This article has been written to follow on from a preceding one on this subject 'Top Ten Tips to Secure Maximum Post-Lockdown Bookings This Summer' which addressed actions holiday cottage owners can take to stand the best possible opportunity too attract bookings during the Coronavirus lockdown. Click here if you haven't already read it.
At some point in the latter part of 2020, it is to be hoped that all restrictions on our freedom to travel in the UK will be lifted, allowing people to once again enjoy a coast or country holiday in this beautiful country.
We are however, unlikely to return to pre-pandemic habits and activities at the metaphorical flick of a switch. Understanding how people will behave – and what the ‘new normal’ will be, is of utmost importance to self-catering businesses. The new rules are probably still being written, but I have hazarded informed guesses at some of the likely scenarios that will unfold. Red on to see if you agree and feel free to contribute your own thoughts or evidence.
Booking trends: The first steps in booking holidays are, after a short initial surge (see previous 10 Top Tips blog), likely to be tentative ones, booking locations not too far from home and, as far as the British are concerned, definitely in the UK. Triggers may be birthdays, family gatherings, reunions or weddings. These will not only suit the national mood, but there will be a backlog of delayed Covid-avoiding celebrations to be ew-scheduled. Large holiday cottage owners take note!
It’s possible that people may be a little reluctant to return to the major hotspots, preferring the comfort of rural, isolated locations. So, update the location and ‘things to do’ pages on your website accordingly to match this mood and inclination.
Post-pandemic reviews: These will be important, if not essential, to help you overcome natural levels of trepidation. People will want to be reassured that your property is a safe and welcoming haven.
Don’t be afraid to invite people to send in a review. People who are happy to say good things about your cottage will be equally happy to be invited to do so. My Favourite Holiday Cottages encourages guests to submit testimonials describing their favourite things about it. These can be added directly to the site, sent to an owner, or be drawn from comments in the ‘Visitors Book'. All testimonials are moderated and verified to ensure they comply with these criteria before publication.
Booking Terms and conditions: Given the Covid-generated outrage over the varying refund policies in the self-catering industry, people will be paying more attention to your cancellation terms and conditions. Do ensure that these are specific and unambiguous. It’ll be important to draw the distinction between cancellations arising from government decree (not advice) as opposed to those where people felt disinclined to travel (including bad weather conditions).
Financial Reserves: Owners who have emerged the least unscathed from the impact of Covid 19 were those who had built up a capital reserve that enabled them to operate without bookings for a period of six months or more. That is something worth factoring into future budgets if you haven’t already done so, because at some future point there will be a Covid-20 (sorry to depress you - but at least you will have time to better prepare to financially survive it).
Cleanliness is Next to Godliness (or possibly before it)
This is the big one.
Covid 19 has made us more aware than ever before of the importance of cleaning. When it comes to preparing your property for visitors, pristine cleanliness will be the order of the day. What may have been shrugged off in the past will no longer be acceptable. If you doubt the validity of this viewpoint, the note that hotel chains such as The Hyatt and Hilton as well as Airbnb have already implemented new cleaning processes and protocols.
Hilton Hotel cleaners will now be equipped with an ‘electro static’ sprayer with “hospital-grade disinfectants recommended by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to kill all known pathogens”. And they will be and sanitizing you room key too.
Don’t get left behind with this essential ‘New Normal!’
Having a clean looking and feeling holiday cottage will be essential – especially in the next 2-3 years. It will impact on reviews and repeat bookings. This means considering things like:
1. Including anti-bacterial or anti-viral hand soap in the welcome pack.
2. Making sure there is a suitable cleaning spray and a clean duster in the cupboard below the sink.
3. New dishcloths and scourers.
4. Polished brass work: shininess means cleanliness!
You will need to review your cleaning schedule and, if necessary, discuss this with your cleaners, sorry, your ‘Internal Hygiene Manager’.
Before they became the norm, there was a time a few years ago when it was important to mention that TV sets were ‘flatscreen’. Nowadays, everybody assumes they will be, and reference to a flatscreen TV is becoming a little dated! Now it is the turn of cleanliness to be reassuringly bragged about. As long as you can back it up, It may be advisable, to include a reference in your adverts as well as your website to the property’s cleanliness. This will act as a necessary reassurance to guests that they are not at risk of infection when coming to stay in your property.
Going the extra mile should earn you a positive mention in despatches. This will lead not only to more repeat bookings but be heavily influential when included in reviews. I appreciate this means a little more work and diligence, but correctly done, you and your cottage will earn a priceless reputation!
If you are an independent cottage owner and proud – then don’t ignore the new standards of hygiene. I suspect It won’t be long before holiday cottage agencies start to insist that in order to be on their books, you must comply with recognised cleaning standards delivered by accredited agencies. They’ll use this to create the perception that an independently managed property is less hygienic than one booked through an agency with its strictly enforced and certified hygiene standards. Don’t give them justification!
To help make life a little easier for cottage owners, the next property hygiene blogs we plan to publish on this subject in May will be:
· How to make your holiday cottage easier and a little bit quicker to clean, without compromising on standards.
· A check list of cleaning tasks to ensure your house is kept in pristine condition.
Got A Good Hygiene Idea?
What other suggestions do you have on ways to clean and present a cottage? Share your advice with us. We will include links to all properties advertised on this site when accrediting you.
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