Much speculation has arisen from the recent outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and travel to the State of Florida leaving thousands of vacation rental managers, hosts and owners wondering how to manage this situation professionally and with compassion. We've put together an informative article with resources for all vacation rental owners to use during this time.
Firstly it's important to educate yourself as well as your guests and travelers concerned about the coronavirus situation in Florida and wondering if they should cancel their trip. We've put together a glossary on the verbiage, and resources to help both Florida travelers staying in a vacation rental and Florida vacation rental owners.
Florida Health is a government department reporting the current number of cases of Coronavirus infected patients in the state of Florida. This website details where the Florida patients contracted the virus as well as how many tests taken have been reported negative or positive.
On January 30, 2020, WHO (World Health Organization) first declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for the current outbreak of coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19.
Below are the terms used by the Florida Health Department to describe the different conditions of Coronavirus COVID-19.
"People Under Public Health Monitoring": These are the number of people under public health monitoring including those at risk of having been exposed to COVID-19 who are monitoring their health under the supervision of public health officials.
"Florida Cases Repatriated": The United States Department of State officially coordinated the return of Florida residents back to the United States. Those persons are isolated at a federally designated site until healthy. A repatriated case is when the United States Department of State officially coordinates the return of a Florida resident to the United States.
"Presumptive Positive": A Presumptive Positive is when a state health lab has a positive test without the Center for Disease and Control confirmation. Presuming that a patient has tested positive before that confirmation has been received.
"Confirmed": A Confirmed status is given when the Presumptive Positive sample is then confirmed by the Center for Disease and Control.
"Center for Disease and Control": The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also referred to as the CDC, is the leading national public health institute of the United States. It is a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services and is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.
"WHO": The World Health Organization": The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations concerned with world public health. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
On March 1, 2020, Governor De Santis declared the State of Emergency "which directed Surgeon General Rivkees to declare a public health emergency to better equip Florida with the resources needed to handle this public health threat." At the time of this publication, there is no ban on travel to the state of Florida.
There are currently NO CDC or US Department of State: Consular Affairs travel notifications in regard to coronavirus (covid-19) in the USA.
"State of Emergency": is an Executive Order issued by the Governor of Florida. There are various declarations for the State of Emergency so it is important to read each one carefully. It is used to access Federal funding for various reasons such as hurricanes, coronavirus, and other natural disasters.
Each booking site platform has its own policy in relation to the Coronavirus and cancellations. More on each online travel agency's policies below. Advertising on a rental site requires each user to adhere to and apply the listing site's terms and conditions. Each owner is required to follow the booking site policies.
If a Florida vacation rental owner has direct bookings as a host, they'll have to manage each case to decide on a fair course of action. We suggest educating yourself on the coronavirus and it impacts both locally as well as where the traveler is originating from with the transportation they will require to stay at the short-term rental. Also, consider the industry's policies including what the OTAs are doing.
Depending on where your guests' reservation originated from helps you conform to the company's current cancellation policy.
At the time of publication of this article, VRBO was reporting that travelers may proceed to cancel their reservation and apply to get their traveler fee back. The current cancellation policies remain in effect for each property. Their Book with Confidence Guarantee is designed to protect consumers from fraudulent listings and misrepresentation and does not cover cancellations due to travel advisories from force majeure. Be careful to comply with the VRBO's full terms and conditions. For updates to the VRBO policy press here.
VRBO is suggesting that concerned travelers do the following (excerpt from VRBO):
What you can do after booking
VRBO Owners take Note!
"While it is reasonable for you to protect yourself and your property, please be as respectful as possible if you ask travelers questions about prior travels to areas currently impacted by the virus. If you cancel based on the country of origin of the traveler, we will remove your listing from our marketplace, consistent with the principles of our inclusion statement."
At the time of publication of this article, Airbnb was reporting that eligible reservations can be canceled including the following circumstances (see excerpt below). For updates to the Airbnb policy press here. Excerpt from Airbnb provided below:
What happens when a reservation that falls under our extenuating circumstances policy is canceled?
Existing reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences with a check-in date of April 14, 2020, or earlier, and with at least one night occurring between March 14, 2020, and April 14, 2020, are covered. This means that guests who cancel will receive a full refund, hosts will be able to cancel without charge or impact to their Superhost status, and Airbnb will refund all service fees.
Existing reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences with a check-in date after April 14, 2020, will not be covered under our extenuating circumstances policy except where the guest or host has contracted COVID-19. The host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual.
Reservations for stays and Airbnb Experiences made after March 14, 2020, will not be covered under our extenuating circumstances policy except where the guest or host has contracted COVID-19. The host’s cancellation policy will apply as usual.
Please remember to carefully review the listing’s cancellation policy set by the host when booking and consider choosing an option that provides flexibility.
More on documentation required and guidelines for Airbnb's Emergency and Unavoidable Cancellation policy can be found here:
Below is a list of resources to help all Florida Vacation Rental Owners and Hosts for guidance and necessary precautions when hosting their home to guests and travelers from around the world. Use the resources below and read on for further details on how to manage your own cancellation policy in relation to the coronavirus outbreak.
Look to any local and state government resources for travel and health advisories.
Executive Orders by the Governor of the state of Florida for 2020 - travel and state advisories
Florida Health Department - health advisories.
United States Government - Travel Advisories - to determine which countries have low to high-level travel advisories. This will help Florida vacation rental owners understand their foreign guest's concerns that are traveling to Florida by plane.
U.S. Travel Association - to determine state travel advisories within the United States
Each guest's case is different and taking the time to understand a guest's reasons for cancellation could turn into a Win-Win situation for each party. Being empathetic and understanding can result in future referrals, and repeat visitors. Although a Florida vacation rental owner's cancellation policy may be straight forward before ignoring a guests' cancellation request consider understanding their motives for a cancellation first. You might be able to re-book the property to a local traveler instead.
Large Gathering Example: A guest attending a conference or large gathering has been canceled or postponed. In this situation, it may be worthwhile to postpone, defer or even cancel that guest's reservation.
High-Risk Guest Example: If a guest is at High-Risk of contracting Coronavirus. For example; if they are older adults, have chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, or a low immune system.
Guests Traveling from Afar - Long Plane Flights: If a guest is asking for a cancellation or refund that has to take long plane flights a Florida vacation rental owner may want to consider the risk for that traveler and proceed with a postponement, or full refund.
Taking the time to understand and assess the risks for a guest will help reduce the Coronavirus outbreak and keep a vacation rental virus free.
Do follow up with each guest to urge to purchase their own travel insurance in order to protect their entire Florida vacation including their flights, car rentals, home rental, etc...
The state of Florida has always been a favorite destination for holiday travelers and although the media is largely reporting the Coronavirus topic as a Florida vacation rental owner it's important to educate yourself and your guests. Take the necessary precautions within your home as well as with your guest's safety as you regularly do. Follow the state of Florida travel and health advisories in order to avoid the Coronavirus disrupting your Florida vacation rental business. Take control and be the best host you can be!
Florida Rental By Owners (FLARBO) is a fair and reasonable vacation rental advertising marketplace specifically focused on helping Florida property owners. A vacation rental listing site "Built By Owners - For Owners" to connect directly with Florida travelers. Allowing vacation rental homeowners and property managers the luxury to: