A gîte owner requires skills in many different areas, but never more so than running a gîte during the pandemic. The pandemic continues to cause uncertainty due to travel restrictions and questions of safety, leading to gîte-owners dealing with reconsidered cancellation policies, loss of earnings, forced refunds by booking platforms, and endless marketing.
A silver lining for gîte owners in 2021?
However, there is light at the end of the tunnel for gîte owners. Recent reports by McKinsey, TripAdvisor and Airbnb point to guests preferring in 2021 to stay in self-catering independent houses rather than hotel rooms or B&Bs with common areas. Personal space, safety and rural locations are going to be in demand this year.
Furthermore, travel insurers in the UK are now offering to cover the cancellation of holidays due to COVID-19. Cover includes if anyone in the party gets COVID-19 prior to the holiday and therefore has to cancel, or if the UK government advises against all but essential travel. Which? magazine has a comprehensive list of what COVID-19 cover travel insurers now offer.
Pandemic-proof your business by planning ahead
We run two successful gîtes in the Dordogne and began Gîte Guru after owners approached us to advise them on setting up or fine-tuning their own businesses. What we have found during the past year is that there is a balancing act between protecting your income whilst being hospitable towards guests, and between getting new reservations whilst not blocking your calendar with uncertain or risky bookings.
Gîte owners offer accommodation, not travel insurance. Will you refund guests when they can travel but have a disinclination to do so? Will you refund guests who are unable to travel from their county of residence, and if so, will you refuse bookings from Australasia or North America in 2021?
Your income is inherently linked to your availability calendar. A confirmed booking blocks nights in your calendar, making you dependent on the income from that booking unless you unblock those nights in time to find new guests. This strategy of replacing foreign bookings with French bookings was successful during the 2020 summer holidays, thanks to the French taking staycations. Speaking to colleagues in Portugal, Spain and Italy, they weren’t so lucky, as in their countries there was a lack of staycationers.
Gîte Guru’s advice for running a gîte during the pandemic
Booking platforms and agencies working internationally and headquartered outside of France had to decide who to support during the pandemic: the guest or the owner. Airbnb sided 100% with the guest, which led to a huge backlash from owners. International platforms’ responses ignored national initiatives to assist gîte owners, like the voucher refund scheme of the French government. Ask yourself who you advertise with and what control you have over your bookings during the pandemic.
Together with our clients, we help define a cancellation policy that works for them and for their guests. We look at the platforms they advertise on and discuss the risks that entails. And while the pandemic continues to affect travel, we offer the following advice:
- Be decisive about your policies, terms and conditions
- Be creative in offering options to your guests
- Be flexible, for instance with last-minute bookings
- Above all, communicate the above clearly to your guests and keep them updated
If you would like help setting up or fine-tuning your gîte business, please contact Rupert and Franck via www.giteguru.fr or Instagram.
They run the hugely successful Le Mas & Le Mazet in the Dordogne.