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Hotel Vacation Rentals Software Articles

Why is PMS Software Different for Hotels, Vacation Rentals and Apartments?

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

Hotels, apartments, and vacation rentals each have their unique characteristics but what about their software? The property management system is the core of the tech stack at any accommodation business, but, as we’ll discuss in this article, not all property management systems are the same. If you’re considering implementing a PMS or switching from your current vendor, this article will help you understand the intricacies of systems designed for specific types of properties. With the right software partnership, you can run your hospitality business more efficiently and focus on delighting your guests (or tenants).   Very Different Guest Journeys Based on Length of Stay The apartment "guest journey" is relatively straightforward.  Prospective tenants view an apartment they like with a leasing agent, decides to rent and then moves in.  Prior to move in they complete a credit check and setup payment through an online payment portal that gets drawn upon in monthly increments. The next most complex guest journey exists in vacation rentals where prospective guests find a rental unit via an online travel agency like Booking.com or Airbnb.  They'll often communicate with the owner via the platform they booked on and use a mobile check-in method like keyless entry upon arrival.  Rooms aren't cleaned until the guest checks out and there are no on site outlets or amenities. Hotels offer the most complexity in guest journey with ultra high touch amenities delivered by often large teams of hotel staff.  The hotel industry is all about guest service.  Guests usually make direct bookings on a hotel website or via an OTA.  They'll receive email or text message communication prior to arrival.  Upon check-in, guests are greeted by a front desk agent and taken to their room by a bellman.  Their room gets cleaned each night and they enjoy hotel amenities like room service, on-site restaurant and spa outlets and more.   What is PMS Software? Let’s start at the beginning: what is a property management system anyway? A PMS houses all the organizational and administrative tools you need to run a multi-family business, hotel or short-term rental in real-time and automate core functions like booking and reservation management.  Key functionality in hotels and vacation rentals includes a calendar where you can manage reservations, a booking engine for your website, a dashboard for housekeeping to mark clean and dirty rooms, a guest information database, and various financial reporting. Some PMSs have an integrated channel manager which handles connections to third-party booking sites. Many PMSs are cloud-based and offer mobile apps so you can manage your property from anywhere at any time. It's important to understand each of these journeys before diving into the core operating system of each, a cloud PMS, because each PMS is designed for both the complexity and jobs to be done of both staff and guest journeys.  Where hotel property management software requires functionality like connecting to major international payment gateways an apartment reservation system might only require local payment processing since tenants are by definition locals.   Hotels, Apartments and Vacation Rentals Are Converging We're seeing a major convergence in the real estate and hospitality industry where the guest experience in certain segments of the hotel market is looking more like vacation rentals and vice versa.   Adding to that, companies like Sonder and Why Hotels are turning apartments into short term rentals and hotel rooms while Airbnb is now a major distributor of hotel inventory. It's not hard to understand why.  The hotel business is all about delivering high guest satisfaction and incredible guest experiences - it's ultimately doing the same thing as the vacation rental business and even apartments.  Hotel operations tend to be the most complex given the focus on guest experience and presence of front office teams.  Generally speaking, the longer the duration of the rental, the easier the business is to manage meaning that apartments are the least operationally complex to run. The key difference between short term vs. long term accommodation software lies in the fact that apartment management systems generally focus on tenant functionality like community portals and subscription rent payments.  For shorter term accommodations, hotel and vacation rental PMS software focuses on credit card and payment functionality, facilitating online bookings and rate management.   Key differences in PMS software for Hotels vs. Vacation Rentals The daily operations of hotels and short-term rentals can be quite different, so it makes sense that property management systems would have unique functionality for different property types. But what are the biggest differences? Key points of differentiation include the room or unit type setup, the connections available in the channel manager, tools for daily operations, and integrations with third-party software.   Room Types vs. Separate Units When we think about the physical layouts of a hotel, short-term rental apartments, and vacation homes, several differences come to mind. At a hotel, you’ll find a lot of rooms, but those rooms usually fall into a few distinct room types. Short-term rental operators might manage many apartments, but each of those apartments might be unique and located in a few different buildings. Vacation homes can have their own addresses and often have different sizes, amenities, and policies. In order for hoteliers and property managers to get the most utility out of their software, property management systems must account for these differences. Hotel-specific software like Hoteltime will be set up for room types in the same building, while vacation rental-specific software is built for unique individual units often at different addresses. While hoteliers probably don’t add new room types on a regular basis, short-term rental operators expand their portfolios regularly, so it’s important that their software allows for easy addition of new units. Daily Operations The who, what, and where for daily operations is another major point of differentiation between hotels and short-term rental properties - and their software. At a hotel, many employees from various departments will use the PMS on a daily basis. Front desk agents, housekeeping staff, back-office employees, and the leadership team might all use the PMS at the same time. Tasks range from checking in guests, tracking housekeeping status, upselling rooms, entering reservations taken over the phone, and running reports for leadership meetings. It’s important for a hotel PMS like Hoteltime to allow multiple user accounts and levels of access rights. A vacation rental PMS, on the other hand, is used by fewer people and for fewer manual tasks. Vacation rental reservations are rarely taken over the phone, and, usually, a smaller team of staff interacts with the system. Since short-term rentals often don’t have a front desk, it’s crucial that property managers can access the PMS on the go, like via a mobile app. Most short-term rentals do not offer housekeeping mid-stay, so that functionality is less important. However, it’s crucial that a PMS can support automated check-in instructions and other communications that allow the guest to complete a self-service check-in. Smaller hotels (under 20 rooms) generally require all-in-one affordable hotel management software but may be able to use vacation rental software to manage their properties.  Check out our list of best hotel software for smaller properties. Channel Connections Not only do daily operations differ based on property type, but so do distribution strategies. If a PMS offers channel management functionality, you’ll notice that the supported channels vary with property type. Hotel-specific software will focus on connections to the big OTAs, like Expedia, Booking.com, and Agoda, plus to the GDS and travel agents. Most vacation rental-specific software also connects to Booking.com and Expedia, but connections to vacation rental booking sites like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Tripadvisor Rentals are essential. Hotel-specific software likely does not support connections to Airbnb, Vrbo, or Tripadvisor Rentals. Integrations Channel connections aren’t the only links between a PMS and other systems; property management software can connect to third-party apps that bring additional value to your operations. Hotel-specific PMSs will offer integrations with other hotel systems that usually happen via API, such as revenue management systems (IDeaS, for example), work order software (HotSOS), upsell software and point of sale systems (Micros). Vacation rental-specific PMSs integrate with a slew of vacation rental-specific software and apps, including dynamic pricing tools (PriceLabs), property-level security and monitoring systems (NoiseAware), keyless entry solutions (RemoteLock), guest communication tools (Hostfully), and more.   Have we missed any major differences between property management systems? Let us know!  

