Be Our Guest(y): How to Plan for the Unplannable
As we approach the new year, there is still uncertainty about where travel and hospitality are headed in 2021 amid COVID-19. That’s why we caught up with thought leaders from the global short-term rental ecosystem in a virtual event to explore how property management companies can better plan, budget and position their business for an unpredictable year ahead.
During the event, our very own Omer Rabin, Managing Director, Americas, shared the stage with David Gardner, Managing Partner of 80 DAYS; David Myers, CMO of Viagem; and Henry Bennett, CEO of YourWelcome, to explore COVID-19’s impact on the short-term rental industry as well as showcase the technology and marketing strategies property management companies can incorporate to optimize their business for the new year.
Omer led the discussion by sharing data Guesty recently collected that shows a boost in consumer confidence following the effectiveness news of potential Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. We saw an uptick of 6% in Q1 2021 short-term rental reservations across the globe. Omer then kicked off our first poll question, asking our live audience how optimistic property management companies feel about the holiday season. The poll revealed 60% of our viewers are expecting a busy holiday season this year. When asked about the strategy that had the most impact on business stability amid COVID-19 – a majority of our viewers voted for flexible cancellation policies as the most effective.
Based on his experience working at 80 DAYS, a leading hotel & travel digital marketing company, David took the stage to share his top 10 practices property management companies can implement to target today’s travelers and prepare their business for the new year. He emphasized the importance of multi-scenario planning, understanding relevant data that pertains to your company, and using online marketing tools like Google ads and Facebook ads for audience targeting. David also addressed several direct booking trends to expect in 2021 and how to plan for them, such as investing in mobile optimization for your direct booking website and pivoting your messaging to match new guest expectations.
Next up, David from Viagem, a global hospitality brand providing short-term rentals in urban environments and Guesty user, provided insights on how his company managed to thrive despite the pandemic and what plans they have in store for 2021. In response to COVID-19, Viagem pivoted their operations by welcoming medical professionals to their urban rentals, improving their tech stack to include keyless solutions, and offering VIP gift packages for returning guests. David also mentioned how his company’s top priority moving forward will be to incentivize future bookings and prevent last-minute reservations by offering steep discounts and early bird specials for those travelers looking to book further in advance.
Lastly, Henry presented best practices that can help short-term rental business owners deliver top-notch guest experiences throughout their stay. He began by sharing insights from YourWelcome, our partner and leading guest management platform for vacation rentals. Starting with pre-arrival, he stressed how short-term rental hosts can better position their properties as the safer alternative to crowded hotels for guests and increase consumer confidence by promoting their cleaning procedures and contact-free solutions. He also advised hosts to upsell in-property services (i.e late check-outs, food delivery options, car hire services) and automate their guest communication to safely interact with guests during their stay. For readers interested in getting started with YourWelcome, you can get an exclusive discount of up to 15 free 3-month subscriptions of the YourWelcome Smart Tablet when you visit http://yourwelcome.com/guesty2020.
We invited those tuning in to contribute questions throughout the virtual event, which we then addressed in a Q&A session following the presentation. Here are some highlights (edited for clarity):
Q: What should property management companies be planning for next year?
David (80 DAYS): Now is the time to re-evaluate your position in the market and your current business operations to see what changes you can make to better match guest expectations for the new year.
David (Viagem): Pivot your messaging online to promote your contact-free solutions, cleaning procedures, and in-property amenities as these are most relevant to what customers expect from rental accommodations now in the new normal.
Henry (YourWelcome): When it comes to scaling your business operations or adding inventory to your portfolio, you have to think about profitability. If in the long-run you’re not earning a profit for a certain business decision, then you should focus on other aspects of your business that will yield those high returns.
Q: How can you balance offering flexible cancellation policies while obtaining high occupancy at the same time?
David (Viagem): As guests are expecting flexibility, you have to be flexible in regards to your cancellation policies in order to drive bookings and fill occupancy. You’ll need to optimize your calendar and move bookings around to make sure you’re able to adhere to those last-minute requests and incentivize those customers who cancelled to return in the future.
Omer (Guesty): The key here is to build commitment from guests and ensure they don’t cancel at the last-minute, by being proactive with your guest communication and providing reassurance that your property is clean, safe and ready for their arrival.