As travelers are eager to get out of their homes after a year of travel deprivation, we’re already seeing an influx in short-term rental reservations for this summer season. In order to help property management companies in EMEA prepare their properties for this uptick in demand and for what appears to be the busiest season yet, we met virtually with thought leaders from the short-term rental and travel industry for their insights.
During the event, Matthew Olarsch, Guesty’s Director of Customer Success (EMEA), led a panel of industry experts including Anna Hunt, Area Manager Partner Services at Booking.com; Sölvi Melax, Founder and CEO of Heimaleiga; and Doron Pryluk, VP of Customer Experience at Guesty, to address strategies that will help professional hosts price smartly and provide top-notch guest experiences this high season.
Matthew kicked off the event by presenting promising Guesty data on summer bookings in the UK. Following the recent roadmap announcement easing lockdown restrictions, we see UK reservation volume for summer 2021 is 52% higher than it was at this time last year and bookings will yield about 25% more per reservation than they did in 2019. He then mentioned how professional hosts can prepare their properties for elevated guest expectations by providing ‘light-touch’ stays, flexible cancellation policies and longer-stay amenities.
Up next, Anna discussed how professional hosts can better market their properties to stand out from the competition by adding the right content to their listing descriptions. She shared recent data gathered from Booking.com showing what amenities guests value the most when deciding which property to book, including free cancellations being the top priority and the growing demand for booking Entire Places. Anna then introduced Booking.com’s new and enhanced features like Genius to help users boost their bottom line and improve their review scores on the platform.
Sölvi followed by explaining how his short-term rental management company Heimaleiga plans to drive bookings and make the most of the summer season in Iceland through various pricing strategies. He mentioned that they are offering discounts on longer stays and raising their average nightly prices closer to June since travelers are more likely to book at the last-minute. Sölvi also went over the tech solutions Heimaleiga uses to provide top-notch guest experiences such as implementing smart locks, self check-ins and a central network controller that offers remote wifi support for all their properties.
Considering 88% of consumers expect a response from a business within 60 minutes, Doron emphasized the importance of acing guest communication this summer and the reasons for improving your response time when it comes to attracting potential guests and gaining more exposure on booking sites. He then shared how to put smart guest communication strategies in place in order to handle the influx of queries that comes along with the high season and what automation tools professional hosts can implement to streamline this process, such as Guesty’s 24/7 Guest Communication Services.
As always, we rounded off the event with an interactive Q&A session featuring questions submitted by our audience. Here are some highlights (edited for clarity):
Q: Do you anticipate an influx in international bookings this summer and if so, how can property management companies prepare?
Doron (Guesty): I believe there will be a steady increase in international bookings with the ongoing vaccine distribution and government officials receiving pressures from interested parties but it will take time. Property management companies will need to familiarize themselves with the cleaning protocols, local regulations and resources available.
Anna (Booking.com): As places begin to open up we will see the traditional destinations around the world becoming more popular again. However in our recent survey, 69% of respondents preferred to travel close to home in the foreseeable future, so for now, domestic travel will be the preferred method of travel.
Sölvi (Heimaleiga): Since Iceland only has a population of 350,000 people and two-thirds of the population are living in Reykjavik, we heavily rely on international travel for bookings. We expect it to happen soon with the vaccine distribution and travelers wanting to visit unique, isolated locations like Iceland again. For the time being, we recommend property management companies to be patient and flexible as there is still uncertainty on what’s to come for the year ahead.
Q: For property management companies working on tighter budgets, what is the one tech tool you suggest implementing in order to maximize occupancy and revenue this summer?
Doron (Guesty): Implementing automation tools is a must as they ease our efforts in meeting all guests’ needs whether for guest communication like auto-messaging and auto-replies or for payment processing and reviews. Automations do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to property management companies, allowing them to accommodate more bookings and more guests.
Anna (Booking.com): I recommend taking advantage of automation tools and also Booking.com’s Extranet. There is a ton of information on there about the location of your property and your local market that is worth exploring.
Sölvi (Heimaleiga): Implementing keyless solutions, security cameras and creating booking websites for every one of our properties was very helpful for us. I also recommend incorporating multi-units or having fewer apartments in the same category over individual listings when it comes to providing consistent guest experiences.