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by Jeremy Gall, founder and CEO of Breezeway.
Bookings are booming for short-term rentals. Vaccination programs are gaining momentum, and the existing pent-up demand to get away is translating into stronger domestic travel. As short-term rentals are the current accommodation of choice, property managers and operators are looking forward to a bumper summer of back-to-back reservations.
Confidence in the sector was cemented when Airbnb filed its S1 last year, showing both the resilience of the vacation rental sector and how benefits such as contactless check-in options, operational efficiency, and safety/cleaning checks have safeguarded its reputation with guests.
However, there’s a wider picture behind this predicted travel reboot. The industry hasn’t just bounced back to normal, it has returned with a host of new factors at play. Property managers have had to get to grips with more complex operational schedules as they aim to meet new guest demands for heightened cleanliness, more teched-up properties, and better communication channels.
In terms of property preparation, standards that travellers hold have never been higher. Property managers are dealing with increased demands, adding to the existing challenges of servicing unique properties, multiple locations, frequent requests, and doing so with fluid and unpredictable scheduling needs.
So how are savvy short-term rental property managers preparing for a busy summer season? The answer lies in ‘proptech’ solutions. Chosen wisely, the right tools can automate properties and schedules, drive efficiencies and ultimately provide an elevated service for guests.
What’s the current state of play?
Let’s unpack those operational standards that are holding property managers to account. It’s no surprise that cleanliness will remain a crucial touchpoint to get right this year. A recent Breezeway report found 71% of global property managers agreed that the current increased guest sensitivity towards cleanliness and behaviors will remain after the pandemic.
Managers are responding to this new state of play by reviewing and building up their tech arsenal. 88% of managers plan on differentiating their business by expanding or optimizing their tech stack, showing that managers are automating processes in order to boost their brand and gain a competitive edge. Tech has emerged as not only essential to behind-the-scenes operations but also as a driver for growth. Managers have identified proptech solutions as an area for investment – Hostfully’s study shows the average vacation rental management company currently spends about $51 per property per month on technology.
The need for increased cleaning and maintenance checks is clear, and managers need to invest intechnology to do so. However, one link often left unconnected is the need for managers to actually tell guests and owners about these processes. Unless this happens, all the behind-the-scenes activity operates in a vacuum.
The guest experience now extends beyond arrival and departure, beginning at booking and continuing through the stay and after check-out. Communication is a vital component to this experience as it builds trust and creates a resource for your business that can result in valuable reviews, referrals and learnings.
The upshot is that as property managers face possibly the busiest summer on record, they need to be at the top of their professional gain in terms of quality delivery: quality of cleans, guest communication and of guest/owner communication.
What can technology bring to the table?
Much has been written about the acceleration of tech adoption in so many parts of our lives since the pandemic. Property management is no exception. The short-term rental sector has been quick to grasp the benefits of automation both across operations and the guest experience, and has leveraged tech to professionalise. Airbnb is no longer seen as ‘alternative accommodation’ and brand-like offerings from Sonder and Mews show how far the sector has come since it emerged as a major player in hospitality.
At the most visible level for guests, self-check-in and keyless entry solutions are helping property managers save on manpower hours whilst ensuring Covid-compliance. Less visible proptech tools include automated workflow platforms, logging tasks and meeting guest requests. For example, a guest messages that an appliance is not working, which then triggers a maintenance workflow and task assignment for staff to fix it. The guest receives help within hours and leaves a positive review for the work – it’s a win-win.
Short-term rentals are notoriously tricky to manage operationally – with high turnovers and peak seasons. Solutions which allow managers to visibly monitor progress in real-time, adjust assignments for last-minute changes and triage issues as soon as they arise cannot be underestimated.
Built-in insights from properties through these platforms that detail a task’s timeframe and history mean that managers can adjust systems accordingly to increase the quality, safety and cleanliness of each of their properties.
It all comes back to communication. If all of this work is then shared with the property owner, it reassures them that their asset is being looked after, managed professionally and increases owner retention and referral in the long run.
Building a tech stack
It has become clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to tech in this sector just doesn’t work. To be efficient, we need purpose-built tech that is specifically designed for complex operational tasks. In my experience, tailored, customized, yet integrated tech tools are the way forward to enable hospitality professionals to deliver – especially this summer.
A bespoke approach to tech is the one that will meet the increasingly elevated guest demands for property care, cleaning and experiential services. We label this ‘fragmented tech’; technology built for a specific purpose. This includes guest-facing technology like smart locks and automated thermostats along with more complex technology that manages your back-office functions.
Assembling and integrating your tech stack in this way can be challenging. In the short-term rental space, we believe that no software can do everything well. Instead, we find that well-integrated, tailored solutions make our jobs easier and therefore improve the guest experience.
The final word
Tech is certainly the way forward for property managers and businesses growing at pace and facing high demand. This needs to tie backend operations with the guest experience. By using software that provides seamless operations for both back-office and guest-facing processes, they can delight their guests and improve their profitability. The end result is that a guest’s expectations are exceeded – that pent-up demand for travel has been satisfied, and some.
Property managers building a tech stack should find a tool to supplement the activities they don’t get credit for doing. Operators can then concentrate on their guests and provide them with the very best experience possible.
So for those gearing up for summer: tech up, but tech up with a purpose. Do your research and choose niche solutions that integrate seamlessly with each other.