The world is no longer the flat, hazy mystery it once was. Travel has opened almost every country to visits from anywhere and commerce spreads over the globe like a flood. I can travel from Singapore to Moscow in the same day and order the exact same coffee, both tasting exactly the same, and with the same pattern of caramel resting on the foam at either airport. The price will be roughly the same and the experience will be just as it was 3 years, or 8000 miles previously. Multinational businesses demand consistency from every outpost. You have to stick to the exact formula, from the flagship location to the newest outcrop. That’s fairly amazing, and fairly disheartening if you travel to try new experiences. You may say that this blunts the possibility of surprise. That it dulls and sanitises the whole experience of travel and discovery that vacation rental properties are so keenly linked to. The possibility that one property will never be like another is one of the keystones of the success of the industry. Vacation rentals brought one-off experiences to travellers on a global scale.
This idea led us to the question: Does expanding a business into an empire mean you have to have an identical product in every area? Does a diverse product mean that you are limiting your chance to expand your business? And finally, where does this leave vacation rentals, where no two are ever the same?
To quote a 70s slogan from the hotel chain Holiday Inn, ‘The best surprise is no surprise’. Holiday Inn built a global business by giving guests the security of the same room, at the same price, wherever they were. They made consistency and standardisation the bedrock of their business. By the time this slogan was being used, they had more than 1700 locations across America, growing from their first in little over twenty years.
But, this just seems a little sad. It seems anathema to the whole notion of vacation rentals. To turn to Oscar Wilde, ‘Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative’. So, can you create a business model that allows for expansion without the bleaching of creativity, individuality and passion that inspired your first property?
We think there is a perfect middle ground for property managers. Vacation rentals still have the chance to give their guests a singular and unique property that will make a change from identical roadside hotel rooms, with the same consistency in service and treatment of a global brand. Globally recognised portals have given people the chance to be seen all over the world but it is product first and business and brand second. It’s common to hear people say, we’re staying in a Booking.com apartment - rather than mentioning your specific business. The ideal scenario is to have guests that know they can trust your brand wherever they are. They know that your brand is a seal of quality and that the only consideration they need to worry about is picking the property.
There is a sense that vacation rentals can be varied and that’s what attracts many people. You can go from a modern loft to a crumbling chateau within two clicks. This variation adds excitement for some but it spells inconsistency rather than exciting differences. When trying to establish your business, there are things that need to be consistent, in every country and for every guest.
Here are 3 things you need to keep consistent across every property to help you expand your business and your own brand into new areas and gain a loyal network of customers.
Choose properties that fit with your brand and that meet your own high standards. You can vary in size and location but you will always know if a property doesn’t quite reach the expectations you set for yourself. A checklist of amenities, scores for factors such as location and style will help you create a rigorous method that you can apply to every property. Being vigilant and never settling for anything less than your set standard establishes your brand as a quality product from Istanbul to Chicago.
This is often one of the biggest factors in establishing brand loyalty; how you treat your guests. Every member of staff needs to be trained to deal with your guests in the way you want. You need to lay out the standards you expect and meet them with every interaction and every email. This comes down to things like response times, check-ins and check-outs. If you are expanding your business, you cannot expect others to know the standards you expect so create guidelines for service that goes above and beyond. Schedule regular checks of your properties and give your guests the option to reach your staff if they require anything.
Keep the booking and check-in process as simple and as consistent as possible. After using your business, guests should know the route from picking a property to confirmation. Keeping this consistent as possible between your website and the portals you use is vital. It can be hard when using many different sites but having wild inconsistencies between pages such as instant booking on one site and telephone only enquiries on another will put your guests off.
And remember to use your brand to identify your properties. Creating branded materials such as your welcome pack or even little things like notepads or maps that your guests can use will be a small reminder that they are in a property run by your business. Even adding a small watermark of your brand onto your images will instantly let your guests know that the property that caught their eye is from a business they know they can trust.
You can then keep adding unique and surprising properties to your business whilst expanding into new areas. Keeping these elements of your business consistent will outweigh any personal or cultural idiosyncrasies when you expand into new areas and help to establish you as a professional and reliable option.
Expanding a business does not have to mean the identical and soulless reproduction of one product. It takes time, effort and the right tools to understand and spread the standards, quality and the unnamable spark of inspiration that led you to your first property. Once you know these, you can apply the same love and attention to every single corner of your business.