Be Our Guest(y): How To Grow From Property Manager to Hospitality Brand
During this time of uncertainty, property management companies have had to quickly pivot and diversify their offerings to adapt to the new normal. In response, Guesty hosted an online event with Booking.com and influential thought leaders from the global short-term rental ecosystem to help property managers navigate the new era of travel and build their businesses into known hospitality brands.
Throughout the virtual event, Guesty’s President and COO Vered Schwarz – along with Alessandro Pacilio, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Booking.com; Eric Moeller, Co-Founder & CEO of STR Legends; and Dale Smith, Founder & Director of Host & Stay — shared tips on how property management companies can establish core values that resonate with today’s travelers, craft cutting-edge marketing strategies, and generate more bookings in an effort to scale their business amidst the pandemic.
Vered kicked off the discussion by introducing new travel trends and booking patterns that have emerged over the past few months in light of COVID-19 such as longer stays, last-minute reservations, and an uptick in bookings across major U.S. metropolitan cities. As we see more hosts implement flexible cancellation policies, Vered offered some helpful tips to mitigate the risk of cancellations and ensure return guests. She then alluded to our latest industry data that points to optimism for the future of the short-term rental space, revealing a 10% increase in new reservations globally in August 2020 compared to this same time last year.
Allesandro followed with 5 tips to help facilitate recovery for property managers during this challenging time, such as making sure your listing content is up-to-date, highlighting improved cleaning measures, posting high-resolution photos that show both the inside and outside of the property, and leveraging revenue management tools to price properties appropriately. Alessandro also shed light on ways Booking.com’s platform can help property managers adapt their businesses to meet new guest expectations, including taking advantage of Booking.com’s new Work-Friendly program which promotes homes and apartments that offer business-friendly amenities attracting those working from home, and other visibility analysis programs, such as Genius and Preferred Partner, that maximise exposure on the platform.
Up next, Eric shared tips and tricks on what fundamental elements property managers should incorporate to successfully turn their business into the next hospitality brand, based on his experience working alongside some of the most brilliant minds in hospitality at STR Legends. STR Legends is a mastermind community group for short-term rental professionals designed to help 7-figure operators with 30+ listings around the world maximise their profit and global impact. Eric emphasized the importance of establishing a brand identity and understanding who you are servicing, in order to distinguish yourself from other property managers. Eric then highlighted the needs of today’s traveler personas, who are looking for drive-in locations, work spaces, and top-notch customer service during this time. Pro tip: include a photo of your Internet router or workspace station to your listing profiles to attract more of these guests.
With a 70% increase in portfolio size since May, Dale shared insights on how his property management company was able to successfully increase their occupancy rates and build customer loyalty despite the ongoing challenges. Host & Stay is a family-run holiday accommodation and management business providing fully-serviced luxury holiday homes in the United Kingdom. Some adjustments the company needed to make in light of COVID-19 included incorporating more stringent cleaning procedures, implementing an in-property “social” wifi that captures guest data, and enforcing a no early check-in or late check-out policy to make sure there is enough time to sanitize the property in-between stays. Host & Stay also created their own direct booking website and invested in paid search, SEO, direct marketing campaigns, and social media to drive more bookings.
Following the presentation, we addressed questions that had been submitted by our audience in a Q&A session. Here are some highlights (edited for clarity):
Q: How should property managers price their properties when it comes to extended stays?
Alessandro (Booking.com): Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Customers will be comparing prices to other properties in a specific area, so you should be doing the same. See what your competitors are doing on booking platforms and compare yourself to other rental properties that are similar to yours to give you an idea of where you need to be.
Dale (Host & Stay): You’ll want to take account of what’s happening in the market, so look into the average daily rate of most short-term rentals and then look into long-term let markets who offer longer monthly stays to choose a price that falls somewhere in between. Ideally, you should be pricing extended stays at a reduced rate than your daily stays depending on the services you offer and quality of your accommodation.
Q: Do you recommend using external marketing agencies to help with your marketing strategy?
Eric (STR Legends): Only once you have a clear brand identity and understanding of who you’re servicing, can you start working on your marketing campaign. Once you have that figured out and you know how to target that audience, I prefer to keep all marketing initiatives in-house. However, there are great marketing agencies available that can help hosts promote their company.
Q: What do you think is the main factor that sets a property management company apart from a hospitality brand?
Alessandro (Booking.com): To be a successful hospitality brand, it’s very important to deliver consistently great service and provide a top-notch experience for your guests while highlighting the value you bring to your target market compared to other property managers.
Dale (Host & Stay): Know your audience, what they are looking for, and over-deliver on those needs to build your brand.
Eric (STR Legends): The key difference between a host and a hospitality brand is an experience that a guest can connect to with that company.