80 Different Types of Hotels Explained

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

Want to explore a plethora of types of accommodations? You’ve arrived at the right place. We’ve researched over 80 kinds of hotels, resorts, vacation rentals, and more. By the end of this article, you’ll discover which accommodations are right for you.  The classification of hotels is no easy feat so we. decided to make it easy for you. We’ve broken down this article into 7 categories (by type of hotel):  Popular Hotel Types Chain Scales Star Ratings Niche Hotel Types Regional Accommodations Unique Hotel Concepts Hotel Alternatives   The hospitality industry is changing rapidly.  Vacation rental companies like Airbnb are looking more like hotels and hotels are looking more like vacation rentals with the invention of serviced apartments and apartment hotels.  As a guest you want to know what each hotel has to offer.  Does a 3-star hotel offer room service? Does a five-star hotel need a spa?  What kinds of hotel amenities does a resort hotel have?  Are budget hotels dirty?  Ready to dive in? Let’s go!   Popular Hotel Types These hotel types are the most common, and you can find them all over the world. Chain Hotel: Also known as a “branded hotel,” a chain hotel is affiliated with a brand that may have strict guidelines for amenities and design. Some chain hotels are part of a larger ownership group, while other chain hotels have independent owners but follow the same brand standards. Popular hotel chains are Courtyard, Holiday Inn, and Westin. Independent Hotel: A hotel that is independently owned and operated with no brand standards or guidelines.  Boutique Hotel: A hotel that incorporates unique design and personalized service, often with a theme or local influences. Boutique hotels are usually small (under 100 rooms) and independently owned, though some boutique hotels are part of collections like Leading Hotels of the World or chains like the Curio Collection by Hilton.   Pictured: Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea   Resort: A resort offers everything necessary for a vacation on-site, such as restaurants, bars, pools, spas, recreational facilities, kids clubs, and entertainment venues. Popular resort brands include Sandals and Four Seasons, though there are many independent resorts too. Airport Hotel: An airport hotel is located near - you guessed it! - an airport. Airport hotels usually provide free airport transportation for a seamless transfer. Conference Hotel: Catering to business travelers and groups, conference hotels have extensive function space, catering services, and event planners to suit trade shows, conventions, or other large events. All-Suite Hotel: A hotel which contains only suite-style guestrooms, which are guestrooms that have separate sleeping and living areas. Embassy Suites is a popular all-suite hotel brand. Extended-Stay Hotel: Designed for people who need a place to stay for several weeks or months, extended-stay hotels provide guestrooms with full kitchens and more spacious layouts than a standard hotel. Some extended-stay hotels also offer laundry events and social events.  Motel: Short for a “motor hotel,” motels are often located next to a highway in rural areas and offer basic amenities at a low price. Pictured: Aparthotel Baden, Switzerland   Apart-Hotel: Also known as a condo hotel, apart-hotels are made up of apartment-style units which can contain full kitchens and several bedrooms. Apart-hotels offer all the services of a hotel, like a front desk and housekeeping. Serviced Apartment: An apartment unit with hotel-style services available for nightly rentals, often catering to business travelers. Serviced apartments can be found in apartment buildings that also house long-term residents. Hostel: Popular among young budget travelers, hostels offer beds (usually bunk beds) in shared dormitories with shared bathroom facilities. Other on-site amenities can include lounge areas, bars, games, restaurants, and self-service laundry.   Chain Scales The hotel industry uses “chain scales” to categorize hotel brands. Smith Travel Research developed the chain scale system and decides which chains fall into each category, usually based on the hotel’s average daily rate. Luxury: These hotels are the cream of the crop. Luxury hotels offer exceptional service, distinctive architecture, award-winning restaurants, and amenities like spas and golf courses. Luxury chains include Aman, Peninsula, and Ritz-Carlton. Upper Upscale: Like luxury hotels, upper upscale hotels deliver unique experiences with stellar service and amenities - but with a less eye-watering price tag. Upper upscale chains include Hyatt Regency and Wyndham Grand. Upscale: Upscale hotels are full-service hotels with solid amenities and classic decor, usually including a restaurant and a fitness center. Upscale chains include Courtyard and Hilton Garden Inn.   Pictured: Holiday Inn Boston Bunker Hill Area   Upper Midscale: Ranging from traditional to modern, upper midscale hotels offer comfortable accommodation and basic amenities, like free breakfast and fitness centers. Upper midscale chains include Holiday Inn and Red Lion. Midscale: This segment includes both modern and legacy brands with basic design, sparse amenities, and, often, free breakfast. Midscale chains include La Quinta and Ramada. Economy: These hotels offer no-frills accommodation at a low price. Economy hotels are often found in rural, suburban, or airport areas and include limited amenities. Economy chains include America’s Best Value Inn and Motel 6.   Star Ratings Star ratings give travelers information about the level of quality at a given hotel. Generally speaking, hotels with higher star ratings can sell higher rates. Star ratings are either assigned by a third-party rating entity, such as Forbes Travel Guide, or by a governmental body in certain countries, like Australia and the United Kingdom.   1-Star Hotel: A hotel with basic amenities, perhaps with shared bathrooms or no dining options.  2-Star Hotel: A hotel with basic amenities and slightly elevated decor, breakfast service, and/or public areas like a lobby or gym. 3-Star Hotel: A full-service hotel with a restaurant, front desk, intentional decor, and housekeeping service. 4-Star Hotel: An upscale hotel with on-site dining, premium amenities, and a signature look and feel. 5-Star Hotel: A luxurious hotel with personalized service, high-end dining venues, wellness facilities, and elegant design. 7-Star Hotel: Though it’s not officially part of the star rating system, a few “7-star hotels” in destinations like Dubai and Fiji have such over-the-top amenities that the 5-star designation just doesn’t cover it. At Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, you can expect Rolls-Royce car service, a suite with a private movie theater, and a private beach.   Pictured: Burj Al Arab, Dubai   In many European countries, you can find the HOTREC Hotelstars Star Rating System. This organization uses a rubric with almost 300 points of comparison to determine which category a hotel falls into. In addition to these categories, a hotel can earn a “Superior” designation if it falls between two categories. Tourist Hotel (*): These hotels include guestrooms with private bathrooms, daily housekeeping, and a front desk with limited hours. Standard Hotel (**): These hotels include toiletries, towels, linens, and a breakfast buffet. Comfort Hotel (***): These hotels include bilingual staff, internet, hair dryers, and laundry and ironing service. First Class Hotel (****): These hotels include minibars, a restaurant, a lobby, and an extensive selection of toiletries and personal items in the bathrooms. Luxury Hotel (*****): These hotels include 24-hour reception, concierge service, in-room safes, and nightly turndown service. Did you know? AAA uses a “diamond” rating system to evaluate the quality of hotels and restaurants.  Check out our guide to hotel star ratings to learn more about these types of hotels.   Niche Hotel Types Looking for something specific? These niche hotels cater to a particular type of traveler or embody a certain theme. All-Inclusive Hotel or Resort: Don’t want to worry about dining out while you travel? All-inclusive hotels or resorts provide all of your meals on-site. Most all-inclusives have several restaurants, cafes, and bars that are included in the room rate. Beach Resort: Set directly on the beach, beach resorts let you go from your room to the sand in just a few footsteps. Beach resorts usually provide beach chairs, towels, umbrellas, and watersports equipment.   Pictured: Union Street Inn, Nantucket   Bed and Breakfast: With an average of only six rooms, these charming properties offer a homey atmosphere, daily breakfast, and social interaction with other guests and the proprietor, who usually lives on-site. Many bed and breakfasts are luxurious or historic. Business Hotel: These properties cater to business travelers and are located near business districts, airports, or convention centers. On-site amenities include meeting rooms, business centers, and restaurants for breakfast on the go. Casino Hotel: Feeling lucky? Casino hotels have on-site casinos, usually in addition to restaurants, bars, spas, and shops. Las Vegas and Atlantic City have high concentrations of casino hotels. Eco Hotel: Staying in a hotel doesn’t need to hurt the environment. Eco hotels range in size and style, but they all have a focus on environmental-friendliness. Eco hotels might come with limited housekeeping service, organic restaurants, LEED-certified architecture, and sustainable decor. Family Hotel: Traveling with the kids is easier when you choose a family hotel, which are found in popular vacation destinations like Orlando. These properties offer family-friendly rooms with bunk beds or separate bedrooms, restaurants with kid-approved menu choices, childcare or day camps, and activities for all ages. Gastro Hotel: A hotel with a culinary focus, sometimes featuring a Michelin-starred hotel or an on-site vegetable garden.   Pictured: Boulders Resort & Spa, Scottsdale   Golf Resort: A resort with a golf course, perfect for golf getaways. Golf resorts are usually found in vacation destinations like Hawaii or Scottsdale. Heritage Hotel: Take a step back in time at a heritage hotel. These iconic properties are known for their classic architecture and rich history. In some countries, they may even receive an official “historic” designation from the government. Microstay Hotel: Need a place to rest your head for a few hours? Microstay hotels can be booked by the hour, which is ideal for travelers with long layovers or quick turnaround times that don’t align with the standard check-in and check-out policies. Patient Hotel: Patients traveling to out-of-town hospitals can benefit from a patient hotel, which is usually located within or near a medical facility and offers services and amenities for pre- and post-treatment stays. Railway Hotel: Located next to railway stations, these hotels offer convenient accommodation for train travelers. The first railway hotel, the Great Western Hotel in England, opened in 1844. Ski Resort: Set in ski destinations like Aspen and Park City, ski resorts are ideal for a vacation on the slopes and offer the convenience of dining, wellness facilities, equipment rental and storage, and lessons on-site.   Pictured: Park Hyatt Tokyo   Skyscraper Hotel: Looking for a hotel with a view? You can find skyscraper hotels in metropolitan areas around the world. The hotels usually occupy several floors within the skyscraper; the other floors might contain offices, residences, shopping, or dining. Spa Hotel: If you’re in the mood for a relaxing getaway, then a spa hotel might fit the bill. Spa hotels have world-class spa facilities and often incorporate wellness into their restaurants, decor, and amenities. Tennis Resort: Channel your inner Serena Williams and head to a tennis resort for an active vacation. These properties offer not only tennis courts, but also lessons run by on-site pros and restaurants where you can fuel up between matches. Wine Hotel: A trip to Napa or Bordeaux isn’t complete without a stay at a wine hotel. Often set directly on vineyards, these hotels incorporate a wine theme in their dining venues, decor, and even spa treatments.   Regional Accomodations Some accommodation types are only found in certain parts of the world. Rather than choosing a chain hotel when you travel, you can get a taste of local culture at a region-specific accommodation. Albergo Diffuso: In an effort to lure tourists to small towns in Italy, the albergo diffuso concept offers accommodations in restored homes scattered throughout the town, giving travelers a unique sense of community. Bunkhouse: Similar to a hostel, a bunkhouse (also known as a camping barn) offers shared dormitory accommodations, shared bathrooms, and either a simple breakfast or a shared kitchen. Bunkhouses can be found in rural areas in the United Kingdom. Casa Particular: A staple of Cuban hospitality, the casa particular is similar to a bed and breakfast in that it offers travelers a room in a home and breakfast (additional meals too), plus basic decor and a low price. Country House Hotel: Popular in the English countryside, these tranquil hotels provide the ideal setting for a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Country house hotels offer comfort food, afternoon tea, and activities like hunting and horseback riding. Gasthaus: This classic German accommodation offers guestrooms and a restaurant or tavern. These properties feature traditional architecture and are found in small towns throughout Germany. Hostal: Not to be confused with a hostel, a hostal includes private guestrooms or apartments plus a restaurant or cafe. Hostales are usually family-run and are located in Spain and Central and South America. Pension: Found worldwide, but mostly in Europe, pensions are modest guesthouses which provide guestrooms and meals. When booking your room, you can usually choose between full board (all meals included) or half board (breakfast and dinner included).   Pictured: Riad de Tarabel   Riad: Surrounded by an exterior wall, a riad features a lush courtyard garden and stunning Moroccan design and architecture. While a riad is simply a type of luxurious Moroccan home, many have been converted into hotels in destinations like Marrakech. Ryokan: A traditional Japanese inn which offers minimalist rooms with tatami mats instead of Western-style beds. Other ryokan amenities include communal baths and restaurants, and guests are usually requested to remove their shoes inside.   Unique Hotel Concepts Why stay in a typical hotel when you can have a one-of-a-kind experience? These innovative accommodations prove that there’s more to the hotel industry than the big-box chain hotel. Boatel: Even those prone to seasickness can enjoy a boatel, which is just a fancy name for a boat that doubles as sleeping accommodations while it’s moored in a harbor or marina. Boatels can be small boats perfect for a family or out-of-service cruise ships that offer hundreds of cabins.   Pictured: Capsule Hotel Hakodate   Capsule Hotel: Also known as a pod hotel, a capsule hotel offers micro-rooms with single beds and shared bathrooms. These efficient hotels give budget travelers an affordable place to sleep with more privacy than a hostel, and they’re popular throughout Asia. Castle Hotel: Want to sleep like royalty? A castle hotel is housed in a real castle, often found in rural parts of Europe, that has been converted into a fully functioning hotel complete with running water, electricity, and WiFi (usually!).  Hotelship: During high-demand periods when a city doesn’t have enough hotel rooms, hotelships come to the rescue. Passenger vessels like river cruise boats or ocean liners temporarily dock in a city to provide additional sleeping capacity. Hotel Barge: Set on canals in France, the Netherlands, Germany, and other European countries, hotel barges provide a few luxurious rooms and day excursions to wineries, markets, or castles. Pop-Up Hotel: A temporary hotel which is only open during limited dates or a holiday period. Some pop-up hotels are constructed for festivals or sporting events, while others can be part of elaborate marketing strategies for brands like Jack Daniels.   Pictured: A Rotel in Germany   Rotel: Short for “rolling hotel,” a rotel is what you get when you merge a tour bus and a hotel: bus in the front, hotel in the back. Rotels are popular in tourist destinations in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Underwater Hotel: Forget counting sheep; at an underwater hotel, you can count fish as you fall asleep. Set in resort destinations like the Maldives and Singapore’s Sentosa Island, these luxurious hotels offer underwater rooms with sea views - literally.   Hotel Alternatives Hotels aren’t your only choices when it comes to places to sleep during your travels. A growing segment of “alternative accommodations” puts a twist on the vacation experience with options available for every budget and style. Cabin: A home located in the forest or mountains, usually made from natural materials like wood. Cabins can range from simple accommodations to luxurious retreats in rural destinations. Campsite: Want to get back to nature? A campsite is as close to nature as you can get. Book your campsite, bring your tent, and enjoy a night (or a few) under the stars. Campsites have access to shared bathroom facilities. Farm Stay: For city dwellers, a farm stay can be quite an adventurous vacation. On a farm stay, you might wake up to the sound of roosters crowing and help your hosts harvest vegetables for your dinner, since guestrooms are either attached or adjacent to the host’s home.   Pictured: Istra Premium Camping Resort   Glampsite: If campsites had star ratings, then glampsites would surely earn five! Glamping puts a luxurious spin on camping with posh tents that incorporate high-quality materials, chic decor, modern bathrooms,  Guesthouse: A simple accommodation which offers guestrooms within the host’s own home. Guesthouses can have up to a dozen or more rooms, and most provide free breakfast. Holiday Park: A group of mobile homes or cottages with community amenities like swimming pools and tennis courts.  Homestay: A room for transient guests within the host’s home, which is a popular accomodation type in rural areas. Homestays usually include breakfast, and some invite you to dinner with the host family. Ranch: Ever wanted to be a cowboy or cowgirl? Ranches offer the quintessential Wild West experience, complete with horseback riding and plenty of nature. They vary in quality from luxurious resort ranches to working ranches where guests help with daily operations. Recreational Vehicle: The perfect road trip solution is a recreational vehicle (RV), which looks like a bus or large van on the outside, but features all the comforts of home on the inside, including at least one bed, a kitchen, a bathroom, and living space. Short-Term Rental: This new term refers to vacation homes or apartment rentals that travelers book for a short period of time, from one night to a few weeks. Short-term rentals can be managed by individual hosts or brands like Sonder. Studio: A single-room accommodation that includes a kitchen or kitchenette, a bed, and a bathroom. Studios can be found in guesthouses, apart-hotels, or as short-term rentals. Timeshare: This innovative solution to vacation home ownership lets you purchase a condo or villa for a certain time period (usually one week) each year. Some timeshares include use of just one property, while other timeshare membership programs allow you to redeem your week at your choice of several properties.     Tiny House: A trendy, Instagram-ready, and efficient accommodation that offers a bed, a bathroom, and a kitchen in just a few hundred square feet of space.  Treehouse: Ideal for the young at heart or anyone searching for a truly unique accommodation, treehouses offer a bed in the trees. These eclectic properties can be basic, open-air platforms or magical, luxurious palaces in the sky. Vacation Home: Simply put, a vacation home is a house rented for short-term use. A vacation home is a great solution for families or groups who want their own kitchen and living spaces and prefer not to book multiple guestrooms. Vacation Rental: The broader term for vacation homes, apartments, condos, villas, timeshares, treehouses and more that are booked for the purpose of a short leisure stay. Villa: Usually found in tropical vacation destinations, villas are like small, private resorts with multiple structures (standalone bedrooms, living areas, gazebos) and outdoor pools. Yurt: A halfway point between a hotel room and a tent. Yurts are permanent structures with walls and roofs, unlike tents, but they often lack electricity and climate control and use shared bathroom facilities.   Ready to pack your bags? Let us know if we missed any types of hotels.  

The Complete Guide to Online Travel Agencies in 2020 (OTAs)

