The world has changed a lot in the last 365 days. In March 2020, most of the country was just beginning to understand the effect of COVID-19 as “15 Days to Slow the Spread” became the de facto law of the land. No one knew at that time, that these 15 days would continue, for many businesses, in many industries, for a year and even longer beyond that.

Some states remain closed for business now as they wait for the verdict about vaccinations and herd immunity to encourage widespread re-opening. When that occurs, tourism is expected to be the hottest ticket on the market as homebound people seek to escape after a year trapped inside. That means it is time for people who use rental homes as Airbnb rentals or own condo units or vacation home in “high demand” vacation areas need to begin preparing your homes and units for the return of tourism.

The Reality of Tourism for the Last Year

While some states remained open and accepting of visitors and tourists for the bulk of 2020, the fact remains that there was a massive social stigma associated with traveling that kept people from taking advantage of many of the opportunities available.

People want to get out and about and travel. They do not want to feel responsible for bringing a potential illness, the likes of COVID-19, home to their friends, families, and communities.

There’s also the fact that few people would feel like they were on vacation if there were face masks, gloves, and other signs of “sickness” everywhere.

That means that tourism has taken a beating over the past year. Restaurants initially took the hardest hits with many not managing to overcome the months of remaining closed. The same holds true for many tourist-centric businesses. This includes:

  • Theme parks
  • Amusements
  • Entertainment venues
  • Movie theaters
  • Bowling alleys
  • Shopping malls
  • Souvenir shops
  • Trampoline parks
  • Climbing walls
  • Escape rooms
  • Museums
  • Curiosity shops

In other words, many of the businesses that make tourist areas so attractive to visitors are currently out of business. Some may never return. Others are waiting to make sure another shutdown isn’t imminent before reopening at the risk of being closed yet again.

It is costly to start things back up. You’re talking about thorough cleaning, hiring new staff as most have moved on to other jobs to feed themselves and their families, bringing in a new management team, coming up with enhanced safety guidelines, managing social distancing requirements, and restocking their businesses. Businesses that are struggling now can’t afford the costs of doing all this only to be shut down again in a couple of weeks. And tourists aren’t interested in visiting locations where there still isn’t much to do.

Keep this in mind as you prepare to reopen and use these factors to determine if you’re ready to reopen now or if you need to wait a little longer to increase demand.

Preparing Your Home to Take On Visitors

Many vacation rental homes have sat empty for many months. Some close to a year. It’s time to go in and do a thorough inspection. Make sure the pipes haven’t frozen or burst during the winter (some states that aren’t accustomed to it, after all, have experienced unprecedented winter weather).

  • Make sure there’s no mildew growing or other signs of mold or neglect.
  • Give the property a thorough dusting.
  • Consider bringing an air purifier in, if possible.
  • If not, consider opening the windows as much as possible to get the stale air out. Use fans in windows to help you push the stale air out and to draw fresh air into the home.
  • Remove and wash bed linens and curtains. This will help to bring the scent of freshness into the home and help to get the dust out.
  • Consider a fresh coat of paint if time permits. Something to lighten and brighten the space and make the space look and feel larger.
  • Automate the check-in and check-out process. While the personal touch may have been appreciated in days past, social distancing is the new watchwords. People like the idea of contactless fast food, food delivery, grocery delivery, and more. Allowing them a contactless way to check-in and out is another touch that will be important to your initial guests and may continue for months or years to come.

These things will help freshen the air and make your vacation home more appealing to visitors. This is more important than you might realize after people have spent months after months largely inside their homes.

The Nitty Gritty on Germs and Sanitization

The bottom line when it comes to sanitation is that you can’t sanitize enough. When you think you have, go back and look for new things to sanitize. This guide will help you avoid possibly missed items in need of sanitation.

Sanitize All Surfaces

Some surfaces are no-brainers. You want to hit floors, countertops, tabletops, cooktops, drawer fronts, etc. The surfaces that may be a little more surprising (and therefore easier to forget) include things like:

  • Television remote controls
  • Light switches
  • Door knobs (inside and outside knobs)
  • Keypads
  • Lockboxes
  • Coffee makers
  • Knobs and faucet handles

You get the picture. Anything your guests are likely to touch needs to be sanitized before and after each guest. Even if you haven’t had guests since March of 2020, it is in everyone’s best interest to practice proper sanitizing because there have been so many mixed messages about how long the virus can live on surfaces.

