Initial Response: Clean Up and Lock Down
The initial impact of COVID-19 was daunting - cancelations skyrocketed and questions of refunds, travel insurance, and reservation changes overwhelmed many managers. Each vacation rental market was affected differently of course, but managers across the globe felt the industry fabric shift and realized that there will be lasting operational changes. Immediate marching orders were set, and operators began to resolve reservation changes and consider furloughing staff.
Then came time to take action, and managers like Paul Gribble at Georgia Mountain Rentals quickly moved to keep remote staff engaged. Guest and staff safety were main priorities at Georgia Mountain Cabin Rentals, and the company adjusted housekeeping programs based on guidance from health authorities and local regulations. These precautions included disinfecting and sanitizing all high-touch surfaces at each property and educating in-house housekeepers on these changes. Newman-Dailey Resort Properties had a similar approach, and with safety top of mind, the company communicated enhanced protocols for cleanliness and safety. “We knew we needed to get ahead of the game and over-communicate all operational changes and safety precautions with our cleaners,” said Assistant Manager, Carrie Prichard. “We reviewed and implemented guidance from the CDC and in Breezeway’s ‘New Clean’ checklist, including products to use, protection gear to wear, and surfaces to clean.”
“We knew we needed to get ahead of the game and over-communicate all operational changes and safety precautions with our cleaners. We reviewed and implemented guidance from the CDC and in Breezeway’s ‘New Clean’ checklist." - Carrie Prichard, Assistant Manager, Newman-Dailey Resort Properties
Making the Most: Record Keeping and Preventive Maintenance
With initial closing efforts in order, many managers moved their focus to preventative maintenance and asset management. For John Kevan, Founder of Maui Paradise Properties, keeping a record of work served as the basis for improving and reporting on property care. That said, John and his team meticulously tracked every interaction at each property amidst COVID-19. “The first thing we did after securing each unit was verify that everything was updated in Breezeway: pictures, timestamps, and completed work from each cleaning company we use.” John figures that storing organized property details will greatly benefit Maui Paradise Properties as business pace picks up, and that creating a baseline today will help accomplish goals of recording appliance information, performing recurring safety inspections, and creating owner to-do lists for the next three, six, and nine months.
Jessie Sharp, Director of Maintenance at Park City Rental Properties, had a similar idea. Jessie was excited to get a head-start on maintenance, and surveyed history across her Park City portfolio to see where work could be done. “It was ‘go-time’ the second staff safety gear arrived, and we began repairing drywall, touching up baseboard dings, and performing deep cleans. We also dove deep into the details of asset management to make sure hot water heaters and other equipment were within their age expectancy.” By having important details at their fingertips, Park City Rental Properties plans to use this initiative to minimize emergency repairs and more easily convince owners to upgrade assets.
“The first thing we did after securing each unit was verify that everything was updated in Breezeway: pictures, timestamps, and completed work from each cleaning company we use" - John Kevan, Founder, Maui Paradise Properties
Carrie’s team over at Newman-Dailey also took to auditing properties to improve record keeping and better ongoing asset management. “We’ve been using Breezeway’s app to take pictures and collect model numbers for items like refrigerators, dishwashers, and microwaves. Once we compile detailed profiles for each property, the plan is to compare pictures we have against the items actually in each unit.” As quality assurance and compliance with brand standards takes on increased importance amidst COVID-19, Newman-Dailey is positioning its business to ensure their properties will ‘wow’ every guest upon arrival.
Taking Safety A Step Further
In addition to securing his units and documenting property details, John Kevan implemented a safety certification program to keep staff engaged and best prepare Maui Paradise Properties for when bookings resume. As a strong advocate for safety, John worked with Breezeway’s safety expert Justin Ford through Zoom to certify his team of nine property managers as ‘Short Term Rental Inspectors’. “It was important for us to go through Justin’s safety program,” notes John. “I wanted safety inspections performed on every one of out units over the next ten weeks. We’ve informed our owners that safety inspections will be a requirement for us moving forward that will accompany our general inspections.”
Like Maui Paradise Properties, Paul Gribble also took the time to certify his team as ‘Short-Term Rental Safety Inspectors’ through Breezeway’s Safety & Certification Programs. After participating in a webinar with Justin, the team starting to generate safety inspections through Breezeway’s mobile app in just one day. Paul feels that the onus lies with the property manager to reassure guests and instill confidence in their vacation, so it was important for him to market the steps his company is taking to ensure units are safe and secure. Georgia Mountain Cabin Rentals redesigned their website, and created a “Health and Safety” section to showcase their safety certifications. Getting certified through Breezeway’s Safety Program will ensure his units comply with the latest safety recommendations and will give his listings a leg up on the competition when bookings resume.
An Industry Moving Forward: Preparing For When Travel Returns
While it hasn’t been business as usual, leading managers have been showcasing their professionalism and preparing their operations for when they welcome back guests. Many feel that bookings will return with heightened guest sensitivity for cleanliness and safety, which has led several vacation rental managers to take action and remain busy over the past few months. Georgia Mountain Cabin Rentals, Newman Dailey-Resort Properties, Maui Paradise Properties, and Park City Rental Properties have remained productive during a period of global pause by auditing operational processes, housekeeping protocols, and remote work coordination. These leading managers have positioned their businesses to accommodate the ‘new normal’ and gain market share when business pace returns.