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

Online travel agents have become an integral part of many travelers’ “search and book” routine. It used to be so much more tedious to book travel, requiring a phone call or an in-person visit to a physical travel agent. Now, travelers can self serve all the way from research to booking.  If you're like most travelers, you've used an OTA without really thinking much about it.  The website works well, with lots of choices and a relatively smooth booking experience. But if you’ve ever wondered what an OTA actually is, how OTAs make money, why travelers like you use OTAs and what the biggest OTAs are, then this is your place.  We've compiled some of travelers’ most frequently asked questions around OTAs and answered them all in one place. Let’s get curious!   What's an OTA? “OTA” stands for Online Travel Agency, which is a travel agency whose primary presence is on digital channels. Consumers can use a website and/or mobile device to search and book travel -- all without the traditional “gatekeeper” travel agent. OTAs connect to the full breadth of travel providers, giving travelers access to all of the inventory that they may want for their next trip.  Online travel agents are the travel industry's largest source of bookings and often use package deals including airfare and hotels or special offers like flash sales to drive more bookings to airline and hotel partners.  These massive travel websites like Booking and Expedia have millions of monthly visitors. Large hotel groups (like Hilton and the like) have been consolidating and building new subbrands, which means that they have a lower reliance on OTAs; travelers can find many types of accommodations on the global brands’ own websites. Yet, many independent hotels rely entirely on OTAs to drive their bookings as they don’t have a booking engine of their own. Either way, OTAs have a breadth and depth of travel inventory that covers all segments, geographies and groups of travelers. It's also important to understand what ARE NOT online travel agencies.  Metasearch engines like TripAdvisor and Google Flights, for example, are not OTAs.  Having said that, Booking.com (formerly Priceline.com) does own metasearch player Kayak so there are some overlaps (although with different brands).  In the United States Expedia is the dominant player while in Europe it is Booking.com.   How do OTAs make money? Most OTAs make money by taking a commission per booking, which is anywhere from 5% to upwards of 25%. The actual commission rate is negotiated on a brand by brand, property by property basis. In general, larger hotels and bigger brands with many properties use their leverage to negotiate lower rates. So when you book that boutique hotel on an OTA, it's likely that they are paying more on commission than the name brand Hotel down the street.  Most OTAs also make money through advertising, in which hotels pay to be prominently placed above organic results in relevant traveler searches. This model, which is also used by metasearch sites (see What is metasearch? for more), is generally on a pay-per-click basis.   Why do travelers use OTAs? Over a fifth of travelers say they use OTAs to book all or part of their travel. And OTAs (and their metasearch cousins, often owned by major OTA groups) remain popular among all age groups.  OTAs are positioned across many touchpoints throughout the customer journey.   Why is that? At the highest level, there are three main reasons why many travelers book their trips on an OTA: Choice. Online travel agencies are a “one stop shop” for all things travel. From flights and hotels to short-term rentals, cars and vacation packages, you can pretty much find any type of product that you want on an OTA.  Price. OTAs have done an excellent job of developing a perception of value -- even though they aren't always the lowest price or the best value. The real value here lies in comparison shopping. It’s easy to compare options on an OTA and that type of information is very valuable to consumers. Convenience. OTAs are the Everything Store for Travel, available on any device. It’s a convenient place to book your car rental, hotel and flights in a single reservation. It's so much easier to deal with that single point of contact --  especially when things go wrong and you need help. Rather than calling multiple numbers to puzzle together a new itinerary, you only have to call one number to get it done. Now let's assume and to get a bit more of a granular and geeky view into what consumers want from OTAs. A recent research report from Jul 2020 asked this very question in its title, Why do people purchase from online travel agencies (see geeky graph below). While it was based on a limited sample size of users from a budget hotel brand, the results suggest that travelers use OTAs due to a perception of greater trust, safety and quality: Hygiene. Travelers want to be assured of the relative cleanliness of the service or product. By using a reputable online travel agency, travelers have an expectation of a  certain level of quality.  The attributes of the brand make a big difference in the perception of quality. Privacy and security. Privacy and security are also important. And, just like hygiene, Travelers have a certain level of trust in the OTA brand to deliver a quality experience that won’t expose them to privacy breaches or physical harm. Reviews. Social proof has a major impact on why travelers use OTAs. A feeling that others had a good experience goes a long way in pulling more consumers into the OTA ecosystem. What are the drawbacks of OTAs? There are also some disadvantages of using OTAs, which travelers must be aware of. For one, travelers often are lured by low prices on many online travel agencies. Yet, once they try to book, they find out that the price includes hidden fees or added restrictions that wouldn’t be found by booking directly with an airline or hotel.  Niche OTAs, which can pop up seemingly overnight, often hide the true cost of a trip during a given search to entice consumers to click through. The worst actors will actually appear to offer the lowest price all the way through to booking.  However, once you check-in to their flight or hotel, you may discover unexpected fees. All of a sudden, that “steal” of a price actually becomes more expensive than it would have been book direct. Examples of these tactics periodically pop up, such as when one online travel agency was accused of using improper charges and bait-and-switch fares. The tactic can mislead consumers, who see an OTA as the cheapest option in search results and thus click through to book. Another major drawback is customer support. Not all OTAs are created equal on this front. Especially when it comes to regional ones, travelers often face less-than-ideal support.  For the average trip, when everything goes well, this is far less of an issue. It's when things go wrong that support matters greatly. No one wants to be stranded without anyone to help!  This can be exacerbated during disruptions come out when travel suppliers prioritize direct workers over others. When booking directly with a hotel or airline, travelers will deal directly with the company for any issues that arise.  So it’s not always cut-and-dry that an OTA will be able to provide you better or more effective support than a travel company --  and in some cases (especially with more niche/regional OTAs) there’s spotty support that can cause more frustration than the price savings.      What are the top online travel agencies? When choosing where to book, most consumers opt for one of the top OTAs: Booking Holdings and Expedia Group. That’s not really difficult to do, as these two companies own the bulk of online bookings. With many brands that span categories and regions, Expedia and Booking have all corners of the globe and all travel niches covered: Expedia Group In addition to its namesake OTA Expedia.com, which sells all categories of travel to a global audience, the company operates sites that span hotels, ground transportation, cruises, vacation rentals, metasearch and business travel. Hotels.com. Expedia’s hotel-focused OTA is most well-known for its generous and straightforward loyalty program, which rewards a free night for every 10 nights booked on the platform. Vrbo. Short-term rentals are the core of the Vrbo offering, which recently merged with HomeAway to become Expedia's main destination for vacation rentals. Egencia. Corporate travel managers use Egencia to support their business travel needs. With self-service options for travelers and compliance tools for managers, the focus is on savings and ease-of-use. trivago. The “trivago guy” became a worldwide sensation after appearing in commercials without a belt. The hotel metasearch platform provides hotel price comparisons across its 55 localized sites. Orbitz. This OTA has a strong focus on North America, where travelers can search flights, hotels & travel bundles. Orbitz for Business is the OTA’s corporate travel arm. CheapTickets. As a subsidiary of Orbitz, Cheaptickets is for discounted hotels, flights, local events, travel bundles and cruises. The site’s Vacation Value Finder assists travelers in finding the best deals. Travelocity. The Roaming Gnome has been one of the most successful marketing campaigns in travel. The OTA is also known for its Price Match Guarantee, where it will match any price from a competitor. Hotwire. This is an opaque deal site specifically for hotels. Travelers can see star rating and cost for their search dates, and then make non-refundable reservations based on an overview of the hotel’s category. Wotif. The Wotif portfolio includes Wotif and LastMinute, which offers flights, hotels, packages and last-minute deals to travelers based mostly in Australia and New Zealand. ebookers. This regional OTA serves travelers primarily from the UK, as well as around Europe. Travelers can search and book flights, hotels, car rentals,  activities and packages. CarRentals.com. Travelers can book rental cars from the major brand names, as well as smaller regional outfits. The niche OTA covers 29,000 locations in 197 countries. Expedia Cruises. The cruise arm of Expedia Group gives consumers the control and flexibility to book cruises, which can be more complex than typical travel. There are also a chain of retail outlets, so cruises can get expert assistance face-to-face.   Booking Holdings Headquartered in Amsterdam, Booking Holdings is best known for its flagship brand Booking.com, which sells all types of travel to a global audience in 43 languages. The global conglomerate also operates niche websites serving specific segments in travel and hospitality. Priceline. This OTA is focused primarily on North America and is known for its discounts and deals. The latest is Pricebreakers, a semi-opaque shopping option that shows travelers three hotels, one of which will be assigned after booking. Agoda. This OTA is strong in Asia, offering over 2 million hotels, homes, resorts and hostels across the continent. It also sells flights. Kayak. Kayak is a metasearch price comparison tool for flights, accmmodations, packages, and rental cars. Kayak has 60 localized sites in over 24 languages. Cheapflights. The brand promise is right there in the name: this is the place to find cheap flights. The site is actually a subsidiary of Kayak and applies its parent company’s metasearch model to flights. Momondo. Another subsidiary of kayak, this site is a flight fare and travel search aggregator. Travelers can find and compare prices for flights, hotels, rental cars and package deals. RentalCars.com. This Booking platform for rental cars has options in 160 countries, as well as nillions of verified reviews to inform travelers. OpenTable. Booking’s push into the full traveler journey led it to acquire OpenTable, the world's largest restaurant reservation platform. It exists as a standalone brand, where diners can make reservations online at restaurants worldwide.   Airbnb The dominant short-term rental player now also offers boutique hotels on its platform. And while the pandemic has shifted its vision somewhat, the platform is now an OTA that competes directly.   Ctrip Until recently, Ctrip was focused primarily on Asia. This changed with the purchase of Trip.com, which gave it a global footprint on major North American and European markets.   Google Hotels Okay, so technically this is not an OTA as the business model is strictly “pay for performance.” But Google Hotels is the elephant in the room: a major competitor from the dominant search engine where the vast majority begin their travel searches. It's mere presence changes the calculus for OTAs worldwide. That's not to say that these sites are perfect, or that there aren't local alternatives. Verified reviews aren't always the most positive (see some here) -- but at least with the major companies, travelers are more likely to get responsive support and accurate pricing, with less likelihood of being scammed or otherwise misled. For a full list, check out our list of the top hotel booking sites for 2020.  

How to Use the Homeaway Revenue Tool (MarketMaker)

by
Adrienne Fors
2 months ago

Looking for opportunities to boost your vacation rental’s revenue? Your daily rates might be a good place to start.  A great way to maximize your opportunity for revenue and bookings is to implement a dynamic pricing strategy, which means setting unique rates for each individual day - based on market demand, competitor supply, and your own historical data. If your prices don’t adapt to changing market conditions, you could be leaving money on the table. For property owners and managers who use Vrbo, the MarketMaker tool can be a solid addition to your pricing strategy and vacation rental marketing toolbox. In this article, we’ll explain exactly what MarketMaker does and how you can use it to optimize your Vrbo listings.   What is MarketMaker? Homeaway's Revenue Tool Explained (now Vrbo) MarketMaker is Vrbo’s revenue management and competitor research tool. It’s available to all Vrbo hosts in the Owner Dashboard. MarketMaker is free of charge. To access MarketMaker, simply log into your property dashboard and select “MarketMaker” from the menu on the left side of the page. The tool itself compares your property’s current rates and occupancy with the average rates and occupancy in your market or competitive set. A competitive set is simply a group of similar properties that Vrbo’s algorithm has chosen. This comparison helps you determine whether your rates are too high or too low and if you are capturing your fair share of bookings. If your property has lower occupancy than the market average, for example, that could be a signal that you have an opportunity to increase bookings.   What information does MarketMaker show? When you first open MarketMaker, you’ll see your properties at a glance. You can quickly notice each property’s average daily rate compared to the competitive set or market as well as occupancy percentage compared to the same competitive set or market. The data is from a time range selected on the top of the page: 30, 60, 90, or 180 days, or a custom range.     By default, all of the properties in your account will show, but you can also search for a specific property or apply filters, like number of bedrooms or location, to show a subset of your listings. Next, we can drill down on one property in particular. By clicking the number of “opportunities” or the arrow on the far right of a given property’s row, we can see rates for that property on specific dates. These dates show rate recommendations that Vrbo suggests based on competitive set data. Vrbo can recommend higher or lower rates, whatever the algorithm determines your property needs to maximize the opportunity for bookings.     When you click on the property’s name in the “Property” column, you can explore MarketMaker’s graph view. The graph looks overwhelming at first, so let’s explain exactly what you’re seeing.     The graph contains data for one of your properties and that property’s market or competitive set. On the top, you can see the calendar, your current rates, and whether your property is available (white), booked on Vrbo (green), or unavailable for another reason (gray). In the graph, you’ll see a few lines, which you can toggle to show or hide: Blue line: Your current rate Green rate: Average rate of properties in your market/competitive set which have been booked on Vrbo Gray line: Average rate of properties which remain available on Vrbo Yellow line: Number of searches for your market on Vrbo The graph also contains two stacked bars: Light gray bar: Current occupancy of properties in your market, based on Vrbo data Turquoise bar (above the gray bar): Forecasted occupancy of properties in your market, based on Vrbo’s historical data, seasonality, and trends When you hover over one date on the graph, you’ll see the actual data points that correspond to each line and bar.   How do you use MarketMaker? You can use MarketMaker in two ways: to make targeted rate adjustments and to gain a better understanding of market trends. MarketMaker offers rate recommendations when its algorithm detects a gap between your current rates and the market’s occupancy or rate trends. These rate recommendations can be found in the “opportunities” section. While looking at either the portfolio (list) or graph view, you may notice properties with “opportunities.” On the graph, the “opportunities” will be shown in blue just above the calendar row.      Using MarketMaker’s recommendations, you can adjust your rates up or down - in line with market demand and trends - without needing to do all the research to come up with those recommendations on your own. The other way to use MarketMaker is to study market behavior. The graph view displays some great data about market demand in terms of search volume, and you can also get a sense of your competitive set or market’s occupancy trends. These findings can help you determine high and low demand dates so you can adapt your own strategies - both on Vrbo and on other channels - to capture as much demand as possible. Knowing which dates are in high demand can lead you to change not only your prices, but also your minimum stay requirements, fees, and content to be most competitive.   What are MarketMaker’s limitations? While MarketMaker certainly presents some compelling information, it has one major limitation: the data is pulled only from Vrbo, and the changes you make to your rates will apply only to your Vrbo listing. For hosts who list properties on Vrbo only, that’s totally fine, but many hosts use additional booking channels besides Vrbo. In some markets, Vrbo represents just a small slice of all searches and bookings, so we recommend that you take the data with a grain of salt.  Another limitation of MarketMaker is that it requires manual input. You can only make use of MarketMaker’s rate recommendations by acknowledging each recommendation manually, and if you have several properties, the time needed to click through these recommendations and stay up-to-date can add up quickly. Airbnb’s Smart Pricing tool offers similar rate intelligence functionality, but it’s fully automated. Property owners and managers who use third-party dynamic pricing tools, such as PriceLabs or Wheelhouse, spend much less time adjusting rates, since these tools also adjust rates automatically. However, some hosts may prefer to stay in full control of rate adjustments, so the manual nature of MarketMaker could be a benefit. Overall, MarketMaker is a nice addition to the Vrbo host dashboard, but it’s important to remember its limitations. MarketMaker can provide several benefits to property owners or managers who use Vrbo exclusively, but for hosts with larger portfolios or listings on multiple sites, the manual work needed to apply its recommendations is simply too big of an undertaking. The market data, however, can be beneficial for any host, especially to show search volume on high and low demand dates. Have you used Vrbo’s MarketMaker? We’d love to hear about your experience with this tool!  

