Be Our Guest(y): Boosting Business Credibility Among Short-Term Rental Converts
The necessity of social distancing over the past year has made private short-term accommodations the preferred choice for travelers, even those who would generally opt to stay in hotels. Now that short-term rentals have gone mainstream, property management companies need to ensure they’ve got the kind of credibility expected from major service providers.
To discuss boosting business reputability among these short-term rental converts, we went live with Omer Rabin, Guesty’s Managing Director of the Americas, Mark Simpson, Founder of Boostly, Alice Horn, CEO of VillaKey, and Judith Nelson, CEO & Marketing Director of Beyond Booking.
Omer began by examining some of the key reasons travelers have been choosing short-term rentals over hotels, as well as identifying prominent travel trends. He then explained how Guesty’s platformcan help property management companies meet the fluctuating demands of the traveling community, highlighting Guesty’s booking website builder, which has gained a 150% increase in use over the past year as guests have demonstrated a growing preference to book direct.
Mark then gave an informative presentation on best practices for increasing direct bookings, including search engine optimization and consumer incentives. He also covered how to successfully build an online brand and stay true to that brand throughout the guest experience, from inquiry to check-out and beyond.
Following Mark’s presentation, Alice shared the steps VillaKey took to build credibility, maintain a strong brand identity and meet rising guest expectations in an uncertain climate for the short-term rental industry. She revealed the specific strategies that enabled her company to yield an average occupancy rate two times that of the market average for 2020.
Judith then walked us through the four core stages of the consumer’s decision journey – dreaming, planning, booking and experiencing – and strategies to draw them to your site at each one, thereby increasing direct bookings and maximizing revenue.
Before taking questions from our audience, Omer posed a few of his own to our panelists, prompting insightful responses sure to benefit any property management company seeking to boost credibility and build a reputable brand. Here are some highlights (edited for clarity):
Q: What trends have benefited your business during the past year and how have you capitalized on them?
Alice: I think that a huge silver lining of the pandemic, both socially and for us as a business, is that we’ve reconnected with our families. And in terms of having a space where people can really spend time and bond with their families, a vacation rental is the logical choice. What we have learned is that the home is the entertainment itself. Having amenities like game rooms and pools for people to use together as a family is critical. By making our properties themselves the destination, we’ve been able to provide an escape during the pandemic.
Q: Which 2020 trends do you believe will continue into 2021, perhaps becoming new industry standards?
Judith: I believe that the trends of longer stays in local areas will continue into 2021 and property management companies will need to continue to align their marketing strategies accordingly. It’s actually really great because in 2019, it was difficult to draw locals to your properties and it was all about tourists, and in truth, the farther away people live from your rentals the less likely they are to come for return visits. Catering to a local market, you can really build a loyal customer base. You have to seize opportunities where they are.
Q: Aside from setting up a booking website, what is one action item the audience can take away in order to start encouraging more direct bookings today?
Mark: You need to become the go-to. Go on Facebook, type in your local town or area and go to the “Groups” section. In groups, you have the phenomenal ability to be in front of thousands of people without spending any money and you need to take advantage of it. My advice? Find 3 to 5 Facebook groups relevant to your area and for 5 to 10 minutes every day, you just go into those groups and answer questions. Don’t sell your services, just provide information. If you do this consistently and become the go-to of your area, people are going to click on your profile, so the only other thing you need to do is be sure your business info is all there, in your Facebook profile. That’s just one quick tip that I’ve gotten results from, time and time again.