Historically, vacation rental safety hasn’t been a focal point for owners and operators. While a handful of municipalities have passed safety codes over the past few years for vacation rentals in their jurisdiction, the vast majority of guidelines are limited to just fire safety. (These cover smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, sprinkler systems, and fire extinguishers.) Considering that the bulk of insurance claims at vacation rentals are unrelated to fire, there is a disconnect between regulation and the reality of vacation rental safety hazards.
Without external pressure from local regulators, the depths of vacation rental safety can easily fall through the cracks. This is partly due to the sheer volume of property care and service tasks associated with managing unique properties, triaging last-minute schedule changes, and handling frequent service requests from guests. The trend towards higher-quality accommodations and deeper service offerings has become well documented within the industry, creating an almost myopic focus on enhancing the guest experience.
The events of this year have made it clear that property and guest safety are foundational to delivering five-star guest experiences. The current travel climate has accelerated the emphasis on quality and stretched the meaning of ‘vacation rental safety’ to include the hygiene and well-being of guests. With safety now synonymous with quality, owners and operators are embracing technology to meet standards for property preparation and drive additional bookings.
Survey Shows Accelerating Importance of Vacation Rental Safety
Earlier this summer, Breezeway surveyed hundreds of vacation rental operators on changes they plan to make in regards to compliance with cleanliness and safety standards. We found that 66% think cleanliness and safety will become the most important considerations at booking, and these operators are quickly gravitating towards adopting assurance programs to cater to these shifting traveler demands.
In fact, 95% of survey respondents indicated that they plan on implementing operational changes to help guests feel more confident in property safety, including enhancing quality assurance programs, adjusting guest communication strategies, customizing digital checklists for dedicated safety inspections, and certifying their rental properties through independent safety programs.
But with so many competing priorities, it can be difficult to carve the time and resources to implement safety protocols. We looked under the hood of the safety operations used by some of our leading clients in order to offer suggestions on how operators can bolster their safety for 2021 and beyond.
Communicating Safety to Guests
Proactively communicating the safety precautions taken at each property is a key component of every safety plan. In effect, 74% of operators we surveyed plan on adjusting their communication strategies prior to arrival and throughout the stay in order to instill more guest confidence and ensure a positive property experience. So, what exactly should you be communicating to guests?
There’s so much behind-the-scenes work that goes into the preparation of each rental, and operators can get full credit by sharing their professional approach with guests. This starts with making a great first impression at the very top of the funnel by marketing your COVID-19 protocols and precautions. It doesn’t stop there though, and operators should continue proactive guest communication throughout each stay, with details on safe and contactless check-in, changes to in-stay services (maintenance, concierge, mid-stay cleans), and relevant updates in your market. Operators can also communicate the location and instructions for any sanitization items or PPE left for guest use (e.g. cleaning products, hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, etc.). Effective communication throughout the guest’s journey builds trust and paves the way for a safer and more relaxed stay.
Digital Safety Inspections
The majority of professional operators have adopted mobile checklists for cleans, inspections, and other property care and service tasks. Doing so helps ensure your rental is well prepared for the next reservation and digitizes the collection of property data (think historical issues, appliance conditions, codes, and passwords, etc.), which can help prevent emergency repairs.
Applying a similar process to ensure the safety of properties is gaining traction in the industry. This entails routinely inspecting the interior and exterior of each property in order to identify and mitigate potential risks for guests. Digital safety checklists help verify concerns like egress accessibility, hot water heater temperatures, the location of shut-off valves, and the location of fire extinguishers.
Operators should also provide critical safety information in a prominent location in each rental; such as the property address, emergency contact info, and the location of gas and electric shut-offs, first aid kits, and the fire extinguisher. That said, the number one cause of accidents in vacation rentals are trips and falls, and inspecting lighting, flooring hazards, and stair handrails can help prevent these.
How Safety Can Drive More Bookings
The demand for safe properties has skyrocketed, creating a premium in reassuring travelers that your property meets safety and cleanliness standards. This has unveiled a new benefit to inspecting properties for safety (beyond safeguarding properties and guests) – building a more professional brand, attracting more traffic, and booking more reservations.
Vacation rental owners can market (and monetize) their dedication to safety by incorporating certain keywords in their property listings. Doing so will provide a boost to your search engine optimization, generating listing views from prospective guests who prioritize safe and high-quality properties. Operators can also include details that illustrate the rigorous preparation procedures: areas of the property that were inspected, the date of the most recent inspection, safety guidelines from the local municipality, etc. Providing guests with transparency into the safety and hygiene of your property will give you a competitive advantage over rentals in your market, and drive more reservations.
What Safety Looks Like in 2021
Last year saw safety and quality become more closely tied to service delivery, and operators can expect this year’s traveler to be even more attentive to property preparation and compliance. Ensuring that properties have been carefully prepared and reviewed through comprehensive safety programs should become commonplace and will help vacation rental operators capitalize on more growth opportunities as the fabric of hospitality continues to change.