Travelers are reawakening, and with bookings at an all-time high for vacation rentals, hospitality providers are looking forward to a booming summer season.
“Revenge travel” is a real thing, and pent-up demand to go somewhere — pretty much anywhere — is playing out across the U.S. domestic market. Even car rentals are slammed, a sure sign that driving-distance destinations continue to be popular.
Overall, this is good news for travel operators after a tricky year. But can property managers cope with wall-to-wall bookings? And are they ready for the operational onslaught? Do they have the tech in place to help streamline their back-office processes? And, most importantly, can they meet elevated guest demands?
Vacation rental managers have been forward-thinking in their approach to tech adoption as they respond to guests wanting a more automated experience. In fact, Breezeway’s own internal research found that 88 percent of property managers plan on differentiating their business by expanding, increasing or optimizing their tech stack.
This tells us there’s a subtle yet significant shift happening in the vacation rental industry: Operators recognize that their business is not just about preparing properties for guests, but also about providing a guest-centric experience similar to other hospitality verticals such as hotels. Before, it was enough to offer a comfortable and clean environment, and while that’s still hugely important, it’s now equally essential to provide a fantastic experience as well.
We’ve learned that hospitality technology doesn’t just make business operations more efficient; it can introduce guest-facing solutions that delight.
The new way forward in this sector is to tie crucial operations to the guest experience. By using automated tools and workflows, like we’ve developed at Breezeway, property managers have the insight and resources they need to meet guest needs as soon as possible. For example, if a guest messages to say that an appliance isn’t working, this then triggers a maintenance workflow that tells staff to fix it. The guest receives help quickly and leaves a positive review off the back of this service. Not only is this efficient but the guest is left feeling satisfied, and technology is delivering the all-important hospitality experience.
A Tailored Tech Stack
Managers are realizing that a one-size-fits-all approach to tech in this sector just doesn’t work. What is emerging, however, is the understanding that we need purpose-built tech that is specifically designed for complex operational tasks. How I see it is that tailored, customized, yet integrated tech tools are the way forward to enable hospitality professionals to do their jobs well.
Instead of buying one solution and hoping it will do the job, the industry is waking up to the idea that a bespoke approach to tech is the one that will meet the increasingly elevated guest demands for property care, cleaning and experiential services.
We call this “fragmented tech,” which is technology built for a specific purpose. Guest-facing technology like smart locks and automated thermostats fall into this category, as does more complex technology that manages your back-office functions.
This way of assembling and integrating your tech stack is not without its challenges. In the vacation rental space, we believe that no all-in-one software can actually do everything well. Rather, we find that well-integrated, tailored solutions make our jobs easier and therefore improve the guest experience.
The Power of Integration
The most successful solutions in any industry are niche solutions that integrate seamlessly with other niche solutions. In my experience, the best model is to have a core platform that stacks — rather than one solution that goes a mile wide but only an inch deep. If you take this approach, you can have customized yet compatible tech tools working harmoniously for your business.
Implementing integrated purpose-built operations technology pays in the end. Not only does it increase the visibility of profits and cost structures, but it also helps manage the day-to-day operations and increase revenue as a result. Another benefit of property automation is that it creates more time for managers to focus on the business of hospitality. By that, I mean great communication with guests and offering services that ensure long-lasting vacation memories (something we are all in need of at this time).
Marrying Hospitality and Technology
It might seem like a strange comparison, but the question, “How do you compare a hospitality company and a tech company?” actually has relevance as our industry moves forward at pace. Today, we need to leverage technology to deliver the hospitality that is expected. Automating services from the very first guest touch point to asking for a review after they’ve checked out is essential now. Understanding the connection between tech and hospitality — and utilizing services that enable it — will differentiate a business and separate a brand from the competition.
Digital native guests rightly expect tech to be an integral part of their hospitality experiences, regardless of whether they stay in a hotel, apartment or treehouse. They experience end-to-end automation at their own home and have come to demand the same services on vacation.
This doesn’t mean operators need to lose sight of what makes hospitality great. We can still welcome guests and create remarkable experiences, but we can do so more seamlessly and efficiently through tech. Some companies are doing a great job of offering hotel-quality luxury with the convenience and privacy of a vacation rental using smart technology like on-demand cleaning operations, guest communication platforms and even smart locks. Automating operational tasks might seem dull and unremarkable, yet these processes add up to improve the overall guest experience. And that’s what hospitality is all about, isn’t it?
Niche solutions can help solve a multitude of complex behind-the-scenes processes in hospitality, and they all need to be integrated so that the guest doesn’t see the joins. In practice, that means a unique door code ready on arrival or a solution to turn the heat on automatically before a guest arrives — even better if these tools are speaking to each other.
This we-thought-of-everything hospitality is at the core of the guest experience. A vacation rental manager wants to make sure that properties exceed guest expectations. By using software that provides a seamless operational workflow for both back-office and guest-facing processes, they can delight their guests and improve their profitability.
Those in the hospitality industry 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.
That would be my advice for everyone gearing up for summer 2021: Tech up, but tech up for a purpose — and build a stack of niche solutions that integrate seamlessly with each other.