As you will no doubt be aware, the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) has led to a great deal of disruption and uncertainty all across the world. Our number one priority has always been and is, of course, the health and wellbeing of all of our customers, our team and their families, and our thoughts go out to those affected.
In terms of business, the short-term rental industry has been one of the hardest hit, with guests travelling to and from affected areas cancelling bookings and property managers facing an unpredictable booking season. We know that many property managers are concerned about the long-term impact the present situation may have on their destination, and we’re also hearing reports that some managers unfortunately have been forced to close up their businesses until things even out. This uncertainty continues to this day, but nevertheless, we seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
We understand that this has been and still is a difficult time for many property managers, owners, hosts and travellers, who are all looking for the latest information on how the Coronavirus is affecting vacation rentals. We’ve put together a short guide containing some key information for vacation rental industry professionals concerning the Coronavirus. We hope this can help provide some clarity and stability at this uncertain time.
We’ve taken every effort to ensure that this information is accurate and up to date, but if you spot any inaccuracies or are aware of additional information please let us know.
Last updated 20 April 2021
Coronavirus cancellation policies
Many guests and property managers want to know whether the Coronavirus will still affect their upcoming bookings. The short answer is that this greatly depends on the location of the property, the origin of the guest, the channel through which the booking was made and precisely when the booking was made – i.e. before or after the start of the outbreak.
Many of the vacation rental platforms offered special coronavirus policies aimed at reducing the impact for both owners and guests. However, most of these companies have adapted these policies as time has passed since coronavirus is no longer considered an unforeseen situation and customers are aware of the risks they take when making a reservation.
For bookings made through Your.Rentals, our first point of call is to start with the cancellation policy the guest agreed to when making the booking. However, force majeure and similar clauses can still be activated in some situations. Since many of your bookings are via OTAs, then the OTA specific policies may take precedence and need to be followed.
Below we offer you information about the changes in these policies in the main online vacation rental companies.
- Reservations with a check-in date between March 14 and December 3, 2020 were covered by the Extenuating Circumstances Policy related to COVID-19 and could be cancelled before the start, as long as the booking was made before March 14, 2020. These Coronavirus policies no longer cover any Airbnb reservations made after March 14, 2020, except in the event of the traveller or host contracting COVID-19. Circumstances related to the coronavirus that are no longer covered by Airbnb include, among others:
- Transport disruptions and cancellations.
- Travel advisories and restrictions.
- Health advisories and quarantines
- Changes to applicable law like evacuation orders, border closures, prohibitions on short-term rentals, and shelter-in-place requirements.
- In the cases listed above, the cancellation policy of the reservation will apply as usual. The Extenuating Circumstances Policy only covers situations in which the reservation cannot be completed for the following reasons:
- Changes to government travel requirements.
- Declared emergencies and epidemics.
- Government travel restrictions.
- Military actions and other hostilities.
- Natural disasters.
- Find here all the information about Airbnb’s Extenuating Circumstances Policy and the Extenuating Circumstances Policy related to COVID-19.
- Booking.com issued a statement in 2020 saying they have declared Forced Circumstances and expected their partners (i.e. hosts and software providers) to refund any prepayment and waive any cancellation costs (fees, expenses and/or other amounts) in situations where the guests/travellers requested cancellations as a result of the Forced Circumstances (FC). Booking.com waives the commission in these cases.
- Currently, Force Majeure conditions only apply to reservations made before April 6, 2020. Booking.com changed the procedure for reservations affected by Forced Circumstances, and now it applies depending on the region or country in which the property is located. If you have reservations made before April 6, 2020 that may be subject to these conditions, you can check the application to them in the official statement from Booking.com.
- Some reservations in which the Forced Circumstances apply are:
- Customers who have been to an affected area and are prevented from traveling.
- Travellers who have been prohibited from entering the destination.
- Accommodations that have closed their doors by their own choice or legal decision.
Vrbo Extenuating Circumstances policy is summarized as follows:
- For reservations booked before March 13, 2020, with a stay night between March 13 and April 30, 2020, there were two possible options:
- Offer the traveler a full credit for the amount they paid if they were outside of your cancellation window. This credit could be applied to future bookings at your property within the next year (at no additional cost). Vrbo recommends to be as flexible as possible with affected travelers when arranging a future stay date.
- If the traveler is unable to accept a credit, Vrbo strongly encouraged owners to issue at least a 50% refund. In return, Vrbo will reward owners and managers with greater visibility in the search results on the platform. If, on the other hand, the hosts do not return the credit, they will be penalized in their ranking position.
