As we come out on the other side of this pandemic and prepare for relaunch, it is important to recognize that there were already signs of weakness in our industry before the pandemic started. This situation has exposed many business models that were questionable or driven by irrational exuberance.
The economic recovery ahead of us will not be easy. However, the formula for success has not changed, nor have the factors that drive it.
1) Expect OTAs to Become Even More Aggressive
Vacation rental professionals have operated for years under the false assumption that the OTAs would change their habits.
The OTAs are valuable parts of our ecosystem and did a tremendous job of raising the profile of our industry. We traded our brand value for advertising, which culminated in an overall win for all stakeholders. However, those days are long gone; most OTAs will move to centralized platforms.
We can expect OTAs to make a bigger push to control your inventory, your policies, and your merchant of record. Without a strategy to diversify and drive more direct bookings, you will have a difficult time staying profitable.
Takeaway: Make sure OTAs are incremental, not detrimental, to your business.
2) Relationships—with Owners, Team, and Guests—are What Matter
If you were to strip away all the “tools” you use to run your business, you would be left with the foundational pillars, and one of these is trust.
Now is the time to rely on the “trust equity” you have accumulated with each of these stakeholders. Our ability to communicate openly and honestly will carry us through this period.
What we have learned these past two months is that although not every conversation has satisfied the particular interest of these different constituents, the fact that we pick up the phone and remain accessible reaffirms our commitment to excellence and professionalism. We appreciate our owners’ loyalty, but at the same time we understand that some will have financial hardship, and we must stay flexible and willing to leave our comfort zone to help solve these issues.
Takeaway: Trust matters.
3) Your Brand is Your Most Important Asset
The OTAs have been silent and will remain that way for the remainder of the year. Now is the perfect opportunity to reach new people with your story.
For those brands that are OTA dependent, you have a clear path to highlight your distinct attributes with past guests or newcomers through social media channels, feeder market advertising, and newsletter/email campaigns.
For those that are not OTA dependent, what a great opportunity to extend your brands through alternative channels that will drive even more direct bookings.
Takeaway: The time for brand optimization is now.