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Vacation Rental Software: How to Choose From the 7 Most Popular Vendors

by
Adrienne Fors
1 week 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 booking sites 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.   7 Great Short-Term Rental 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.  

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A Complete Guide to the 4 Biggest Vacation Rental Websites

by
Adrienne Fors
1 week 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, 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!  

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

by
Hotel Tech Report
11 months 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."

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Airbnb: Competitors and Alternatives

by
Adrienne Fors
1 month 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  

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How to Contact Airbnb Support for Hosts

by
Adrienne Fors
1 month ago

Need help with your Airbnb listing or account? Even the most seasoned hosts need support on topics like payouts, cancellations, taxes, or Airbnb offers several ways to get answers and resolve problems. Between self-service, chat, or phone support and Airbnb’s community forum, you will be able to solve any Airbnb issue that comes up.   Self-Service Support Before you reach out to Airbnb’s support team, see if you can find the answer to your question on Airbnb’s host support page. Using self-service support is the easiest and fastest way to get answers, but this type of support is most helpful if your question is relatively common.     The Hosting Help Center contains lots of great information about reservations, cancellations, payouts, listings, and more. You can find answers instantly to frequently asked questions like “when will I get my payout?” or “how do I cancel a reservation?” without needing to talk to an Airbnb support representative. If you don’t have a specific question but want to learn more about hosting in general, then you may want to check out Airbnb’s Host Resource Center. This site contains guides and tutorials about how to become a successful host, with advice on everything from decor to cleanliness.   Chat/Message Support For more specific issues, like technical support or specific questions about reservations, then sending a message to Airbnb’s support team is a good option. In order to use this type of support, you need to log into your Airbnb account first.   Go to Airbnb’s main contact page to start the process of connecting with a support representative. On this page, you’ll be prompted to choose the topic on which you need support.   After you’ve selected the topic that fits your question most closely, you’ll be asked to narrow down the topic a bit further. Click “Choose” next to the best option to proceed. If none of the options match what your question is about, then click “It’s something else.”     After clicking “Choose,” you might end up on a screen with links to articles that may be helpful. If these articles don’t answer your question, then click “I still need help.”   Finally, you’ll end up on a screen that offers two options for contacting an Airbnb support representative: chat or phone. Select “chat with us” to send a message to Airbnb’s support team. Describe your question or problem in as much detail as you can, then click “Send message.” A support representative usually responds within an hour. Their response will arrive in your Airbnb Inbox, so if you have email, text, or push notifications turned on, you’ll get an alert when you have a response. From there, you can reply to the Airbnb support rep, attach images, and continue the conversation.   Phone Support Sometimes the best way to resolve a problem is to talk to an Airbnb support representative over the phone. Airbnb offers phone support in many countries and has localized phone numbers that provide the best support in your language. Hosts in the US can call 415-800-5959 or 855-424-7262 to speak with an Airbnb support agent. Hosts in other countries can visit Airbnb’s contact by phone page to see a phone number for their country or language. Since Airbnb is an extremely popular site, there are always many hosts and guests trying to receive phone support. Note that wait times can vary; it could take several minutes to get connected with a person. Try calling early in the morning or late at night for fastest service.   Community Support In addition to getting support from Airbnb’s own representatives, hosts can learn a lot from other hosts in Airbnb’s Community Center. This forum is open to all hosts, and hosts from around the world ask questions, share best practices, and offer advice to others.     Start by either searching for a specific keyword or topic or just browse the posts. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, then you can click “Start a Conversation” to begin your own thread. The Community Center also has a page for localized host resources where you can find Facebook groups and meetup events for Airbnb hosts in your city. When you’re using Airbnb, you certainly don’t need to struggle through problems alone. With chat and phone support, helpful articles, and a host forum, you can find the answers to all of your Airbnb questions.   More helpful content and tips for Airbnb Hosts: Listing on AirBnB (everything you need to know) Logging into AirBnB AirBnB Competitors Guide to Vacation Rental Listing Sites

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