What does the future of rental hosting look like?
As the vacation industry (and the world at large) continues to reel from the devastating effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, many have been asking when things will get “back to normal”. Such a question obviously has no clear answer right now, but it’s perhaps worth considering whether that’s even the right question to ask. How likely is it that the industry will really return to the way it was before? Arguably, we’ll instead see a new normal, which may look markedly different to the way things were before the outbreak.
It’s certainly not “Business as usual” for anyone right now. Property managers and owners have already reacted to the changes in the industry, and it’s highly likely that the way in which property managers advertise and distribute their rental listings will continue to change as they explore new revenue streams and adjust to changes in guest booking habits. We’ve detailed a few ways we expect property owners and managers to adapt to the changing rental landscape in the short and long term.
Marketing to local guests
As you’ve probably already heard from various experts, studies and just plain common sense, domestic and local travel will almost certainly be the first to recover. Internal restrictions will be lifted long before large-scale international travel is contemplated again.
This means that the importance of a targeted marketing strategy will be even more pronounced going forward. For many vacation rental hosts, marketing has almost always been skewed towards travellers from further afield, but they’ll soon have to learn how to attract more local guests. That means adjusting their social media strategy, and advertising property listings on different sales channels and OTAs which may serve more niche and local markets. It’s also important to create listings with local travellers in mind – for example by including a description in the local language and emphasising things which may be more relevant to these guests such as ease of access from neighbouring regions.
Incorporating Mid-term rentals
One of the ways in which property managers are already trying to combat lost revenue is by marketing their properties for medium and long term rentals. We’ve already written a guide on how to pivot a short-term rental business towards the longer-stay market which you can view here. Authorities in several key tourism destinations in the Northern Hemisphere are working on the assumption that the usual peak summer season simply won’t be viable for travellers this year. As such, mid-term and longer term rentals are likely to be the only way to keep occupancy rates up. Advertising your rental properties on medium-term channels, or at least increasing your acceptable maximum stay could be an option to increase your potential revenue streams.
Indeed, it’s possible that property hosts in highly seasonal destinations will continue to offer medium-term rentals in the low season, as consumer habits change and more inventory shifts onto medium and long-term platforms. If so, rental hosts will have to be able to diversify their offerings to ensure they can meet the needs of both short-term guests and those looking for longer stays.
Advertising on multiple rental channels
Rental channels and OTAs have taken quite different approaches when it comes to their cancellation policies. Skift detailed the variations between the major sites back in March, indicating those who have taken a guest-first approach versus those who are more focused on keeping their suppliers (ie. rental hosts) happy. Many property managers are now reassessing their relationships with certain channels which they feel have left them vulnerable and out of pocket with cancellation and credit policies which predominantly favour the guests. It of course remains to be seen whether this present unhappiness will actually result in a major reduction in inventory for the bigger sites which typically elicit such a large proportion of bookings.
However, it is likely that using a Channel Manager to advertise on multiple websites will be especially important as property managers look to reduce their reliance on individual channels, and to attract a wider range of guests. Whilst the future of some providers may be uncertain at present, advertising on a larger number of sites can reduce the risk and complexity for property managers.
Using Direct Bookings
However, the increasing shift towards Direct Booking in recent years is likely to become even more pronounced as guests and hosts react to the complications thrown their way by the actions of different channels. Now more than ever, the unique personal relationship between vacation rental hosts and their guests is especially important. Given that some channels are offering credit which can be used for any property, the personal touch may help rental hosts persuade guests to choose their properties again when travel resumes rather than opting for an alternative provider. We’ve got a guide on credit vouchers for rental hosts which you can check out here.
Looking further into the future, Direct Bookings are likely to be even more important as property managers either attempt to reduce their reliance on certain channels, or need to pivot towards more direct marketing towards local or existing customers. In this case, property managers will need a Direct Booking tool that allows them to receive bookings and online payments through their own website or over the phone, without sacrificing the ability to advertise on popular rental channels.
The future of the vacation rental industry is of course, very unclear at the moment, and these predictions may turn out to be incorrect. But by examining the current trends and the most likely developments, property managers and rental hosts can start to adjust their marketing strategies in order to optimise their business when the time is right.