Voice technology dominates today’s headlines – indeed it is disrupting a range of industries including gaming, search, e-commerce, and travel. According to Pew Research, 46% of Americans already use some form of voice assistant. Further, ComScore predicts that by 2020, 50% of all internet searches will be by voice.
Within the travel industry, vacation rentals, long focused on providing a personalized guest experience, are rising to meet this new demand. Vacation rental travelers, conditioned to use voice technology for search and e-commerce, will soon expect the same for their travel experiences, instead of just swiping or clicking.
This is good news for our industry. Voice technology helps vacation rental managers double down on personalization because it helps them to further customize the guest experience.
What are the implications of voice technology on the vacation rental industry? How should vacation rental managers prepare and take advantage of this new communications channel?
The promise of voice technology
Within travel, hotel accommodations are already using voice technology. Marriott, Wynn Resorts, and Best Western have all been experimenting, with mixed results. And in the neighboring real estate industry (pun intended!) agents are trialing voice technologies in their day-to-day business.
Amazon Alexa, arguably the market leader, has invested in integrations with third-party hardware and software to allow customers voice control over thermostats, locks, lighting, security systems, and even IoT-enabled appliances.
Vacation rental hospitality is now beginning to see the promise of voice technology, and it will be a game changer. According to Skift, “When it comes to vacation rentals, the theoretical power of voice has the potential to be truly transformative for an area of hospitality without staff to provide certain services. According to Skift, the following categories have the most promise:
- Providing guest services
- Serving as a virtual guidebook
- Creating a “smart home” environment
- Enabling communication among guests, vacation rental staff, and property managers
Guest services that are similar to what a hotel front desk supplies are easy wins for vacation rental managers. Consider an amenity like room service, which has never been typical in vacation rentals. With the help of voice technology, guests can now order food from a delivery platform directly to their unit with a voice-enabled device like Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
If vacation rental managers don’t optimize communication delivery for voice search, they may be missing out on the 46% of travelers who use voice technology.
Investing in voice through a partnership with VCS
This is why we at Hostfully recently partnered with Virtual Concierge Service (VCS) to allow travelers to access property details and local recommendations through voice-enabled devices.
Voice access to our Guidebooks platform completes the set of access points that guests need to have a great experience while on vacation. And, according to managers who use our platform, it also helps save valuable time so they can focus on higher-value activities.
Voice access to Guidebooks is now available through Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or any configured mobile device. Guests are already asking common questions about local recommendations (e.g. “where’s the best local coffee shop?” “where should I go to buy groceries?”) and property information (e.g. “what’s the wifi code?” “what time is checkout?”).
Nicole Prentice Williams, Hostfully’s senior director of business development, said in a recent Travel Weekly interview that property managers use the voice integration to offload basic questions to the voice technology service. These can include house rules, Wifi password, laundry instructions, and more. This frees up the staff of vacation rental companies from time-consuming communication activities.“
“Property managers who operate at really high levels of quality want their interactions with their customers to be really valuable, and what we found is that they want to replace basic questions with really high-quality conversations like, ‘Hey, I noticed you’re here for your honeymoon. There’s this sunset cruise that you can take that’s really romantic. I can give my friend a call down the road and help you set that up.” — Nicole Prentice Williams
Alexa, what can voice technology do for me [as a vacation rental manager]?
Because almost all voice technology enabled devices—Amazon Alexa and Google Home for instance—allow third-party integrations, the possibilities for use in vacation rental businesses are endless.
For example, Vivian is a Hostfully host who currently leverages the VCS integration noted above for her short-term vacation rental properties in Orlando. Through the integration, Vivian has enabled the Amazon Alexa’s in her units to read out her Hostfully Guidebooks and interact with guests on a number of topics, including:
- Restaurant recommendations
- Insider tips on local attractions
- Local shopping opportunities
- How to use Alexa to contact the owner or manager
- Detailed information on things to do in the area
- What to know about parking
- A personalized welcome for your guests
- Check in & check out information
- How to connect to the internet
- Who to contact in an emergency
- Telephone, climate control, and lighting info
- How to use the dishwasher and laundry appliances
- Instructions for dealing with garbage & recycling
- How to use the sound system and TV
- Important safety information
- Spots to rent recreational equipment
- Location of the nearest hospital
- Upcoming events, and reasons to come back
Vivian has embraced voice technology and has taken her business to where her current and future guests already are: voice tech.
Reduce labor costs and streamline operations
Adding voice access to vacation rentals helps managers make the most out of every stay, and enable 5-star guest experiences. But what many don’t consider is the ability to reduce labor costs by automating basic aspects of communication, as well as streamline your day-to-day operations.
The way customers interact with technology is changing, giving vacation rental managers new ways to build guest relationships and create new revenue sources. This is the promise of voice technology for vacation rental owners, it’s time to take action.