If you’re like most vacation rental hosts, you’re continuously improving your properties to enhance guest experience. After all, a better experience leads to higher star ratings, which eventually translates to quicker bookings and more earnings.
Just like any industry, the vacation rental one is continuously changing. And while reading blogs like this one are great ways to get inspiration on what to do next, sometimes staying ahead of the curve is more effective than catching up.
By looking into the future, hosts can get a sense of what’s on the horizon and implement changes gradually. By no means ground-breaking, the following trends are ones we see smaller operators in the vacation rental space ignoring.
#1: Expect more growth but also more competition
According to a forecast performed by Technavio, the vacation rental industry is expected to grow at a rate of 7.07% per year until 2021. Great right? More growth means more opportunity for multi-property owners.
Not so fast. In every booming market, there’s always a behemoth wanting a more significant share. So in the coming years, expect to see large companies continue to expand their rental portfolio—including Google.
But how can single-property hosts or small entrepreneurs thrive in an increasingly competitive environment? The answer is simple: added-value only a small operation can provide, and pay attention to, notably:
- Focusing on a personalized boutique experience, and;
- Offering guests the chance to live a genuinely local experience.
#2: The new traveler generation wants eco-friendly options
Younger generations have a clear and outspoken concern for the environment. Luckily, an eco-friendly home appeals to millennials without taking away from older guests. Not to mention, energy-efficiency helps reduce your heating and cooling costs.
Transforming a property into an eco-friendly one doesn’t necessarily require substantial changes or large-scale renovations. Here are a few you options hosts can quickly implement:
- Make your home more energy-efficient: DIY projects are cheap, easy to get done quickly, and sometimes come with tax breaks.
- Use eco-friendly products: these days there are so many options that clean as well as the industrial alternative and cost just about the same.
- Provide intuitive options for recycling: all it takes is a few extra bins.
- Changing to low-flush toilets: many municipalities offer tax breaks that cover the hardware and labor costs associated with this improvement.
- Switching to LED bulbs: these new lighting options have come down in price in recent years. Whenever an old lightbulb dies, just put in a newer one! This is an expense hosts won’t even feel.
Hosts will need to market any changes they make to the property in their listings. If you start using eco-friendly or natural cleaning products, include it in the description. It’s a cheap way to make your property stand out from the rest.
#3: Young travelers expect technology and connectivity
It used to be the case that you’d meet your guest at the rental property, hand over the keys, and provide a walkthrough. Those days are long gone.
Guests are now comfortable with no interactions if the check-in process is simple, and communication with the hosts is seamless and responsive.
To cater to this new trend, hosts can take advantage of technological tools such as:
- The Airbnb self-check-in process: just provide easy and straightforward instructions at check-in.
- Property Management Systems (PMSs): tools like Hostfully’s PMS streamline communications by centralizing communications across all listing platforms. Hosts can even set up automated messages that send guests critical information right when they book. No more dropped instructions!
- Digital guidebooks: Instead of providing local recommendations verbally during check-in, hosts can offer a polished and branded local area guide to their guests. All guests need to do is click on a link!
#4: Voice is creeping its way into hospitality
In winter 2018, National Public Radio and Edison Research found that 21% of U.S. residents 18-years-old and over own a smart speaker device. To put that into perspective, that’s 53 million people!
So what does that mean for property owners? Here’s just one example of how voice will change the vacation rental industry. Hostfully recently entered into a partnership with Virtual Concierge Service (VCS), and through voice-enabled devices, guests will be able to access information about the property, including:
- Checkout time
- WiFi passwords
- Local recommendations
- Nearby attractions
- Emergency phone numbers
- Specific instructions on the devices around the property
- Upcoming events
Learn more about how you bring the power of voice to your vacation rental.
#5: Anything and everything digital needs to be mobile-friendly
Travelers now rarely leave their home without a smartphone in hand. Given the convenience mobile devices add to daily life, hosts can take advantage of this trend and integrate it into the vacation rental.
One aspect of a vacation rental that can easily be made mobile-friendly is the guidebook. Hosts now have a better option than leaving house rules and local recommendations on the coffee table or on a pinboard.
Companies like ours offer hosts a platform where they can create fully custom digital guidebooks. All guests need to do is click on a link, and everything is downloaded to their phone. No need for another app and the check-in instructions can be sent to the guests ahead of time.
#6: Guests like the option of buying items from within their rental
As hotels have shown, upselling items from within the room is a great way to boost earnings. This trend is slowly making headway into the vacation rental industry. For hosts and property managers, this trend is a great way to boost earnings by:
- Improving the odds of return customers: the items guests bring back home will remind them of the rental daily. If they return to the area in the future, they’ll be more likely to rebook at that property.
- Adding a new income stream to your business.
There are already a few services catering to this new trend. Up-Sell by Wishbox is a convenient service for upselling without having to be physically present. You can list anything for sale, whether it’s a service or tangible item. It also streamlines cooperation with local artists and craftspeople.
That said, not all vacation rentals are suitable for upselling physical items. In those cases, hosts can consider allowing guests to purchase:
- Late checkouts
- Early check-ins
- Mid-stay cleanings
- Airport transfers
- Children’s equipment rental (strollers, high chairs)
Hostfully recently implemented the option for managers to upsell services, allowing them to earn more income and provide more convenience to their guests.
#7: Augmented and virtual reality is about to breakthrough
It wasn’t that long ago that mobile gaming developers latched onto augmented and virtual reality for entertainment. Now you’re looking at the possibility of both technologies revolutionizing the vacation rental industry.
In the coming years, virtual reality will allow guests to experience the rental before booking. On the other hand, augmented reality will be used as a complement to the house manual. Not sure how to operate a light fixture? Just point your phone at it and the instructions will pop up.
While the technology is still up and coming, expect to see breakthroughs in the next 5 years.
#8: Get used to hearing the term “bleisure” more often
There was once a time when business travel was exactly that – strictly business. But now, millennials are mixing their business and leisure trips together, creating “bleisure.”
Though you may cater to business travelers, you’ll want to tailor your recommendations to both leisure and business. Provide them with tourism recommendations that they can enjoy on their downtime, like a 2-hour self-guided walk.
#9: AI is on the horizon and may disrupt travel industry pillars
Artificial intelligence has a place in many aspects of our lives. Vacation rentals will soon be one of them, and it will fundamentally change the industry. Artificial intelligence will be able to provide more customized and personalized recommendations based on data collected on the guest.
Many of the dynamic pricing tools available currently use some form of AI and machine learning to inform their algorithms and ultimately your pricing.
#10: Guests now expect local recommendations from hosts
In 2017, Segment.com found that 71% of guests were frustrated over the lack of a personalized experience. Of those polled, 44% revealed they were more likely to become repeat customers with a more personalized experience.
So if you’re looking for that 5-star review from your guests, you will need to put work into local recommendations. A guidebook without recommendations is going to be viewed by your guests as incomplete.
#11: Branding isn’t just for big companies or hotels anymore
Want to stand out from your competitors? That’s where branding comes into play. By having a clear brand, vacation rental companies can really stand out.
We have found that one of the biggest challenges among property managers is standing out from the crowd in a competitive industry. The answer is simple, branding! Did you know that 99% of vacation rentals are completely unbranded, which is compared to 40 percent of hotels. What does the hotel industry know that we don’t?
Consider tools like guidebooks, websites, and a company story to help set yourself apart from the crowd. Customized guidebooks help with branding, allowing for custom logos, splash screens, unique color schemes, and local recommendations unique to your neighborhood.
Branding also gives guests a feel for what they should expect from the rental unit. How you approach your branding will provide insight into the unique characteristics of your property.