Top 30 Vacation Rental Software to Manage Properties in 2020

by
Adrienne Fors
1 month ago

Are you wondering how you can streamline and simplify your vacation rental management operations? You don’t necessarily need to hire a third-party management company or a big reservations team to drive online bookings; property management software can do the heavy lifting and make your vacation rental business much smoother. But what exactly can these systems offer you? And which vacation rental property management systems are the best? In this article, we’ll explain exactly what you can expect from a short-term rental property management system and help you pick a system that works well for your business. With a system in place, you can not only run a more efficient business, but also take advantage of marketing opportunities, new listing channels, and exciting integrations with ancillary services.  Before you know it your property won't just be live on major hotel booking sites or vacation rental websites but you'll even have your own website and operations system!   What is Vacation Rental Management Software? In short, a property management system centralizes the reservations and operational tasks for your vacation rentals. Rather than logging into Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com separately to manage reservations and communicate with guests, a property management system lets you do it all in one place. Most vacation rental property management systems offer these basic features: Multi-calendar: One calendar where you can see all reservations from all channels for all of your listings. Reservation management: The reservation system module or CRS as it's called in more sophisticated hotel software gives the ability to change dates, prices, and other details for existing reservations. Channel management: Synchronizing rates, availability, and sometimes content across all listing sites such as AirBnB, VrBO, Homeaway and Flipkey. With a channel manager, you can change your availability in your property management system and let the change be sent across all of your listing channels. Booking engine: Booking software provides the ability to enter direct reservations booked offline (over the phone or in person) or online (via your own website or booking widget) and increase revenue coming from direct channels. Integrations: Most property management systems offer a library of integrations that range from payment processors to dynamic pricing systems to keyless entry solutions. Mobile app: Many vacation rental owners run their properties remotely so if you fit into that category you'll want a dedicated mobile app to run your business on the go wherever and whenever.   What are the Benefits of Vacation Rental Software? Although property management systems do come with a subscription fee or commission, that fee is far less than what it costs vacation rental managers in time and lost bookings when trying to complete those same tasks without them. From the moment you set up your system and sync all of your channels, you can rest assured that you won’t receive a double booking or lose a reservation in the shuffle. These systems also allow vacation rental owners to automate many operational tasks from bookings to guest experience. For example, you can configure check-in templates to be sent automatically before arrival. You could also set up automated text messages for your cleaning staff to alert them when you need a new cleaning. Many property management systems also offer a booking engine, which lets you easily accept direct bookings with major credit cards and other mainstream payment methods to rely less on the online travel agencies.   Vacation Rental Software Basics: Property Management Systems Let’s dive right into some vacation rental property management systems. Note that these are just a few of the many systems available, but they all offer a good combination of features and value.  Each system has its own unique user experience and design to facilitate vacation rental owners in customer acquisition, guest management and general business operations.  Many of these software solutions are also used by small b&bs who need real-time business management capabilities.  These smaller properties are often staffed and run similar to vacation properties of a similar size.   Guesty As one of the most well-known companies in the vacation rental technology space, Guesty offers a lot of value to short-term rental owners and managers who are looking to take their businesses to the next level. The company has generated a lot of buzz, having graduated from the Y Combinator startup incubator and raising nearly $60M in funding (including a $35M series C investment in 2019). Guesty offers all of the standard property management system functionality: a multi-calendar, a messaging tool, and reporting and analysis tools. The system also allows you to set up multiple user accounts with different access levels, create automated message templates and tasks (charging the balance of a reservation on the day of arrival, for example), and manage your listings’ content and photos from one central place. Guesty pushes rates, availability, content, photos, fees, and policies to its direct integration channels, so you don’t need to update this information on each channel individually.      Unique features: The owner view allows you to configure special accounts for property owners to view only their specific properties - a major plus for property managers who manage listings on behalf of several owners. With certain subscription plans, you may also receive access to a dedicated account representative or a 24/7 support line. Integrations: Guesty offers full, direct integrations with Agoda, Airbnb, Booking.com, HomeAway/Vrbo, Misterb&b, and TripAdvisor. Guesty also connects to Rentals United, a channel manager, which provides connections to more than 60 additional channels like Expedia, Housestay, Trip.com, and Google. Guesty’s extensive Marketplace offers integrations with dynamic pricing software (Wheelhouse, PriceLabs), payment processors (Stripe), home automation and monitoring systems (Noiseaware, Minut), luggage storage solutions (LuggageHero), and keyless entry solutions (RemoteLock) - just to name a few. Pricing: Guesty charges a commission between 2% and 5% per booking (including cancelled bookings), depending on how many listings you have. Accounts with more listings receive a lower commission rate. Guesty may also charge a setup fee (sometimes over $1000) depending on the plan you choose. Disadvantages: While Guesty’s direct integrations with the most popular channels are handy, the system does not offer iCal integration. If you use smaller, regional channels (or use an iCal feed for some other purpose), then Guesty may not be the best solution for your business. Bottom Line: Guesty is one of the best short-term rental property management systems available, due to its impressive set of features and integrations. However, the system is also one of the most expensive (especially for high-end properties due to the commission structure), so you will need to decide for yourself whether Guesty’s features justify the cost.   Lodgify Based in Barcelona, Spain, Lodgify offers a beautiful property management system that’s user-friendly and functional. The multi-calendar works well for multiple units, and it’s easy to input reservations manually. The customer service team is always friendly and quick to respond (you can even take advantage of personalized onboarding support), and the company maintains a robust library of resources and blog articles. Unique features: Lodgify’s website builder is one of the best in the market. The tool includes several templates so you can quickly drag and drop widgets and add your own custom text. You can even add videos, maps, and custom code.     Integrations: Lodgify connects directly to Airbnb, Booking.com, and Expedia for rate and availability synchronization. A direct Vrbo is also available if you manage at least 5 properties. For all other channels, Lodgify uses an iCal connection that syncs availability and reservations, but not rates. The system also has free integrations with Mailchimp, Google Analytics, Zapier, and PriceLabs. Some integrations, like Stripe, come with an additional monthly fee. Pricing: After a 7-day free trial, Lodgify’s annual subscriptions for one property start at $12 per month with a 1.9% booking fee, or you can opt for the Professional version ($32 per month) which has no booking fee. For 25 properties, the Professional version costs $220 per month. Monthly subscriptions without an annual commitment cost slightly more. Disadvantages: Lodgify’s automated messaging tool falls short; it does not allow for much customization, especially with trigger timing and contact assignments. Bottom Line: Lodgify is an excellent choice for property managers who want a solid property management system and an eye-catching website without needing to hire a website designer. However, Lodgify doesn’t offer many integrations with third-party services, like keyless locks and dynamic pricing software (only with PriceLabs), so if you use many of these ancillary services, you may want to opt for a different system.   FantasticStay FantasticStay recently acquired Vreasy, a popular short-term rental property management system, but luckily FantasticStay is retaining much of Vreasy’s functionality. The system offers the standard package of calendar management, booking management, and a channel manager, plus a website builder and automated messaging. The user experience is smooth, and the system has a clean, modern look. Unique features: One of FantasticStay’s add-ons is a 24/7 guest response service, so your guests can receive quick responses to inquiries and messages even during the middle of the night or when you’re busy with other things. You can also purchase a revenue management add-on that provides pricing guidance and a customer support add-on that gives you phone support around the clock. Integrations: Direct connections to Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com allow you to update rates and availability from FantasticStay rather than on each site individually. For all other sites, you can sync reservations and availability with an iCal connection. Through Vreasy, integrations to PriceLabs and Quickbooks are available. Pricing: FantasticStay’s basic plan has no monthly subscription fee, just an 0.8% booking fee, for an unlimited number of listings. This plan does not include integrations or any add-ons, like customer support. Higher-tier plans include all integrations, no payment processing fees, and personalized support. The annual Pro plan costs $214 per year for 20-29 listings. Disadvantages: FantasticStay does not offer a direct connection to Expedia (yet), and since the software was originally built for the European market, some tax settings may not work properly for other markets. Bottom Line: FantasticStay is a fantastic choice for Europe-based property managers. It’s also great for property managers who want a low-cost, basic software to manage listings on Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com with no additional integrations via the free plan.   Hostfully In 2018 Hostfully acquired Orbirental, and today Hostfully’s property management system still looks and feels a lot like Orbirental. The system offers a multi-calendar, automated messaging, a booking engine, and channel management for Airbnb, Booking.com, Vrbo, and Tripadvisor. Hostfully also connects to a couple other channel managers, like Rentals United and myBookingPal, which allows you to distribute rates and availability to additional sites.   Unique features: When many property management systems are shifting toward self-service customer support, Hostfully offers plenty of phone support. Even the most basic plan includes two setup calls with a support rep. Hostfully also offers its Digital Guidebooks feature, which is actually separate from the property management system. Even if you don’t use the property management system, you can still purchase a guidebook-only subscription. Integrations: Hostfully has a huge “Integration Zone” which includes integrations with dozens of complementary systems. You can connect to dynamic pricing tools, home automation solutions, cleaning management systems, and even HelloSign for digital signatures. Pricing: Hostfully offers three plans: 1-4 properties pay $79 per month, 5-19 properties pay $189 per month, and 20+ properties pay on a sliding scale depending on the number of listings. 50 listings cost $375 per month. Monthly subscriptions come with a $400 setup fee, but the fee is waived (and you get a small discount!) if you sign an annual contract.  Disadvantages: Some features, like automated text messaging and multiple user access, are not available for accounts with fewer than 5 properties. Hostfully itself doesn’t offer an Expedia connection, but you can connect to Expedia via an integrated channel manager like Rentals United. Bottom Line: Hostfully is perfect for property owners or managers who want a little extra support in the setup process and on an ongoing basis. Though it’s slightly more expensive than other systems, there are no hidden fees or add-ons.   Beds24 Beds24 offers all of the standard property management functionality (multi-calendar, channel manager), plus a booking engine and integrations with several ancillary services. It’s best for property managers who want to take full control of their operations and don’t need much guidance from support representatives, since Beds24 does not offer phone support. Unique features: Beds24 allows for a lot of customization - you can add essentially any restriction, pricing rule, fee, and policy you want, and the system makes it easy for you to set up channel connections on your own without the assistance of a support representative. Integrations: Beds24 offers direct connections to Airbnb, Agoda, Booking.com, Expedia, Vrbo, and Tripadvisor. Several other regional channels are also available, as is iCal import and export functionality. Beds24 also integrates with PriceLabs, Wishbox, Mailchimp, several keyless entry solutions (igloohome, RemoteLock), and several payment processors (PayPal, Stripe).   Pricing: After a 14-day free trial, a Beds24 subscription starts at about $10 per month for one property. Additional properties/units and links to channels cost about $1 each. If you have 5 properties listed on 3 channels each, your monthly fee will be about $20. If you have 50 properties on 3 channels each, the monthly fee is about $70. Disadvantages: Unlike some other systems on this list that have invested heavily in user experience and building a sleek, beautiful interface, Beds24 is a bit clunky. But while it’s not the most fashionable system, it’s certainly functional. Bottom Line: Beds24 packs a lot of features into a very small price. If you’re comfortable with a less user-friendly experience, this system is an excellent value.   iGMS Since its launch in 2015, iGMS has grown to support over 100,000 listings with its property management system. You may know the company by its old name, AirGMS. In addition to a multi-calendar, automated messaging, and booking management, the system offers special functionality for automating cleaning team operations and notifications. Unique features: Some systems only let you set up a direct Airbnb or Vrbo connection to one Airbnb or Vrbo account, but iGMS allows you to configure direct connections with multiple Airbnb accounts, which is a nice option for property managers who list different properties under different profiles. The cleaning management features also help to streamline cleaning operations at scale. Integrations: Direct integrations are available with Airbnb and Vrbo (for rates, availability, and reservation); all other sites use a simple iCal connection. iGMS doesn’t offer much in terms of third-party software integration. Pricing: After a 14-day free trial, iGMS offers two plans: a pay-per-booking plan with a fixed cost (around $1) per booking, or a monthly or yearly subscription with no fees per booking. The “Pro” plan costs $100 per month for 5 properties and includes 24/7 email and phone support. Under the same plan, 20 listings cost $360 per month with an annual subscription. Disadvantages: iGMS does not offer a direct connection with Booking.com or Expedia, making it a less strategic system for property managers or hosts who want to distribute listings on sites beyond Airbnb and Vrbo. As of today, iGMS also does not offer a website builder. Bottom Line: Professional property managers, rather than individual owners or part-time hosts, may get the most benefit from iGMS, especially if your business is focused on Airbnb and Vrbo and not Expedia, Booking.com, or direct bookings.   OwnerRez Catering to the traditional vacation home market, OwnerRez brands itself as “built by owners, for owners.” The company believes in simplicity and transparency, but that doesn’t mean the system lacks functionality. In fact, OwnerRez offers a vast array of features, from a multi-calendar to a guest database to automated message templates and responders. OwnerRez is known for its clean, user-friendly interface and hands-on customer service. The company is open to suggestions and encourages users to let them know about any features they’re missing.   Unique features: OwnerRez offers their own damage protection and travel insurance products. The system also allows you to collect and analyze your guest reviews from a variety of different sites. Integrations: OwnerRez offers integrations with dynamic pricing software (PriceLabs, Beyond Pricing, Perfect Price), several keyless entry systems (RemoteLock, among others), guest communication tools (Wishbox), and QuickBooks (extra fee applies). You can also add an OwnerRez widget to your website via Wordpress, Weebly, SquareSpace, and WIX. Pricing: After a 14-day free trial, OwnerRez charges a monthly fee dependent on the number of listings and a choice of add-on features. With no add-ons, the monthly fee for 5 listings is $28.99 (as of June 2020) and $131.99 for 50 listings. The plans include unlimited bookings. Add-ons include website hosting, channel management, and QuickBooks integration for a few more dollars per month. Disadvantages: iCal imports and exports are included in the monthly fee, but for property managers who want to use the channel management functionality to sync rates, availability, restrictions, content, and policies to sites like Airbnb, Booking.com, Vrbo, and Tripadvisor, you’ll need to pay extra. OwnerRez does not have an integration with Expedia (yet). Bottom Line: OwnerRez is a great choice for cost-conscious property managers who want a lot of features, integrations, and input into the company’s development pipeline.   How to choose the best property management system for your short-term rental business With so many systems to choose from, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Take a minute to think about the functionality that matters most to your business. Do you want a great website builder, or do you want to focus on listing your properties on as many channels as possible? Do you want a dedicated support representative or are you comfortable with email support through a queue? And how much are you willing to spend? Once you’ve determined which features are the most important to you - and what your budget looks like - then you can make an educated decision about which property management system works best for your business. If you’re not sure which features you want, then you can sign up for a few free trials and explore several systems. It’s worth investing some time in choosing the right system because your business will become much more efficient in the long term when you’ve partners with a strategic short-term rental property management system.   Complete Your Vacation Rental Software Tech Stack Wondering what should be in your short-term rental tech stack? A property management system is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to technology that can add value to your vacation rental business. If you’ve ever wanted to automate tasks, run a more efficient operation, offer contactless check-in, or build stronger relationships with your guests, then software can be your secret weapon. This rest of this article will cover software that helps you in four aspects of your business: communication, pricing, operations, and home automation. These cutting-edge companies provide technology that can lead to better guest reviews and an enhanced stay experience - maybe even in ways you didn’t know were possible.   Communication Software Property managers spend a lot of time communicating with guests - and for good reason, since communication can make or break the guest experience. But what if you could automate your messages and give guests the resources they need to answer their own questions? These systems will help you spend less time answering messages like “what’s the WiFi password?” and more time focusing on driving your business forward. Smartbnb: Possibly the best third-party system for automated messaging. Not only can you configure templates, like check-in instructions or notifications for your cleaning team, you can also create responses to frequently asked questions. Smartbnb will automatically send your late check-out policy, for example, whenever a guest messages you about the possibility of a late check-out. Smartbnb has integrations with Airbnb and Vrbo, with a Booking.com integration in the works. Oh, and the interface is super user-friendly.   Wishbox: Wishbox is a one-stop-shop for everything guests need to know about your property between booking and check-out. You can load upsell offers, send automated messages, create a digital guidebook, and monetize early check-ins and late check-outs. Wishbox integrates with many property management systems, like Guesty and Beds24, for a seamless operation. YourPorter: This system started as a simple messaging tool, but it now offers channel management capabilities too. YourPorter allows you to automate every step of the messaging process, from the initial inquiry to a post-stay review. YourPorter works directly with Airbnb, Booking.com, and Vrbo. Hostfully: In addition to its property management system, Hostfully offers a great digital guidebook system, in which you can organize a plethora of information about your property into a nicely formatted guidebook with its own URL. Hostfully’s guidebooks are totally customizable and include space for you to add house manual items, check-in/out info, house rules, area recommendations, and more on “cards” that you can organize however you like. Include your guidebook’s URL in your booking confirmations and check-in instructions for easy access.   Pricing and Market Intelligence Tools You can use all the communication software in the world, but if your vacation rental isn’t priced competitively, your business will suffer. Dynamic pricing tools and sources of market data and trends are two essential types of software to add to your short-term rental tech stack. Dynamic Pricing Do you set your property’s prices manually? If you do, it’s time to start using a dynamic pricing tool that does the heavy lifting for you. These pricing tools analyze tons of market data to come up with pricing recommendations that will increase the likelihood that your place gets bookings - and profitably. You can also add restrictions, blackout dates, and minimum rate thresholds so you don’t need to worry about eroding your value. PriceLabs: Based on minimum, base, and maximum prices that you enter yourself, PriceLabs will set dynamic rates for you and push those rates to Airbnb or your property management system. PriceLabs integrates with several property management systems, who can then push rates to Vrbo, Booking.com, and others. In addition to pricing, you can set restrictions like minimum lengths of stay, and you can use the Market Dashboards feature to get a sense of booking trends in your market. PriceLabs charges a monthly fee per property.     Wheelhouse: Wheelhouse offers tailored, automated dynamic pricing based on your property’s goals and market performance. You can decide if you want the system to focus on more occupancy (and lower rates, likely) or higher rates (and lower occupancy, likely). Wheelhouse can push rates directly to Airbnb and Tripadvisor, and it offers integrations with several property management systems. Wheelhouse charges between 0.75% and 1% per booking.   Beyond Pricing: Like PriceLabs and Wheelhouse, Beyond Pricing also sets dynamic prices based on market data. You can add seasonal minimum rates, restrictions, and additional discounts or price increases based on how far away or close the arrival date is. Beyond Pricing can push rates directly to Airbnb and Vrbo, or it can integrate with several property management systems. Fees range between 1% and 1.25% per booking, plus an implementation fee on some plans.   Market Intelligence & Data Analytics If you’re new to the short-term rental game or considering investing in a new property, it’s a good idea to do some research on average rates, occupancy percentages, and property types in your area. AirDNA and Transparent are two of the industry’s best sources of market data. AirDNA: AirDNA pulls data from Airbnb and Vrbo into its detailed MarketMinder dashboards. These dashboards are available for over 80,000 cities and neighborhoods around the world. Basic data, like the number of rental properties, average rates and revenues, and amenity trends are available for free, and to access more detailed data, you can activate a paid subscription.     Transparent: Using data from Airbnb, Vrbo, Tripadvisor, and Booking.com, Transparent offers extremely detailed insights into market trends. You can track your competitors, watch booking patterns around high-demand dates, and dive into pricing trends. Transparent’s data is only available with a paid subscription.   Operational Solutions Searching for software that will help you make your daily operations more efficient? These companies offer services that any host can benefit from, especially as your short-term rental business grows to include more properties.  Payment Processors Payment processors help you with one of the most important aspects of your business: getting paid! Payment processors allow you to charge credit cards and transfer the funds into your bank account. Some property management systems include a built-in payment processor, but for property owners and managers who need a third-party system, two of the best and most popular are Stripe and PayPal. The two systems are very similar (they even charge the same transaction fees - 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction), so your decision will come down to simple personal preference or which or the two integrates with your property management system.   Cleaning Management Just as important as getting paid is making sure your vacation rentals are squeaky clean for every guest’s arrival. TurnoverBnB: This system will manage all of your cleaning operations for you, from scheduling to payouts. After you add your cleaning staff’s contact info and set up the connection between TurnoverBnB and your property’s calendar, the system will automatically notify the cleaning team when cleanings are needed. It has a handy mobile app too!   Properly: Properly’s cleaning checklists mean you will never let a guest check in to a property that’s not totally clean again. The system, which offers a sleek mobile app, offers checklists that your cleaning staff can complete as they clean each unit. Cleaners will receive notifications about new cleanings, and you can even set up automatic payments for completed cleanings.   Luggage Storage How many times has a guest asked you if they can drop off their bags before your check-in time? Unless you have a building with a front desk or some other storage facility, you probably can’t offer much in the way of luggage storage - unless you partner with one of these baggage storage solutions! LuggageHero: LuggageHero doesn’t just offer a solution for baggage storage, but property managers can also earn some incremental revenue with their referral program. LuggageHero partners with local businesses to provide secure places to store suitcases. If your property has extra space, you can even become a LuggageHero yourself. Stasher: Like LuggageHero, Stasher partners with local businesses to offer places for your guests to store luggage. You can earn affiliate income when your guests use the service, and you can automate the entire process by including your Stasher link in your booking confirmations or check-in instructions.   On-Property Systems If you manage multiple properties - especially if your properties are scattered across the country or the world - you might want to have insight into (or control over) what’s happening at the property level. On-property devices and software can help you monitor noise, allow self-service check-in, adjust the temperature, and even turn lights on and off. Noise Monitoring and Automation It happens to every host: your neighbors complain about a lot of noise, your guests say they didn’t throw a party, and you’re stuck in the middle. These monitoring and automation systems help you keep a pulse on what’s happening on property even if you’re far away. NoiseAware: NoiseAware offers indoor and outdoor noise sensors that alert you whenever loud, sustained noise happens on property. The system doesn’t record the actual noise, so your guests’ privacy is protected. Roomonitor: Roomonitor monitors noise and sends alerts to you, your guests, or both when the noise level reaches above a certain threshold. Minut: Minut monitors noise, temperature, humidity, and motion. With this information, you know if guests have checked out, if the heat or A/C is still on, or if windows are open. Minut also has a home alarm function for extra security.     Operto: If you use a variety of smart devices in your properties, Operto organizes all of them in one single dashboard. You adjust the temperature via your smart thermostat, check noise levels via your noise monitoring system, manage keyless entry, and even send automated messages to your guests without logging in and out of multiple apps. Brivo: This system enables you to control all of your properties’ smart devices from one place, including smart locks, garage door openers, climate control systems, and noise monitors. The system integrates with several channel managers for even smoother operations. Lynx: Like Operto and Brivo, Lynx offers integrations with many home automation devices - from intercom systems and smart locks to speakers and window coverings.   Lock and Entry Solutions More and more hosts are shifting to tech-powered check-in processes, especially as social distancing guidelines require property managers to adopt contactless check-in procedures. You can find many check-in options that are fully self-service for the guest and don’t require much time investment for the host, like smart keyboxes and keypads. igloohome: igloohome offers stylish entry solutions that work for pretty much every property type and budget. You can choose between keypad locks that you install on your doors, or if you don’t want to do away with keys entirely, igloohome also offers a keybox with a smart keypad. You can reset codes remotely, and the locks do not require WiFi, which greatly extends their battery life. igloohome integrates directly with Airbnb and Booking.com.   RemoteLock: RemoteLock provides software that works with many different smart lock brands, like Kwikset and Schlage. The locks use either WiFi or Bluetooth to allow secure entry with either a passcode or a smartphone confirmation, which you can manage and track from the system’s dashboard. RemoteLock integrates with Airbnb, Vrbo, and many property management systems. -- Ready to run a more efficient, effective, and profitable short-term rental business? These smart software solutions can help you reach your business goals while delighting guests and keeping your neighbors happy.

