Tag: Challenges

The Growth And Challenges Of Vacation Rentals In The Age Of Covid

The prevailing themes for the travel industry in 2020 has been, and will end up being, safety, survival, and recovery. For so many in the industry, the coronavirus has spelled doom and disaster, both for its widespread human cost and for its damage to the foundation of tourism. For some, the product they offer actually fits into the aforementioned themes.

Airbnb for instance, by virtue of its service, kept the guest a little bit safer by adding a personal touch to the stay – complemented by hand sanitizer, of course. As travel restrictions tightened, the flexibility of Airbnb also added some ease to the nerves of the local traveler. Rounding out the benefits, Airbnb put a generous foot forward by relaxing its refund policies, despite suffering losses of approximately 50% of its total revenue.

Moreover, Airbnb has been growing in popularity since its inception in 2008. The brainchild of Brian Chesky, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Joe Gebbia, Airbnb evolved from an idea to a 31 billion dollar company. They had planned on seeing the company traded publicly on the Stock Market, but the coronavirus dampened those plans, temporarily. In fact, Airbnb has already filed their IPO (initial public offering), sticking to their plans of trying to make it public in 2020.

For travelers, especially during this tenuous era where the very air and unclean surfaces can lead to hospitalization or worse, the individualized attention one might find renting from an Airbnb-type property rather than a monstrous hotel brand can bring some solace to travelers of every level of germaphobe. Besides the cleanliness factor, vacation rentals often give the traveler more space for less money overall. In addition, the vacation rentals often offer kitchens and washer/dryers, and although one might not want to cook or do laundry while on vacation, the convenience factor is substantial. Finally, in a world where high speed wifi is as important as hot water and indoor plumbing, vacation rentals frequently have stronger and more reliable wifi.

On the flipside, if one owns an Airbnb, the profits can be sizable. According to priceonomics.com, the average monthly income from an Airbnb property is $924. However, some owners are moving away from the traditional Airbnb format and branching out a bit more on their own. Owners who wish to remain part of a huge network might try booking.com, which charges 15% commission on rentals, or perhaps homeaway.com, which has a yearly or a per-booking fee. Flipkey.com allows owners to rent out any type of accommodation from castles to houseboats, offers free listing and charges only 3% commission. 

However, when the time comes

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Andreea Grigore: The advocate for legal vacation rentals helps businesses weather COVID-19 and other challenges

How is Hawaii’s short-term vacation rental market holding up with the coronavirus restrictions?

The pandemic has been devastating for the tourism industry, including legal vacation rentals on Oahu and across the state. Many families in Hawaii have been significantly impacted by the lack of tourism, some more directly than others. The vacation rental industry supports a diverse group of people and businesses including property management companies and their staff, house cleaners, maintenance and yard-care businesses, and so many others. In addition, visitors that stay in vacation rentals often frequent local eateries and shop with local retailers, which have also suffered because of the lack of tourism.

The return of trans-Pacific and interisland travel with Hawaii’s Safe Travels program, along with the reopening of legal vacation rentals on Oahu, has allowed some of these hard-working local entrepreneurs to reopen their businesses. We are all cautiously optimistic that continued compliance with the program will keep our communities safe while allowing a moderate reopening of business. That said, the number of flights into the state is still quite low and thus we are still a long way from a full recovery.

Vacation-rental critics complain that unhosted properties like transient vacation units are businesses improperly operating in residential-zoned neighborhoods. How do you respond?

ROH (Revised Ordinances of Honolulu) 21-4.110-1 limits vacation rentals on Oahu in residentially zoned areas to properties that have a nonconforming use certificate, and strictly prohibits the expansion of unhosted short-term rentals of under 30 days in residential areas. HILSTRA supports the intent of this law and feels that proper enforcement of it is an excellent deterrent for new vacation rentals in residential areas. That removes the opportunity for big investors to pop up and run mini-hotel type operations, which we agree can deteriorate our neighborhoods and communities. We are, and always have been opposed to these illegal operations who treat our neighborhoods like hotels.

That said, the fact is that the majority of Oahu’s legal vacation rentals are not in residential areas, but rather in resort zones such as Waikiki, Ko Olina and Turtle Bay. We firmly believe that vacation rentals in resort zones are a core part of the travel economy. Those zones were specifically designated to accommodate short-term travelers, and to restrict or otherwise discriminate against vacation rentals in resort zones seems like a violation of the intent of those areas.

Should the city Department of Planning and Permitting invest more in enforcement against illegal vacation rentals?

One of the fundamental reasons we created HILSTRA was to bring together legal property management companies. We want to work hand-in-hand with the various county departments to put together smart policies and enforcement around the vacation rental business.

We feel that the most successful way to remove the stigma surrounding vacation rentals is to work together with the enforcement agencies to determine which properties are operating illegally and work to close those operations.

During the public hearings for City Council bills 89 and 85, members of our team were able to

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Study abroad programs are letting U.S. students travel again. But it’s not without challenges.

