fpventures blog - Covid-19 impact-2

Its been an interesting couple of weeks in serviced accommodation. After the initial shock of the lockdown and changing our target customer base to keep our properties open and provide a vital local service to key workers and NHS staff two bombshells from our two largest marketing portals the online travel agents or OTA's. Having switched off "instant book" on Airbnb so that we could check that all potential guests were key workers AirBnB decided to hide all property calendars on their website making them only viewable by pre-approved (by AirBnB) key workers but didn't have the processes in place to pre-approve these potential guests.

However as the largest proportion of our bookings come from Booking.com (BDC) this was not likely to have too much impact and while bookings have been significantly reduced we have been providing a much needed service to NHS staff and key workers for the last four weeks in Stroud.

Then yesterday came the bombshell from BDC, an email arrived to say that following Government guidance they were shutting down our calendar for bookings until at least the 9th May. I could feel the colour draining out of my face as I tried to take it in. I guess I should have anticipated it but I had taken the view that surely nobody other than key workers would be travelling now....surely. It appears this is not the case and some providers are still taking bookings that are not being verified as essential key workers. The Government has allegedly told BDC to block every property calendar. As BDC do not have a mechanism to monitor which properties are genuinely supporting key workers as we are they have had no choice but to blank block across all listings. I understand, but it is more challenging. Government guidance is clear, we can continue to provide accommodation to critical workers, key workers and NHS staff but not through AirBnB or BDC.

We really want to keep supporting the Covid-19 relief effort in any way we can, so I guess we will have to look at more creative ways of engaging at a local to let people know we are here to help where we can.

So tomorrow lets see who we can talk to and see if we can continue to be of service...

Mark Smith