With the first day of summer (June 21) upon us, many Canadians will be itching to hit the road, ride the rails, or take to the skies to enjoy quality downtime with family and friends after two consecutive summers of muted travel activity because of pandemic-related restrictions.

According to a recent Ipsos survey, 61% of Canadians say they will travel this summer and expect to spend an average of $2,475 on their vacations. However, most plan to stay close to home, preferring domestic trips over international travel. In terms of where they intend to spend their vacation time, it’s almost an even split: 38% will visit a Canadian city, 37% seek a countryside getaway, and 35% fancy a seaside vacation.

That’s good news for vacation rental property owners across Canada who are eager to attract vacationers to their properties, whether a private property listed on Airbnb or VRBO, a hotel, or a listing on an online travel agency (OTA) such as Booking.com or Expedia. 

A vacation rental property awaiting guests

Travelling Canucks will be booking lodging reservations, and the competition for bookings will be fierce. So, how can you outfox the competition, be ready for an influx of guests, and prevent accidents or the possibility of filing an insurance claim?

Here are 10 tips to ensure your vacation rental business is in tip-top shape, reduce your risks, and give you an edge in wooing guests to book with you:

1. Do a pre-season maintenance check

You should be conducting routine maintenance on your property throughout the year on your dwelling’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Replace ventilation air filters, ensure the air conditioner and furnace work as they should, and inspect your washing machine hoses and dryer exhaust duct to ensure they’re clean.

Clean the eavestroughs if it hasn’t been done already and check entranceways and decks for loose boards or trip hazards. If your property includes a propane barbecue for visitors to use, scour the grill, check the hose to make sure it’s in good condition, and check the propane tank, so it isn’t empty.

2. Replace bedroom linen and towels

Bedroom linen, blankets, washcloths, and bath and dish towels wear out rapidly. Take stock of what’s in your digs and replace older or stained linen and towels. It can’t hurt to provide disposable disinfectant and cosmetic remover wipes in bathrooms to help extend the life of your washcloths and towels.

3. Do a thorough and deep cleaning inside the property

The COVID-19 pandemic may appear to be on the down low, but regrettably, there’s a possibility another wave could hit us at some point. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about that, but you can continue to adhere to intense cleaning and sanitization best practices before and after each guest’s stay. Think floor to ceiling and deep clean windows, curtains and blinds, floors, ceiling fans and lights, furniture, and shampoo the carpets.

Also, make sure there are ample cleaning supplies at the property, and if you keep a vacuum cleaner, brooms, and mops there for guests to use if they wish, ensure they’re clean and replace them if worn out.

4. Refresh bathroom amenities

Making a positive impression on your guests means providing world-class customer service by doing little things that make them feel welcome and appreciated. One way to do that is by stocking your bathrooms with necessary toiletry items, including bars of soap, shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste and toothbrushes, mouthwash, cotton ear swabs, and moisturizing skin lotion.

5. Test fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide detectors

Check the batteries in and test all the fire, smoke, and the carbon monoxide detectors in your dwelling. Set an annual or semiannual reminder in your mobile phone calendar to perform these tasks, so you don’t forget. If you also have an electronic door lock your guests use to access the property with a secure code, make sure you replace the batteries in it. You don’t want to get a phone call or email from an angry guest who cannot enter the property because the electronic door lock is out of juice.

6. Examine kitchen appliances and items

Go through the kitchen and examine the appliances to ensure they’re clean and working. Likewise, look carefully at all the cutlery, dishware, glassware, and cooking utensils in your place. Replace them if they look old, scratched up, cracked, or bent out of shape. Keep an inventory of all the items you have in the kitchen, so you’ll know if something goes missing or was accidentally broken by a guest and needs replacing. Your kitchen item inventory should be included in your broader business contents inventory as part of your commercial property coverage.

7. Update your guest activities book

Your lodging should include a guest activity book highlighting local amenities for guests to visit, such as restaurants, art galleries, and events that happen throughout the summer. Ensure the information in your guest book is up to date and doesn’t include local businesses that no longer exist. 

Check with local festival organizers and farmers’ markets to ensure the info you have regarding their events is correct. Try partnering with local restaurants and other nearby tourist attractions to offer your guests a modest discount for visiting them because of your referral.

8. Upgrade the property’s technology

Think about the Wi-Fi and other technology gadgets at your property. Your guests may be vacationers, but chances are they’ll still want reliable, high-speed internet access. Ensure your property Wi-Fi signal is strong and has enough bandwidth to accommodate multiple devices simultaneously. Replace the batteries in TV/flat-screen remotes and other gadgets, and ensure any smart devices you have, including smart door locks or thermostats, are working correctly.

9. Review your insurance policy

Reviewing your business insurance policy ought to be an annual event. Things change. Your property changes. Your community changes. You need to do a deep dive into your policy before you renew it each year to ensure you have adequate coverage at the best available price. 

But reading an insurance policy can be irritating, confusing, eye-glazing or all three. That’s one of many ways a licensed insurance broker can help you: making it easy to understand your policy, its limits, and exclusions. You can always speak to a Zensurance licensed broker if you have questions about your coverage.

10. Update your Airbnb, VRBO, or OTA listing

Update your rental property listings on the various third-party booking sites you use by refreshing the content and adding new photos. Remember, you compete with thousands of other hosts, with countless new properties being added regularly. Research what other hosts in your region offer and check their pricing to ensure your rates are competitive.

Also, avoiding fraudulent bookings on OTAs you list with by:

  • Not allowing guests to book without providing a credit card and CVC code.
  • Using a secure payment processing method to pre-authorize bookings by charging the card. If the card is declined, give the guest a few hours to update their payment details on the OTA site or cancel the reservation.
  • Verify who your guests are by email, letting them know their credit card has been charged and advising them there’s a self-check-in process that requires them to provide their contact information.
  • Being wary of last-minute bookings. Advise potential guests you reserve the right to decline a booking if your confirmation policies are not followed.

Don’t Overlook the Value of Protecting Your Rental Property

Being a vacation rental property manager is a lot of work. But there are many ways for Airbnb and VRBO hosts to be successful by paying attention to the details and ensuring they have the custom business insurance policy they need to protect their properties and finances.

Even if you already have an Airbnb or VRBO insurance policy, it never hurts to shop around to see if you can get the coverage you need at a better price or if you need to enhance your existing policy. That’s how we can help. Fill out our online application now to get a free quote and let our licensed broker team provide you with options.

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About the Author: Matt Jardine

Matt Jardine is a licensed insurance broker and Team Lead, Property & Hospitality, at Zensurance.