Short term rentals and hotels are the backbone of the spring and summer economy on Hilton Head Island.
But the Coronavirus has put a big dent in everyone’s bank accounts, including some renters who can’t get their money back.
There’s been a lot of worry about tourists coming to Hilton Head.
This number may help ease some of those fears.
That’s the number of rooms occupied in the big oceanfront hotels on the Island, some of which like the Omni and Harbour Town Inn are shut down.
Short term rentals are also taking a big hit.. but the owners and companies who run them remain positive about the future.
“I just felt it was the right thing to do to get people their money back,” said Beverly Serral.
That’s why Beverly Serral, owner of Best Nest by Beverly has refunded about $150,000 to any visitors who had reservations not just for April, but May and even June.
“They were starting to be scared, they are continuing to be scared and uncertain and thats what we did and I had complete backup from all our owners,” said Serral.
Backup from the majority of short term rental agencies who signed a pledge to not rent this month.
“It means we are glad we are going to have money in the bank truly to be perfectly honest, because we are going to have almost zero revenue for April.” said Serral.
But still there are homeowners on VRBO that disagree. There are ads for as early as this weekend with slogans like slogans like “great place to quarantine” and “quarantine with your family at the beach”.
There are dozens of places on the Island still available and ready to rent despite the urgings of local leaders and the Governor.
“Let’s not have any new reserevations and give the Island time to breathe,” explains Serral.
But some folks are upset because their renters won’t give them any money back.
One man from New York says he rented a place from a owner on VRBO. The agent involved told him it was no refunds under “any circumstance” – and it written in the contract.
VRBO says on its website it is refunding 100% of its fees and “urging” companies to do the same. But since each listing is a separate owner it can’t “force” anyone to do it.
“This is something that we can do to be good citizens not just good business people,” says beverly. “I would hope they would see the light and not do that.”
“I would encourage our fellow colleagues in the industry to refund or just to act in the interest in the guest. I think thats what is going to save the Island as a destination, the roll back out the welcome mat as soon as we are able to.”
Part of the problem is travel insurance does not cover the pandemic.
All short term rental companies have agreed to pause reservations until May 1 with the possiblity of extending that. All depending on the health of the Island.. not on their bank accounts.
Here is Vrbo’s COVID-19 Emergency Policy:
A full refund of our fees: We are refunding 100% of the money we make through traveler service fees when you must cancel a trip due to COVID-19, whether the cancellation is government-mandated or because you’re prioritizing the health of your family and loved ones. This is in effect for all stays booked before March 13 with a stay night between March 13 and April 30. You don’t have to do anything to collect the refund, it will happen automatically over the next two weeks. No need to call and confirm.
Minimum of 50% refund: We have notified partners (homeowners and property managers) to abide by our COVID-19 emergency standards, which set a 50% refund minimum if different stay dates cannot be found, in order to avoid penalties in our marketplace. This is applicable for all canceled stays with a night that falls between March 13 and April 30, 2020, even on trips that are outside the set cancellation policy.
Credit for future dates: We are asking partners to offer a full credit for different stay dates within the next year (at no additional cost). If you are unwilling or unable to accept the credit, we advise working with our partner on an acceptable refund, and we have incentivized our partners to go above and beyond their standard policies. The more our partners are able to do for travelers, the more Vrbo will reward them with future bookings.
Travelers can also visit the Vrbo Help page for more information about what they can do if their reservation is affected by COVID-19.