Jon Chou is the CEO and Co-founder of Beenest, an online rental booking platform targeted towards the business traveler customer. Today he sits with Hostfully to discuss why the vacation rental market for business travelers is so promising, what he loves about the vacation rental industry community, and how vacation rental property owners and managers can deliver a top guest experience in a digital world.
Q: What do you think is the most exciting thing going on in the VR industry at this very moment?
Jon: The vacation rental industry is going mainstream and taking the hotel industry head-on. The hyper growth in the past few years has been nothing short of phenomenal; Airbnb already accounts for 9% of the total lodging units in the 10 largest U.S. markets and the industry is already valued at $100 billion.
What is even more attractive about this growth is that customer penetration is still low, meaning most customers have yet to stay in their first vacation rental property. Similarly, the business travel market has barely scratched the surface.
As the market continues to mature and millennials continue to favor the curated, personalized experiences that vacation rental properties provide and hotel do not, the upward swing this industry is experiencing shows no signs of stopping. We’re seeing real disruption an I’m fortunate to be on the ground floor of it.
Q: What action have you taken in your business recently as a result of emerging trends in our industry?
At Beenest, we stopped servicing the consumer market and have shifted our efforts entirely towards the business traveler customer. There are a few reasons for this. Companies are achieving significant savings by putting their employees in a rental property rather than a chain hotel. With vacation rentals, the check-in times tend to be more flexible, which is an added plus for the business professional flying in early.
In addition to cost savings for the employer and flexible check-ins for the employee, vacation rental properties offer a better environment for employee engagement. With a larger house, you can host things like brainstorm sessions or bonding activities in a more informal and comfortable environment that you simply do not get at a hotel.
Q: What is your biggest pain point as a VR professional?
The business traveler customer is more demanding, and is used to the standard of quality that a major hotel chain offers. Although the quality and level of service most rental properties provide are quite high, every now and then an experience might be less than optimal. Things are not streamlined or consistent enough, and not as reliable as hotels in many ways.
There are a lot of technology solutions that are helping fill in that gap to bring along that standardization. In the meantime, I’m very confident that many of these kinks will get worked out as the industry continues to mature. It’s certainly come a long way in a very short period of time.
Q: What is one source of news and ideas that you couldn’t live without?
I’m very into technology and I love Techcrunch. It’s a website where I get all my information on new technology products, technology news related to the vacation rental industry, and startup news. Anything noteworthy in tech will be on there, so it keeps me current and up-to-date.
Q: What new digital tool are you using in your business that has saved you time and money?
I’m generally a believer of the motto “simpler” is better. To generate new business opportunities, especially because I am in the business traveler industry, outreach towards new potential business customers using LinkedIn has been a great tool for me to use. It’s priced very affordably and allowed me to get directly in contact with some of the decision makers for traveling considerations at employers.
Q: What did you wish you knew about the VR business when you first started?
I had no idea how big the culture was around the vacation rental industry. I didn’t even know VR was an industry term, but it’s used all the time from anyone that works in vacation rentals. There really is a huge ecosystem made up of vacation rental property management conferences, podcasts and books about best practices, and even vacation rental influencers.
It’s great because there is a ton of knowledge out there for anyone that is looking to build their business. There has been something written or talked about on nearly every aspect in the vacation rental industry. People are always willing to help and share their knowledge, and it’s this sense of community that makes it so special and unique.
Q: What is your favorite VR event?
I really like the VRMA International Conference! It’s a great mix of networking opportunities with vacation rental industry professionals, educational panels with topics like preventing customer churn and leveraging technology to provide excellent customer service, and keynote talks from some impressive thought leaders within the industry. There really is something for everyone, from your first time vacation rental owner to big property management organizations.
As I mentioned before, there is this very vibrant and thriving culture around the vacation rental industry, and I think the VRMA is the perfect representation of what the industry has come to be: building community and creating memorable experiences. I highly recommend the VRMA International Conference, it really is like the Superbowl of VR conferences!
Q: What does the guest experience mean to you in our digital world?
For one thing, people have become more demanding, not just with regards to the guest experience in the vacation rental industry, but in life in general. Technology has automated things, made life easier and created more opportunities to learn, live, and experience. It’s made things better, but it’s also increased the expectations of everything you experience and interact with.
The guest experience also applies here. Customers demand smooth, seamless, and efficient experiences every time they stay at a vacation rental property. They expect a high level of quality of professionalism. While the industry is young, it has matured rapidly, and vacation rental property managers and owners need to bring their “A” game to stay one step ahead of the competition.
Q: If you had to pick a market outside of your current area of operations to expand to, where would that be?
I think London and the European market, in general, is very interesting. The third largest industry in the European Union is tourism, and that will continue to be the major driver for the vacation rental industry in that region. There are some estimates that the vacation rental industry will grow 8% each year for the next four years, so the future looks very promising.
On the other hand, as with the vacation rental industry in the United States, it’s a little bit of uncharted territory. There are bound to be increased regulations in the near future, so there could be an increased risk if you are placing a big bet in that region. I’m waiting to see how it all pans out.
We thank Jon for sharing his experience in the vacation rentals and his opinions on the current state of the vacation rental industry. For more information about rental bookings for business travelers, please check out Beenest.