If you can keep track of everything that is happening in our fast-transforming vacation rental industry, then you are a genius.
Let’s face it, for all of us in the industry, staying abreast of all the changes and keeping current with innovation and technology solutions entering the ecosystem has become a huge challenge. It is a good challenge to have, but a challenge nonetheless.
The big question for us to ask ourselves is whether we even know anymore how to differentiate our product from all the other different hospitality products out there. Are we still confident about what makes vacation rentals unique and what sets our offering apart from other lodging options?
Concurrent with all the wider industry transformations, property managers still need to run property management businesses. We are challenged daily to deliver the best possible guest experience and, at the same time, to look after our hosts and owners by ensuring we deliver the best possible service and returns.
Outside of individual property management businesses, looking at the wider picture, we are being confronted with a convergence in hospitality. All products have become one. The OTAs have mastered the distribution of our products, and consumers can choose, at any time, the kind of accommodation they want, expecting to book it instantly.
Along with the challenge of convergence, the industry is facing margin compression and increased competition. For property managers, it is getting harder and harder to make a reasonable margin.
Although we are trying to find solutions and remedies for our challenges, we are increasingly exposed to more complex circumstances, requiring us to make choices and decisions that are not part of our core business.
However, to succeed, it is vital that we keep in mind what our core business is. Our core business is to deliver the best possible guest experience and to provide exceptional service for our owners. Our business rests on making sure that the guests coming into our homes have the time of their lives and enjoy their holiday or business trip with the least amount of friction.
Our business also depends on ensuring that our owners and hosts are satisfied with the services we provide, that their properties are being looked after, that occupancy is at its maximum, and that the delivered rent is the best achievable.
While not forgoing our core business, we are also challenged by increased distribution costs and have become more and more dependent on third-party channels for leads. At the same time, the brand equity we once built is diminishing. Repeat customers are slowing down; booking windows are getting shorter; and our guests are demanding more choices, greater freedom, and better value for their money. These are tough realities to accept, but accept them we must.
Being faced with operational issues on a daily basis and being pressured to deliver a superb guest experience, while also making sure your owners are happy, means vacation rental management businesses barely have the time to come up for air, let alone think strategically about what is next on the horizon or how to improve their business by making things easier for everybody involved.
Perhaps it’s time for a collective step back and some reflection on the questions around what is happening in the industry—what is now expected of us, and what can we do in the professional vacation rental property management industry to ease our worries and make improvements that are not just knee-jerk reactions?
There are, of course, many solutions out there to support the transformation of a property management business. But we do need to be incredibly smart about our choices.
Our first priority must be to create the best possible hospitality experience for our guests—making sure that everything, from searching to booking to paying and having a great time while enjoying a vacation rental, is as seamless as possible.
This we can do. We are professionals, and we know exactly what our guests want and how we can make their stay an incredible and unforgettable experience.
It’s time to stop talking about blunt knives and insufficient basic accoutrements while staying away from home. (Stay a night or two in one of your own properties, and you will quickly understand what needs improvement.)
Whether we like it or not, or whether we think this is important or not, every property manager needs to master these basics and improve at communicating our value proposition. There is still a massive pool of potential customers who have never stayed in a rental, who are used to the conveniences of hotels, and who we could potentially convert to our offering.
Besides investing in branding on the property level and making sure to have the right mix of distribution channels, today’s property manager needs to think about the future.
What is the next opportunity to make choosing a vacation rental an even better experience for the guest, as well as putting our hosts at ease, knowing everything is okay with the property?
From both an industry perspective and an individual business perspective, the next big thing to transform our offering is home automation. Being able to deliver the very best experience to our guests when they stay in our properties is the core solution of home automation.
We are all consumers; we all want choice and we all want convenience. Home automation, a seamless booking process, and, above all, free choice can deliver the right results for the guest and host of tomorrow.
Automated locks are a small start. Not everybody wants to be greeted by the host and have their ears chewed off about the latest fishing trip they went on! Many guests just want to get into their properties, relax, and make them their own. Aside from locks, home automation offers much more opportunity for transformation.
Although as an industry we are facing massive challenges to maintain our margins and are under high expectations to deliver best-in-class products to our stakeholders, we are also under the pressure of operational and distribution costs that are killing us.
It is imperative that we look for alternatives for maintenance of our operational profitability as well as make sure our guests are satisfied and our hosts are getting maximum occupancy.
Adaptation to future technologies will enable us to circumvent many of these real and present challenges. However, we need to be ready for this transformation and be open to the opportunity of being the first adopters. But if we do, home automation will be transformative both at an industry level and at an individual operational level.
Applying smart home technology will enable forward-thinking property managers to handle all processes around each property simultaneously. This will inevitably result in a better guest experience, lower operating costs, and more data to run your business even more efficiently. And this will lead to better and more profitable businesses!