- Actions carried out by Vrbo to help their customers due to Covid-19:
- Repay the money collected for their services when you must cancel your reservation for reasons related to COVID-19, whether cancellation is required by the government or not. This was effective for all reservations made before March 13 with one night between March 13 and April 30, 2020.
- Facilitate the change of dates and refunds on the platform.
- Avoid ranking impacts and automate cancellations if an owner wishes to cancel a reservation.
- Expedia Group currently does not apply its Force Majeure Policy in any country of the world. Reservations made from June 30, 2020, are not subject to cancellation according to this policy.
- Expedia considers that travellers already know the risks of the coronavirus when travelling and should accept the cancellation policy of each reservation, however, it recommends that owners establish cancellation policies that are as flexible as possible.
- For special cases, they analyze each reservation individually and notify you privately if your reservation can be cancelled free of charge. For more information visit Forced Circumstances Policy site.
- For reservations that began on or before July 31, 2020, travellers could cancel their reservations themselves and receive full refunds.
- For reservations that began between August 31, 2020, or before, the cancellation fee was not charged.
- Currently, If the reservation has been booked after April 1, 2020, your cancellation policy is automatically applied. However, you can offer an exception to the policy, reimbursing the customer through your owner centre at any time prior to the booking start date.
- For more information on Tripadvisor’s policies, read more here.
If your case does not correspond to any of the clauses mentioned before, we recommend you personally contact the customer service of the corresponding platform.
Your.Rentals refund and cancellations policy
We are doing everything we can to reduce cancellations and to encourage rebookings where possible. We are working closely with our sales channel partners to encourage them to follow their existing arrangements regarding cancellations and to only offer full refunds to guests in accordance with the agreed eligibility criteria. Whilst we are making every effort to protect vacation hosts, the final decision on this rests with the sales channel through which the booking was received.
In order to limit cancellations, where possible, Your.Rentals is issuing Rebooking Credit to guests for the same amount that they originally paid. This can be put towards a future booking at the same property, or another eligible property with the same host.
We strongly recommend that Property Managers and Hosts offer credit where possible, especially in regions where this may be required by local regulations. We have found that many guests are more than willing to rearrange their stay for another date, even if they may not know exactly when they wish to travel.
Our Customer Support:
We are here to help and support. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any cancellation or refund issues you may have.
Various travel insurance companies have been adapting their policies. These changes can affect both guests and hosts, and may differ significantly from usual practices.
For example, travel insurance provider Allianz is temporarily allowing travellers to make claims based on the virus. We recommend discussing with your insurance provider and that of your guests to see how this may affect your bookings.
Long-term impact of Coronavirus on tourism and short-term rental industry
Due to the ongoing and evolving nature of the situation, it is of course difficult to predict exactly what is going to happen next. However, we can look to early trends around the COVID-19 outbreak to assess likely outcomes.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the travel sector is surprisingly resilient. The industry has rebounded from similar incidents in the past and has maintained steady growth throughout the years. Whilst this has been and is a very challenging time for rental managers in many places, it is unlikely that the present outbreak will drastically alter the ongoing megatrend.
Mass vaccination against the coronavirus disease is restoring confidence and giving a sense of security in travelers and guests. It is a fact that, as people get vaccinated, legal restrictions will be softened. Here you can see the percentage of people vaccinated until April 12, 2021 in different countries of the world.
We can see that there are many countries in which a high percentage of the population has already been vaccinated and life for them is in many cases beginning to return to normal. These data bring hope and positivism to the tourism industry.
However, international travel restrictions remain strict and therefore, travelers during the pandemic have been opting for national and local tourism, especially in Europe. You can notice this in the demand for flight seat bookings, which, at the moment, are in a great depression. Commercial flights have between 30% and 70% less capacity in different areas of the world compared to 2019, according to data from centreforaviation.com.
On the other hand, the data shows that tourists look forward to travel abroad, but the decision is in the hands of the legal restrictions of each different country. Some travelers in Europe are confident that the situation will normalize and it will be possible to travel to other countries by summer 2021. Specifically, 49% of those surveyed in the ETC report ‘Monitoring Sentiment for Domestic and Intra-European Travel – Wave 6’ aim to travel to another European country before the end of August.
You can also notice in the chart above that travellers in Europe are starting to plan international trips hoping that the situation regarding COVID-19 will be safer and with less limitations to travel.
Due to these facts, some of the biggest Airlines are starting to prepare for Summer 2021 implementing some small flight resumption programs so they can anticipate a rise in the demand according to Wego.com.
Another encouraging fact is that in the US, reservations in vacation rental platforms like Airbnb are increasing compared to hotel reservations. You can find more information on trends in the US tourism industry here.
