We've been so overly busy with helping our customers lately (and truly grateful) that we haven't been able to keep up with our blog. So when I told my colleagues that I'm going to write an article on how to pivot and adapt short term rental marketing during the pandemic, I was met with "Great!, but isn't it a bit late?"
Sure this subject would have been great to cover 6 months ago, but as we can all see, it's still going to be relevant for some time. The fact that you're here reading this is a good indicator that you might still be looking for some additional tips and insights to increase your bookings.
There's also a huge benefit to having actionable insights from early pivoters that we're able to demonstrate some workable ideas. So without further ado, let's get into why we came here.
What’s changed in the industry?
Rental properties in major cities that were once bustling with tourists and business travelers have been hit the most, with bookings declining by as much as 46% from 2019. Meanwhile, rural destinations have increased bookings by as much as 104%, according to AirDNA.
People are looking to travel safer and have less contact with others to limit their risk, making rural destinations a safer way to isolate themselves while getting away. This is especially true for locals wanting more remote and nature-themed experiences. Rural areas are also where a majority of families live and we're seeing longer duration stays in these rural areas where people are visiting or caring for loved ones.
For those of us that aren't benefiting from the uptick in remote getaways, we need to look at how these trends can be used in urban areas and how we can attract customers that still need to stay in and near cities.
1. Changing guest focus
With the surge of health professionals needed to support overcrowded hospitals thousands of professionals have come from smaller cities and towns to support urban areas affected the most. Here are a few strategies that can help you target these professionals.
Contact hospitals and COVID response centers, including testing facilities, and let them know that you have accommodations and what your capacity is.
Update your website and/or listings mentioning healthcare workers. If you're close to a hospital, for example, that's a must opportunity to utilize as well.
Urban un-winders / Remote workers
These are the city slickers that are tired of their lockdowns, are working remotely, and social distancing is at a max. If that's enough, we often live in tightly confined spaces - think downtown condo in Montreal, ha!
These guests are not hard to lure with some simple ad targeting on Facebook or Google (if you can afford it), but of course good old grassroots marketing can work here too. Your focus should be on getting out of the confined city and being free, enjoying nature, doing some skiing, or what other activities you have accessible to your destination.
Families & Care Givers
I mentioned the family units that are still wanting to get away and enjoy some quiet time or winter family activities. In other situations, family members will be visiting relatives or caring for loved ones and need to book extended stays for reasons related to COVID rules or their own needs.
Updating your listings and website with more family orientated information (how your accommodating them, what's nearby of interest) and pictures especially will help showcase your listing as a family-centric destination.
2. Adjusting your advertising
Find groups and discussions where conversations are taking place related to niche travelers. Whereas you may have targeted young urban explorers pre-pandemic, you can shift your skills over to family or healthcare orientated spaces.
If you're utilizing paid ads then shift your focus on new keywords that are more niche for your audience. Using geo-targeting can play a big role in capturing rural travelers or perhaps you advertise more domestically and not internationally. PPC ads targeting smaller regions are almost always less expensive too.
3. Website & listings updates
Update your web content to reflect what's relevant to today's travelers. If you're near a ski hill and haven't been focused on that, show what leisure activities are nearby that are no to low contact.
I mention pictures earlier but, update your property's theme to attract and showcase your destination as needed. If your Hero picture was young millennials in a bar-type setting, maybe showing a family playing game or eating together would be more appropriate.
Update your website, listings, and any on-site materials like your welcome guide or check-in agreement with all related COVID procedures and methods you've implemented. This information should include the rules and regulations for your area and your property, as well as the extra measures you're taking, like additional cleaning and provided supplies.
4. Extended rental durations
Many cities have restricted short terms rentals so if you aren't a remote destination with less strict regulations or a cabin in the woods, some property owners have had to increase their minimum booking times to 30 days and up. In fact, according to AirDNA the length of the average stay has increased by 58%.
We talked about health care workers and family visits, but caregivers and students unable to travel are other potential long term bookers. A new type of potential guest has also emerged, the would-be quarantiner.
Inevitably though, many people have chosen to switch their properties from a short term rental to a long term lease. That's always a route to consider if you simply can't wait for revenue to come in despite any new plans of action.
The market will come back, use this time if you can to develop new marketing strategies, update your website, take better photos, and anything else that's been overdue that you just didn't have the time to tackle during busier times. If we can help in any way or if there is a topic you'd like us to cover, please contact us or let us know below.
We'd love to hear from you and your experiences down in the comments, let us know how you've pivoted and what has been working for you. It might really help another reader!
Thank you so much for the support and we wish you the best of health and success.
AirDNA sources: COVID-19 Impact on Hotels and Short-Term Rentals