For once, it is not a human guest causing trouble for short-term rental hosts.
That unwanted guest, of course, is COVID-19—the novel coronavirus that has brought unprecedented global chaos for months now, and particular havoc to the travel and hospitality industries. If viruses could be evaluated like Airbnb guests… well, COVID-19 would get the most scathing review ever written.
Every day we’re learning more about how this virus behaves and how we can protect our rentals (and our livelihoods) from its deadly effects. Not to mention help our guests to feel safe traveling again.
Tip: Want to get up to date on how to clean and disinfect your STR for the COVID-19 era? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Covid-19 Cleaning for advice from the most trusted organizations.
Although the virus has affected nearly every corner of the globe, its effects are by no means one-size-fits-all. Every travel destination is having a different experience, which depends on a complex combination of factors that includes government response, virus patterns, and human behavior.
You will have a better sense of what works for you given the status of your destination.
As for me, short-term rentals are still not allowed in Kauai, where my property is located—and it looks like we will be one of the last states to open in the US. (Hear that sound? That’s my summer profits, swirling down the drain.)
But, as a dedicated planner, I’m already building out my plan of action for the first 30-90 days after re-opening, and stocking my rental with all the necessary items to help guests feel safe and comfortable. Of course, I plan to reassess this plan in consultation with the organizations in our Ultimate Guide to Covid-19 Cleaning and my STR’s cleaners.
But for now, here is what I have developed.
Buffer Between Guests
Once my county is open for business again, I plan to implement a 24-72 hour buffer between checkout and the next check-in. This will help to protect my cleaners’ health and give them plenty of time to assess how long a turnover will take based on the new norms of virus-busting cleaning procedures.
Hand Sanitizer for Guests
Getting hand sanitizer for all of your guests may prove to be a challenge—at least at first. However, many counties across the United States are requiring that it be provided in lodging operations. So, we will find a way!
Individual-sized bottles (1-2 oz.) are your best bet. Knowing that the hand sanitizers are new and not shared will bring peace-of-mind to your guests. There’s also an opportunity to customize sanitizer with your brand. We recommend Beach House Logos, our favorite hospitality-specific promotional product supplier or you can hit up your local big box shop for larger economy sized bottles.
OK, there’s no proof that “shoe condoms” help to stop the spread of COVID-19. But anything that helps to keep your property sparkling clean (and minimizing your cleaner’s time at your STR) can’t be bad.
In truth, I have been wanting these for a while… ever since I installed light-colored carpet at my rental. I tried a cute little sign that reads “Leave Your Shoes and Worries at the Door” and that worked. But shoe covers give your guests another option. A few pairs of these babies would be especially great in ski or hiking destinations—or, really, any place where guests come and go with complicated footwear.
I actually got my introduction to shoe covers in the 90s, when the cable guy threw on a pair out of respect before coming into the house. Genius!
I’ll let you know how they work out with my guests.
Masks & Gloves
File this under things I never imagined I would say: you should consider providing your guests with masks and gloves.
As of now, masks are required in all shops in my area. My plan is to provide two masks (not N95s) and two pairs of disposable gloves in a sanitary ZipLoc bag. I imagine most guests will be traveling with their own masks—and possibly gloves—but having some extras on-hand is helpful for those who lose or forget theirs.
I do not love the idea of giving away disposable items and going through so much plastic. Unfortunately, however, I haven’t come across any equally sanitary alternatives. If you have any ideas, I’m all ears!
Although my cleaner provides her own cleaning supplies when she cleans the house, I also plan to leave out CDC-approved cleaning supplies for guests. Just the simple basics: a bottle of all-purpose cleaner and some wipes. That way, guests can do a quick wipedown of surfaces upon arrival and after grocery runs.
I’ll leave these in plain sight, along with a welcome note letting guests know the house has been cleaned per CDC recommendations.
CDC-approved all-purpose cleaner and wipes may be difficult to find, of course. I find that getting to the grocery store right at opening is your best bet for stocking up. As distribution lines continue to get back to normal, this will hopefully be less of an issue.
Sheets & Other Linen
Because my rental is on an island with no commercial laundry options, all of my laundry is done at the condo itself. This has made laundry my biggest constraint from the beginning! Of course, COVID has complicated it even further.
So, I have decided (for the short-term) to completely rethink my linen strategy.
Linens will now be washed and kept separate for at least 7 days before going back on the beds. I’m also doing away with my beloved duvet cover and insert, opting instead for this setup:
With the exception of the mattress encasement, each of these will be laundered at every turn.
Of course, now more than ever, it is important to have three sets of linens. One on the bed, one in the closet in “quarantine” and one in the laundry. The best way to economize for three sets is to purchase your linens wholesale.
Because I am in the tropics, the light to medium-weight blanket in place of the duvet is a viable option (especially in the summer).
Tip: Check out my Summer Bedmaking video for how to ensure your beds are a sanctuary even in tropical climates and summer heat!
Feel free to reach out with any questions or to brainstorm. The best way to economize is to purchase sheets wholesale.
A total inventory of three to four sets of towels per guest will be the new norm. If you have a washer/dryer I would consider leaving out 1-2 sets per guest and store the others away in your owners closet. I leave out 1.5 set of towels per guest because of my laundry constraints. Again towels will be quarantined for at least 7 days per group. The best way to economize is to purchase towels wholesale.
TDG Recommends: Wholesale Towels
Throw Pillows & Blankets
Per the professional advice of VRMA and VRHP, I’ve decided to put away all of my throw blankets and pillows for the next 30-60 days. These items are high-touch and not traditionally washed at each turn (they are not designed to withstand that much washing).
Throw pillows go in my locked owners’ closet; throw blankets go in a plastic storage bag in the closet, tied with a zip-tie closure. I’ll then tag the bag with a note to let guests know the item has been thoroughly washed—and to please leave it on the bed prior to departure so it can be washed again.
A New Strategy for Food and Welcome Baskets
At my rental, I have always instructed my cleaning crew to toss all remaining food—with the exception of salt and pepper—due to bug problems on our tropical island, and, for the same reason, I rarely leave edible items like fruit for guests.
Now, I am doubling down on that strategy for health and safety reasons. If you offer food in your gift baskets, shift instead to gift cards to a local shop or restaurant, with the bonus of supporting a local business in these times. As for food left behind by guests, take a look at what your local food bank will accept and consider arranging for unopened, non-refrigerated food to be donated.
I am very open to brainstorming together as we navigate these strange and difficult times. If you are up for a chat, drop me a note and we will schedule a time to talk!