Holiday Rentals – Guests’ Safety and Sense of Well-Being – The Key Issues You Need To Consider
2020 has been a devastating year for the travel and hospitality sector.
Many hosts, owners, managers and service contractors have seen their incomes reduced to zero.
Our businesses will never quite be the same on a number of levels.
As the sector struggles to get back on its feet, we thought that we’d take a look at some of the things that we will need to do differently from now on.
Obviously, these things centre around cleaning, cleanliness and guest interaction and well-being.
In this article we look at some key points that will help you, your business and your guests safety and sense of well-being.
Point of entry
Our front doors are the first touch point of our property and our guests stay and we will need to pay attention to sanitizing keys, door handles or keypads. This will apply to key safes as well if you use them.
Going forward, we can see a rise in the popularity of contactless entry systems, also known as smart locks.
With a smart lock fitted, you can easily lock and unlock the front door with an app on your (or your guests) smartphone. The phone sends a wireless signal via BlueTooth to the motor controlled knob that sits on the inside of the door.
You can remotely control who has access (and, just as importantly, when they have access).
This extends to cleaners and service contractors or anyone else for that matter.
They cost in the region of £150 and can be bought from Danalock for example. They are simple to install and don’t require any wiring or internet.
Not only are these a pretty cool use of technology, they also remove the need for keys and key management (and now key sanitizing). They do away with the headache of lost keys too.
They also give you an instant notification of guest arrival (and departure).
Meet and greet
Like it or not, the hospitality business has changed due to the Coronavirus and one of the main changes will be that your guests probably don’t want to meet you any more.
We know this will please some owners and managers, especially those managing larger portfolios of properties that spend their time driving from rental to rental (and waiting for late arrivals).
But, with the use of smart locks and your own smarts you can carry out virtual meet and greets in a number of ways.
- The smart lock is activated and you receive a notification that the guest has arrived.
- You can simply phone the guest and welcome them to the property, share any important information and tell them how to get in touch should they need to.
- You could supplement this call with an ‘in-property’ tablet/iPad that is a digital combination of the old ‘house book’/guidebook/guestbook.
- You could introduce options like Virtual Concierge that offer voice operated services via Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home that could supplement this ‘digital hand holding’.
Here’s a PDF Guide that outlines some of the many things that you can offer via voice controlled devices in your rental property
Trading the welcome pack for a well-being pack
Many of us have been providing welcome packs on arrival for as long as we can remember.
Whether it’s a basket of fresh fruit, a locally produced bottle of wine and a selection of tapas or chocolates on pillows, we’ve always wanted to make our guests feel at home and get their holiday off to a great start.
Moving forward, it would better suit the current situation if we provide a well-being pack of face masks, travel-sized hand sanitizer, latex gloves and selected cleaning products. Providing liquid hand soap at each sink would also be well appreciated.
This will underline that cleaning, cleanliness and public health are one of your priorities and this may currently be the most important signal that you can send.
Face masks are quite inexpensive and can be purchased from local chemists or online via Amazon and the like.
Creative owners and property managers could go a step further and provide branded masks from online companies like Realthread
Travel-sized hand sanitizer
Once again, these are relatively inexpensive, easy to source and reinforce your hygiene lead approach.
These could easily be relabeled to project brand, personalization or both.
Latex and vinyl (latex free) gloves are available from chemists, auto supply shops or online. A box of 100 only costs around £12 so they won’t break the bank and again they emphasize that guest health and safety are paramount to your business.
Maybe leave a pair for each guest in a ziplock bag.
We’ve read a number of predictions that many guests will be bringing their own cleaning products but it certainly won’t hurt if you provide some rubber gloves, a bottle of disinfectant, some sterile wipes and paper towels.
Liquid hand soap
These are readily available from various outlets, both on the high street and online. Think about buying bulk packs and refilling each station during changeovers.
A gentle reminder
It may be a good idea to leave a short accompanying note that outlines your overall cleaning manifesto and the extra steps that you and your cleaning staff have undertaken in preparing the property for your guests safe arrival.
Personal protection equipment (PPE)
Don’t forget that yourself and or other cleaning staff will need to wear/be supplied with PPE such as masks, gloves and overalls (see your local governments guidelines for more information). These and other rubbish from the property will need to be disposed of properly.
Bedding and towels
We’ve seen conversations in some owner groups regarding guests bringing their own bedding and towels. This may be an option in some areas. This is already common in some regions such as Scandinavia where there is historically a summer house culture.
There is also the option to rent linens. These linens are often washed at higher temperatures so they offer extra piece of mind.
Feel free to contact us for more details.
There’s also the option to supply disposable, sterile, biodegradable, single use towels from Viscoto. These cost between 20p and a pound each depending on size.
At what cost?
We understand that most of the above suggestions cost money and as always someone has to foot the bill.
Some of the costs could be absorbed by the host, owner or manager. Installing smart locks for example could actually save time and money over the course of a year so actually pay for themselves.
Providing tablets and voice activated devices adds up, especially if you have a number of properties but these add to the guest experience so may warrant a relative increase in rental fees.
A well-being pack, PPE for yourself and your cleaning stall and a enhanced cleaning and disinfecting regime will certainly add to current cleaning costs but we believe that guests will be prepared to pay these increases for higher levels of cleaning and disinfection. Especially if these increases are communicated in the correct way.
The one major stumbling block
The major problem that we all face from now on is perception.
Although you may clean your property to within an inch of its life, the fact remains that some property owners and managers are not as fastidious.
And we all get tarred with the same, lowest common denominator, brush.
The press will never write a story that tells travellers that 90% of the holiday rental sector offer spotless, disinfected accommodation. They will always spotlight the dirty, unclean places and that’s going to affect us all.
That’s one of the reasons why hotels have a better reputation for cleaning and cleanliness. Their staff are professionally trained, they generally use stronger chemicals and work to tight protocols.
The hotel industry will exploit this and attack the vacation rental sectors on this point.
The problem that hotels can’t avoid though is that they have communal contact areas and high-touch points such as lift buttons, door pushes, etc and that will affect them as they too try to adapt to this new world working environment.
The online travel agencies (OTA’s) like Airbnb, Booking (.com), Expedia, etc are looking at ways to improve the cleaning levels perception problem.
Airbnb have introduced their Airbnb Hosting Cleaning Commitment, the others are implementing similar initiatives.
We predict that there will be more training or that these companies will insist that hosts, owners and managers provide certified cleaning via reputable professional cleaning companies.
Only time will tell but this area will become a key battleground in the medium term future.
We would have liked to say that this article is about adapting to renting in a post Covid-19 world but the virus hasn’t gone away. Not by a long chalk. In fact, at the time of writing there were a record number of new cases reported yesterday.
On the upside, travel is starting to make a comeback. It may be ‘in country’ to begin with but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
We can only adapt. Do our best to keep ourselves and our guests as safe as possible and above all, communicate what measures we are taking to address these new and troubling issues.