Hey all! For those of you who are still hosting during the pandemic, I'm wondering what your strategies have been around getting guests to book, as well as cleaning before and after their stays and maintaining proper social distancing during their stay.
I host an apartment that's located on the main floor of my house, and I'm located in Ontario's Niagara wine region. Most people book to attend weddings, to go on wine tours, or for agri-tourism. I lost all of my bookings through the end of July when the pandemic started, but I've managed to fill my calendar up until now, and I thought I'd share some tips on how I did that. If you're staying reasonably busy, I'd also love to hear your tips.
- Probably an obvious one, but I dropped my prices (a bit, not a lot), and increased my length of stay discounts.
- I've always allowed dogs as guests, so I believe that's helped me to get two longer bookings.
- I clearly laid out the precautions I'm taking to keep guests safe in my listing. I highlighted the private parking and entrance, private laundry, no shared air between spaces (the flat has its own heating and cooling system), outlined that I leave a gap between stays, and talked about my cleaning procedures.
So far, I've had one two-week stay from some guests from overseas who were trying to get a flight home, one two-week stay from people in self-quarantine after returning from the US, and a month stay from a couple who sold their house in preparation to move overseas, only to find they now can't travel.
In terms of the steps I'm taking to keep myself and guests safe, I'm leaving a 3-day buffer between bookings. I'm treating every guest like they could be COVID-19 positive. The flat sits empty for one day, the second day I clean, and the third day it sits empty again. I wear gloves while I clean. I've always used a professional laundry service and they wash the sheets and towels at a really high temperature. All touch surfaces are disinfected, including door handles, light switches, the TV remote, etc.
Maintaining proper distancing is fairly easy, in my case. Normally I'd go in and clean during longer stays, but I'm not doing that now. I'm providing extra linens and towels and just letting the guests know that they can advise if they need replacements. I'm also leaving them with a vacuum cleaner and other cleaning supplies in case they want to clean up during their stay.
I realize that not everyone might not be in the same boat, and getting new reservations may not work for others, but I thought I'd share what has worked for me. I hope some of you are still getting and keeping bookings. I also hope you're all keeping safe and well.
@Alexandra316 I really enjoyed your positive thoughts and tips around hosting and have taken them onboard along with other tips the community has mentioned.
After being closed for two months I do have my first guests arriving next week. (Just short stays) so I can see how I manage them. I will pop an update up next week. 🙂
@Ria16Thank you! I hope your upcoming stays go smoothly. Are you making any changes to how you do things with your hosting, or just sticking to your existing procedures?
Unfortunately, my province of Ontario is still in a phase of lockdown where we're not allowed to offer short-term rentals: we're only allowed to host people who require housing. I'm hoping we're allowed to host more normally again soon.
@Alexandra316 Thanks Alesandra for your strategies for Hosting During COVID-19. I'm assuming the bookings that you just had were considered emergency housing that allows you to host during this time in Ontario. I've blocked my listing for now since I didn't want to have to decline those looking for a get away. Are you getting a lot of those type of bookings? Is there something in your listing that helps discourage guest wanting to book for leisure?
P.S. First time posting but trying how to figure out how to host with the restriction in Ontario.
@Kimberly40 you're allowed to provide short term rentals as long as people need the space for actual housing. The law states:
hat's been the case for the guests I've been taking on. For example, the latest guests sold their house and have nowhere else to live: my flat was their primary residence until they are able to move to Europe. The people before that were moving back to Canada from the US and had no home: they were going to move in with family but weren't able to do so until they completed their self-quarantine. The people prior to that had moved to North America and were planning on travelling around before taking up residence as a university lecturer in the US, so they had no other home: they were returning to Europe but effectively had no home at the time of their stay.
I changed my listing description to include the following note:
"We take the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the health and safety of our you our guests, ourselves, and our families extremely seriously. Currently, under section 3 of the Ontario List of Essential Workplaces, we are only allowed to open to those who are in need of housing. We cannot host people who are looking to travel for pleasure at the present time, until those restrictions are lifted by the Province of Ontario."
I also set a longer minimum stay, and set a requirement that they had to answer a question before booking and that question mentions the provincial requirements again:
"During this phase of the pandemic, section 3 of the Ontario List of essential workplaces states that we can only host you if you require housing. We cannot host tourists or guests looking for short-term vacation rentals. Please advise the reason you need a place to stay at this time.
If you're looking for a getaway, we look forward to hosting you once the rules are changed."
I would definitely advise setting the booking question and add a note in your description and rules to make it clear you're in compliance with Provincial rules. Another option is to turn off instant booking and talk to the guest before allowing them to book.
@Alexandra316 thank you for sharing how you worded your listing. Very helpful. I will make the changes and hopeful not receive another inquiry to book for leisure travel. I did take off instant book so I'm able to communicate that I can't accept them but then have to let the inquiry expire or decline. I'm going to do the booking question and add a note in the description. Take care and be safe.
You post is very, very helpful to me. Thank you. I’m also happy to see Ontario air bnb following the rules.
I fell some host are not aware travel bookings are off limits.
I do have two questions, how long in a ‘short term rental’? How many days?
What is considered a ‘long term’ rental?
Finding it very hard to get this info.
@Leslie69I don't think that the length of stay matters as much as the intent. Basically, you're allowed to host someone if they requires housing. So for example, if someone has sold their house and has nowhere else to live because COVID-19 restrictions won't allow them to travel to their new home, we can host them because they need housing.
I believe that the intent is to cut down on travel for pleasure, but the funny thing is that hotels and motels are operating. The luxury hotel in my neighbourhood was fully booked up this weekend.
@Alexandra316 I deliberately closed my calendar for foreseeable Saturdays because I just wasn’t ready for weekenders coming up (My trust issues ) even though we are now at 22 active cases 😉
This week I have an engineer here who is doing a plant start up and then on Friday a couple arriving late who will be carrying on further north in the morning .
Minimum contact with both bookings .
The engineer brought his wife and normally If I was home I would pop around and say ‘hi ya wanna come for a walk with the hounds’ or Hey! dolphins are at the point Irll get the car out grab ya camera 😉
Its hard for me in that respect:)
I have removed surplus linen and a few bits and pieces to save on extra cleaning and I set up a wee cleaning box with sanitizer, gloves and wipes for their use and like you will wait a full 24 hours before entering after they depart before I attack with my clean program 😉
@Alexandra316 Thanks for sharing! Very helpful. Are you asking guests any screening questions before they arrive or including messaging about not visiting if they know or suspect they are COVID-19 positive or have been in contact with someone who is? Thank you.
@Rebecca921Yes I do mention that as part of my welcome message. I let them know that if they have COVID, have symptoms, or have been in contact with anyone who has it, they should either reschedule or cancel their booking. Whether or not people will follow it is a different matter: I hope so. I'm continuing to follow my protocols: I still don't have back to back bookings, and I'm observing the cleaning guidelines, so hopefully if anyone is infected I and other guests will be protected.
Are things in the Sault returning to normal? I'm getting more bookings now: not totally normal, but getting better.
@Alexandra316 Thanks for that. Things here have actually been quite busy. There are so many local people looking for cottage rentals close to home this Summer. I have a list of families waiting for cancellations. I hope things in Toronto continue to pick up.