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    2021: The Year of Operations

    We can acknowledge that we all experienced a great deal of challenge, uncertainty and, at times, absolute turmoil in 2020. The impact of the global pandemic has been felt universally and has affected each one of us to a degree—both personally and professionally.

    For many, our sense of feeling safe and secure has been shaken to the core as we navigated how to protect ourselves, our teams and our loved ones from the virus. We also have had to rethink our business models, strategies, cost structures, teams, and how we serve our customers.

    No one could ever have predicted what would happen to travel in 2020. First, we saw bookings plummet across the board to near zero, with no view on what would come next. Then, for many, the summer ended with off-the-chart bookings. What followed was a skewed picture of predicted future bookings against so much uncertainty. Even our assumptions that we can work with our teams together in an office came into question.

    When our very foundations are rocked to the core, the need to return to a feeling of safety and a sense of security becomes paramount. This is partially why we have seen so much emphasis on quality assurance and trust in our industry. We know both guests and owners need to feel protected if we are to ease their anxieties about travel, staying away from home, or renting out their homes.

    Many property managers have used the challenging past year as a catalyst to reimagine how they are running their businesses. They were forced to examine where the inefficiencies lie, and to refocus on their processes and operational management. The trend has been to double down on this in order to secure businesses.

    In reality, issues around quality assurance, building trust, providing property care, improving team management and provisioning guest service all come down to how good a property manager actually is at operations—how efficient, professional and tactical they are at making owners and guests feel confident in the services they provide.

    As we continue to move through our changed world, it is my prediction that the focus for short-term and vacation rental management in 2021 will be on operations—on the tools that enable property managers to do business better. Technology for the management of bookings, the distribution of listings, and the marketing of properties to guests often is hailed as being ahead of the technology solutions that address operational processes. This, however, is no longer the case.

    The tech scene around IoT, processes, and automation tools that better enable vacation rental property managers to run their businesses has, and is, leaping ahead. Companies like Breezeway, Operto, VRScheduler, and BeHome247 offer everything from maintenance management, intelligent task scheduling, team coordination, cleaning protocols, keyless entry, occupancy monitoring, intuitive check-in/checkout, and dynamic service optimization. These solutions support property managers to run their businesses better.

    As we continue to move into 2021, we see an increased emphasis on the fragmentation of aspects of property management. Some property managers, with tech behind them, have become very good at operations and now sell this as a white-labeled service to other property managers and asset owners. Property managers outsourcing operations is a trend that will accelerate—especially as new players, like the multifamily sector and large institutional asset owners, move into short-term rentals and we shift towards a greater focus on the need for variable costs.

    We all know that operations is the part of management that is the most difficult to get right. It can cause the greatest problems and is often the vulnerability that can impact how a company provides reassurance. But for those who do get it
    right, for themselves or to sell to other players—and for the tech companies that are excelling in this area—2021 and beyond will be a very interesting time.


    Jessica Gillingham is the director of Abode PR – a specialist B2B PR agency and consultancy partnering with technology solutions operating in the global hotel and short-term rental industries. She is also the founder of PillowTalk Media. www.abode-pr.com

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