The online vacation rental boom
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has reported 6 million Short Term rentable units are available in the U.S. and 12 million global short-term rentable units worldwide. This number has increased at an accelerated rate over the last three years likely because of the Airbnb effect of occupied units being sublet.
The online vacation rental boom kicked off with VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) in early 1995 and has since grown exponentially with the addition of HomeAway, Airbnb and a plethora of online travel companies. OTAs such as Expedia, Priceline, and others are now trying to compete in this space. Even TripAdvisor, primarily known as a review site, is getting into the game trying to compete against Airbnb for their share of the vacation rental business. The creation of Airbnb in 2008 and the birth of the sharing economy launched the next phase of the vacation rental evolution. All of this has resulted in more consumers turning towards vacation rentals and alternative accommodations than ever before as well as more competition than ever before.
Making your inventory available to more customers through distribution will always increase occupancy. However, managing an extensive set of online partners and channels can be incredibly difficult and time consuming. Many vacation rental managers deal with four or more extranets on a daily basis, and the opportunity cost and manual effort of doing this is enormous.
To effectively manage the online distribution landscape, you need a reliable technology partner that can help you expose your available inventory on a large scale to the best online travel sites. Once you have the technology in place, you can focus on perfecting how you manage your availability, inventory, and rates to maximize revenue per available unit.
Navigating the complexity of distribution channels, search engine rankings on those channels, and strategic pricing and promotion plans in real-time can be overwhelming. When choosing a distribution technology partner it is important to select one that offers more than just a generic 1-800 support desk. You should look for a company that will answer your calls directly and work with you to achieve the best possible outcomes based on your unique goals.
Channel management is a key element to a successful distribution strategy. Proper inventory allocation via online channels will ultimately help drive optimal profitability - but there are also other factors at play. You have to consider which rates and unit types should be distributed through specific channels to maximize ROI.
Progressive vacation rental managers need to determine the channels that are most productive for them. The landscape of online distribution agencies (OTA’s) is vast, chaotic, and growing every year. Hotels have grappled with the complexity of managing this space for many years, and now this issue is at the forefront for property managers. Vacation rental companies need to learn from the hotel sector and leverage their experience.
Catering to the type of guests you are looking for is paramount to ensuring significant revenue flow. Some channels may be better at attracting your ideal guest than others. Wyndham Vacations stated in a whitepaper published in 2013 that 52% of guests booking vacation rental units tend to have larger families as well as being from a higher income bracket. They also spend twice as much on their vacation than those who stay in a hotel. Knowing this can definitely help you shape your rate strategy related to the channels that may be more profitable for you.
Revenue management is all about distributing the right rate on the right channel at the right time. The vacation rental marketplace has been lagging behind the hotel industry in revenue management for years. As the volume of bookings coming through distribution channels increases, the implementation of sound revenue management is critical.
Some revenue management practices focus on competitive rate analysis. Having a comprehensive understanding of your competitive set and how they are positioning themselves online is essential to managing rates and inventory. This knowledge enables you to better engage with a prospective guest if you believe they may be online rate shopping. Even better, a system that automatically recommends rates based on historical and strategic data can significantly bolster your bottom line.
Finally, the ability to change rates quickly based upon promotions, unforeseen environmental events and anything out of the norm is the last element of successful revenue management strategy.
Make more money. This is obviously key to driving your business forward, but knowing that you have a reliable partner that does a lot of the heavy lifting for you goes a long way. The right technology partner will act as your primary link to the online distribution world, help you get paid faster, work as your negotiating agent, and ultimately deliver higher revenues at a lower cost than dealing with each online channel independently. Look for companies who provide dedicated team members whose compensation is determined directly by your success.
Finally, leverage technology solutions that enable you to grow your business and save you time. Look for companies that are being innovative not only with the technology they develop - but with the vision they have for the future and support services they offer. Wise decisions coupled together with strong technology relationships will undoubtedly help you achieve vacation rental distribution excellence.