Vacation Rental Industry Adapts to Changing Face of Traveler
By: Tim Blackwell
The face of travelers has changed in the vacation rental industry. Emerging are new types of business and leisure travelers who are straying from pre-pandemic norms. And they are forcing vacation and short-term rental owners and operators to reimagine how they position their properties for bookings.
Since the pandemic’s onset, owners and operators around the world are seeing a transformation in their clienteles. Rentals typically sought by vacationers and thrill seekers are in demand by people who have varying needs for a place to stay other than home.
Corporate travelers want accommodations less risky than hotels, and remote workers seek a change of scenery during the work week. Families affected by job loss or furloughs are looking for places where they can travel as a unit and avoid the high costs of hotels.
At last fall’s HOST 2020 online conference, owners and operators agreed that reasons for accommodations are far different than before the pandemic.
Companies embrace short-term apartments
Early in the pandemic, as vacation and business travel screeched to a near halt, short-term apartment and home rental managers found themselves with a surplus of available nights. Many had to get creative to find renters by putting their ears to the ground.
What they found was a new type of prospect, one who needed accommodations dictated by the new way of life. People who relocated to a city and suddenly found themselves in between housing because of shutdowns turned to temporary rental housing. First responders who worked around the clock needed a place close to hospitals to crash.
Even corporate travelers, who normally stayed at busy hotels on quick trips in and out of bustling metro centers, sought safer havens.
Today, even though vacation and short-term rental travel has resumed, operators continue to look at the new breed of traveler.
One vacation rental property management firm that specializes in luxury villas and beach houses in the United Kingdom is experiencing a surge in corporate guests, to the extent that it is focusing more of its marketing effort on business travelers.
The company is seeing corporations seeking short-term apartments for employees and contractors who have typically stayed at hotels. The logic: apartments or homes reduce risk because there are fewer people going in and out than is the case with hotels.
“If you are a company and have a very important contractor, you wouldn’t want them coming in and out of a hotel,” said one property manager who presented at Host 2020. “You could lose them (to COVID-19). Companies are insisting that employees, especially key ones, use corporate properties.”
The prospects for a 3- or 4-bedroom home in just about any city in the world are no longer as dependent on vacationing families.
‘Might as well work from paradise’
Another opportunity for property managers can be found in opening doors to remote workers and co-living.
Many vacation spots in the Caribbean are offering incentives to lure workers to come live for anywhere from a few months to a year and work from home – with a backdrop of sandy beaches, blue water and sunshine. People are realizing they can go anywhere and work from home, says one operator of a large booking site. “I might as well work from paradise,” he adds.
The same opportunities exist in urban and remote locations, especially in the mountains where the population is less dense.
Regardless of the location, a big must is a solid Wi-Fi connection, which is a given at most hotels. The signal has to be strong enough to avoid buffering, so videos and meetings are received flawlessly.
Said one panelist, “Guests would rather have Wi-Fi than running water.”
Adapting to the new vacation rental industry
Last year forced operators to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, even as they held out hope that the industry would return to normal. While many travelers are waiting in the wings for that day to come, vacation rental professionals recognize they must pivot and embrace the new traveler to stay in business.
Remote workers, first responders, corporate workers, construction contractors and those simply choosing to stay close to home for vacations comprise a viable market. HOST 2020 panelists suggest that operators expand marketing efforts to reach these traveler types and others, with an emphasis on quality assurance and trust. Guests need to feel protected in order to ease anxieties about travel and being away from home.
Clean accommodations, seamless bookings and solid customer support are current keys to appealing to the new class of traveler.
But the return to normal may take a while, so operators shouldn’t stay on the sidelines.
“Do not sit this time out,” advised one panelist. “Regardless of how difficult and painful this may be, there is a lot of opportunity out there. Don’t sit it out and wait for things to go back to the way they were.”
Kigo provides strategic tools to help property managers get the most efficiency in vacation and short-term rental operations while improving bookings. Learn more about Kigo Marketplace.