COVID-19 and Airbnb: How the crisis is affecting the holiday rentals market

Many companies around the world are struggling at the moment due to the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak. But one of the industries hit hardest is tourism – with the duration and scale of the virus still unknown, the impact of COVID-19 on the world’s tourism companies is unquestionable. 

From hotels and airlines to cruise operators and short-term rental properties, there have been instant repercussions as a result of the outbreak. What does the future hold for holiday rentals in particular and how will the market look in the next six months? Here we take a look at some of the ways that COVID-19 is affecting the holiday and travel rental sector, as well as what owners can do in these challenging times.

The challenges the sector is facing

From borders being closed, making travel abroad impossible in certain areas, to flights being grounded increasingly at various airports, the spread of COVID-19 has derailed businesses in a huge way. 

But these are just some of the tests that the holiday market will face in the coming weeks and months. The question now is how the impact on travel and tourism will influence the economy worldwide, once travel is safe again. Just 32% of UK travellers have not had their travel plans impacted by the virus this year and only 8% of US travellers are in the same position.

While everyone in the travel industry is currently suffering, owners of holiday rentals abroad will be especially hard hit; the loss of business is of huge concern from a financial perspective. Studies have shown that staycations are likely to make travellers more comfortable when the ability to travel again is available, as they can avoid flying and they’re familiar with the services for health and safety. 

Companies like Airbnb and local rental companies are having to face cancellations not just due to worried travellers but also for hosts who have guests coming from high-risk destinations.

Top tips for owners

There are many steps that owners of properties can take to protect their income and plan for the future. The COVID-19 crisis might leave you feeling helpless, but there is actually plenty you can do to consolidate and re-focus for when the market returns to normal:

  • Have your property deep cleaned – Now is a great time to prepare your property for guests after the crisis is over. Have the property completely deep cleaned so that you can offer it as a completely risk-free holiday option.
  • Focus on the domestic market – It is much more likely that individuals are going to want to be more conservative with their travel plans for a period of time after COVID-19, so you should ensure that your property is ready to cater to tourists from the country it is based in.
  • Work on your own website – You may have your own website for your property rental, and now is the perfect time to put the work in to improve it. If you can improve your site and boost your rankings on Google it can leave you in a much better position.
  • Use reassuring language – When the pandemic has settled down and things start to return to normal it is likely that there will still be a lot of trepidation around going on holiday. It’s a great idea to start using reassuring language and stressing the fact that your rental property is free from coronavirus. 
  • Suggest guests move their bookings – There is nothing more frustrating than having to refund guests who were previously delighted with their booking. So if a guest does request a cancellation it is worth suggesting instead that they should push their booking back. After all, this will eventually settle down and they are going to want a holiday after it is over.

How will the market recover?

To get an idea of how the market will look in a few months’ time, it is worth thinking back to the financial crisis of 2008, and notably its effect on the Spanish property and holiday rental market. Spain was hit very hard by the financial crisis and property took a real nose-dive. For a significant period of time, however, it is also worth noting that some areas of the Spanish property market weathered the storm better than others. 

Marbella and the Costa del Sol, for example, performed far better than many other parts of Spain. This is due to their enduring popularity as holiday destinations. So, when it comes to looking to future investments and planning ahead, be aware that the most popular areas for holiday rentals are likely to fare better through the crisis and are also more likely to recover more quickly. 

The goalposts for how countries are coping with the coronavirus had shifted significantly in recent weeks, but hopefully, the market can recover swiftly once the fear of the pandemic has subsided. If not to understand how travellers can be targeted at present but to identify those who can help to boost the market once again once the worst of the virus has passed. 

The silver lining?

The crisis could prove to have a silver lining for those in the industry. Firstly, while people are confined to their homes, they’ll be saving money. Furthermore, when the crisis is over, there will likely be a rise in the number of people looking to travel and book trips which will benefit holiday firms and rental companies enormously. For those consumers who presently are less worried about the virus and more concerned with adhering to the government ruling on the matter, they are likely to be customers who will help to restart the market when the outlook on the virus is more positive. 

Travellers in the UK are keen to reinstate their travel plans once the threat of the virus has dissipated, with many anticipating that they will return to holiday planning in the next six months – a welcome relief for property owners who have rentals abroad.