Everyone loves a comeback story. And we’ll likely see the short-term rental industry have one of its own once travel normalizes and COVID-19 seems like a distant memory. Property management companies will need to prepare for this post-pandemic reality, one that will be categorized by an abundance of revenge travelers, new guest expectations and flexible travel preferences.
To discuss how to set yourself up for success in this hopefully near future, we went live with Vered Schwarz, Guesty’s President & COO; Simon Lehmann, Co-Founder & CEO of AJL Atelier; Jessica Gillingham, Director of Abode PR; and Emily Bruce-Watt, Managing Director of Air Peace of Mind.
Before diving into how to brace for the return of travel, Vered shared some data about where the short-term rental industry stands now. She identified the travel trends that are shaping Q1 2021. For instance, guests are gravitating towards longer stays; Q1 2021 bookings in the UK are an average of 9.1 days long, 100% longer than those of Q1 2020. Vered then showcased some Guesty users who have been successful in keeping a finger on the pulse of the traveling community and pivoting their offering accordingly.
Simon then gave an informative presentation on best practices for preparing for revenge travel and predicted a surge in bookings to come as a result of consumers being anxious to reschedule canceled trips or simply get out of town after a year of intermittent lockdowns – himself included! Although he predicts that the tourism industry may not fully recover until 2023, he notes that domestic travel will recover faster, an important market for short-term rentals to capitalize on. Pro-tip from Simon: focus on profitability, not revenue.
Following Simon’s presentation, Jessica shared how property management companies can utilize PR and media relations in order to position themselves for a post-pandemic reality, both in the short and long-term. Unlike other forms of marketing, public relations is about getting other people to talk about how great your product/service/brand is. By fostering digital connections and telling a story, property management companies can build credibility with guests, as well as convert potential owners, now and in the future.
To wrap up, Emily walked us through how Air Peace of Mind maintained its brand throughout COVID-19, while operating with a leaner team and experiencing an increase in cancellations and a significant decline in future bookings Emily explained the importance of building trust with both guests and owners as a property management company. She shared some ways to do this, including providing top-notch customer service, PR participation, setting fair prices with guests (not attempting to price gouge), delivering hope and optimism to clients, and taking care of employees – all of which can help set you up for success post COVID-19.
Before taking questions from our audience, Vered posed a few of her own to our panelists, prompting insightful responses sure to benefit any property management company seeking to build a successful PR plan and prepare for recovery. Here are some highlights (edited for clarity):
Q: How important will brand recognition be for property management companies moving forward?
Simon: I think that brand recognition will become more important as we go along and as we emerge from this. Build your brand with the guests in your destination, and focus on delivering them the best experience so they will come back to you again and again.
Jessica: It’s not easy to build a brand, it’s not just a logo. It’s everything that goes behind it – the quality of the experience that both the owners and the guests have when they are working with you. It’s about being really consistent. But it’s worth investing in that. It is something that will increasingly be important, especially if you want to make sure you have more ownership over your business, rather than just relying on channels to provide you with business. Any company of any size can do it, but it needs to be really thought out, and it’s not the panacea either
Emily: The brand has always been hugely important to me, and particularly to any property management company. During COVID-19 it was really important that you maintained your brand.
Q: What do you predict will be the next trend in terms of automation in making PMCs more effective?
Simon: While the biggest challenge of property managers is dealing with owners, the second biggest one is dealing with technology. Technology must and will consolidate, the marketplace will consolidate. And we need to aim to deliver a better product to the property managers so that he/she has a one or two-stop shop, not an eight stop shop to run his day. It’s not a challenge of what tech can do in terms of automation and streamlining tasks, it’s applying that tech in your daily business. Dealing with eight or nine different platforms is awkward, cumbersome and costly. If we want to deliver a good experience from a tech standpoint, value propositions will need to be expanded.
Q: What are the new niche platforms you are using, and which channels performed better for you at present?
Emily: With regards to the niche platforms, we have been working more with companies, for example, AltoVita, which are very specific with corporate and 1-3 month bookings. In terms of OTAs, Airbnb has been the most prominent for us in recent months and throughout COVID.
Q: How can you prepare for revenge travel by differentiating your brand?
Jessica: Don’t be afraid to have an opinion and don’t be afraid to share that opinion with your local press. Take about the changes in travel. Make sure that your content is speaking to your audience, those persona travelers that you believe will be the revenge travelers. Write things about longer stays or last-minute bookings. You can also change the content on your website and social media, use all the channels available to you to start that conversation.