Increase your vacation rental occupancy rate while keeping your guests, housekeepers, and your home safe during COVID-19.

Background

When COVID-19 hit us back in March, like many vacation rental hosts,  all my future bookings literally went down to zero.  My Airbnb rental is near a national park so 60-65% of my annual revenue is generated during summer.  So, I knew right away this year was going to be survival mode.

But the other challenge was (and still is) to make sure when attempting to increase the revenue, I’m not adversely impacting the curve (i.e: causing the infection to spread) as well as infecting my vacation rental.

With that in mind, I’ve tried a number of things in the past 2 months and I wanted to share with rest of the Airbnb community a simple diagram highlighting the process that has worked for me to strike a healthy balance between guest safety and revenue.

Disclaimers:

  1. By no means am I advocating this will work for everyone, just some things that has worked for me 😀
  2. My Airbnb is not in a major city, it’s in a rural town.

4-Step COVID Funnel

The idea here is simple:  The lowest common denominator during an Airbnb lifecycle is the home itself.  This is the common touch point for different guests that are coming and going.  So, by keeping the lowest common denominator (i.e: home) virus free, it would prevent spreading of the virus to others.  In order to do this, I started filtering at the top to ensure only vetted people can enter the property.

Step 1:  Guest vetting

For every guest request, I would explain to the guest that I am taking extra safety precautions given the circumstances and asked them to confirm that no one is the group has tested positive or has any symptoms.  This consent helped filter the possibility of coronavirus entering my Airbnb.  I modified the booking message in my Airbnb listing so it would show up automatically while booking (screenshot to the right).

Step 2:  48-hour buffer

According to CDC, there is a chance coronavirus can beocme inactive in a few hours on certain surfaces or if it is airborne.  I udpated Airbnb settings to add a 48-hour booking buffer.  This automatically blocked 48 hours on the calendar after each check-out.  This initiative was to help the possibility of inactivating any coronavirus that was airborne or on surfaces.

Step 3:  24-hour cleaning delay

I only allowed my housekeepers to enter the property after 24 hours.  This not only protected my housekeepers from getting infected but also prevented spreading of infection.  If you’re interested, we have added a new feature to automatically delay cleanings.

Step 4:  Airbnb enhanced cleaning

I sent the cleaning checklist that Airbnb had released  (in partnership with CDC).  This further educated my housekeepers to make any tweaks to the cleaning process (if needed).

Marketing

In order to inform potential guests that I was following the above-highlighted process, I ended up creating an overlay and added is to part of Airbnb listing gallery.

If you are using mac, you can create an overlay in 5 minutes using Preview.

Results

Learnings

Accepting month to month reservations made me nervous

Main reason for this was the cleaning frequency would go down.  Especially if a guest picked up coronavirus during their stay, this would severely infect the home.

I avoided guests that asked for additional discounts

I had already lowered the nightly price significantly.  Additionally, there was  25% off for weekly stays.  When a guest asked for additional discounts, I saw this as a red flag and politely declined the request to avoid potential future issues.

Access to laundry machines can give you a competitive advantage

When I asked my 5 of my guests what helped them feel safe and comfortable during Airbnb stay.  4 out of 5 said knowing that there are laumdry machines.  Why?  Because the first thing they did is wash the beddings on high heat just to be “extra safe”.  This made complete sense to me.  My natural instinct was do the exact same when I did a trial guest stay in my own Airbnb.

Allowing pets can give you a competitive advantage

Yesterday, I had a guest that asked for a special request to allow her dog.  I love pets but historically I’ve never allowed pets (due to liability risks).  I politely declined her request but it made me realize I could be missing out on opportunities.  Especially because family travels are high at the moment.

Be careful with shorter minimum stays

Prior to COVID-19, I used to allow 1 night minimum during weekdays.  Now, I have a minimum of 3 nights.  The reason for this is to minimize the number of different groups.  Higher the foot traffic, higher the chances of spreading the infection.  Also, this means less cleanings, which helps me keep my housekeepers safe.