A Complete Guide to the Biggest Vacation Rental Websites

by
Adrienne Fors
2 months ago

Deciding to start a vacation rental business - or grow your existing one - is a big decision (especially in the wake of covid-19). But that’s just one of many decisions necessary to turn your goals into reality.  Many of the major hotel booking sites have been expanding into vacation rentals and vice versa as the lines blur between these categories of lodging. The vacation rental world is only getting bigger and more complex with new vacation rental websites popping up every day, and many property owners and managers feel overwhelmed at first. We wanted to eliminate the confusion and put property managers on the path to earning 5-star reviews with as few headaches as possible. That’s why we created our comprehensive guides to the most popular vacation rental websites: Airbnb, Vrbo, Tripadvisor, and Booking.com.  This can also be your guide if you're trying to understand which listing website can help you book the best vacation or getaway. Within these guides, you’ll learn about the basics, like logging in, setting up your property listings and getting support, as well as more complex topics, such as pricing models, service fees and promotional strategies. After reading about each site, you can make informed decisions about what’s best for your business. Do you list on all sites or just one? What can some sites offer you that others can’t? Which sites get the most traffic? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about selling your property on the top four short-term rental sites.   Airbnb: Your Guide to Getting Started The first step in the Airbnb listing process is to create an account for your vacation rental property. If you’ve booked vacation rentals or Experiences on Airbnb in the past, then you don’t need to create a new account. Unless, of course, you want to keep your business separate from your personal account. If you’re wondering how to set up a new account or check if you already have one, then you’ll want to read our guide to how to log into Airbnb. Once you’ve logged in, then you can start building your listing. You’ll upload your photos, write compelling descriptions, set your rates, outline your house rules, and, when you’re ready, push the listing live. But all of those little steps can make a big impact on your listing’s attractiveness and your business’s bottom line. Our detailed guide to Airbnb FAQs covers all the specifics from refund policies to taxes. If you have any questions along the way, you can always browse Airbnb’s Community Center forum or contact Airbnb’s support team. They’re available via phone or online chat 24/7 and while they charge a hefty booking fee it's actually much better than what is charged by firms like Expedia and Booking to hospitality businesses for selling hotel rooms. Airbnb is one of the most popular travel sites in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best choice for your business. Airbnb’s competitors can offer different features and commission rates, and some sites even target different types of guests.    Vrbo: Your Guide to Getting Started Like on Airbnb, the first step to listing your property on Vrbo is to create an account and log in. Need help with this step? Check out our guide on how to log into Vrbo. By the way, Vrbo and HomeAway are the same company now and both are owned by Expedia Group. There’s no need to create two separate accounts or two separate listings; your listing will show on both Vrbo and HomeAway automatically. After logging in, you can begin to build your listing. The listing process is similar to Airbnb’s; you’ll write your descriptions, upload photos, check off all those little amenity checkboxes, and choose your subscription plan. Wait, what? You need a subscription plan for Vrbo? This must be one of the most frequently asked questions about Vrbo and HomeAway. Like other vacation rental sites, Vrbo charges a small commission on every reservation if you do not go for the subscription model. The subscription model costs $499 per year, so for hosts and owners who plan to rent full-time, the subscription can make good financial sense. If you have any questions along the way, you can always contact Vrbo support for assistance. When we look at user reviews for Vrbo and Vrbo’s competitors, Vrbo’s support team actually gets great ratings! That’s just one difference between Vrbo and other sites, though. If you’re planning to list a shared space, like a private room in a house, then a site like Airbnb or Booking.com would be a better option. The bread and butter of Vrbo’s business is traditional vacation homes and condos.   Tripadvisor: Your Guide to Getting Started Few travelers book hotels without checking the Tripadvisor reviews first, but Tripadvisor now lets travelers book directly on their site. And we’re not just talking about hotels, but vacation rentals too. Through the Tripadvisor Rentals program, which includes sites like FlipKey and Holiday Lettings, you can make your property available to book on this popular channel. After you’ve set up a Tripadvisor Rentals account, the listing process is quite simple. In fact, it might be the fastest onboarding process out of this group. Compared to Tripadvisor’s competitors, though, the site gets the least amount of monthly visitors, but it can still be a good addition to your vacation rental business strategy.  Like other sites, Tripadvisor operates on a commission model, so there’s no risk in setting up your listing. You’ll only pay the commission on money you earn from reservations. In our guide to listing on Tripadvisor, you can learn more about Tripadvisor’s policies, features, and best practices. Throughout the listing process (and when you’re managing listings that are live), Tripadvisor offers plenty of support options in case you need assistance. The site contains helpful how-to guides, a database of support articles, and a team that you can contact by phone.   Booking.com: Your Guide to Getting Started It’s impossible to write a guide to vacation rental listing sites without including the biggest of them all: Booking.com. This site attracts the most visitors of any travel site in the world, so it seems like an obvious partner for your vacation rental business. Well, not so fast! As you’ll learn in our Booking.com listing guide and our study of Booking.com’s competitors, there are a few reasons why the site might not be the best choice for your business. For one, Booking.com charges a 15% commission - that’s a lot higher than Airbnb’s 3% commission! Despite the cost, Booking.com can bring a lot of value to savvy vacation rental owners. Once you’ve logged into Booking.com and gotten acquainted with their host portal, called the Extranet, you’ll find a slew of market research tools, promotional options, and resources for running a successful hospitality business. Being a massive, global company, Booking.com also offers some of the best customer support out of the vacation rental listing sites. The company has offices in dozens of countries, so no matter what language you speak or what time zone you’re in, you can get great support at any time of day. The Booking.com support team can also communicate with you through the Extranet Inbox, which is conveniently available on desktop and in their Pulse mobile app. Ready to set your vacation rental business up for success? One of the most important steps is choosing which vacation rental listing sites to use. After all, these sites are responsible for bringing potential guests to your property - so it’s a good idea to choose wisely. You’ll also want to consider the time commitment necessary to manage multiple sites. But, after you’ve read our guides to each listing channel, perhaps you want to dive right in and partner with all of them. Whatever you choose, we wish you nothing but happy guests and 5-star reviews!  

The Best Hotel Booking Sites of 2020: Cheap Deals, Quirky Pads and More!

