It's been abundantly clear in recent months that the coronavirus pandemic - which has caused such drastic restrictions on travel, tourism and business trips - has had a severe impact on the short-lets market, which up until now had been booming and had largely experienced unlimited growth since it was spawned out of the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.
Here, we reproduce in full an excellent article written by Jessica Gillingham, director at Abode PR, analysing how traveller anxiety can be eased to rebuild trust in the short-lets market and enable it to start its long road to recovery. The article was first published on short-let news site ShortTermRentalz.
Although none of us can predict the future and what that might look like, what we can be assured of is that the demand for travel will return once the global lockdown eases. It is the question of when demand will return, and perhaps more importantly at what speed, that are the unknowns.
The fact is, curiosity and an innate desire for new experiences are hardwired into the human psyche. Travel and social connection are key to this. Humans also need things to look forward to. Travel, holidays, time spent with friends and family are some of the things we most look forward to. We also like to escape.
The recovery process will be tentative. It will be unevenly balanced for a while and it may take a little more time than we hope for - but it is inevitable. Just like after 9/11, the financial crisis of 2008, SARS and every other crisis to have impacted travel and tourism, recovery and growth will follow.
Right now, the big question that many companies within the short-term rental ecosystem should be asking both of themselves and of the industry as a whole is: ‘How can we best position ourselves so that we can bounce back quickly when the inevitable demand starts to recover?’
Despite the intense challenges of this ‘furlough period’ for the entire short-term rental industry, it is what you do and don’t do, say and don’t say, during this period that will either strengthen or weaken your reputation and value proposition over the long haul.
During times of crisis, the two biggest mistakes that a business can make are:
Not making decisions quickly enough.
Not communicating those decisions effectively.
Being in a stronger position strategically is rooted in clear communication.
Consumer confidence and perceived levels of trust will be at the root of short-term rental demand once travel restrictions are eased. Although the confidence levels of travellers will vary (some will be gung-ho and desperate to return to a life of adventure. Whilst others will be very, very cautious), for all types of travellers, easing and appeasing anxiety levels will be key.
During this ‘downtime’, reflecting on business practice, particularly as it pertains to meeting the newly formed ‘post-pandemic’ needs of guests to feel ‘safe’, and reflecting on how a business communicates this understanding, will be increasingly important. Same goes for the entire short-term rental industry.
The fundamental question of how we increase guest confidence before, after and during a stay needs to be answered. Prioritising ‘wellness’ and both anticipating and meeting travellers’ anxiety-fuelled needs, and understanding that guests will want significant control over their environment in order to feel safe, will be a given.
Conversations that we were already having as an industry pre-Covid-19 around increased professionalisation and standardisation will now need to be notched up a gear or three. Solutions for addressing traveller ‘angst’ will require real depth and weight and not just be thinly-veiled marketing platitudes.
Increased in-property technology, standardising cleaning protocols, fair (for all parties) cancellation policies and professional regulation will all have a greater role to play in recovery.
More so than ever, leadership must be robust, based on truth and be fully backed up by real action and then communicated clearly and confidently in order to position each company, and the industry as a whole, as an attractive option moving forwards.
*Jessica is the director of Abode PR, a B2B public relations agency and consultancy. She is also non-exec of Visit Bath and founder of industry resource PillowTalk Media