During 2020, the blanket refund policies imposed by the main OTAs (Online travel agency) and Sales Channels to limit the harsh effects of Covid-19, caused many managers and owners to struggle with the lack of liquidity. These policies have softened as time has passed leaving more decision-making power to the property owners and managers.
Many hosts are opting now to use fully refundable cancellation policies as these are effectively the only ones receiving bookings. Setting up fully refundable rates seem to be very powerful when building trust with your customers during coronavirus times. In this article you will find out many other reasons why it is beneficial to offer flexible cancellation policies to your clients.
How to adapt your business for the Coronavirus
Many property managers are looking for ways to ensure their business remains stable and are also finding opportunities within the challenge. Given how dynamic and fast-changing the situation is, the key advice for property owners and managers in this critical time is to be flexible. There is more last-minute decision-making from guests and other parties such as airlines and local authorities than before, so the ability to adapt will be crucial. Even if you feel that your destination or property is unlikely to be affected it is still important to remain mindful of guests’ concerns and to allow them the flexibility to rearrange or cancel their trips if that is required to give them peace of mind.
Your relationship with guests is key. Continue to build trust and loyalty with your upcoming and previous customers by reaching out to them. We recommend proactively advocating the message that private rentals are more private and therefore less risky than hotels, and emphasising any additional cleaning or other precautions you have put in place in order to ease their concerns. Since communication with your clients is key, Your.Rentals has a guide on how to simplify communication with your guests through universal messenger.
Additionally, if you are a Property Manager, your relationship with owners is also critical. Proactively managing their expectations, and explaining the things that you are doing to ensure you are ready for a recovery in demand will reduce the stress and panic.
We also strongly recommend keeping your listings online. Unlisting and then reactivating later can affect their performance, and may mean that your properties no longer rank as highly when guests are looking to make bookings. In Your.Rentals it is possible to block dates or snooze your calendar for a period of time whilst keeping your listings published on sales channels if you are going to take a break.
Be aware of changes in the restrictions that can drive an increase in demand in the areas where your properties are located. Currently, the demand depends largely on the decisions that local authorities make regarding mobility, both in your destination, and your source market (i.e. where your guests come from). That is why you must be prepared for when changes in the measures are announced and adapt the prices and cancellation policies according to them. For the moment, the best strategy is to keep a fully refundable rate until the demand starts to pick up. If you are certain that your properties will be in high demand, then you should use your usual rates and cancellation policy.
If it is supported in the sales channels where you list your properties, another good decision is to offer two different choices for the guests, especially when the future restrictions are still uncertain. One option is to offer a fully refundable rate which you can price higher and another option can be to offer a partially refundable rate with a more moderate price.
While this may change your earnings, this strategy is to ensure you are at the front row when demand picks up. You can update your pricing and policies as soon as you see a recovery in demand, but remember you are competing for guest nights with others, so you must keep an eye on local competitor pricing.
Your.Rentals held a Webinar on April 15, 2021 about how to position your vacation rental business ahead of the competition when the recovery of the COVID-19 arrives. The first signs of recovery in Europe are coming to light, so if you would like to learn more about the actions that you could carry out during the next months, you can watch it on demand for free (in English).
How to outperform your competition when vacation rental bookings soar
Before COVID-19 tourists were taking into account sustainability and environmentally friendly options when choosing a destination. Because of coronavirus, these preferences were altered, although it is very likely that this trend will return when things get back to normal. Therefore, it may be a good choice to start thinking about how to offer sustainable options in your vacation rental business in order to attract modern travellers after things get back to normal.
Many property managers are seeing a reduction in their bookings, but are still being forced to pay high fixed costs on other platforms. Unlike other software providers, we don’t charge any subscription or monthly fees, so you only pay when you receive a booking. By using Your.Rentals to manage your property listings on multiple channels, you can eliminate fixed monthly costs whilst keeping your properties ready for the recovery in demand.
Keep up to date with the latest information
Industry experts Skift have created a live feed which is regularly updated with the latest news on the effects of COVID-19 on different hospitality-related industries .
Travel restrictions both within and between countries are in place in many parts of the world. Airbnb has collected this information which you can view here.
The European Commission has introduced a series of State Aid Actions for all member countries. The goal is to help the companies that have been most affected by the coronavirus and may be at risk of closing.
Within these measures there are five types of aid:
- Direct grants (or tax benefits)
- Subsidized State Guarantees on Bank Loans
- Public and private loans with subsidized interest rates.
- Banks’ existing lending capacities, used as a channel of support for businesses, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, as this is clearly a direct aid to the bank’s customers and not to the banks themselves.
- Additional flexibility so that, if necessary, the State is in a position to offer short-term export credit insurance.
- On this page you can search for the State Aid offered by the US Government to those affected by the pandemic.