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 month ago

Are you feeling as couped up as we are with this Coronavirus quarantine? Looking for inspiration and deals to plan your revenge trip when the world opens back up again? Nothing beats that rush when you book a killer hotel deal! With the number of hotel booking sites multiplying at a rapid pace, it can be difficult to know where to find the best deals - and without getting scammed. In this article, we’ll introduce you to several types of hotel booking sites, including online travel agencies, comparison or “meta-search” sites, branded hotel sites, innovative booking sites, flash sales and “mystery hotel” deals, and some sites offering unique accommodations. By the end of this page, you’ll know several sites where you can find the best deals for the kind of travel that’s in your future. Ultimately finding the best hotel booking website will mean different things to different people.  Even a single person may define "best" differently for different types of trips. Are you looking for the most sophisticated search engine that makes  your hotel search fast and painless? Google would likely be considered a top contender.  Maybe you're looking for cheap hotels to stay at on your next business trip to San Francisco where you'd prefer Kayak.  Maybe you need an all suites hotel in Las Vegas for a bachelor party or an all-in package for your family to Disneyland Orlando with car rental, activities and more. In this article we'll break down 'best' into 5 categories to make it easy for you to find what you're looking for on different types of trips: Top Hotel Deal Sites Online travel agencies Price comparison websites Branded hotel booking Unique accomodations Let’s dive in!   Online Travel Agencies If making hotel reservations were like online shopping, then the online travel agencies are the Amazon of the hotel industry. These mega-sites contain millions of listings for hotels, vacation rentals, and everything in between. If you travel frequently, some OTAs even offer loyalty programs which can bring you even more perks and discounts. Booking.com If you’ve ever searched for hotels online, chances are you’ve come across Booking.com. This massive hotel booking site is the largest in the world, with over 28 million properties listed. You can find everything from luxury hotels to hostels to apartment rentals on Booking.com. In the search results, you can quickly see the property’s guest review score, the cheapest room type, and the total reservation price - unlike some other sites which only show the nightly rate. At most Booking.com properties, you pay directly at the hotel when you arrive. Unique feature: Sheer volume of properties Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Through Booking’s Genius program, you get extra discounts after staying at two properties within two years, and after five stays, you get perks like room upgrades and free breakfast. Did you know? Booking.com is the most popular travel website in the world, with hundreds of millions of visitors per month!   Expedia Expedia can be considered your one-stop-shop for travel. You can book not only hotels on the site, but also flights, rental cars, cruises, and activities. Hotels can join Expedia’s frequent flash sales, and travelers can often get extra discounts with promo codes around major holidays, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Expedia is one of the few sites that offers package deals (a bundle of flight, hotel, and/or rental car reservations), which often include significant discounts.     Unique feature: Package deals Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Expedia Rewards members get access to members-only discounts and collect points on every booking. Members can redeem points for free stays, and higher-tier members enjoy perks like room upgrades and free amenities. Did you know? Expedia owns Orbitz and Travelocity, so you’ll see exactly the same properties and rates on those sites.   Hotels.com Hotels.com is part of the Expedia Group, so you’ll find the same hotels (and hostels, vacation rentals, etc.) on this site, but the real difference lies in the loyalty program. Sign up for a free Hotels.com Rewards account to get one free night for every 10 nights you stay. The value of your free night is an average of the 10 paid nights, and the location, brand, or star rating doesn’t matter. It’s a great way to get free nights at independent hotels, especially if you travel a lot!      Unique feature: Loyalty program Region: Worldwide, but most popular in the US and Canada Loyalty program: Stay 10 nights, get one free. Membership is free. Did you know? The Hotels.com spokesperson is Captain Obvious.   Agoda If you’re traveling in the US or Europe, you have a plethora of booking sites at your fingertips. In Asia, however, especially in less popular and rural areas, Agoda is often your only option. Agoda has over 2 million listings, which can be hotels, resorts, hostels, homestays, and vacation rentals. Check the “Today’s Deals” page for promo codes valid for extra discounts.     Unique feature: Volume of properties in Asian markets Region: Most popular in Asia Loyalty program: The PointsMAX program lets you pair your airline loyalty program (like AAdvantage) and earn miles after each Agoda stay. Did you know? Agoda’s website and mobile app are translated into 38 languages.   Hotel Booking Comparison Sites With so many booking sites, it could take hours for you to compare the prices for one hotel on all of them. Comparison sites, also known as meta-search sites, do the heavy lifting for you and pull the rates from various OTAs into one place. You can then click the link for the website with the cheapest rate and book directly through that site. Kayak Even though Booking.com owns Kayak, you can use Kayak to compare prices for hotels, rental cars, and flights on dozens, if not hundreds, of different websites. If you’re watching a specific flight or hotels over specific dates, you can sign up for a price alert and receive an email when rates increase or decrease. Unique feature: Price comparisons for hotels and flights Region: Worldwide, but most popular in the US Loyalty program: None Did you know? Kayak’s “Deals” page sells discounted tours and concert tickets.   HotelsCombined Another popular meta-search site is HotelsCombined, which - you guessed it - combines the search results from all the big booking sites into one consolidated hotel list. After plugging in dates and a destination, you can filter the results by star rating, guest review score, neighborhood, brand, amenities, and more. Unique feature: Price comparisons for hotels, flights  Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Over 400 million travelers used HotelsCombined last year.   Trivago If you’re searching for the best deals on hotels, Trivago is a good place to look. The site compares over 1.8 million hotels and pulls in prices from over 400 different websites. You can filter your search results by star rating, review score, and amenities, and you can see average hotel prices per day to find cheaper days of the week or month.     Unique feature: The calendar highlights cheaper and more expensive dates. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Trivago doesn’t just shop hotels, but also hostels and vacation rentals.   Tripadvisor Though you may know Tripadvisor best as a review site, it’s also a travel booking and comparison site. On each hotel listing, above the reviews section, you’ll see rates for that hotel on all of the big OTAs and, usually, the hotel’s own website. Tripadvisor lists not only hotels, but you can also book vacation rentals, tours, activities, and restaurant reservations.     Unique feature: Easy to find added-value offers, like free breakfast Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Tripadvisor highlights the cheapest dates for a given hotel so you can find the best deals.   Google Is there anything you can’t find on Google? As a newer player in the travel game, many people don’t know that Google can reveal some good hotel deals. You can find hotels on Google in two ways: a simple Google search for “hotels in ___” and through Google Maps. Google’s hotel listings contain all of the hotel’s Google Maps info, like contact information, photos, and guest reviews, and the listings also show prices and links to book at various sites, often including the hotel’s own website. Unique feature: Google Maps data, including reviews and photos. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Some hotels have Google Street View 3D tours.   Hotel Brand Booking Websites Do you crave quality, consistency, and lots of loyalty perks? The world’s global hotel chains offer a lot of value to frequent travelers through their loyalty programs, which are free to join and often offer members-only rates and benefits. The three chains below offer a myriad of different brands ranging from budget to ultra-luxury with properties around the world. These are just a few brands of the many across the globe, but they offer some of the best loyalty programs and property portfolios. Hilton HHonors As one of the world’s most well known chains, Hilton Worldwide has a portfolio of over 6000 hotels in 120 countries. The Hilton umbrella includes brands like Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, and Waldorf Astoria, and you can book all Hilton hotels on the brand’s main website or app. When you create a free Hilton HHonors account, you’ll receive access to special member discounts and get free WiFi at all Hilton properties. Unique feature: All HHonors members can use digital check-in to choose their own room. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: HHonors tiers include Member, Silver, Gold, and Diamond, and all members accumulate points which can be redeemed for free nights. Did you know? Gold and Diamond members receive free breakfast at all Hilton properties.   Marriott Bonvoy Marriott International comes in at #3 in the list of largest hotel chains in the world, and the company has over 7000 properties in its portfolio. After Marriott’s merger with Starwood in 2015, the company’s portfolio grew to include a whopping 30 brands, including Courtyard, Four Points, Moxy, Sheraton, Westin, and Ritz-Carlton. Marriott’s website and mobile apps allow you to book all 30 brands in the same place.     Unique feature: Elite members staying at least 10 nights per year receive late checkout at all Marriott properties. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Marriott’s Bonvoy program has six tiers from standard Member to Ambassador Elite. Did you know? If you stay 250 nights at Marriott properties and earn Elite status for 5 years, you get Elite status for life.   World of Hyatt Though Hyatt’s portfolio size pales in comparison to Marriott and Hilton, World of Hyatt members enjoy some pretty incredible perks at the company’s roughly 900 hotels around the world. Hyatt’s brands include Hyatt Place, Hyatt Centric, Andaz, Hyatt Regency, and Park Hyatt, and you can book them all on Hyatt’s website and apps. Hyatt also has several “independent collections,” such as Joie de Vivre, which include boutique hotels with no Hyatt branding. Unique feature: World of Hyatt members enjoy perks at Exhale Spas, American Airlines, and Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: World of Hyatt’s membership tiers include Member, Discoverist (10 nights/year), Explorist (30 nights/year), and Globalist (60 nights/year). Did you know? Globalist members get free breakfast or executive lounge access at every Hyatt property.   Innovative Hotel Booking Site Concepts Looking for something a little different? These specialized sites go beyond what the traditional OTAs offer. You’ll find sites that focus on specific types of hotels - or even specific hotel amenities - as well as platforms that utilize technology to deliver better prices than you can find elsewhere. Some even offer hidden, members-only deals that you must sign in to view. Take your deal-hacking to the next level with these disrupters. Roomer Travel Have you ever needed to cancel a non-refundable hotel reservation? In most cases, you can’t get your money back, but you can post your reservation on Roomer. This site offers discounted stays at hotels around the world - but be warned, the dates are very specific and you can usually only choose from one room type. If you get lucky and the dates align with your travel dates, then you’re in luck!     Unique feature: Reselling hotel reservations that other people can’t use. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Though the original booker couldn’t get a refund from the hotel, some of Roomer’s offers are refundable when you book through the Roomer site.   Splitty Travel This money-saving site uses technology to hack other travel sites and find the best deals. Splitty’s technology combines multiple offers at the same hotel to secure a lower-priced reservation. How, you ask? Maybe you’re searching for a 4-night stay in Dallas, and the cheapest room at Hotel ABC is $75, but it’s only available for the first 3 nights. Because it’s not available for your entire stay, the other sites won’t show it in their search results. Instead, they’ll show a $120 room that is available for the whole stay. Splitty, however, can create a “split” reservation for you that includes a combination of the $75 and $120 rooms - as an example.     Unique feature: Creative rate-hacking technology. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Sometimes Splitty’s technology will reveal available combinations of rooms or rates at hotels that appear sold out on other sites.   Secret Escapes This members-only deal site offers great discounts on luxury hotels and resorts around the world. Well, that sounds too good to be true. What’s the catch? The sales are only available for a limited time (a couple days, usually), and the travel date ranges are often limited too. But if your travel dates are flexible, you can find fantastic deals. Browse the site’s upcoming offers and if you see one that looks interesting, you can get an email reminder when the sale goes live.   Unique feature: Limited-time-only sales on luxury properties. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None, but you must create an account in order to see deals and book. Did you know? Some of Secret Escapes’ offers include airfare.   Pruvo Have you ever bought a new pair of shoes only to learn they went on sale a week later? The same thing happens with hotels; prices can decrease between the time you booked and the time you check in, and Pruvo helps you take advantage of these price drops. When you book a room with a free cancellation policy on any booking site (like Expedia or Booking.com), you can email your confirmation to Pruvo and they’ll keep an eye on your hotel’s rates. If prices drop, you’ll get an email with instructions for booking that cheaper rate. Best of all, Pruvo’s service is free! Unique feature: Save money back after you book. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Install Pruvo’s Chrome extension so you don’t need to manually email your reservation confirmations.   HotelTonight If you’re the type of traveler who waits to book a hotel until you’ve arrived at the airport, then HotelTonight is the app for you. HotelTonight offers discounted rates at just a handful of properties, so you don’t get stuck with analysis paralysis. The deepest discounts are usually on last-minute reservations, though you can book months in advance if that’s your style. The company puts hotels into categories like “Basic,” “Hip,” and “High Roller,” to make your decision even easier. Unique feature: Best deals on same-day reservations. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Get extra discounts, credits, and amenities through the HT Perks program. The more you spend, the better the benefits. Did you know? The “Daily Deal” gives you an extra discount at one property - but you need to book it within 15 minutes.   Dayuse Day trips, red-eye flights, meetings, photoshoots - there are many reasons why you could need a hotel room just for a day. But until Dayuse came along, you usually had to book the room for the night in order to get access for the couple of hours you need. Dayuse allows you to book rooms at over 5,000 hotels in 25 countries for prices up to 75% off the nightly rate. Some hotels even include pool, spa, or fitness center access.     Unique feature: Deep discounts for daytime-only hotel rooms. Region: Select countries around the world. Loyalty program: None Did you know? Some Dayuse hotels offer time slots so you only pay for the hours you need.   ResortPass Nothing says “vacation” like reclining in a lounge chair, drink in hand, on a palm tree-lined pool deck at a swanky resort. But what if your budget doesn’t include the room rate at that swanky resort? ResortPass offers day passes to pools, spas, and other amenities at over 400 high-end hotels so you can enjoy the vacation vibes at a serious discount. ResortPass is perfect for locals and vacation rental guests too. Unique feature: Access to luxury hotel amenities without paying the nightly rate. Region: Mostly US, but some properties in Mexico and the Caribbean. Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can earn a 10% discount by tagging ResortPass in a social media post.   Hopper Some studies say the best day of the week to book travel is Tuesday, but maybe the greatest savings for your hotel pop up on a Friday - you never know! Hopper is the closest thing we have to a glimpse into the future of hotel rates. The app uses high-tech price monitoring algorithms to notify you when prices drop on the hotels or flights you’re tracking. Unique feature: Price alerts for flights and hotels. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Over 30 million travelers have used Hopper.   Mr. and Mrs. Smith For fans of high-end boutique hotels, Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a dream come true. You won’t find any big box-style chain hotels on this site - only unique, independent hotels that offer five-star service. These are hotels you’d pick for a honeymoon or special occasion trip. Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s team handpicks and reviews hotels for the site, so you can be sure that every property offers quality and value. Members-only perks include extra discounts, free amenities, and access to the company’s concierge team. Unique feature: Exclusive perks and discounts and luxurious boutique hotels. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: The basic BlackSmith membership is free, but SilverSmith and GoldSmith tiers come at a monthly cost, though they include perks like room upgrades and airport lounge access. Did you know? Some of Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s perks include free dinners or hundreds of dollars in resort credit.   Tablet Hotels Another site designed for boutique hotel lovers, Tablet offers deals on unique hotels around the world. The site lists properties included in the MICHELIN Guide, so you know they’re all highly rated for quality, service, and amenities. Tablet Plus members can enjoy extra discounts, late check-outs, room upgrades, and more.     Unique feature: Only the best hotels are listed on Tablet - if guest reviews fall short, the hotel is removed from the site. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: Access to Tablet’s hotel deals is free, but the Tablet Plus program offers deeper discounts and extra perks for $99 per year. Did you know? Tablet’s online magazine, The Agenda, contains high-quality articles that will surely inspire you to travel.   Best Hotel Booking Sites to Find Deals Trying to save cash? These hotel booking sites are designed to get you the best deals possible. If you’re looking for certain amenities, a fixed location, or a specific set of dates, these sites might not deliver, but if you’re flexible, you can find impressive savings. Hotwire Have you ever booked a hotel without knowing the name, the exact location, or what kind of room you’ll get? If you dare to roll the dice on Hotwire’s “Hot Rate” hotels, you just might be rewarded. Hotels in this program offer significant discounts (think 40 or 50% off), but with a catch: Hotwire does not reveal the name of the hotel until you’ve confirmed your reservation.      Unique feature: “Mystery hotel” offers. Region: Primarily US Loyalty program: None Did you know? Hotwire’s Hot Rate hotels do disclose some amenities, so you’ll know if your hotel has free parking, a pool, or a gym.   Groupon If you’re searching for a cheap vacation with no particular dates or locations in mind, Groupon can be a gold mine. The site offers hotel stays or vacation packages for destinations around the country (and sometimes Mexico and the Caribbean), but the terms and conditions usually include fixed dates or restrictions. Make your decision quick, though, because the offers are often only available for a limited time.     Unique feature: Deep discounts on only select participating hotels. Region: United States, Caribbean, Mexico Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can search by “interest” rather than destination, so if you’re looking for a romantic vacation to nowhere in particular, for example, you can discover someplace new.   TravelZoo TravelZoo is like the clearance rack at your favorite store: it has a mix of everything, prices are deeply discounted, and sometimes you can find an absolute gem. TravelZoo offers over 2,000 travel products - including cruises, airfare, hotels, and packages - at significantly reduced rates. Most offers are only valid for a specific set of dates, so if your travel is flexible, you can get the best value. Unique feature: Discounts on hotels, cruises, airfare, and vacation packages. Region: Worldwide, but primarily US Loyalty program: None, but TravelZoo does have a referral program. Did you know? TravelZoo also offers spa and entertainment discounts - you just need to look for them!   Best Sites to Book Unique Accomodations Why stay in an ordinary hotel room when you can have a truly one-of-a-kind experience? Browse these sites to find everything from cabins to castles and treehouses to tipis - often at cheaper prices than standard hotels. Who knows, you might even meet new friends too! Airbnb Though Airbnb wasn’t the first website to offer vacation rentals, it definitely made more people consider switching from hotels to rental properties. Airbnb hosts offer a huge variety of spaces, including apartments, homes, treehouses, tiny houses, private rooms, and more. Because many Airbnbs don’t offer the same services as hotels (like daily housekeeping), you can find some great deals, especially in big cities. But not all Airbnbs are cheap - prepare to pay hundreds of dollars per night for a castle or a beachfront villa! Unique feature: Airbnb encourages hosts to provide exceptional hospitality to their guests, even rewarding top hosts with “Superhost” status. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can pair your accommodation with an Airbnb Experience, which are host-led tours or activities like cooking classes, walking tours, or bike expeditions.   Vrbo Originally called “Vacation Rentals By Owner,” Vrbo focuses on traditional vacation rentals, like homes and condos. You won’t find any cheap shared rooms here, but you can still find some great deals, especially if you’re staying for a while. Some Vrbo property owners offer weekly or monthly discounts. Unique feature: You can filter Vrbo’s search results by Property Type, so you can narrow down your search to cabins, bungalows, or chalets, just to name a few. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Vrbo and its sister site, HomeAway, are now part of the Expedia Group.   Hipcamp If you want to get out in nature, Hipcamp might be your new favorite site. Instead of hotels, this site lets you book more than 300,000 camping experiences that range from BYO-tent campsites to RVs, cabins, and yurts. Listings are created by hosts, so you can enjoy the same personal touch and connection that you can find on Airbnb.     Unique feature: The Hipcamp of the Year lists highlights the top-rated campsites in every state. Region: United States Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can invite your friends to join Hipcamp and earn a nice referral bonus!   Upcamp Looking to score a spot at a sold-out campsite? Upcamp will alert you instantly if your dream campsite receives a cancellation. When you get notified, you can book the campsite on the campsite’s own booking page. Upcamp is only available on a mobile app for now, which is easy to use and showcases some beautiful photos! Unique feature: Availability alerts for thousands of campsites around the country. Region: United States Loyalty program: None Did you know? You can choose to receive alerts for specific dates or a range of dates.   Couchsurfing.com Travelers looking to save money and meet people can join events and crash on extra beds, couches, and air mattresses in hosts’ homes in over 200,000 cities around the world - for free. Couchsurfing.com uses a review and profile system to build trust among its 12 million members, and it’s not uncommon for hosts and couchsurfers to become lifelong friends. Unique feature: Emphasis on community and building personal connections. Region: Worldwide Loyalty program: None Did you know? Couchsurfing.com members have organized over a half million events.   Getaway Craving an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life? Getaway’s tiny houses are conveniently located in rural locations within driving distance of major cities like New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles. The cabins offer plenty of modern conveniences so you can enjoy the outdoors without roughing it too much. They include private bathrooms, kitchenettes, and A/C and heat, plus a huge window that occupies an entire wall.     Unique feature: Every cabin has a self check-in system. Region: United States Loyalty program: You automatically get an 8th night free after staying for 7 - no membership program sign-up necessary. Did you know? Getaway donates to Feeding America for every booking made.   Ready to hit the road? With these money-saving hotel booking sites, you can save cash on your accommodation so you can splurge on a delicious meal, a bucket list tour, or a new smart suitcase. Did we miss any cool sites? Let us know about your favorite!  

