The vacation rental industry is at the crossroads of traditional property management and exceptional hospitality. Vacation rentals have morphed into a unique facet of the rental housing genre with a culture unto its own. Consumers looking for extended stays or a place to relax or call home base for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation or long weekend expect more than a typical hotel experience.
Extending memorable hospitality to guests is defining how vacation rental managers stay competitive in this burgeoning segment, one that analysts forecast to grow 7 percent annually from 2017-21.
By 2019, the market is expected to reach $170 billion, including $40 billion in the U.S. as its tracks at a pace of 25-30 percent growth each year. Much of the business is being booked online and that trend is expected to escalate. Since 2012, online bookings have grown from 24 percent to 55 percent in 2018. While shopping for a place to stay, consumers are looking for the right price, the right location and what travelers are saying. An accurate, enticing visual presence of anyone marketing vacation rental property is essential, but effectively marketing toward this new rental housing dynamic digs deeper.
Condensing the renter lifecycle into a few days or weeks
While at the forefront of massive boom, those in vacation rental management are being faced with extending their business model to more than just leaving the light on. The industry is already challenged by effectively communicating between property and consumer, property conditions that meet expectations, safety and security and managing operations.
Maintaining constant touch points while condensing the guest lifecycle into just a few days or weeks is a particularly big hurdle, says Kigo Senior Vice President Matthew Hoffman. Hospitality and solid communication are essential.
Providing a platform enabling consistent communication from pre-booking to check out is something that Kigo is hanging its hat on at the front door. The company, conceived in 2008 as the vacation rental industry started shifting into high gear, provides technology to help keep guests and the property manager connected so both have a seamless experience.
Providing hospitality solutions through technology
The most important piece of the vacation rental lifecycle is engagement at pre-booking, says Hannah Lau Zarley, Kigo’s vice president of product management. It’s a critical moment when the vacation rental management company quickly communicates its brand and what the guest can expect to experience.
After all, it may be the only shot the property gets from today’s instant-gratification consumer.
“With a hotel, you’re looking for a place to sleep,” she said. “For me on vacation, it’s completely different. I want to relax, read a book, know what kind of amenities they have, concierge services. That communication is key to me prior to booking. I want to make sure I’m going to enjoy my vacation because I may only get one or two a year.”
What separates good vacation rental properties from the great ones is hospitality, Hoffman says. Somewhere from an initial greeting and stocking a refrigerator with essentials like bottled water and soft drinks to what’s playing at the amphitheater has come to be expected by today’s travelers.
Because the rental is different from a hotel experience, Kigo is looking to enhance the level of hospitality property managers can provide to their guests through technology with its Kigo Marketplace, a platform that sends greetings, travel details and updates.
Kigo Guest Experience enables property managers to send real-time communications, customize guest information, automate check-ins and checkouts, partner with local vendors and receive timely feedback.
“Your expectation of staying in a hotel is the same if you’re traveling to New York or Los Angeles,” Hoffman said. “The expectations that you have as a vacation rental guest cannot be standardized because every experience is slightly different. That’s what we’re looking to change with technology.”
Maintaining touch points at the end of the stay
Studies have shown that renter engagement typically tails at the end of the lifecycle, but Lau Zarley says renter contact within the last 24 hours of stay is just as important as it is at the beginning, not just for the customer but the property.
Texting or emailing a guest about how the rental unit should be left upon check-out helps facilitate quicker turns so space is available, as promised for the next customer. Also, it’s an opportunity to get fresh feedback as well as extend any discounts or incentives for future stays.
And, the property can get a jump on turning the unit for the next guest through the employee communication platform.
“Make sure you are working with a technology partner that enables you to drive this consistent communication throughout the entire stay,” Lau Zarley said. “It’s not only important for your guests, but it’s also important for you as your employees are in the field working turns and documenting issues. You need a way to consolidate that communication and report off of that so you can be as effective as possible in your day to day business.”