Be Our Guest(y): Catering To Different Travel Personas With Tech-Forward Guest Experiences
Due to the global health crisis, new traveler personas and guest expectations have disrupted the hospitality industry with property management companies now needing to enhance their offering to cater to these emerging demands. To explain how elevating your tech stack to accommodate these new guest expectations can translate into more bookings and growth for your rental business, we met virtually with thought leaders from the short-term rental industry.
During the online meetup, Guesty’s own President & COO Vered Raviv Schwarz shared the stage with an all-star panel of guests – including Lincoln Wheeler, Regional Lead (North America) at Airbnb Experiences; Daniel Ware, Demand Program Manager at Airbnb Experiences; Steve Davis, CEO of Operto Guest Technologies; Ryan Killeen, General Manager of The Annex Hotel; and Nick Chen, Co-Founder of Welcome Box – to provide insights that will help professional hosts upgrade their tech solutions and facilitate top-notch guest experiences for this uniquely challenging time period.
Starting off, Vered shared some optimistic news for the short-term rental industry this year with our data showing summer bookings in the US already 85% higher than it was for summer of 2020. She also provided some insights into the traveler personas to look out for that have emerged due to COVID-19, and how hosts can provide tech-forward solutions for guests that include implementing keyless entry systems, digital concierges, virtual tours and more.
Up next, Lincoln provided an overview of Airbnb Experiences – unique activities designed and led by local experts from the Airbnb host community – and the impact COVID-19 has had on the initiative when it came to accommodating new travel trends, such as longer stays and domestic travelers. He exclaimed how Airbnb also needed to shift gears when it came to prioritizing safety for their hosts by issuing a mandatory Health Safety Attestation program for all hosts to abide by as well as introducing online experiences.
Daniel then emphasized the importance of hosts giving local recommendations throughout the guest journey when it comes to driving repeat bookings, gaining positive reviews, and ultimately, maximizing their revenue. He also went into detail on what Airbnb plans to do throughout the year in order to improve guest experiences and bridge the gap between hosts and their communities.
Through his experience as CEO of Operto, the leading hotel & vacation rental property automation software, Steve showcased the various ways hosts can implement different technologies to optimize operations and limit human interactions. He mentioned the various steps involved when it comes to seamlessly integrating new technology that includes assembling a tech implementation squad, mapping out the customer journey and setting benchmarks to track ROI.
Ryan then took the stage to discuss how The Annex Hotel has been able to successfully meet new travel demands and cater to different travel personas by offering a high-tech and low-touch guest experience. He went on to describe the tech they have implemented to provide a seamless online booking experience and limit human interaction with light-touch stays, such as contactless check-in, 24/7 guest services via text message and self-serve closets.
Wrapping up the discussion, Nick walked us through how his company Welcome Box, the monthly subscription service that delivers unique and high-quality hospitality boxes for short-term rentals, pivoted their business models to meet shifting consumer demands by providing sanitation products and work-from-home amenities. In light of the pandemic, he also mentioned how they started to partner with industry experts to provide memorable virtual experiences, such as cooking classes, painting sessions, and even happy hours, to keep guests entertained and connected while they stay indoors.
Following the presentations, our panelists answered key questions about what property management companies should expect in the coming months and how to prepare accordingly. Here are some highlights (edited for clarity).
Q: With contactless-tech removing the need for in-person interaction, how do you ensure guests still get that “human touch” that is so essential to quality hospitality?
Ryan (The Annex Hotel): Technology isn’t meant to replace the guest experience but meant to enhance the experience. So for instance, you can add in elements of personalization even when providing contact-free solutions by sending a repeat guest their favorite bottle of wine or offering 24/7 guest communication via text message.
Steve (Operto): When you are implementing tech into your property, you need to ensure you are still delivering that unique, personalized experience to set yourself apart from other operators.
By using technology to repurpose your resources internally (i.e. providing automated check-ins so the front desk clerk can now focus on air traffic control), you can create that balance between offering contactless-tech while keeping that human connection.
Q: What new trends have you seen on the experience side of things? For example, what is the most popular type of Airbnb Experience purchased?
Lincoln (Airbnb Experiences): We used to be an urban-dominated business, but now we have shifted to promoting rural, nearby experiences for guests. We’ve noticed that outdoor adventures, especially water sports, as well as activities around food & drink have been the most popular during this time. Online experiences have also become incredibly popular, especially for groups and teams looking to connect after a long time of socially distancing.
Q: How can improving guest experience directly result in increased revenue?
Daniel (Airbnb Experiences): You can monetize your guest experience by looking at what guests want through reviews and then partnering with local companies or people that offer the service you need to fill in those gaps that you’re missing in your property to ensure you’re accommodating those demands. Through this, you can encourage repeat bookings as well as receive commission for those services you offer.
Q: Can you tell us more about how you have been able to capitalize on the remote working trend?
Nick (Welcome Box): As these travelers are now booking rentals for longer periods of time, we’ve started customizing our gifts to welcome those guests to their new environment and making sure they have a smooth transition at their stay. We also started working directly with businesses to provide branded gifts for their work-from-home employees as well.