The short-term vacation rental industry is maturing quickly. To get more information on the subject from the other side of the pond, we reached out to Ramon Glieneke, Chief of Business Development at one of our trusted channel partners, Only-apartments.com.
First, some information on Only-apartments.com. Founded in 2003, Only-apartments specializes in apartment rentals for short and medium stays. The company aims to offer the widest selection of apartments at a lower price than hotels, and they currently list over 200,000 apartments in 120 countries worldwide. While the majority of their market is still European, they touch properties all over the world.
Ramon, what trends do you see coming in the vacation rental industry? Where is the industry going?
Well, to start, the type of owners we’re seeing is transitioning, from individual owners to business owners who are running their properties. We’re still seeing both types, so the individual hasn’t completely disappeared. But things are certainly changing.
While this transition is going smoothly, there are some bumps in the road. Some of these businesses are individuals that are growing into an agency. Their experience is limited, and as a result, they’re experiencing the same growing pains that every new business owner experiences.
What’s the mindset of these new owners?
With the larger businesses, we’re seeing more professionalism within the market. That means better service and better technology with a higher level of booking. More of our clients are using software packages like Kigo, which makes our lives easier.
The market is also maturing from a pricing perspective. Owners are no longer looking at getting the highest standard rate. Instead, they’re looking at revenue management based on demands of specific weekends or events, not just seasons.
What about travelers? Are they becoming savvier as well?
There definitely is a higher level of service expected by travelers as well, with the increase in professionalism. Travelers are also becoming more tech savvy, expecting an immediate response to their queries and the ability to book online instantly. They are starting to expect their hosts to have services or at least information like a hotel concierge (amenities, area info, taxis). And they expect their accommodations to have the same standard as hotels.
What are some trendy destinations that you’ve seen vacation rentals growing in popularity?
The worldwide demand for Cuba is growing. Havana was a big surprise as a growing destination. Rio made a splash with the world cup as well, and so did the rest of South America. Other strong growth areas for us have been Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Bali, Indonesia. There has been growth in China as well, mostly by Chinese travelers booking locations like Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.
What sets Only-apartments apart from your competitors?
For us, it’s been expertise in the booking area. Travelers and property managers (both are our customers). We’ve always pushed toward instant booking from the beginning. Another is availability. We’ve worked hard to make sure property managers always have the latest availability. In fact, they must have an absolutely up-to-date availability calendar. But they’re professionals and they understand this.
Is there a certain type of traveler that Only-Apartments particularly attracts? If so, do you have any advice for how vacation rental managers can better reach them?
While we cater to everyone, families represent 60% of our travelers. And families are looking for very specific amenities. So, if you’re going to list your property on Only-apartments.com, make sure to provide and list these families’ desired amenities.
Families are often less price sensitive, so that offers higher margins for our owners. Also, they don’t party, or travel, versus adults. That means they take better care of the properties and are less likely to anger the neighbors with noise problems.
What are the top requirements for a successful Only-apartments listing?
Pictures – Your pictures sell your property. They should be high quality and have as many as possible. Four or five really isn’t enough. More is always better. Show all aspects inside and outside.
Descriptions – Like photos, more is better. Two lines is not enough for a description. Be proactive in providing selling points. Tell them about what to do and see nearby. Tell them how to get around.
Pricing – this is tricky. You have the right price at the right moment, for the right number of people. Occupancy should affect the price. Two people cause less cleanup than six.
Communication – You need to communicate with travelers, and provide prompt responses to inquiries guest communications. Think of yourself as a hotel owner. Your guests are.
Flexibility – Avoid check in restrictions like only booking on Saturdays. If you want more bookings, then you need to be more flexible. Some agencies will have weekend check in restrictions and it hurts their business.
Combining Extra Costs – Just raise your prices instead of adding cleaning costs or other extras. Prospects get irritated if they see several add-on costs like cleaning and Wi-Fi after the rate.
Adding Travel Amenities – Little things like soap, toiletries or kitchen utensils, paper towels. And such make a big difference to the traveler and don’t cost very much for you.
Being responsive – Travelers remember the whole experience. If the AC or the water isn’t working, you must pick up the phone. They’ll remember that long after they forget the view. And it’s translated into vacation rental reviews. We estimate that 30-40% bad reviews mostly come from not being responsive. Another 30% of poor reviews have to do with the property not being kept up, furniture broken issues and that the unit hasn’t been cleaned.
What is on the road map for Only-apartments.com features or improvements?
Our short-term goal is to improve flexibility for both travelers and owners. We want to offer more flexible cancellations, property adjustments and faster payments, so both parties can feel comfortable, from week before the booking. We’re growing really fast so we want to make sure to provide the same or better level of service as we continue to grow.
Do you have any tips or best practices for hosts?
Just provide the most information possible, from check-in times to how to get the keys. Keep communicating. Travelers want to know what’s happening more than just the day before. Provide more information about the area.
What types of amenities do you believe it’s important to offer in a vacation rental property?
Everyone is different, but since families tend to be our focus, here’s what they’re looking for:
- Internet is the number one demand. Offer it free.
- Safety and well-lit areas
- A smoke detector
- Basic amenities
- Offer the whole property, not just a room
Finally, how can vacation property managers get constructive feedback from guests?
Ask for it. When they check in, ask if they need anything. Then, check in with them during the stay. Then email them after check out. So you can get feedback directly.