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How to get your homestay back on track

Back in 2015, our family was going through a rather difficult time financially and we were looking for ways to increase our income. We wondered how we could utilise the one asset we had for the purpose — our home. As we lived in a tourist destination, a ‘bed & breakfast’ seemed like the perfect business for us.

In the years that followed, we welcomed guests from all around the world, our spare bedrooms fetched a passive income every month, and my family loved the hosting lifestyle. I went on to start a company that enables other homeowners to monetise their second home. Everything was great; until the pandemic hit.

Rethinking the homestay experience

From long weekends to summer holidays, the virus has disrupted travel plans across the world. There is no doubt that it’s a long road to recovery for accommodation providers.

Hospitality has always been a conservative industry with its formal check-in procedures and in-person interactions. Guests book homestays for a personalised, homely experience. It would be a challenge to deliver the same hospitality with minimal contact.

At arrival, our guests were welcomed into our home, my father gave them a rundown of the sightseeing spots and even helped with booking tours and activities.

Going forward, homestays would have to rethink the entire customer experience and reduce touchpoints by adopting contactless room access and digital travel credentials.

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Here are a few ideas to help you recover:1. Bookable website

In order to increase direct reservations and become self-sufficient, you need to have a website with a booking engine. This offers the guest everything they need to make a reservation directly with you without picking up the phone.

2. Housekeeping matters

Cleanliness should be your top priority. Room cleaning should be more intense but less frequent if the guest is staying for more than one night. High touchpoints like door handles, switchboards, and any common touchpoints should be disinfected thoroughly.

3. Pricing strategy Focus on your competitors and market supply to make appropriate adjustments with your pricing strategy. Reducing your rates drastically or lowering it to look more favourable against your competitors does not stimulate demand. Instead of slashing rates, offer length of stay (LOS) discounts to encourage guests to stay longer.

You can also offer add-on services like transfers and nearby activities to offer bundled packages.

4. Flexible policies

We live in uncertain times with containment zone and travel restrictions. When people travel, they will be more cautious when they venture out to new destinations. Offering a flexible cancellation policy is key to winning back customer confidence.

5. Target the right traveller

Once people start travelling, they would explore destinations within driving distance to their homes. Analyse your property to determine the type of traveller most likely to stay with you. Consider optimising your website and social media to attract the right guest for you. For properties that depend on inbound travellers, you can adjust your consumer profiling, distribution, and marketing to bring in domestic travellers. You can also set up highly targeted ads to attract people within the country to your property.

6. Contactless technology

The contactless trend in hospitality has been developing for years but there is a common notion that it’s expensive and meant for hotels. If you live away from your homestay, using keyless door access could be a game-changer. At this uncertain time, guests prefer minimising the number of people they come in contact with.

Also, a self check-in feature could also reduce the need for a caretaker or property manager.

Bottom line

Data shows that private accommodation has significant advantages over hotels in terms of recovery. People are looking for safe and clean accommodation with control over their living environment. An increased focus on your regular guests and adjustments in your distribution strategy could be the push you require to bounce back from this crisis. We hope these ideas help you manage the impact of COVID-19 on your property.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

To discover more visit: yourstory.com

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