Wash all Linens

This includes the pillows, pillow coverings, sheets, mattress protectors, towels…everything. Take a more is more approach when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing your rentals for tourists. You want to make every effort to ensure your guests are as safe as they are happy with their surroundings.

Wash all Dishes

While your guests may have washed the dishes, not all guests are as diligent in their efforts. If you wash them, preferably in a dishwasher with a sanitizing cycle, then you know they are clean and don’t have to worry about contamination through a coffee mug.

Clean the Entertainment in Your Home

This means things you leave for your guests to use such as DVDs, gaming equipment, etc. Don’t forget to also leave sanitizing wipes in the unit so your guests can wipe things off themselves if they are concerned about germs.

The more steps you take to make your guests feel healthy and comfortable in your home, the greater your guest satisfaction ratings will be. Make sure to allow your guests to contact you if any problems arise or if they have questions about the cleaning practices used in your rental.

Little Details that Matter Much

Another thing we’ve learned over the past year is that little things can make huge differences when it comes to how we make others feel. That is why your job is to make people feel welcome in your home, even when you’re not there to welcome them yourself.

Welcome Baskets

Once upon a time, this might include a small welcome basket of baked goods, fruits, toiletries, etc. Now, the focus has shifted for many Americans and a welcome basket that includes sealed PPE products (like face masks, hand sanitizers, and even gloves) may be appreciated, especially if restrictions requiring face masks remain in your community.

Helpful Lists

With so many businesses no longer operating and many more taking a wait-and-see approach to reopening, it might be a good move to include a printed list with the names and addresses of businesses you know are open. The list should include the names of the businesses, business hours, addresses, and what these businesses have to offer. It’s a small touch many guests will consider thoughtful, especially if they’ve gone looking for businesses that are currently closed. It’s also something you can easily add to as more businesses open and simply print off for your next guests.

Ask You Guests about their Preferences

These are unprecedented times in modern human history. There has never been an event, such as COVID-19 that has closed borders, shut down economies, and hindered so many industries. People have all reacted in different ways. For instance, some guests want to take all possible precautions while others want to get away from the constant thrum of COVID-19.

Ask your guests how they prefer you to operate and individualize guest treatment accordingly. It doesn’t take much to create a simple questionnaire your guests can fill out before they arrive so you can make sure they have the best guest experience possible.

Request Guest Feedback

Finally, don’t forget to ask your guests for feedback about their experiences. Was there anything they wish you had done that you didn’t? Were there missed opportunities to wow them? Were there things they wish you had done differently? These answers can help you improve the experience for your future guests.

It is small, thoughtful, touches like these that can make the difference in a travel experience that is ho-hum and one that is phenomenal for the many people across the country who have been cooped up in their homes for so long.

How Has COVID-19 Changed the World of Tourism?

Unfortunately, we do not know the full extent of how the world will change. We keep hearing people talking about a “new normal” when all this is over. But no one can yet define what that new normal will be or how it will look.

What that means for those in the business of tourism and travel, is that everything is up in the air for the time being and no one will know the full extent of how much COVID-19 has changed the world of travel and the industry of tourism for many years to come.

There is already talk of requiring vaccinations for cruises with many of the more common cruise lines around the world. Chances are that some hotels will have the same requirements. Only time will tell how long these requirements remain in place or how long existing mask mandates and social distancing orders continue.

We all know there is no such thing as a risk-free travel experience. However, taking the steps above will provide your guests with peace of mind and help you feel confident that you’re doing your part to make their experience a healthful one. This guide should help you prepare your rental properties for the return of tourism, whenever that may hit full stride. With the vaccinations rolling out quickly across the country, it shouldn’t be long before governors and businesses are rolling out the welcome mat for tourists once again. Put these tips to work for you so you can create the “just right” travel experience for your guests.