Q&A with Pros: What can we learn from the hotel industry?

Our three interviewees are confident we have something solid over the hotel industry… Richard Vaughton puts it this way “We may have disturbed sleeping giants“… Nevertheless, how can we sustain our rapid growth? What are the things we need to look out for? Read on to see how our three Vacation Rental Pros compare us to the hotel industry.

Attention to detail and personel training

“The hotel industry is a global network which has had many years to perfect the industry, yet their share of accommodation is now being diluted by the rental industry. This would seem to indicate that hotels are either doing something wrong and/or the habits and demographics of the travelling world are changing. The reality is that both of these are correct and that the Vacation Rental industry offers something extra: currently.

Hotel chains and travel distribution companies are investing in the VR business now and will be bringing their marketing and financial power to bear and will challenge the VR market legalities, plus the tax and safety measures as they start to fight back and develop their own models. The Huffington post recently showed that hotels are adding more facilities: health and leisure, free Wi-Fi everywhere, remote keyless access, check in kiosks, allowing pets and more to compete. We may have disturbed sleeping giants.

These large scale businesses are harder to implement at a personal level. Great hotels provide slick booking, easy access, front of house service, but often little extra accommodation space and can charge a lot more! It is the attention to detail and personel training that makes these hotels the leaders, but they are building on it right now. We also need to follow their lead.

Owners and managers of vacation rentals need to ensure these challenge are met: Cover the legal and tax elements, ensure that booking and property management efficiencies are met but push the business at a local level, with knowledge and personality supported by professional tools that match the guest’s needs. Keep staff up to date on systems and ensure front facing personel are well versed in customer care. Historically space and personal touches have been the strength of vacation rentals but increased amenity updates will be needed to continue to compete, then think health, pets, in-house media, extras, accessories, cooking classes, tying in with local suppliers and more.

The accommodation market is blurring and distribution increasing, something hotels often loath, but are good at; hence push the key information first on any advertising: the extra space, combat the hotel bar & restaurant with local favourites; combat the front desk with technology, use the same booking technology and payment systems, but use your profile as local experts (think AirBnB) and push the space and sharing opportunity that has the trimmings that hotels are beginning to add to compete themselves.”

richard vaughton
Answer By Vacation Rental Pro:

Richard Vaughton

Managing Director @ Discovery Holiday Homes

I spent 30 years in scientific equipment manufacture, distribution and senior management roles across 4 continents. Building relationships, establishing brands in foreign lands, and growing businesses from small seeds has proved a great foundation for Discovery. We are a family owned vacation rental company, now with investment in a rental technology business. Marketing, money movement, automation with personal service and brand development are my current VR passions!

Today Discovery processes thousands of bookings from around the world, transacts in several currencies, and controls its own software development. With a need for increased data exchange and customer retention, we have begun to develop tools for partners to work with us and increase our brand footprint via qualfied partners.

In addition to rentals I also mentor local funded individuals who wish to go it alone and am Chairman of an energy management startup.

Delivering authentic Local experiences

“Whether it is small boutique hotels or colossal thousand room hotels and resorts, most members of the hotel industry have worked tirelessly over the years to differentiate their accommodations, service and overall experience from their competitive set. As a member of the vacation rental industry I feel that is the largest challenge and opportunity ahead for us as a single group; how can we develop and improve the vacation rental traveler experience to differentiate it from the other accommodation options out there?

To me we have one big advantage we should focus on and that is our ability to deliver authentic local experiences, with personal interaction and hospitality from those who know the destination best. It’s hard to feel like a hotel understands and caters to you personally every time, as a guest among many, while the VR traveler experience can be far more personal; we have far more opportunity available to personalize the traveler’s experience and make it stand out amongst their history of accommodations.

Travelers to vacation rental markets seek out belonging just like any other traveler however in the vacation rental segment much of the connection they seek out is within the group of travelers they bring to the home – how can we as an industry ensure our guests achieve their objectives of their trips every time and return home considering the vacation rental lodging experience to be superior above all? If we can do that, we all win.

shaun stewart
Answer By Vacation Rental Pro:

Shaun Stewart

Head of Global Vacation Rentals @ AirBnB

Shaun Stewart is the Head of Global Vacation Rentals at Airbnb in San Francisco, where he oversees the worldwide strategy regarding vacation rental destinations supply and demand.

Before his arrival at AirBnB, Shaun was the GM at Jetsetter.com, the world’s largest luxury online travel agent, which was acquired by TripAdvisor in April of 2013.

Prior to Jetsetter.com, Shaun worked for Expedia, Inc. & Travelscape for eight years (prior to it’s acquisition by Expedia, Inc.) from 2002-2010 and led market strategies and supply teams in New York, London, Sydney and Hong Kong.

Standardising to ease purchase decisions

“One of the lessons my company, Apartmentsapart learned early on was that customers like to stay together. If you offer them a product where they will all not be in the same building this will lower sales. Customers also like to know exactly what they are getting for their money, so there are two lessons to learn here. Firstly each product must be fully described and bed layouts are important. Secondly if you can make a standard product then your customer only needs to read the description once and you can sell him more than one unit of the same type. This makes it easier for the customer to make purchasing decisions.

Once a product is standardized into a “type” then it becomes much easier to sell it on hotel agency websites, as hotel websites work with “room types”. If they can work with a room type then they can also work with an apartment type or even a house type. You are speaking their language….and the ability to send them inventory in their native format means you can work with many agents at once via a tools like Rentals United. This kind of automation has allowed us to slim down our manual work in reservations by about 75% whilst increasing performance and reducing errors.”

mike donelly
Answer By Vacation Rental Pro:

Mike Donelly

Owner @ ApartmentsApart

Mike co-founded ApartmentsApart in 2000, one of the original apartment operators marketing its properties via the Internet. ApartmentsApart developed many of the software tools we think of as cutting edge today like a channel manager and a revenue manager and even some tools which have still not been seen on the market, but ApartmentsApart kept them for internal use.

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