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The past few months mark an inflection point for the short-term rental industry. The world has changed, and so have traveler behaviors and expectations.

There’s a new traveler persona on the rise, one that books longer stays, travels to nearby destinations, works from home, and expects high levels of cleanliness from accommodation providers.

If you want to stay relevant as a short-term rental manager in the post-COVID-19 era, you need to know how your target market has changed and how you can keep up.

In this blog post, we’ll cover three things you can do to get more bookings and increase your occupancy by catering to shifting traveler needs.

Stay on top of short-term rental trends and learn how to grow in any climate. Take the course built for any host, any size.

1. Get comfortable with longer stays

The global spread of COVID-19 marked the end of the short-term rental business model as we know it.

Due to travel restrictions and changed traveler behaviors, hosts can no longer rely on guests who stay for a couple of days or weeks.

That doesn’t mean there’s no way to get bookings. It just means you need to change your approach – and rethink your business model.

Parallel to the dramatic drop in short-term bookings, there’s been a 20% increase in longer-term bookings of 28+ days, according to Airbnb.

There are many reasons for this sudden interest in extended stays.

Families who live in cities highly affected by COVID-19 are looking for longer getaways close to nature. Young people who need a laptop, an internet connection, and little else to work from home are seeking out rentals to self-isolate in peace. And travel nurses, whose assignments usually last for 13 weeks, are looking to find mid-term accommodation in cities where their help is needed.

Instead of resisting this obvious trend, short-term rental managers need to get on board.

It’s a hard pill to swallow.

If you’ve seen amazing returns from short-term bookings, the thought of switching to month-long stays could be jarring. How much can you charge? How do you avoid squatters? And how will you attract mid-term bookings?

If you want to stay relevant and offset some of the damage that the pandemic has done to your cash flow, adopting a flexible rental model is the best way to go about it. And it’s not as difficult as it seems.

Here’s what you can do to get started.

Set up monthly discounts on Airbnb

A great way to grab the attention of travelers looking to book extended stays is by setting up monthly discounts on Airbnb.

If you’ve never experimented with length-of-stay discounts before, here are the instructions from Airbnb on how to set them up.

By adding a 20-30% monthly discount to your listings, you can encourage the new types of travelers that the crisis has produced to book your place.

If you set your minimum stay to 28 nights, your listing will be featured on Airbnb’s new Monthly Stays page, helping you get more eyes on it.

Highlight your rental’s amenities

Discounts aren’t the only perks that make a rental appealing to guests looking to stay longer.

Your Airbnb property should also be equipped with amenities that are essential for extended stays.

Guests who stay for more than a week won’t make do without a washer and dryer. Not to mention a properly equipped kitchen with a coffee machine, an electric kettle, an oven, a microwave, and a dishwasher.

Make sure to highlight all your rental’s appliances on your Airbnb listing page. And don’t forget to add a section to your Airbnb welcome letter explaining how to use the appliances so guests won’t have to reach out to you with questions.

If your property has any facilities that could draw in a long-term guest – like a pool, a terrace, an outdoor BBQ grill – make sure you highlight them in your photos and your listing page.

2. Focus on “staycationers” and “cityscapers”

International travel is slowly recovering, but for now, nearby destinations remain the most popular among travelers.

“Cityscapers” – a term we borrowed from Guesty – are people looking to escape cities where COVID-19 is still raging to find refuge in rural hideaways.

If you have properties in suburban areas or remote locations away from city crowds, they’re the types of travelers you should focus on attracting.

To pique the interest of “cityscapers”, update your photos and property descriptions with things that make your rental a true sanctuary: a quiet neighborhood, a cozy backyard, a birdbath.

Don’t be shy! Just add whatever you think makes your rental unique. The competition is fierce, and standing out has never been more important than right now.

But what if you own an inner-city apartment? Even if your rental is not in a beautiful coastal or remote mountain location, you still have a shot at capturing current trends.

Staycations, which first became popular during the 2008 economic crisis, are making a comeback as families pick safe and cost-effective drive-to destinations over expensive and risky overseas trips.

Take advantage of this trend by highlighting the activities to do and sights to see within driving distance of your rental.

Additionally, consider investing in some technology to spice up the amenities section of your listings. There’s plenty of hotel software that short-term rental operators can use for entertainment products and tablets that could take your guest experience to the next level.

3. Target the work-from-home traveler

Much like cityscapes and staycationers, the work-from-home traveler is looking to get out of the city – but with the purpose of working from home.

This new traveler persona is looking for a home away from home, a temporary place outside the city, where they can work all day, relax in the evening and get some restorative sleep at night. They book extended stays ranging from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

So how do you attract these types of travelers? How can you respond to their needs?

First of all, you need to have a strong internet connection (not just a decent one). These days, people spend half their day on Zoom conference calls. If your internet can’t keep up with that, it’s a deal-breaker.

The first thing you should do is run a speed test, take a screenshot and add it to your photos on Airbnb. This will give guests the peace of mind that their workdays won’t be ruined by an unstable internet connection.

You can even train your cleaners to run periodic speed tests so you always have an up-to-date figure to show your guests.

Next, your rental needs to be set up for coworking. Guests travelling with their partners or families will need separate spaces to work without disturbing each other.

Make sure you have desks in different corners of your rental where guests can set up their workstations. Take pictures and add a line to your description that makes it obvious you’re prepared for coworking.

Another thing you should highlight on your listing page is parking. Guests are likely to arrive by car, so having a private parking spot is definitely a plus. If you don’t have one, just add a few tips on how to find the best parking nearby.

Lastly, make sure your property is approved by Airbnb for Work. This way, guests will find your rental when searching with the ‘Work trip’ filter on.

4. Amp up your cleaning – and don’t be afraid to show it off

Our last tip is related to yet another completely new phenomenon that was triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guests who are brave enough to venture outside the safety of their homes have come to expect extremely high standards of cleanliness.

There’s no way around it: you either scrub your property until it’s squeaky clean and show off your extra cleaning efforts on your listing page, or you miss out on bookings.

The biggest OTAs, including Airbnb, have launched their own cleaning protocols, encouraging short-term rental managers to adopt enhanced health and hygiene measures.

While it’s not mandatory to follow any of these cleaning guidelines, opting into Airbnb’s Enhanced Cleaning initiative could help you get more bookings.

It’s a commitment: you need to follow a strict cleaning and disinfection protocol developed by Airbnb in collaboration with health experts.

But if you do, you get a banner on your Airbnb listing that says “Enhanced Clean”, which could be the difference between a health-conscious guest booking your rental or moving on to the next listing.

You can also add a cleaning clause at the top of your property description, like this host has done:

The bottom line

What it all comes down to is: short-term rental managers need to realize that the guests they used to target are not the same as they were yesterday.

The new traveler persona has different priorities, and if they want to stay afloat, hosts have to take them into account.

The pandemic has forced the entire hospitality sector to reinvent itself, and for short-term rental managers, that means having to reevaluate their business models, overhaul their marketing, and rethink their USPs.

The industry will come back with a vengeance, but only if we manage to be agile in our ways and adapt to the ever-shifting needs of Airbnb guests.

This article is a guest post by Tom Krones from Host Tools.

Stay on top of short-term rental trends and learn how to grow in any climate. Take the course built for any host, any size.