Volara CEO reveals how Amazon Alexa can make you a better hotelier

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 year ago

Most of the ‘artificial intelligence’ being sold to hotels isn’t actually artificial intelligence.  The drones used to deliver room service champagne to the ultra elite back in 2014 was just a PR stunt.  Don’t even get us started on Google’s attempt to outfit hotel staff with Google Glass lenses.  The list goes on and on. While we’ve been bullish on the use of voice activated technology for business use such as IDeaS Revenue Solutions’ smart revenue assistant we have historically taken a more bearish stance on voice technology for guest use until recently. Admittedly, we first thought that Alexa for hotel rooms was just another PR stunt but after meeting Dave Berger and trying Volara's technology for ourselves - our skepticism quickly became enthusiasm for Volara's impact on hotel operations and the overall guest experience. Back in 2015 Dave Berger was a lawyer and AirBnB super host.  As his vacation rental business grew it began to interfere with his day job due to an increasing volume of text messages from guests asking lots of similar questions.   Berger was an avid user of Amazon Alexa’s smart assistant in his personal life and decided to hack together a solution that could help answer lots of these questions for guests.  Doing so instantly made managing his budding vacation rental business significantly easier.   That’s when he had his “ah-ha moment”. Berger knew that if he could solve this much friction in his startup vacation rental business with Alexa that hotels would benefit from the use of this new technology due to the massive amount of complexity involved in their operations. Berger didn’t just jump in and start selling his device to hotels.  He spent 2016 identifying the areas where voice technology could make a meaningful impact on the guest experience.  During this research phase, he developed a partner strategy and built a platform that could easily connect with other software solutions. To this day, one of the biggest pain points for guests in a hotel room is waiting on hold when calling guest services. Volara integrates with all the leading work order management systems - like Alice, Amadeus HotSOS, SynergyMMS, Knowcross, and HMobile - so guests can can make requests and get instant confirmation that the item or service they need is being delivered Another massive pain point for hotel guests lies around the fact that hotel room TV remotes are ridden with germs and bacteria.  Volara integrates with in room entertainment systems like Sonifi, BeyondTV and Innspire so that guests never have to pick up that filthy remote control ever again.     One by one Berger has identified areas where voice can help other tech products perform better and faster.  Volara has racked up dozens of these technology partnerships to date and its platform approach has paid off in spades for Berger resulting in an exclusive partnership to provide voice technology for Marriott franchisees and even securing a nod straight from Amazon CTO Werner Vogels - no small feat.     Amazon CTO Werner Vogels talks about Volara at Reinvent 2017   While we were tempted to speak with Alexa for this interview, we felt like sitting down for a chat with Berger might be a bit more productive.   Dave, what was your background before starting Volara? After five years practicing law at a big law firm, I ran like hell.  I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and have been following my entrepreneurial passions since 2008.   I had been an AirBnB Superhost for three years and one day in January 2016 a particularly needy guest began peppering me the most mundane questions in rapid succession.  "Where are extra towels?" "How do I use the dishwasher?" "Where can I park?" Alexa was one year old at the time and I decided that she could help me serve my guests in a fun and more efficient way. After receiving great feedback from my own guests and measurably reducing the number of guests messaging me, I saw the opportunity for a business venture and began to consider suitable markets.  I spent 2016 speaking with hoteliers and learning everything I could about technology in hotels. Thanks to some great mentors early on, we were able to identify specifically what it would take to turn a consumer smart speaker and natural language processing platform into an enterprise grade solution that's suitable for the most complex hotel environments. Today, Volara's software addresses the most common concerns about consumer smart speakers deployed in hotels - guest privacy, data security, reply accuracy, and seamless integration into existing hotel technologies.  While others are charging for a "skill", Volara gives its conversation models away for free to its clients and enables others to build creatively atop of those conversation models.   Who was Volara’s first customer? The Acme Hotel in Chicago was the first hotel to deploy our solution in every room.  This solution is live and loved by guests today. The ownership group has since deployed our solution in another one of their hotels as well.   If I recall correctly, the Acme Hotel found us.  It's an incredibly tech forward property with management and ownership that immediately saw the value in our solution.   Why do hotels need voice activated technology? Voice technology enables hotels to engage their guests in a fun and scalable way. Volara turns leading consumer voice technologies that your guests will know from home into a compliant, flexible, and accurate fully integrated hotel business tool that will yield measurable results.   Who is one mentor that has really helped you scale Volara? Armand Rabinowitz.  Armand is currently the Senior Director of Strategy and Workgroups at HTNG, but at the time we met he was Director of Innovation at Hyatt.  Armand was the very first hotelier to contact us through our website and helped us understand the intricacies of working with large hotel brands.  Thanks to the insight he shared early on, we have managed to develop successful relationships with four of the largest hotel brands in the world.   What's the most common misconception that hoteliers have about voice technology? Some hoteliers believe Amazon's Alexa is a hotel product.  We've seen this mistake lead to disastrous outcomes at The Wynn Las Vegas and Best Western.  In the same way that Google Chromecast needs a hotel technology overlay, so does Amazon's Alexa.  Volara has built this software overlay and I'm proud to say it is being used by every successful deployment of Amazon's Alexa in hotels today.   What's the most surprising thing you've learned about scaling technology into hotels since founding the business? Hoteliers don't like to take risks on startups.  Its sad and holds back innovation in an industry that is in dire need of new ways of doing business.  Three years on, Volara is now well established in the industry, but we didn't reach the success we have today without a fight.   Volara has built deep technical integrations for 30 plus hotel technologies - from work order management systems to guest engagement platforms to IPTV solutions to room controls to valet and safety products.  Our vision has been to be the voice interface for everything in the hotel and that helped us bring credibility in those early days by associating with partners who the hotels were already working with.   If you could partner with any vendor in hotel tech, who would it be and why? Hotel Tech Report, because they are trying to bring transparency and efficiency to an old fashion marketplace.  Hoteliers should consider vendors based on the quality of their reviews on Hotel Tech Report, rather than by the size of their booth at HITEC.   How will voice technology for hotels change in the next 5-years? Hoteliers will become more educated on voice technologies and value the solutions that provide guest privacy protections, data security, improved interaction accuracy, flexible management tools, and seamless integrations. Volara will continue to lead the pack and will be voice enabling 80 hotel technologies across 8 natural language processing platforms in 26 languages on 60 different pieces of hardware in hotels across the globe.   Do you have any new products or feature launches to share? While our Alexa based solution continues to scale rapidly, we are committed to providing platform agnostic conversation management for our clients.  I think most folks are aware of our joint solutions with Google and IBM Watson by now, but there is more to come. Stop by to meet us at HITEC or reach out for a confidential preview.   Is there anything that the community can do to be helpful for you? Keep collaborating in the best interests of our clients.  I love working with partners to achieve truly remarkable outcomes.   What's one piece of advice that you have for any entrepreneurs in the hotel tech space? Focus on measuring the ROI for the hotels immediately.  Nice to have solutions inevitably fail.   What is the best book you've read lately and why? It’s not a book but I’ve been really passionately reading the At War section of the New York Times for quite some time and I think it’s critical reading for anyone in global business.  It chronicles the experience and costs of war across the globe. The impact of war - whether on combatants, civilians, the environment, lost innovation or other aspects of our world - is something we all need to try to understand better.   What is your favorite podcast I enjoy listening to the investigative reports by 60 Minutes - yes, the same 60 minutes that my grandparents watched on their black and white TV.  Sometimes complex stories take time to investigate, unwind and convey in a thoughtful way.   What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I lived atop a butcher shop in Hong Kong.  Each morning a noisy truck would drop a pig in front of our door and my wife would say "Breakfast is here."

Vacation Rental Software vs. Hotel Software (What's the Difference?)

