The vacation rental space peaked in 2020 in the United States. According to Google Trends, “vacation rentals” saw its most popularity this year than it had seen over the last several years. Changing travel/safety protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic has affected traveler sentiment, as travelers show a desire for a travel experience that minimizes interaction between other guests. But should hotels be worried?
For now, the answer is no.
While interest in vacation rentals grew, according to Fuel’s 10th COVID-19 Consumer Sentiment Study, nearly 60% of people that traveled since March 15th, 2020 answered that they stayed in a hotel, resort, or motel, compared to less than 10% of people answering that they stayed in a professionally managed vacation rental. And even fewer stayed in an Airbnb or VRBO. This bodes well for hotels, especially considering this survey includes data from stays during the initial height of the pandemic.
But, as travelers continue to look for ways to travel safer, how can hoteliers compete with vacation rentals where interaction with others is minimized?
When we’ve asked leisure travelers which topics they want to hear most from hotels during the pandemic, they’ve overwhelmingly picked What the property is doing to protect guests as their #1 topic of choice.
This means you should be promoting cleanliness at every touchpoint throughout the booking process, including call-outs on your website, creating a dedicated hotel safety information page, in call-outs on your booking engine, and going a step further to include this information in your digital marketing like email, pay-per-click campaigns, social channels, website content, and 3rd party websites.
In fact, Google My Business recently rolled out a Health & safety category for hotels and Tripadvisor has their own COVID-19 health and safety field that hotels can use by listing the measures they’re taking to ensure guest safety and hotel cleanliness.
Plus, in the case of a private vacation rental, it’s unlikely that a set cleaning process is being followed from one vacation rental owner to the next. This is how you can one-up private vacation rentals by instituting and promoting cleaning and sanitization protocols that are followed for all rooms, amenities, and common areas in your hotel so guests know the room they stay in is receiving the same care before, during, and after their stay.
Selling the experience
Tell your guests why your hotel is more than just a place to sleep. Identify your hotel’s unique selling points and promote those features throughout your messaging. Whether you offer room service, grocery delivery, outdoor activities like guided hikes, or pre-reserved amenities, these are things a private vacation rental can’t replicate that you should be leveraging in your messaging.
Answering every question
Make it easier for guests to contact staff with questions by including an easy to find phone number, email address, or chatbox/contact submission form on your website. Better yet, create a dedicated FAQ page that has answers readily available. Don’t let a potential guest slip through the cracks just because they couldn’t find your hotel’s cancellation policy.
Ask your front desk staff or call center for frequently asked questions. Or mine your Google My Business listing or Google Search Console account for relevant queries attached to your brand name. You can also search your brand name in Google and mine the People also ask (if applicable) and Searches related to fields for additional queries.
Providing exceptional service
When staying in a private vacation rental, assistance is either non-existent or very minimal at the most. In the case of competing against vacation rentals, your staff is your most valuable asset. Let guests know they have around the clock assistance for any issues or questions they may have. This will help set the tone for a great experience to come.
Using a hotel mobile app for check-in and check-out can also benefit your entire hotel operations by reducing crowds at the front desk for a frictionless arrival and departure experience for guests, therefore giving your staff more time to tend to other guest needs.
Sure, vacation rentals peaked in popularity in 2020, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end-all for hotels. Ultimately, it’s your job to make a lasting impression that separates you from the competition. Taking the measures listed above will help put your hotel on the path to success.