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The Escape Home: What Omicron means for the short-term rental market, according to a property management expert

This article is reprinted by permission from The Escape Home, a newsletter for second homeowners and those who want to be. Subscribe here. © 2021. All rights reserved. 

This week The Escape Home spoke with Vered Schwarz, president and chief operating officer of property management platform Guesty, about what the past year looked like for the industry and what she thinks will happen going forward. 

Guesty has traditionally served people and businesses that have dozens, or even hundreds of rental units, but it recently launched Guesty for Hosts, which targets hosts with one to three listings. Its purpose, Schwarz said, is to help small hosts — whether it’s a part-time gig or a way to earn some additional income —professionalize the way they cater to guests. 

EH: What do you see happening in the next year within the industry?

It’s really an exciting time for us in the short-term rental industry. The lines are really blurring — and they were blurring before Covid too. It’s starting to be more difficult to define what is a hotel, what is a short-term rental, what is a long-term compared to a short-term rental? A lot of people choose to live with giving a month’s notice to their landlords — is that short term or long term? We will see at the end of the day varied options of hospitality catering to different needs and travel personas and it will be more difficult to really separate them into very concrete buckets. 

I think we will see, and I encourage professionals in the hospitality industry to allow, flexibility. Flexible cancellation policies allow people to change their mind and make it easier for them to take a decision now because they know they can change it later. 

EH: Will hotels bounce back?

There’s room for everyone and anyone. It’s not a hotel business, it’s not a short-term rental business, it’s a hospitality business and we have to realize that there are different personas looking for different needs. 

I think what hotels could do is get into the 21st century in a sense, with advancing technology and digital interactions, because this is definitely what guests are looking for. Short-term rentals had an advantage in that sense because they were always very tech forward and tech reliant, and hotels need to find that balance between giving that personal touch experience while still using digital tools and technology to advance the speed of interaction, the quality of interactions, the types of interactions they can have with guests. 

EH: How is the industry reacting to the Omicron variant?

We’ve been through Covid for almost two years now. And we always see spikes as a result of different pieces of news — there’s vaccines, reservations go up, there’s Delta variant, reservations go down. Now with Omicron we do see a slight decrease in reservations. It wasn’t really dramatic; in the past three weeks we’ve seen a decrease of about 5% in future bookings compared to the previous three weeks and cancellation rates were up about 4% compared to the previous three weeks. Those aren’t insignificant numbers but it does show that the majority of U.S. travelers are still interested in going on vacation, still planning on going on their holiday vacations and still booking for 2022.

Schwarz’s top tips for hosts: 

Do good internet: Technology can really help you to be professional, increase your occupancy and manage your rates and ratings on the different platforms. 
Get wired: Remember that today’s traveler is very sophisticated, and he or she is looking for more from a property. It needs to be convenient, it needs to allow for work from the property, so investing in good wifi and a proper desk area and having more amenities for longer term stays.
Selfie spots: think we have to remember the Instagrammability factor, and the fact that people are now really looking for top-notch design, for properties that they can get excited about and share with their friends. So anything that would make your property more unique and more shareable would be great as well.

This article is reprinted by permission from The Escape Home, a newsletter for second homeowners and those who want to be. Subscribe here. © 2021. All rights reserved. 

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