Over the last two years, the vacation rental industry has evolved from upscale vacation homes to millions of affordable rentals across the world. With that rapid growth, comes higher demand for both private accommodations and the customers who seek them – and more competition. However, there is a way to adapt to these changes and come out on top. Read on to learn how these VR industry trends affect managers and what to do.
VR Industry Trends: 7 Ways to Stay Current, Beat the Competition
Online listing giant HomeAway announced in June 2017 some major changes to their booking platform. While many vacation rental managers have an opinion on these changes, it looks like they are here to stay. Here’s what’s changing:
- Online booking is now a requirement in order to list/renew a listing.
- Pre-booking communication must be done through HomeAway. Both managers and guests will receive each other’s information after the booking is confirmed.
- Response rates will influence your Best Match ranking. The faster you respond, the better your chances.
- Guests who book through HomeAway receive a $1M liability insurance, at no additional cost to the owners or managers.
Property managers who are scrambling to adjust will either:
1) Stop listing on sites such as HomeAway and VRBO or
2) Reassess the situation and improve their processes.
Considering these listings sites drive millions of online users to listings, we recommend getting on board with these changes. However, the most successful property managers won’t be affected nearly as much if they have:
- A website with online booking
- An automatic response system that responds in less than 5 minutes
- A database full of customers and marketing/remarketing processes
These basics are essential to increasing direct bookings, reducing managers’ dependencies on online travel agencies and website traffic.
Remember Experience = Pricing
Does the price affect bookings? Yes. If priced to high, guests will overlook it and if priced to low, you lose money. However, tied for first place is experience. Will guests pay a little more for five-star service? Yes.
Now that vacation rental accommodations are competing against the world’s largest hotel chains – and performing well – the guest experience should be top of mind. Travelers want to experience all a destination offers, not just a nice place to sleep. However, many managers aren’t sure how to increase the experience.
Managers should go all out for their guests. Ideas include a helpful welcome book, free access to the area’s top activities, a welcome gift card or special discounts. Pair these with luxury amenities and stellar customer service, and you’ll keep them coming back year after year.
Provide the Ability to Share More
In June 2017, Facebook also reached 2 billion active users. Meanwhile, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest follow behind. This means vacation rental companies should have a strong social media presence on at least one of these sites in order to allow guests to share their experience.
Which site you choose depends on several factors: time, intent and content access. Make sure to pick the best social platform and go from there. It’s a slow process, but allowing guests to share their experience will pay off in the long run. And guests want the ability to share as much as possible.
Security applies to both homeowners and guests. Homeowners considering listing their vacation home worry about damage, parties and general upkeep. Guests worry about financial information, privacy and listing accuracy.
It’s important to remember that these are people’s homes. They are real investments. As a professional property management company, you should have a privacy statement, secure online booking, keyless entry and smart devices inside the home that monitor Wi-Fi enabled devices or noise.
Are parties a problem in your area? Get a free guide to party prevention from Party Squasher.
Support Smart Homes, Energy Savings
Smart technology has quickly infiltrated the market as more homeowners want to reduce energy costs. Several products are now available, including smart thermostats that adjust when guests leave and return. According to Parakeet, smart thermostats save homeowners 10% to 15% off their annual energy bill.
Other items to consider adding over the next couple of years are keyless entry, noise detectors and digital contracts. Look for smart home technology to rise to not only help owners but also save managers time.
Offer Better Communication, Service
Just as VR industry trends have shifted, the need for customer service has become a must. More travelers are choosing vacation rentals over hotels for several reasons, and property managers need to treat each guest with respect and care. Managers only calling during check-in are missing opportunities for higher reviews and a long-lasting relationship. In addition, guests want one-on-one attention and the confidence knowing their needs are addressed.
Need tips? Check out these customer service tips based on generational habits.
Accommodate Shorter Stays, Late Bookings
According to Your Rentals, the average vacation length is decreasing. And the study shows in 2016, about 52% of people booked trips within a month of travel. Last-minute bookings may seem harder to manage, however they are still quality bookings that add up fast. Those who do not have the ability to accept last-minute bookings will lose money and experience lower occupancy rates.