Each year it seems, we write about a hurricane or growing tropical storm barreling down upon the tranquil shores of Charleston, South Carolina and how, as a team, we deal with both the preparation and the aftermath. As a vacation rental management firm in a popular tourist locale like Charleston, we are accustomed to events which severely impact the tourism & hospitality industries and how they alter travel plans for our guests. This year is different as we are faced with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It’s not something any of us either faced or handled before, yet experience with other challenges has led us to create and implement systems that allow us to react quickly to help our current guests and those who have future booked vacations with us.
We have our vacationers, our staff, our owners, and ourselves to consider, and the safety and well-being of all are critical to us, thus it’s important we look at the overall picture as a whole. News updates are fluid and changing by the hour, as the pandemic expands around the globe and in the United States as well. We will not repeat the health advice out there or seek to downplay the situation, but in general the worry is not so much catching the COVID-19 virus, although for some that can produce a dire outcome, it’s us all catching it at the same time and overwhelming the available medical support services, as we have seen in some of the more populated US cities.
Firstly, we focus on our vacationers. While travel has been restricted and check-ins have been diminished, we have used this time to hold discussions with our cleaning crews, working with them to put new are more extensive cleaning protocols in place. To follow CDC guidelines with an increased focus on possible transmission sources such as sterilizing door handles, light pulls and countertops in addition to our usual good standards. As we all continue to become keenly aware of methods to reduce transmission, here are additional health and safety measures we’re taking to help keep our guests and employees safe:
- Housekeeping staff has been instructed in cleaning all “high-touch” contact points in all our vacation properties such as doorknobs, locks, thermostats, stair railings etc., and these areas will continue to be thoroughly sanitized with EPA approved sterilization solutions during cleaning and inspection.
- We have worked with our suppliers to make sure that our housekeeping staff in each of our locations are provided with all supplies, including disinfectants, sanitizers and equipment that they will need to follow these heightened cleaning protocols.
- We will continue to ensure that hygiene and cleanliness remain our top priority throughout every facet of our operation.
Our staff go the extra mile for both homeowners and our vacation guests, and our actions have sought to allay their worst fears but provide support and sensible precautions. We continue to remain vigilant and will work closely with local, state and federal authorities for the health and safety of our employees and vendors as well all for our guests. Sources of transmission in our offices have been identified, extra sterilization, sick policies reviewed as have work from home protocols now in place. Should they need local accommodation it will be provided, as is 24-hour support.
Our homeowners have their own concerns, both familial and with regard to their investments. Many have mortgages to pay, and these do not simply evaporate away as vacationers alter travel plans. So we have sought to keep them informed. Daily meetings are conducted internally to review the situation, and we are in constant communication with staff and guests to keep them updated and to advise them on appropriate measures we are taking. Being transparent and keeping the lines of communication open is key, and so far this is providing the reassurance needed and solid returns.
We have seen an increase in cancellations as people consider the best strategy for their own personal circumstances. While it may seem counterintuitive, cancellations have been matched by an uptick in bookings as vacationers who are not reliant on air travel seek locations within easy driving distance for when stay at home orders are lifted. There is a sense that travel with just family or a small group allows for an opportunity to find peace in smaller, less populated destinations – a chance to enjoy ocean breezes and quiet sunsets with just your family around you.
For ourselves, well that’s a little more complicated. We have a lot of family in the UK, Europe sees this pandemic through a different lens. The UK, like much of the EU, is preparing for the worst but seek to slow it down to a more manageable extent. Our family here in SC are with us, spending time in Charleston, Folly Beach or Palmetto Bluff as business and family needs dictate. We have enough basic supplies but not an unnecessary hoard. Socializing is restricted and meals may have to become a little “inventive.”
As the South Carolina state motto says, “Prepared in mind and resources” – so we say, stay well and stay safe.