Vacation rental managers need to be a jack-of-all-trades. From marketing and advertising, to scheduling, guest communication, cleaning, and concierge services, the list of “things you need to know” can feel endless. More and more, vacation rental management companies need to operate like mini versions of a full service hotel. And increasingly, guests who visit vacation rentals expect hotel-style amenities and hospitality.
Despite the ongoing animosity between hotels and short-term rentals, vacation rentals can learn a lot from hotels. Here, we take a look at a few useful lessons that vacation rental managers can learn from the hotel industry.
Keep a service mentality
Vacation rental guests need to know that they can depend on services should they ever need them. At a hotel, a helpful employee is usually on the other end of the line as soon as a guest picks up the phone. While this might not always be possible in the case of a vacation rental, it’s best to be available as much as possible.
Scott Samuels of Horizon Hospitality, a national hospitality recruiting firm, notes that “service still needs to remain a part of the travel experience.” Scott continues, “I anticipate that vacation rentals will continue to seek ways to further enhance a traveler’s comfort level and anticipate their needs.”
A continued move to local
Vacation rental managers know the value of providing guests with local recommendations and experiences as part of their trip. That said, many aren’t providing this service. 87% of companies indicated that they wanted improve guidebooks and communication with guests regarding local recommendations.
The hotel industry is moving in this direction too. According to Scott, “We should anticipate a similar trend in hotels to what “farm to table” has created in the restaurant industry. Local businesses will continue to partner with local hotel operators to provide unique experiences.”
Vacation rental managers must find better ways to provide the best local experiences. They also need to make sure to share them with guests.
What is your super power?
In a recent hospitality industry report, Steve Carvell, Professor of Finance and former Associate Dean, Cornell School of Hotel Administration notes the following:
“In hotels, the 5-diamond rating system reflects not only the level of service, but also the quality of the amenities provided. Eventually, vacation rentals will have a universal ratings system that will evolve to reflect this broader view. Tourists will truly be able to compare hotels to vacation rentals, apples-to-apples. Until then, vacation rental companies should find ways to show their guests the unique benefits of their vacation rental and service offering. This will help differentiate their properties and attract the right kind of customers.”
What is your key differentiator as a vacation rental? Be sure to be clear about what that is, and make it front and center in your vacation rental marketing plan.
Manage your revenue stream
Tweaking your income management style to match that of a hotel is also not a bad idea. Hotels have a long history of dynamic pricing that helps maximize returns.
Widewaters Hotel Group’s VP of Sales & Marketing, Ronald Loman, believes that one of the biggest things vacation rental managers can learn from the hotel industry is optimizing revenue stream.
“In our industry, it is a process known as revenue management,” Ronald notes. “Having a system to track and store data relative to the property so that it can be analyzed to identify patterns is a critical process that can result in improved top line revenues.”
By developing a system, Ronald believes that vacation rental managers to lower or increase rates based on booking patterns. Ronald elaborates, “If a manager has the data that enables them to identify an event that takes place over three days in their city, they could require guests to stay all three days during that week, knowing that there is enough of a demand for the requirement versus someone booking two days during that same time and one night going unoccupied.”
Dynamic pricing strategies in the vacation rental market are commonplace with tools like Beyond Pricing, but it has yet to be as widely adopted as it is in the hotel industry.
You can read more about this strategy here.
Personalize and anticipate needs
We know that maintaining a vacation property takes a lot of time and effort; so much so that you might feel you have no time for extras. But going the extra mile is something that guests will notice.
Getting information from guests during booking or check-in can be a game changer. The best vacation rentals ask their guests about:
- Why they’re coming
- How many guests they’re bringing
- Anything else particular and related to their trip
- Special requests
Ronald Loman, who’s worked in the hotel industry for 28 years, believes that vacation rental managers can learn from the hotel industry on how to anticipate guest needs and establish standards to exceed those requirements. Ronald elaborates, “I believe it starts with the reservation process and listening to the collected data. Understanding why customers are coming and who is coming will help owners to personalize their guests’ stay. Hotels have done a good job of developing individual items for special occasions.”
For example, Ronald notes that having a card and balloons for guests celebrating an anniversary or birthday is common and appreciated at many hotels. It’s a simple service, but it goes a long way in improving guest satisfaction.
Don’t rule out branding opportunities
Finally, vacation rental managers can benefit from considering branding opportunities according to Finn Hayden of Crieff Hydro Hotels.
“One thing that is often absent from vacation rentals but which is always present in hotels is branded products that the guest can take home with them. Everything in your hotel room, from the toiletries to the teabags, will be emblazoned with the hotel logo or name. The importance of this is often underrated, as guests will take these products home, and they will act as mini souvenirs that will remind the guest of the fun they had and may even entice them to return.”
Finn believes that vacation rentals can replicate this by providing guests with small products branded with an image of their property or even just their name. Finn concludes that “this tactic isn’t expensive to deploy, but can result in a noticeable increase in return visitors.”
It’s clear that that there are many areas of collaboration and opportunities for partnerships between the hotel and vacation rental industries. As Scott Samuels of Horizon Hospitality puts it, “Large hotel companies will purchase or create strategic partnerships with vacation rental companies. While they both cater to travelers, vacation rentals are still much more focused on the leisure market.”
No matter how these partnerships take shape, these are clear areas where vacation rentals can learn from hotels. From branded products to an emphasis on service, adding a little extra to the vacation rental processes makes guests feel more welcome.