The COVID-19 pandemic has placed hardships on many throughout our society over the past year. Yet some of us might admit in hushed tones that there has been a silver lining in how we now see the world.
The simplification of life at home has driven an appreciation for what is most important in life and at work. This focus allows us to move forward with improvements that might otherwise have languished in procrastination or denial. We have learned to do more with less, at a distance, and by using more technology than ever before to deliver and delight our guests as they seek respite from the new reality.
As the property technology, or PropTech, boom continues to reverberate through our industry, we can apply these principles of simplification and focus on the most important outcomes to drive better results, guest satisfaction, and profitability with our vacation rental properties.
Expectations Have Increased
During the pandemic, many future vacationers took advantage of the time at home to invest in their own primary residences. For many, that included installing home automation products such as smart locks, digital thermostats, security services, and sensors of various sorts. These same homeowners will expect similar amenities at vacation rentals. Properties perceived as technologically outdated will suffer reputational decline and unfavorable online reviews in the same way that dated décor, frayed carpets, or poor wall coverings can detract from the guests’ satisfaction.
Rival Properties Are Stepping Up
Just as primary homeowners are investing in automation, so are your competitors. Guests expect a digital property book, updated physical and Wi-Fi access codes, local information, and other details on their phones before they arrive. They will consider having to call the front desk an intolerable inconvenience and a sign of the property manager’s indifference.
Labor Shortage Is Real
Although reported nationwide unemployment is still high because of COVID-19 shutdowns, many vacation areas are desperately short of labor. Effective property managers will be looking for technology solutions that allow for the efficient deployment of labor throughout the property. Time spent by the front desk, maintenance, or housekeeping traveling to units across town or to other floors constitutes hours not spent on more important customer-facing interactions. A modern, unified property management platform will give the property managers real-time access to asset and personnel status, saving multiple person-days every week.
Distance Has Been Reduced
During COVID-19, people have grown accustomed to using technology to bridge distance and time. Video calls have moved from the exotic to daily occurrences. Hopping in a car or golf cart to check a unit’s HVAC, locks, or other statuses makes little sense when one can access the same information from anywhere.
Cobbled-Together Point Solutions Are So 2019
Guests expect technology to work seamlessly and in a coordinated manner. Having a different computer program for discrete functions is inefficient and frustrating. Accustomed to using programs that work together as one experience, such as the Microsoft Office Suite, property employees and guests alike will resist using standalone or poorly integrated systems for discrete purposes.
Seize Opportunities to Enhance Revenue
With a modern, unified property management platform, revenue enhancement opportunities can be automated to include early- and late-checkout offers, upsell discretionary amenities, sell mid-stay cleans, and offer additional nights to bridge orphan nights between reservations. As we all recover from the COVID-19 recession, most property managers are eager to maximize every opportunity to grow revenue per stay.
Openness and Flexibility Is Key
As 2020 began, who could have foreseen the challenges that the rest of the year would bring? We learned that flexibility and the ability to develop and execute contingency plans is vital. We must avoid getting boxed into one technology. A modern, open, and unified property management platform will grow with a client’s property so that new software tools and hardware products can be seamlessly integrated when the time is right. This season’s project may be adding smart locks and digital thermostats. Next year, the property might add leak and noise detectors. Closed systems require management commitment in such an inflexible manner that they are an anathema in the face of uncertainty. Unprecedented times require flexible systems that grow with opportunity and respond to change.
Everyone knows that technology boosts revenue and drives efficiency. The COVID-19 experience has taught us that simplicity, focus, and flexibility can be harnessed to make the achievement of those goals both possible and probable. “Life is short” is a cliché for a reason. Now is the time to take the steps to secure the future, whether we return to a new normal or continue to live in crazy but interesting times.