How Covid Has Changed The Rental Experience

It’s been a roller-coaster time in the Ontario cottage rental market since the pandemic began. From wondering whether there would be a summer in 2020 at all, to experiencing massive demand after rentals opened up on June 5th showed itself to be a year to remember in many ways.

Travellers who would normally vacation in US, South America and European destinations, together with the half million Ontarians who cruise annually, have had to stay put and holiday at home this year.

This meant thousands of families experienced cottage rental for the first time, and those that weren’t able to secure a place for 2020 are booking for summer 2021 as international travel is unlikely to happen for another year.

What this means for owners is an influx of guests who have no experience of the unique nature of cottage country or of the occasional issues it brings. From power outages and septic blockages to mouse sightings and wifi limitations, there’s a lot to spook a new cotttage guest.

The biggest challenge facing owners has been the necessity for enhanced cleaning protocols. Guests have expectations of high standards of cleaning, and property owners facing limited resources have had to meet these demands. While post-rental cleaning should be thorough in normal times, the requirement to sanitise and disinfect high-touch surfaces has taken more time, effort and cost.

We’ve learned a lot about the virus and the potential for transmission via non-human contact. For example a cleaning directive from the United Nations for its buildings says this:

“Note that simple disinfectant is sufficient to clean an area, that walls and soft furnishings do not need to be cleaned unless clearly soiled, and that widespread spraying or ‘fogging’ is not recommended.”

The original expectations that a property would have to be left vacant for days between rentals has been scaled back and same-day turnovers are mostly acceptable provided standard protocols are carried out.

Guest Education

With so many new guests showing unfamiliarity with cottage country etiquette and systems it’s hardly surprising to see there was an increase in noise complaints from neighours, a rise in plumbing callouts to deal with backups, and general insensitivity to occupancy restrictions.

Unless we take time to educate the people who rent our places, we can’t reasonably expect them to know what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. Saying it’s ‘common sense’ isn’t enough – actually talking them through what they are going to find that’s different is a better approach.

We use a digital Guest Guide that’s a manual for the cottage our guests are staying in. It describes everything from how noise travels across the lake, to lighting and dousing a campfire, instructions on lighting a BBQ, and what to do in the event of a power outage. We don’t leave anything to chance. The best part is that it can be printed off and left as a traditional cottage manual so they have both.

Will they read it? Maybe not, but at least you have made the effort and can point to the fact you provided it in the event they have a problem.

Getting Guests Connected

Before the pandemic started Wifi had become the most important criteria for many guests. This year it’s gone a step further. No longer is it OK to have a minimal signal and a few gigs of data to allow them to check emails. Now, everyone wants to be online; parents are working, kids are doing schoolwork online and in the evenings streaming is expected to catch a movie or the latest episode of a favourite show.

Our advice.

Get the best package you can – with unlimited data if possible. You can increase your rental rate to cover the cost because guests will pay to have the service. Starlink is offering sign-ups right now at $649 for the equipment and $129 per month for the service.

For as long as we are in various stages of lockdown or emergency orders, and even beyond, the pandemic will a part of our lives and businesses. We just have to continue to adapt and we’ll be fine!

CottageLINK Rental Management
Toll Free: 1-866 323 6698

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Columbia PO, Waterloo, ON, Canada N2T 0A7

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