by
Hotel Tech Report
2 months ago

‘Hotel tech’ has been a catchall for the various segments of hospitality. It’s even in our name: Hotel Tech Report, where we distinguish between property types as a means of connecting hospitality professionals to the best software for their property. In a recent session on the future of property management software at HomeAway’s RezFest, the conversation around the trajectory of vacation rental technology highlighted how the needs of the industry diverge sufficiently from hotels to merit its own category. In comments reported by PhocusWire’s Jill Menze, one solution provider preferred the term “vacation rental software” to reflect these divergent needs: “The answer is simple: We aren’t property management software companies,” says Vinny Dicarlo, chief operations officer at Ciirus Vacation Rental Software. “We’re using the concept of ‘property management’ based on what hotels or long-term rentals were doing. We should change the term; it should be vacation rental software.” Vacation rental websites and hotel booking sites are converging as is the software used by each segment of the industry. Indeed, many of the technology solutions overlap between these two segments of hospitality -- but there are some critical distinctions. With this view in mind, what exactly is the difference between vacation rental technology and hotel technology?   Hotel Management vs. Vacation Rental Management To understand how technologies differ, we first need to understand how the products themselves differ: Hotels Vacation rentals Hotels priced per room Vacation rentals priced per unit Multiple room types, bookable individually or as a block One room type per booking (either shared room, private room, or whole home) Leans towards standardized Leans towards individualized Large databases of previous customers Small (or non-existent) databases Amenities may be extra Amenities usually included Upsells common Upsells rare Highly collaborative staff, large teams Less staff, small teams Ongoing recruitment of new staff Employee light On-site amenities require software No on-site amenities to manage via software In-house housekeeping and maintenance Mix of in-house and third-party (depending on size of property manager) GDS for broad distribution, plus direct booking Specialized booking channels for short-term rentals, direct booking less frequent Loyalty/CRM across properties Loyalty/CRM limited to vacation rental management company brand More guests; more complex reputation management Fewer guests; increased importance of quality of reviews   Vacation Rental Management 'Jobs to Be Done' Efficient operations matter to vacation rental profitability. Systemized operations keep the rental in top-shape for each new booking, with automations and checklists helping to maintain a consistent guest experience. Since most vacation rentals are whole homes, there are far more things to manage when making a vacation rental “guest ready” than with a standard hotel room. The size of checklists is much longer, as is the list of items that need to be checked and potential maintained regularly: individual hotel rooms rarely have hot water heaters, while most vacation rentals do, for example. The average vacation rental requires more operational finesse. Given this complexity, vacation rentals have far different needs for their property management software when compared to hotels. Other areas that vacation rental software must distinguish itself from standard hotel technology: Integration with other services. From third party cleaning services to maintenance and repairs, good vacation rental software facilitates the logistics of managing many vendors in one place. Also: must work reliably with various smart home devices for remote management. Guest communications. Constant and consistent guest communications is essential for vacation rentals. Whether pre-booking or for an emergency during a stay, 24/7 support via multiple communications channels is different for vacation rentals than hotels. Intelligent routing and AI-driven support help property managers be more responsive to guest communications. Check-in/check-out management. Without a front desk to welcome guests, there has to be a process in place for key/code management, welcome packet, and overall welcome. Proper vacation rental software makes this happen. Website and marketing. Direct booking is also a focus for vacation rentals; however, these sites often do better when fully integrated into a property’s management software for seamless bookings and real-time calendar updates. Mobile too. Works well on mobile, since many property managers are out in the field. On-the-go property management is typical so functionality cannot be limited. There's also a lot of coordination between parties that are not stationed on-site, which creates the potential for lapses in communication that affect the guest directly. Whereas hotels have crews on property, vacation rentals often do not. For example, what happens when the property manager forgets to tell the cleaners about an early check-in? The guest is frustrated, and, despite the team’s best intentions, the property looks disorganized. Vacation rental software alleviates these issues through automation and functionality that enhance transparency across the vacation rental operation. Image Source   Pricing Software for Vacation Rentals Hotels often have teams of revenue managers and data analysts; vacation rentals much less so. The most profitable property managers leverage tools, such as BeyondPricing, to accurately forecast the types of properties in the highest demand among a destination’s key demographics. While hotels also use this type of data-driven dynamic pricing, vacation rentals have unique needs that require specialized pricing optimization and revenue management. Since vacation rentals don't have many room types, revenue management is even more important. There's no making up lost revenue from a mispriced room; If unit is booked, it needs to be booked for the highest possible price. The only way to do this is to have dynamically priced inventory that accounts for both local availability and inbound demand. Pricing optimization must also be as seamless and automated as possible. With fewer staff resources at vacation rentals, tools must be more automated than their hotel tech counterparts.   Short Term Rental Demand and Hotel Demand are Converging but NOT the Same While demand data matters to both hotels and vacation rentals, it matters in different ways. For example, it's much harder to know how many vacation rentals may be in the pipeline for a given market. Property managers could look at total permits issued, and any limits imposed by the city. But some rentals may be incognito, so there’s less understanding of how inventory will impact future pricing. Another difference with demand data is which types of properties are popular with which demographics. As vacation rentals are less standardized as far as amenities, design, and guest experience, there are deeper nuances when it comes to demand data. For example, if Chinese demand is increasing locally, it’s important to not just work to gain visibility in local booking channels but also to tweak amenities during periods of high demand to accommodate traveler preferences. Data delivers these insights, especially for off-peak demand generation, says Dicarlo: “It’s all about Asia and working with a channel in that market. If I didn’t have data, I’d assume Chinese people travel in summer, but they travel in February or March.” The way traveler data is aggregated is also quite different with vacation rentals, said HomeAway President John Kim in another session, as there’s a different imperative for larger booking platforms to facilitate better use of data: “We have to combine all data from travelers so we can build useful products in all of these environments and change quickly for interactions we haven’t even yet seen.” The thread here is that the way data is captured, presented, and acted upon is different enough to merit standalone solutions for the vacation rental industry.   Agility Matters in the Growing Vacation Rental Industry Freedom from legacy technology allows vacation rental software to be nimble and evolve alongside -- or even ahead of -- the growing industry. Old technology hinders progress, as hospitality operations mold to limitations rather than grow with innovations. Vacation rentals need the agility to integrate and build a software backbone that supports each unique operation. Ciirus’ DiCarlo sees this ability to change as a core differentiator, saying: “There have been hotels since day one. That industry is set in stone. To get them to change how they do business is very hard. [Vacation rental software has] the ability to change because we’re not a 4,000-year-old industry or old technology. If we use data correctly, the way we do business isn’t set in stone.” For property managers looking for the best vacation rental software, we’ll continue to offer a comprehensive view into solutions targeted to this growing segment. In an industry challenged by change, candid insights into hospitality solutions foster transparency and encourage partners to serve such a dynamic industry better. Agility pays dividends in today’s hospitality industry!   Browse honest reviews to find the ideal vacation rental software or hotel software for your property.

Airbnb: Competitors and Alternatives

by
Adrienne Fors
4 months ago

Once you’ve decided to invest in a vacation rental property, turn a second home into a short-term rental, or expand your existing short-term rental business, you’ll be faced with another big question: where do you list your property online? From the news and buzz surrounding Airbnb, it might seem like Airbnb is the best and only option. But, as you’ll discover in this article, Airbnb might not be the best option for every short-term rental business. Putting your property on every website you can find might also not be the best course of action either. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast Airbnb and its closest competitors: Vrbo/HomeAway, Tripadvisor/FlipKey, and Booking.com. We’ll dive into the nuances of each one: what makes them different and what advantages and disadvantages they bring. By the end of this article, you will be able to make more informed decisions about the distribution strategy for your short-term rental.   Airbnb vs. Vrbo/HomeAway First things first: if you’re wondering whether to list your property on Vrbo or HomeAway, you’ll be pleased to know that they’re actually the same company. HomeAway acquired Vrbo (then VRBO - Vacation Rentals by Owner) in . The Expedia Group (which also owns Hotels.com, Orbitz, Hotwire, and more) then acquired HomeAway in 2015, and in 2019 rebranded Vrbo as the company’s leading vacation rental site. Today if you list a property on Vrbo, your listing will automatically appear on HomeAway too. Vrbo and HomeAway are traditional vacation rental sites. Their bread and butter is vacation home rentals in leisure destinations, particularly in the United States. In fact, Vrbo and HomeAway do not accept shared-space rentals, so if you’re planning to list a private room or a shared accommodation, then you can eliminate Vrbo/HomeAway from your distribution plan. Airbnb, on the other hand, does list these property types. Vrbo and Airbnb both charge a service fee of approximately 10% (which the guest pays), but the sites differ in their commission models. Airbnb charges a 3% commision for most short-term rental listings, while property owners that use Vrbo can choose between a 5% commission or a $499 yearly subscription. The 2% difference in commission can end up saving property owners hundreds of dollars per year by listing on Airbnb versus Vrbo, but for property owners who estimate earning well over $10,000 per year, then Vrbo’s yearly subscription is a good deal. A host who books $20,000 in rental revenue per year would pay $600 in commission to Airbnb or $499 to Vrbo. Property owners who book under around $17,000 in rental revenue per year would pay more commission to Vrbo than Airbnb. Despite slightly higher commission, Vrbo is just as popular - if not more popular - than Airbnb in certain geographic areas. Markets that have a long history as vacation rental destinations, like Destin, Florida and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, have been using Vrbo/HomeAway for decades, and repeat visitors are loyal to the brand. If your property is located in this type of market, then Vrbo/HomeAway can bring fantastic results. While Vrbo/HomeAway’s niche is these old-school vacation spots, the brands are less popular in urban markets. If your property is in a major city, then you’ll likely get more bookings through Airbnb. And if your property is located outside of the United States, then Airbnb is also the best option, since the majority of Vrbo/HomeAway properties and travelers are located in the US, while Airbnb has a more international reach.     Airbnb Vrbo/HomeAway Web Traffic (Average monthly views between October 2019 and March 2020) 74 million 22 million (Vrbo.com) 5.3 million (HomeAway.com) Number of Listings 7 million 2 million Types of Listings Shared rooms, private rooms, homes, apartments, hotel rooms Homes, apartments Additional Products Airbnb Experiences, Airbnb Plus, Airbnb for Work None Geography Worldwide Primarily US Guest Booking Fee 10-14% ~10% Host Fee/Commission 3% for most short-term rentals, 14-20% for hotels $499 per year or 5% commission Year Founded 2008 1995 (Vrbo) 2005 (HomeAway) Headquarters San Francisco, CA Austin, TX Company Type Private Public (EXPE) Number of Employees 13,000 2,000 (Vrbo/HomeAway), 24,000 (Expedia Group) Parent Company n/a Expedia Group Other Brands in Distribution Network HotelTonight, Luxury Retreats Homelidays.com, Abritel.fr, FeWo-direkt.de Company Reviews Consumer Affairs: 1.5/5 (here)  Trustpilot: 1.6/5 (here) Consumer Affairs: 2/5 (here) Trustpilot: 4.3/5 (here)    Airbnb vs. Tripadvisor Rentals/FlipKey You’ve likely heard of Tripadvisor as a massive review site, but you can also book vacation rentals on Tripadvisor, as a result of the company’s acquisition of FlipKey.com. Tripadvisor’s vacation rental branch is called Tripadvisor Rentals, and, like Vrbo/HomeAway, the site accepts “entire home” rentals, such as villas and condos. Tripadvisor Rentals does not list shared spaces like Airbnb does. Also similar to Vrbo/HomeAway, Tripadvisor Rentals and FlipKey are most popular in the US market, while Airbnb has a broader international reach. The amount of listings and website views is much smaller on FlipKey compared to Airbnb. Web traffic data is not readily available for Tripadvisor Rentals specifically, only for Tripadvisor.com, which contains reviews as well as hotels, restaurants, rental cars, and activities. Tripadvisor Rentals’ commission is the same as Airbnb’s, 3%, but the booking fee charged to guests can be higher. Like with Airbnb, property owners can’t control the booking fee, but in some cases the fee can be up to 16%, which means the total price for the reservation on Tripadvisor could be significantly higher than Vrbo, Airbnb, and especially Booking.com, which doesn’t charge any guest service fee. Savvy shoppers who are comparing your property on multiple sites probably won’t book on Tripadvisor if they need to pay more. On the positive side, property owners mention in reviews that Tripadvisor Rentals’ owner dashboard is easy to use and that support is easy to find. Given the low commission and relatively little time needed to set up your listing, Tripadvisor Rentals can be a good addition to your distribution strategy. However, since the number of monthly visitors to the site is the lowest out of the four sites we’re comparing here, it’s in your best interest to list on other sites in addition to Tripadvisor. Listing your property on Tripadvisor only probably will not generate the booking volume and revenue you’re expecting.     Airbnb Tripadvisor Rentals/FlipKey Web Traffic (Average monthly views between October 2019 and March 2020) 74 million 143 million (Tripadvisor.com) 626,000 (FlipKey.com) Number of Listings 7 million 830,000 Types of Listings Shared rooms, private rooms, homes, apartments, hotel rooms Homes, apartments Additional Products Airbnb Experiences, Airbnb Plus, Airbnb for Work On Tripadvisor.com: Reviews, restaurant reservations, flights, tour and activity bookings Geography Worldwide Primarily US Guest Booking Fee 10-14% 8-16% Host Fee/Commission 3% for most short-term rentals, 14-20% for hotels 3% Year Founded 2008 2000 (TripAdvisor) 2007 (FlipKey) Headquarters San Francisco, CA Needham, MA Company Type Private Public (TRIP) Number of Employees 13,000 4,000 Parent Company n/a Tripadvisor Other Brands in Distribution Network HotelTonight, Luxury Retreats HouseTrip, Holiday Lettings, Niumba Company Reviews Consumer Affairs: 1.5/5 (here)  Trustpilot: 1.6/5 (here) Tripadvisor.com: Consumer Affairs: 4/5 (here), Trustpilot: 3.9/5 (here)  FlipKey.com: Trustpilot: 2.9/5 (here)   Airbnb vs. Booking.com There’s no denying Booking.com’s size - with 28 million listings, it’s the largest accommodation site in the world, and with over 400 million monthly visitors, it’s also the most popular. In fact, Booking.com lists over 4 times the amount of properties than Airbnb, and website visits are nearly 6 times greater. In addition to apartments and homes, Booking.com lists every type of accommodation you can think of, including hotels, hostels, guesthouses, and resorts. The site also offers flights, rental cars, adn activities, and travelers can rack up perks through Booking.com’s Genius program. Guests book properties without paying any kind of service fee, unlike Airbnb, Vrbo, and Tripadvisor Rentals, which can charge up to 15%. Booking.com has a global presence, including offices in dozens of countries and a robust variety of online resources and discussion boards when you need support. For property owners, all of these benefits make Booking.com sound like a great addition to your distribution strategy. What’s the catch? For some owners, Booking.com’s 15% commission is hard to swallow. Compared to Airbnb, which charges hosts 3%, a 15% commission might sound outrageous. And if you choose Booking.com’s payment model which requires you charge guest credit cards yourself, then you could end up paying a few more percentage points in credit card fees on top of the commission. Airbnb, on the other hand, disburses payouts at no additional cost via PayPal or a bank transfer. Another difference is that Airbnb lets you manually approve reservation requests, if you choose to do so, while all Booking.com reservations are instantly confirmed. So who should use Booking.com in addition to (or instead of) Airbnb? If you want maximum online exposure, you can benefit from Booking.com’s massive audience and global reach, and owners who add Booking.com’s channel can see a big lift in reservation volume and overall revenue. However, if you prefer to have more control over who books your property - and if you who want to keep commission costs at a minimum - you’ll want to stick with Airbnb.       Airbnb Booking.com Web Traffic (Average monthly views between October 2019 and March 2020) 74 million 411 million Number of Listings 7 million 28 million Types of Listings Shared rooms, private rooms, homes, apartments, hotel rooms Hotels, hostels, homes, apartments Additional Products Airbnb Experiences, Airbnb Plus, Airbnb for Work Flights, rental cars, activities, Booking.com for Business Geography Worldwide Worldwide, especially strong in Europe Guest Booking Fee 10-14% none Host Fee/Commission 3% for most short-term rentals, 14-20% for hotels 15% Year Founded 2008 1996 Headquarters San Francisco, CA Amsterdam, the Netherlands Company Type Private Public (BKNG) Number of Employees 13,000 17,500 Parent Company n/a Booking Holdings Other Brands in Distribution Network HotelTonight, Luxury Retreats Priceline.com, Kayak.com, Agoda.com Company Reviews Consumer Affairs: 1.5/5 (here)  Trustpilot: 1.6/5 (here) Consumer Affairs: 2/5 (here)  Trustpilot: 1.7/5 (here)    Compared to other vacation rental sites, Airbnb has a lot of advantages. With a low commission and a huge global reach, it’s a great channel for property owners to use. Owners of traditional vacation rentals - homes and condos - can find success on Vrbo and Tripadvisor Rentals, though the lower volume of web traffic in most regions means that production on Vrbo and Tripadvisor Rentals might be lower than on Airbnb. Property owners who want to reach international guests and get more exposure but can afford to pay a higher commission can also find success on Booking.com. If you want to really maximize your online presence, then list your property on all four.   More helpful content and tips for Airbnb Hosts: Listing on AirBnB (everything you need to know) Logging into AirBnB Contacting AirBnB Support Guide to Vacation Rental Listing Sites