Last fall, Elon University in North Carolina had 550 students studying abroad. This fall, they have just 13. They are expecting that number to increase substantially as study abroad advisers are seeing an uptick of (virtual) appointment requests.

© The Washington Post illustration; iStock

“We’ve actually opened our cycle of applications for fall 2021 and we have loads and loads of applications already,” says Rhonda Waller, the university’s executive director of global engagement.

Americans are not allowed to enter many international borders, including the European Union, but there are exceptions for people traveling for work, emergencies and school. While the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak was chaotic for U.S. students abroad, as exchange programs were canceled and borders closed, students are taking the opportunity to study abroad again now that they have been given the green light.

When can Americans travel to Europe again? We asked 4 insiders.

“For a lot of families, it was a risk calculation,” Waller says. “You do have to get on an airplane and that’s definitely part of the calculus as part of their thinking. But once you get off that airplane, some of these locations are probably looking actually pretty favorable compared to the relative conditions and the positivity rates here in the United States.”

Before the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of U.S. students were studying abroad each year. In the 2017-2018 school year, more than 341,750 students studied abroad for academic credit, with the U.K., Italy, Spain, France and Germany as the most popular destinations, according to the most recent stats available from the Institute of International Education.

Waller says she advises students to be optimistic as well as cautious and flexible while they plan study abroad experiences since complications can arise. Students can even register for classes at Elon’s North Carolina campus in case their study abroad plans fall through at the last minute.

How much does a hotel’s ventilation system matter right now? We asked the experts.

Once students arrive overseas, they are in the hands of the local study abroad partners who are in charge of making adjustments for the coronavirus, from health screenings and quarantining upon arrival to adjustments to classroom settings. However, a travel abroad student’s experience will depend on where they are studying. Even if students choose destinations where coronavirus cases are currently low, it is impossible to know what the situation will be once they actually arrive.

At the American University of Paris, neurology student Morgan Phillips, 21, says class sizes are small and desks are socially distanced. However, students are given the option of choosing online learning if they are not comfortable coming to class in person. “Obviously everybody wears masks, but everything else seems pretty normal,” says Phillips, who moved from New York City.

In Florence, American graduate student Stef Ferrari, 36, has her temperature checked before entering any building of the Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici, where class sizes are small, masks are mandatory and hand sanitizer is readily available. While she’s overjoyed

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Ecolab and American Hotel & Lodging Association Strengthen Partnership and Help Industry Combat COVID-19 Challenges

Ecolab Inc., the global leader in water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions and services, has renewed its partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). This continued partnership comes as the hospitality industry, which has always met rigorous cleaning and safety standards, works to meet new health and safety expectations presented by COVID-19.

“Ecolab has always been a strong partner to the hotel industry. As we navigate these unprecedented times, we are grateful for Ecolab’s support and expertise,” said Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO. “We appreciate Ecolab’s technical knowledge on industry programs like AHLA’s Safe Stay initiative and value their continued work to advance cleaner, safer practices for the hospitality industry at large. We look forward to continuing our partnership and collaborating for years to come.”

As a key AHLA partner and public health and food safety expert, Ecolab provided technical expertise on the cleaning and disinfecting protocols and products within the AHLA’s Safe Stay program, an industry-wide initiative focused on enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions and workplace protocols. Ecolab experts also vetted Safe Stay against the protocols in Ecolab’s new Ecolab Science Certified™ program, a comprehensive, science-based program informed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and proprietary consumer research conducted by Ecolab.

Ecolab Science Certified helps deliver a high level of cleanliness by combining hospital disinfectants and other sanitizers, comprehensive public health training and procedures, and periodic auditing. After meeting rigorous program criteria, customers earn the Ecolab Science Certified seal, a visible sign to consumers of a commitment to advancing cleaner, safer practices at hotels, restaurants, retailers and other businesses.

“Now more than ever, we look forward to continuing our strong partnership with AHLA and working together to support the hospitality industry,” said Michael C. Johannsen, Ecolab executive vice president and general manager of Global Institutional. “As hotels return to operation and address concerns related to COVID-19, they continue to look to partners like AHLA and Ecolab to help elevate consumer confidence in enhanced cleaning protocols and practices.”

The Ecolab Science Certified program is supported by Ecolab’s extensive expertise in public health and food safety, as well as decades of experience helping keep hospitals, hotels, restaurants and retail stores clean. The company has among the broadest portfolio of products for use against SARS-CoV-2 and other emerging pathogens, in addition to comprehensive solutions that leverage technology, service, training and actionable reporting to prevent and solve food safety and public health challenges.

For more information about the Ecolab Science Certified program, visit sciencecertified.com. The Safe Stay Advisory Council enhanced guidelines can be found at ahla.com/SafeStay.

About Ecolab

A trusted partner at nearly 3 million commercial customer locations, Ecolab (NYSE: ECL) is the global leader in water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions and services. With annual sales of $13 billion and more than 45,000 associates, Ecolab delivers comprehensive solutions, data-driven insights and personalized service to advance food safety, maintain clean and safe environments, optimize water and energy use, and improve operational efficiencies

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