your distribution during such a highly competitive time?

The quickest and most efficient way to get listed on a large variety of different websites is to use a Channel Manager that works in real time.

Firstly, get listed on top local channels. International bookings may be down but you can still focus on local ones, especially if you have properties in drive-to destinations

Make sure you update your property descriptions to be more appealing to domestic travellers. Think about what you can offer them: do you have private parking at your property? Can you provide discounts to local attractions? 

You should also consider getting listed on niche websites that target specific types of travellers, like sports tourists or digital nomads. These channels can give you more visibility – the number of properties they offer is a fraction of Airbnb’s or HomeAway’s, where it’s easy to get lost among all the other listings. 

The situation requires a dynamic reaction: you must have a competitive offer and be present everywhere. The quickest and most efficient way to get listed on a large variety of different websites is to use a Channel Manager that works in real time. Talk to us if you want to find out more!

2. Reduce your minimum stay 

To fill in the gaps left in your calendar due to cancellations, you need to be more flexible with your policies. 

During this time, you can’t afford to apply the same restrictions on minimum stays that you would when the market is booming. 

Reduce your minimum stay and come up with a solid length-of-stay (LOS) pricing strategy. This will help you lock in last-minute bookings and increase your occupancy. 

If you need help, check out our blog post on LOS pricing

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3. Use a yield management tool to adjust your pricing

It may not be what you want to hear, but in such a highly competitive market, you need to consider lowering your prices

The coronavirus crisis has led to a drop in travellers’ willingness to buy, and the only way to make up for that is by offering a lower price. The situation calls for a value-based pricing model, where your property is worth as much as a traveller is willing to pay for it. After all, it’s better to lose some money on a booking than miss out on it altogether!

If you want to get more bookings, you need to risk getting more cancellations. 

The good news is, guests who stay with you for a lower price now may convert into returning guests and book with you again in the future when the market is steady again. 

To hang on to guests who have cancelled their bookings, try offering them a discount. This may convince them to postpone their holiday instead of cancelling it altogether.

4. Allow changeover days every day

Now’s not the time to turn away guests. Whatever booking you can get, you should take. 

Adjust your settings so that you’re allowing changeover days on every day of the week. Make sure that your cleaning team is working efficiently so your property is spotless when it’s time to welcome new guests.

5. Loosen your cancellation policy

This may seem counter-intuitive since cancellations are precisely what you’re battling. However, if you want to get more bookings, you need to risk getting more cancellations. 

Right now, everything in travel is uncertain. People don’t want to commit to a trip. They want the security of a full refund

You can attract guests by offering them a lenient cancellation policy that allows them to change their plans if they see fit. 

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6. Update your property descriptions with a cleaning notice

During the weeks of heightened concern for safety, your guests will need to be reassured that you’re committed to taking all the necessary health and safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus at your property. 

To ease your guests’ minds, update your property descriptions on all channels with a note that says: “In order to address coronavirus concerns, this property receives a deep cleaning and disinfection after each stay.” 

Of course, you must live up to this promise. Since COVID-19 is very easily transmitted from person to person and it may stay alive on surfaces for hours, potentially days, applying a proper cleaning and disinfection protocol at all your rentals is vital. 

The CDC’s recommendations include:

  • Cleaning frequently touched surfaces (for example tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, toilets, sinks, remotes) with household cleaning products and disinfectant, while wearing disposable gloves
  • Laundering towels and linens at the warmest possible temperature recommended by the manufacturer

If you’re still in doubt, Properly has published a very useful guide on how to disinfect your short-term rental during the coronavirus crisis.

Once you’re done cleaning, you should also leave a notice in your rental encouraging guests to adopt preventive practices, for example, frequently washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Providing hand sanitizer – in the form of gel or wipes – is also a great idea. 

By updating your property descriptions with this info, you can show travellers that you’re doing everything to stay on top of the situation. 

And remember, the most important thing is to stay healthy and protect your guests from contagion. 

If you’d like to find out more about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the short-term rental industry, check out this webinar by VRM Intel.

Are you ready to build a tech-based distribution strategy? Discover how our enterprise-level Channel Manager can get you more bookings.