Putting travelers and vacationers at ease because they know what they’re renting is thoroughly clean is key to the restart of the vacation rental industry as social distance restrictions ease.
Minimizing touch and social distancing have become the norm, and with that comes great expectations of property managers to provide a safe experience. Experts say the new normal may see a shift in vacation rentals over hotels and using travel advisors who can steer travelers to the right places.
Properties that are promoted to be safe and clean through online travel agencies and other platforms are most likely to have a leg up on attracting guests.
"Making families feel comfortable enough to travel again after this pandemic is a must for the entire vacation rental industry," said Vrbo President Jeff Hurst after the Vacation Rental Management Association recently announced new industry cleaning protocols. "Adopting these new cleaning guidelines will reassure travelers that vacation rentals are safe places to stay for their next vacation."
Industry adopts SafeHome campaign, cleaning recommendations
In May, The Vacation Rental Housekeeping Professionals (VRHP), a VRMA subsidiary, announced expanded recommendations for cleaning vacation rental properties.
The new guidelines are part of the VRMA & VRHP SafeHome campaign, which empowers members to adopt and execute safe travel standards that conform to — and, in many cases, exceed — those that are mandated nationally, statewide or locally. The SafeHome initiative encourages all vacation rental management professionals to openly communicate with guests and employees about the precautions they are taking to help keep them safe and healthy.
The guidelines include recommendations for augmenting existing cleaning programs, including:
- Disinfection and sanitization techniques
- Proper use of personal protective equipment
- Recommended products, cleaning agents and equipment
- Updated cleaning and inspection processes for soft surfaces, upholstery and linens
- Trash removal and maintenance processes
- Communicating expanded cleaning processes to guests
"Cleaning a vacation rental is no small task, even when we are not faced with a global pandemic," said Durk Johnson, executive director of VRHP. "Housekeepers are responsible for completely resetting properties and creating a like-new experience for arriving guests. These new guidelines are intended to enhance the safety of properties, and provide more peace-of-mind for property owners and guests."
Being proactive and raising bar on cleaning
Some Kigo customers are being proactive about raising the bar on cleanliness and comfort to encourage travelers to stay at their properties.
Galax Rentals is in overdrive with its new deep cleaning standards, which exceed CDC guidelines. In addition, the company has employed a hands-free check-in process and all homes now have digital locks so that there is no exchange of keys.
Access is limited and all arrivals and departures are documented, including by maintenance personnel.
Guests are asked to bring their own pillows or buy a new one from Galax Rentals and linens are to be bagged and placed outside after use.
"We cannot properly sanitize pillows after every stay," said Managing Partner Debra Martin. "We are pulling all pillows and putting in closets. We are asking our guests to not sleep on decorative pillow shams."
Cleaning above and over CDC standards
Extra steps are being taken before guests arrive to ensure cleanliness.
Property staff and owners must wear masks, gloves and booties inside the property. Before any work or preparation begins, a team leader enters and sprays disinfectant and leaves. After a 10-minute wait, the team enters and sprays all cloth surfaces - including curtains, rugs, mattresses, furniture - with disinfectant made for this cloth material.
Dishwashers are run at the hottest setting.
"We clean above and over, according to CDC guidelines," Martin said. "As we leave, we back out spraying disinfectant."
The door is wrapped with a Galax rental seal so guests see the dwelling hasn't been entered since disinfection. Using Kigo's maintenance platform, the cleaning process is documented, noting date and time in/out.
The company plans a marketing campaign that emphasizes the attention being put on cleanliness.
"We are preparing a letter detailing our stringent cleaning procedures while touting the mountain air, clean water falls and natural resources which are available to guests in spite of (area) restaurants still only offering take out," Martin said. "These will be sent to all past guests as well as updating our property descriptions for our channel listings."
Hands-free check-in/check-outs are important
Louisa Baldock of Solely Beachfront said she’s received numerous requests from prospective guests about cleaning procedures.
"We get asked a lot right now about cleaning and regulations," she said. "We are making cleaners wear masks, disinfecting and looking at adding longer times between renters. We also wash all linens upon each turn which has helped people feel more at ease."
She said abilities like hands-free check-in/check-out and being able to communicate without being face-to-face − key features of Kigo’s vacation rental software − are important.
Property managers are able to send greetings, travel details, updates and other communications through a mobile portal in Kigo Marketplace. Guests can conveniently communicate with staff without having to be face-to-face.
Learn more about how Kigo can provide all the right tools to help put travelers at ease.