The global coronavirus pandemic is causing disruption on multiple industries, but one of the worst hit is tourism.
Airlines have canceled routes, whole countries are shutting down, and travelers all over the world are canceling their plans (including their bookings). In last week’s blog post we wrote about how to prepare for this slump and how to handle mass cancellations on Airbnb, Booking, and the other platforms. This week we will focus on strategy, and what to expect in the weeks and months to come.
Based on data, it looks like most cancellations so far affect city apartments much more than summer homes. Most people expect the coronavirus to complete it’s cycle before summer and there is still enough time to cancel without penalties, so guests are waiting to see how the pandemic will evolve before making any change to their plans. If the pandemic does NOT slow down in the next months, then hosts should see cancellations coming through after the end of April. A very small percentage will alter their plans for this summer, at least based on data gathered so far, while the vast majority will wait to see if the problem will worsen or improve before making any decisions.
The main effect, for now, will be the slowing down (or even the complete halt) of the rate of new bookings since people are more cautious and reluctant to make plans before they know more about the spread of the pandemic – no one wants to book vacations that will have to be canceled in a few weeks (and in many cases pay the cancellation penalties). In the best-case scenario, the rate of new infections will start slowing down in a couple of months and reservations will start appearing again in your calendars. Unfortunately, this is not a given, and it is possible that a worst-case scenario will prevail – one that sees the global pandemic worsening up until the summer, with devastating results for everyone.
City destinations have already seen the impact of the virus with mass cancellations for March and April and significant slowing down of new bookings for this summer. If (and hopefully when) the pandemic starts showing signs of slowing down, you can expect reservations to start coming in again – in truckloads!
Now on to strategy: What should you do? How can you mitigate the negative effects and soften the blow?
- Pricing: Lowering your prices for the next months might help bring some extra bookings but only if your property is a premium, high-cost property. Affordable listings will not see significant traction by lowering prices even more.
- Distribution: It is key to have a presence on as many platforms as possible. Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, VRBO, Tripadvisor and more are listing sites you should be listed on to make sure you’re seen by as many eyes as possible in order to increase (or in this case, retain) your occupancy levels. Make sure you’re using a reliable channel manager for vacation rentals like Hosthub and you’re all set.
- Direct Bookings: If you don’t already have your own website, maybe it’s time to seriously think about it. Having a direct booking option ensures you control the experience end to end and that you can communicate reassuring words to your potential guests that might make it easier for them to book (ie that your region has not been affected and that there are no known coronavirus cases). Besides, you’ll also save the commission you would normally pay to the channels!
- Keep calm and offer the best possible experience to the guests that do arrive, to make sure you get 5-star reviews on all your bookings
- Disinfect your property after every stay and make sure you communicate this on your Airbnb listing (or whichever other channel you are listed)
- Stay informed. Read about what’s going on and make sure you’re making informed decisions along the way.
We all wish this will end soon and we’ll make it through unscathed. However, there is a real threat out there and we all need to be prepared, so make sure you take measures like the ones described above. So don’t panic, stay calm and get those bookings coming in!