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Be our Guest(y): How these women-led property management & travel companies are successfully navigating Covid-19

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we gathered together prominent female thought leaders from the EMEA short-term rental industry in an online meetup to share their stories and unique roads to success while navigating the pandemic.

During the event, our very own President and COO Vered Raviv Schwarz shared the virtual stage with Vanessa de Souza Lage, Co-Founder & CMO at Rentals United; Dr. Orit Gal, Founder of Urbaniser; and Kelly Scales, Founder of Airhost For You. From introducing new workplace policies to implementing tech tools to support their operations during this unprecedented period, our panelists provided insights into how COVID-19 impacted their businesses as well as their perspective on women’s roles within the short-term rental industry.

Kicking off the event, Vered spoke about Guesty’s diverse company culture with a team comprising 45% women and employees hailing from over 80 countries. Through this challenging time, she mentioned how Guesty provided flexibility by experimenting with hybrid working models and promoting a healthy work-life balance. With pent-up demand fueling summer bookings, Vered then shared our latest data showing reservation volume in the US 110% higher than that of last summer and the UK reservation volume 36% higher than that of summer 2020.

Following Vered, Vanessa shared her incredible story of building a successful vacation rental channel manager, Rentals United, with only a website, two property managers and €1,000. She explained how Rentals United has responded to COVID-19 by providing support for their clients, as well as offered insights as to how property management companies can navigate the year  through revenue management and data-driven strategies. She then went on to introduce her #TieOnStage​ movement and how she successfully raised awareness that there are not enough women on stage at industry events. 

Next up, Kelly Scales introduced her full service short-term rental management company based in Brighton, Airhost For You, and how the pandemic has affected their business goals. She spoke about how she adapted her workplace policies and business models by expanding their distribution channels to work with local suppliers, offering extended stays, providing consistent communication with their guests and staff, and diversifying their portfolio with the creation of Savill Royals, her recently-launched high-end furnishing, staging and designing solutions company. 

Lastly, Orit walked the audience through her journey creating Urbaniser, the ultimate listing app that organizes the places you want to see in any city in the world, and the challenges they faced with COVID-19. She then highlighted three top trends that professional hosts should know in order to improve guest experiences in 2021 including the rise in demand for secondary cities, hyper-localization, and multigenerational travel. Orit also mentioned their latest integration with Guesty and how Guesty hosts can now curate property-focused recommendations for their guests with ease using Urbaniser’s automated 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&A Session

Q: What surprised you most about the way COVID-19 affected the industry? 

Vanessa (Rentals United): I was the most surprised by how property management and tech companies have adapted so quickly to this new world, whether by finding new segments of customers or pivoting their own internal operations to incorporate alternative business models. 

Q: How has COVID-19 served to benefit your business in the long-run? 

Kelly (Airhost For You): It gave me the opportunity and time to reflect on the areas I already wanted to expand or change and allowing me to commit to those changes more wholeheartedly, such as diversifying our portfolio as well as incorporating new tech tools to streamline operations. 

Q: Last summer, you described travel as having a “last mile” problem as a result of the emergence of COVID-19. Can you explain what this means and what strategies property management companies can implement to combat this new challenge?

Orit (Urbaniser): I was referring to the gap between inspiration and personalization of the guest experience that escalated from the pandemic. COVID-19 has accelerated many new trends, so understanding traveler expectations and providing more personal touches can go a long way when adding value for your guests. 

Q: Why do you think the hospitality industry that has drawn so many women into its workforce has such an unequal representation of men and women in leadership positions?

Vanessa (Rentals United): We still have a long way to go for equality in the workplace, however, we’re on the way there. Essentially, we need to spread awareness and initiate more PR around the issue that there isn’t enough equality, diversity and inclusion in our industry. As female leaders, we have a responsibility to speak up, share our experiences, and start the conversation to motivate other women as well.

Orit (Urbaniser): It’s all about access to networks and mentorship. Once we populate more networks, then naturally the acceleration will happen with these women getting access into those rooms and becoming mentors for others. We need to not only share our successes but also lessons we’ve learned as well. 

Kelly (Airhost For You): I’ve seen a recent explosion of women populating the property sector when it comes to speaking opportunities, which is quite progressive for a male-dominated industry. This should prove that awareness and networking are very powerful and if other women are doing it, it will soon motivate more women to jump on board and try it as well. Right now it’s all about getting that message out and remaining positive.

For more strategies on navigating the new normal, be sure to check out our newest report featuring data-driven insights and predictions for the future of our industry. Thank you everyone for joining and we look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events. Happy International Women’s Day!

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