COVID-19 has turned the accommodation and tourism sector upside down, but even before this pandemic everyone in this industry would agree with me that it was not an easy gig. You have to work hard and essentially be available 24/7. Despite what those flogging thousand-dollar Airbnb success courses would tell you, this industry is not for everyone and not necessarily an easy way to make a living.
The current situation is a prime example of how individuals and groups are coping. There are some still having a crack at things by offering “self-isolation packages” to encourage alternate bookings, and there are others that have completely walked out of the industry.
I commend those who are still trying, but the fact is that some of us cannot viably offer this service due to certain restrictions. For the latter group, I would strongly suggest not giving up yet, and perhaps using this time to get your property completely ready for when the market recovers.
For once, you can enjoy staying in your own short-term rental and put your feet up... kind of.
This is the perfect time to test out your own short-term accommodation by isolating yourself in it for a few days. I have done maintenance checks on over 500 short-term rental homes in my career, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that staying in the property is the best way to put yourself in your guests' shoes and find out if there are any issues during your stay.
In a pre-coronavirus era, it would be up to your guest to tell you or your property manager about the issues they face - most of which are quite easy to fix. Now your have the unique opportunity to find them before they happen and keep your standards high for when it's time to bounce back.
Does the shower leak? Are the pillows uncomfortable? Do the blankets itch? Could there be more amenities your hadn't thought of providing?
We get that this might be a daunting task, especially if you hadn't considered it yet, which is why we've created a 3-part guide to help you audit your property standards. In Part I, we'll take you through all your first impression touch points.
Pro tip: let's imagine you're a traveller who's had the worst day, and the last thing they want is to have a poor check-in experience upon arrival. Imagine this:
You have a 4-year-old child travelling with you
Your flight was delayed by 5 hours
You missed your international connecting flight
The airline delayed your baggage arrival
Your phone ran out of battery so you had to charge it at the airport
You had a language barrier issue with the taxi driver who then charged you $120
Your arrived outside the property after 10pm and it starts raining
OK, you're ready! Now, it's time to check how your property would be perceived to this guest. Think of the relief and incredible first impression you will make on this guest if your check-in process is efficient, easy, and delightful.
The access guide
When you first set up your short-term rental, you may have already created an access guide document yourself or got your OTA to create one for you. Check if your access guide is still up to standard by asking yourself:
if they can't connect to WiFi yet, can the guest get a hold of the access guide?
is the information accurate and easy to follow?
is your access guide simple enough to understand for those who might not speak the language well?
If you answered "No" to any of these questions, you are already tempting fate with guests.
Most operators make the keys accessible to guests via a lockbox, which is a safe storage box that requires a unique code to be opened. While lockboxes have become quite common in Australia, remember that many overseas guests have never seen or used one before.
If you are using a lockbox, test to see if:
you have clear directions in the access guide to find it
it can be easily found (not deeply buried behind or underneath something)
it is safe from the elements (e.g. rain) and in a well-lit area at night
it is not damaged
The home sweet home
You got the keys and made it through the front door - what is your first thought or reaction to what you see next? The reason guests stay in short-term rentals is that it is homely and a one-of-a-kind experience to "live" like a local, instead of hotels or serviced apartments that can't quite give that same effect.
While decor and amenities are vital aspects of making a great first impression, you should also make sure that:
the entryway is free of clutter, well-lit, and easily accessible (bonus: get some wall hooks or an umbrella stand)
you have provided a small welcome pack that is thoughtful
the home is clean and smells fresh
the first room the guest walks into is inviting and makes them feel welcomed
Stay tuned for Part II of this series, where we'll explore basic maintenance checks you can do yourself and more ways to get your home guest-ready.