The short-term rental space has long been divided into vacation rentals or hotels, and it makes sense as to why—the necessary operations of running a hotel chain versus managing multiple vacation homes are entirely different. Based on recent events, however, those days are gradually coming to a close. Earlier this year Airbnb began catering more to hotels by adding specific search categories, and now HomeAway has begun offering Expedia's (their parent company) hotel inventory alongside vacation rentals. Though diversification of inventory is fantastic for these individual channels, it presents an interesting question for the everyday property manager. Will a beachside cottage compete with a Marriott hotel room when placed side by side in searches? TL; DR: yes, but some adjustments may need to be made. Though the two are operationally different, hotels have valuable traits that vacation rental businesses can benefit from. Here are five ways you can improve your vacation rental by taking a leaf out of hotels' books.
1) Branding Hotels are masters of the brand. They pour billions into market research, A/B testing, and use soft branding to the net as much of an audience as possible. Though it may not be possible to brand and market at the scale of hotels, it's very easy to reproduce the quality of their brand. A major aspect, especially when starting out, is simply paying attention: who books your property? Where are they from? What are their interests? Why did they book it- for work or leisure? By noticing and recording these key points, you can more accurately market to them. For example, if generally your loft in NYC is occupied by people in their mid-30s who are in town for work meetings, you can make sure aspects like 'fast, reliable wifi', 'quiet, comfortable bedroom', and 'close to subways' are displayed prominently. By catering your vacation rental's 'vibe' to your primary audience, you can make sure you net as many bookings as possible.
2) Ease of Booking One of the greatest detriments to bookings is barriers to entry. The easier it is to book a listing, the more bookings you'll get. Hotels have this strategy down; anyone can go online at any time and book a room within minutes. A major factor that will skew potential guests towards a hotel versus your vacation rental is the lack of instant booking. It is crucial to capture a potential guest while they're excited about your listing- while they're right there looking at it. Making them wait, giving them an opportunity to navigate away from your listing, severely decreases the chance that they will book your property. Emulating hotels, in that the guest's booking experience is effortless at the most likely point of conversion, will do absolute wonders for your property's competitive advantage.
3) Professionalism One of the perks vacation rentals have is personality. Every home can easily have its own style and attract differing audiences. These unique differences should be celebrated, however, professionalism should never be sacrificed for personality. Especially if you're hosting guests in your home while you're still there, this can be a little difficult. Keeping in mind on some level that occupancy is a transaction—lodging for money—will help you maintain a consistent tone from guest to guest. A good rule of thumb is to keep conversations warm but always steer to things pertaining to the guest's stay. This will help enforce the host/guest relationship. Along the way, you may make some friends! For the most part, though, this guest will stay at your property, do their thing, and then move on. Making sure that every little interaction with them is courteous, yet succinct, will always serve you well.
4) Cleanliness Hotels are known to clean rooms every single day, and always turn the room in between each guest. Cleaning everything every day is a little harder to do for an entire house versus a single room, but it is essential that everything in the home be neat and organized. Though anyone worth their salt knows this and knows to clean all linens in between guests, cementing that impression will give your listing a leg up. A great idea to incorporate from hotels is to leave a small card on the bed with 'high-quality linens, perfectly clean just for you, or words to that effect. Doing this will really drive the point home that everything is up to spec. Guests will most likely look at the card for less than a second before they put it on the nightstand and never look at it again- but that impression will be made, and it will do wonders for your vacation rental's reputation.
5) Focus On Experience Hotels are excellent at providing an experience, meaning their vibe and brand extend beyond the room. The entire space is cohesive. Especially in luxury hotels, you step inside and suddenly you feel as if you're in a different world. For vacation rentals, this scope extends beyond just the interior space. Especially once you know your target audience, you can cater the advice you give to your guests. For example, recommending your favorite family-friendly restaurant to a guest with young children when your area is mostly beachside bars. The guest will have an amazing trip because you provided them with valuable information, and they'll be far more likely to stay again. These little things will put you on the same playing field as a hotel every time.