Everyone is SO DONE with 2020.
So many stories of heartbreak, struggle, and renewals.
Kanab, Utah. Jan 2021
I was recently encouraged to “journal” our journey of the past year as a Vacation Rental Owner. We, like everyone else, have experienced a year unlike any other.
Our story is not unique, but as a family of faith, I have to express real gratitude for the beauties of this year.
Ups and downs for sure, but the good has truly outweighed the bad. And no one is more surprised than me.
The Good and The Bad
January started off fantastic as my husband John and I traveled to New Zealand and Australia with friends. Couldn’t have been better. As we waited for our return flight from Sydney, all the TV monitors were talking about a new disease in China. I barely noticed, but then we saw more and more Asian travelers wearing masks. Which they have often been prone to do. Still no inkling.
My Father passed away in the middle of February. We had a large funeral with family and friends. What a blessing. By the next week, there were murmurings that we may be in for something major.
January and February are typically pretty good booking months and things seemed to be on track.
Mid-March the dam broke. Quarantines began and within two weeks we lost every booking on the calendar. Refunded every penny. Heartbreaking in so many ways and not just because our rentals are our main source of income. But heartbreaking for our guests and all that was happening around us.
It didn’t take me long, being in this business, to realize
– I love hospitality!
– I love sharing our tiny corner of the world with others.
– I love when someone makes it to Zion Canyon for the very first time.
– I love when people think they can do 3 National Parks in 3 days, and then add extra days when they can’t even begin to see all that they want to.
– I love helping people have the best trip possible.
So it was tough to watch my guests give up dreams.
I really came to know just what Hospitality means to me. My heart went out to each guest as I saw them hold on to their vacation plans as long as possible, then have to concede with the rest of the world that we don’t always get what we want.
So, no income. Besides our rentals we have three Etsy shops where we sell handmade items, mostly centered around group activities…… dang.
Costume Collective – costumes are mostly for parties or stage events…. Not gonna happen.
Tulle Skirt Shop – fancy skirts for bridal showers, photoshoots, or dress-up events… Not gonna happen
My Sport Displays – for running and sports medals, again, for events that are ….Not gonna happen
April 4th a friend who also has an Etsy shop called and said Etsy put out a call for mask makers. All of a sudden there was huge demand and factories cannot catch up that fast. But home enterprises can. So overnight we turned our two sewing shops into mask making shops.
We figured we had maybe two good weeks before orders would dry up. We were on the phone numerous times a day with my friend as we both sewed non-stop, being amazed at the orders each day. Two weeks went by, could we do this for a month?! One month, and then two, then three.
April to June the orders flooded in. While some of you were bemoaning being bored, John, myself, and my sister Deanna were working frantic 14 hr days in our attic sewing studio (sweatshop). John took over meals, all the cutting, and then we taught him to use the serger. Deanna and I sewed and sewed. We listened to audiobooks and took turns choosing music for the day. (Who knew Al Jolsen day would be a highlight??) Eventually, we got used to the sore muscles from sitting at the machines all day.
We designed and redesigned our pattern to come up with the best solution for certain groups. We agonized over appropriate fabrics, filter pockets, and ties. And much like the vacation rental businesses, altered our processes according to reviews and took every negative comment as a gift, a way to improve.
July, things finally started to taper off to manageable levels but even now (Jan. 2021) we still get a few orders that trickle in, mostly from past customers.
We ended up making thousands of masks. We were so blessed to be able to continue to meet our financial needs after losing our peak booking season in the spring.
Safety is everything now
Covid safety. This became huge. (It was quite a while before testing began to prove the surface transmission was very slim).
When we knew we might have a season, after all, we were very conscious of the need to keep our guests and our cleaners safe from the virus and reassured that we were going the extra mile to protect them.
We can make sure all hard surfaces are clean and sanitized, but what about soft surfaces, the furnishings?
After much study and diligent searching, we decided that disinfectant foggers were the most reliable way to sanitize. But getting one was next to impossible, as was the disinfectant itself. I remember I was on a County task force Zoom call and mentioned I was waiting for my fogger order to come and the hospital administrator told me “Good luck we have had three ordered for months.”
Well, they got their foggers and through some blessed circumstances, we got ours sooner than anticipated. That cleared up my reservations about taking reservations!
We still disinfect after every rental
We can work remotely!
“Working from home” became the biggest change in our business.
The first question people used to ask was “How far are you from the National Parks?” Now the first question became “How fast is your Wi-Fi?”. Our clientele went from small groups, gone all day hiking – to- couples staying home all day, working remote and going for a quick excursion in the late afternoon.
We had great guests, and such a joy when we would get to meet some of them. From tech workers to Airbnb employees to Covid researchers. The day I saw a therapist having a phone session with a client while lying in the front porch swing, I knew this was here to stay. Some shifts in our lives this year have been sad and hard. But this shift….. this is awesome!
The calendar soon booked up, just not as far in advance. Some people were unsure, but still booked and then canceled. We had to revise cancellation policies and then draw a line in the sand. At a certain point, everyone knows Covid-19 is a thing. We just had to let people know we could not be their travel insurance. This was really hard to do, actually keep deposits when people decided not to come. But we could no longer allow people to block our calendar for weeks and then back out last minute.
There was a lot of trauma in the industry when in March, Airbnb just canceled and refunded all bookings without ever telling owners first or giving them a chance to help folks change dates or set up rebooking options. It was all just gone.
I’m sure some people assumed we would get compensated by Airbnb or Vrbo. What a joke their “Host Guarantees” etc. turned out to be. There were so many rules and requirements to qualify. I got about $43 from Airbnb from all my canceled bookings.
It was a bit later than usual, but people came to our little town. Bringing with them consideration for locals and gratitude to be in our beautiful area for a little while. Many bringing their own groceries so they would not have to burden our little towns’ resources.
We ended up with the best July and August we have ever had.
And overall only a few bookings shy of the year before, in spite of our spring loss.
Grateful for 2020
We are so grateful for the good people who came. For our community who were (for the most part), gracious to visitors. For our County leaders who were on the ball and in constant contact with business owners, always keeping us informed and helping out however they could.
I LOVE that Kane county tourism council took a big chunk of their budget and did things like, buy gift cards to local restaurants that were doing take-out meals and gave them away in local contests. What a great way to keep our restaurants alive.
As President of Kanab Area Vacation Rental Owners Association, I was so gratified to hear our county tourism director say recently at a chamber meeting that “Vacation Home Rentals really redeemed our county budget this year”.
Thank you so much to the guests who came to Kanab to have their much-needed “get-a-way”!
We are grateful for the improvements we have made to our processes that protect you and me even better, from booking policies to sanitizing.
We are grateful for new opportunities geared to our “working” guests.
Mostly, we are grateful to still be able to offer great hospitality to great people from all over the country when we need it the most.