With the convergence of lodging types in the minds of consumers, traditional property managers are transitioning into hospitality providers.
The role of vacation rental property managers has changed over the past decade. Responsibilities have more than doubled, particularly with respect to operations and guest services. There is a tighter booking window, and the average length of stay is shorter. Hotel and vacation rental inventories have converged on travel websites. Big travel brands are crossing segments as well: Airbnb purchased HotelTonight, Marriott launched its Homes and Villas product, and OYO pushed into vacation rentals. Customers are shopping fluidly between segments and expect the same quality experience whether they stay in a vacation home or a hotel. At this point, “property manager” is becoming a misnomer in the industry, one that fails to convey the full scope of service and value these professionals bring.
It’s official: property managers have become hospitality providers.
Why the Title “Property Manager” Isn’t Enough
Historically, vacation rental managers were hired by second homeowners to (a) market their homes, and (b) oversee maintenance and property care. Managers generated bookings and rental income, offset by maintenance expenses, and handled the accounting.
Short-term vacation rental property management, much like long-term residential property management, was transactional.
Today, managers are required to take a more proactive and purposeful approach to their work. There is a newfound focus on guest service that demands the full attention and resources of property managers. The job is now more guest-centric, and managers are responsible for facilitating a branded guest experience from the booking process through checkout.
Hospitality providers have always made the guest experience the core of their business. While these operators are similarly responsible for upkeep and maintenance, their focal point has always been servicing guests.
Guests staying in a hotel are constantly surrounded by service personnel who see to it that every request and question is promptly resolved. Hospitality providers are in the business of building relationships with guests by creating valuable touch points throughout the stay, such as daily cleaning, turndown service, or a personalized concierge. Staff are trained with clear standards of operations that fold into the hotel’s brand guidelines.
Vacation rental property managers are now tasked with all the above but in a more challenging environment with unpredictable variables and competing responsibilities. Unlike hotel proprietors, vacation rental operators are faced with managing properties in differing locations, maintaining large spaces with multiple rooms and exterior amenities, working with several owners who have distinct preferences and expectations, and coordinating various external service partners. A standard hotel room with two beds, a dresser, a TV, and a bathroom is a more predictable setting. In comparison, a vacation home requires significantly more attention to detail and permits a smaller margin for error.
And yet, professional managers of vacation rentals get this done. They turn over a seemingly impossible number of unique homes according to their specific brand standards, and at the same time offer concierge services with maintenance plans tailored to each owner. These offerings are much more than reactive property management and go a long way in shaping the guest experience.
The Role Is Evolving Along with the Industry
The modern traveler is looking for a comprehensive, Instagram-worthy experience: meaning all the amenities of a hotel plus the uniqueness and privacy of a vacation rental.
Travelers today are demanding more service than ever. These expectations don’t seem to be plateauing any time soon. Moreover, the profile of today’s traveler is younger; 82 percent of millennials traveled last year and cited experiencing new cultures as their primary reason.
These guests are accustomed to a higher level of service across every interaction. It’s much more than providing a clean accommodation—the expectation is a curated stay. The need to meet these expectations and facilitate this type of experience has forced managers to rework their offerings and branded experiences to differentiate themselves from the crowd.
Managers have responded by expanding concierge service, around the clock availability, and access to extensive local recommendations. Options such as grocery delivery, chefs for hire, drivers, affiliations with excursion providers, itinerary creation, and other personalized offerings have become common and are often influential considerations during the booking process. The sky is the limit when it comes to amenities, and managers are aware of the implications of failing to increase their service offerings.
Strategies to Embrace This New Terminology
The trend toward more service has been a catalyst for continued growth in the short-term rental category and has led to increased demand among those traditionally partial to hotels.
Vacation rental managers have met this demand, and while they might not have changed their titles (yet), many managers have already made the transition to being hospitality providers. This is evident in the ways these professional managers talk about their businesses, market their rentals, communicate with guests, and implement brand standards.
For those managers who have yet to transition and double down on “hospitality service,” expanding concierge offerings is less intimidating than it seems. Start by identifying additional amenities that you would like to offer, then work backwards to determine what services you can provide immediately. Discuss the timeline for rolling out these new initiatives with your teams and stakeholders, and track your progress accordingly. Holiday Vacation Rentals, for example, now offers a list of supplies that travelers can request to be stocked at the property ahead of their arrival. Guests can also order flowers, balloons, or gift baskets to celebrate a special occasion during the trip. This is becoming the standard and was much different in the days when guests didn’t know if they needed to bring their own sheets and towels.
To scale and sustain these guest amenity programs across your portfolio, managers need to equip themselves with the right tools to access data. When repeat guests book a trip, reviewing information from previous stays is important. Check for historical requests to see if any issues popped up during their stay. Try implementing a survey for new guests to better anticipate their needs, or even soliciting special requests in advance. Taking these proactive steps will help facilitate success for your team and ensure that guests are more satisfied.
Hospitality-Level Service Is the Next Big Opportunity
The vacation rental industry is continuing to evolve and mature, and with that comes a change in the set of responsibilities and expectations. The moniker property manager doesn’t nearly encapsulate the work that goes into the job, nor does it capture the emphasis placed on personalized guest service and property care.
Professionals who have traditionally worked with vacation rentals are at the forefront of the movement toward hospitality living, servicing both guests and owners. Those who offer creative amenities and services to curate guest experiences will embrace their new hospitality provider title and capitalize on this huge opportunity.