From treehouses to tents, wagons to windmills, no matter the shape and size of the properties you’re renting out, effective management and marketing strategies have never mattered more.
If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that the property management industry needs to be ready to turn on a dime and adapt to change in order to survive. We’ve been exploring some of the key strategies deployed by the adaptive and inventive niche alternative accommodation sector in order to ride out the shockwaves of COVID-19 and thrive in the years beyond.
Embrace the Trend for Short-Term Rentals, Experience-Led Stays and Shifting Working Patterns
One of the most notable trends observed as we came through the pandemic was a sustained interest in short-term rentals, which continued to increase as the international travel industry reopened.
Rising demand is even struggling to keep up with growing supply, with booking volume for short-term rentals up 58 percent and short-term rental listings increasing percent in 2021. We’re also seeing a rise in experience-led vacationing. Sailing holidays, to give just one example, have become increasingly popular, with the global yacht charter market estimated to be worth over $10.91 billion, with an estimated annual growth rate of 25.6 percent between now and 2028.
Some niche alternative accommodation suppliers also reacted to the increased popularity of remote and flexible working options by offering home office facilities in their rentals—boosting the appeal of spontaneous trips, and providing a change of scene that so many were craving.
Unforgettable Guest Experiences—On and Offline
The importance of delivering a truly standout guest experience is exemplified by the niche alternative accommodation sector. Guests are looking to make unique memories in unique spaces, so attention to detail absolutely counts when it comes to the management of these stays.
Guest experience on site is one thing—we all know the value of thoughtful touches and attentive service. Niche rentals often excel here, leaning on their local knowledge and connections to provide an elevated and truly memorable guest experience (fresh Maine lobster delivered to your Tentrr tent, anyone?)
While their accommodation frequently promotes a return to nature and the great outdoors, managers of unique, short-term rentals often turn to digital tools to elevate their customer experience. Communication by SMS—quick, convenient, and well-received by guests—is becoming increasingly popular.
Treehouse Grove, for example, uses an automated SMS flow to check customer satisfaction on arrival—an efficient and effective way to double-check that first impressions are up to the company’s high standards.
Carefully Cultivated Brand Control
The popularity of niche alternative rentals is growing. Taking glamping as an example. The global market size was valued at $2.35 billion in 2021 and is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10.9 percent from 2022 to 2030. As the market swells, the providers of these unique properties are mastering the art of standing out in an increasingly crowded space.
This is where branding (and, more specifically, brand control) comes into play. Unique rentals often excel at crafting and communicating a real sense of what guests can expect. Success here relies on consistency, which is especially important if you’re marketing across multiple platforms and channels.
From the tone of voice you use in written copy to logo placement and font pairings, everyone on your team should have a clear understanding of what’s expected. This enables them to deliver a polished, familiar experience that will get guests dreaming about their exceptional stay long before they check in.
Boosting Occupancy and ADR
For many niche accommodation providers, when it comes to ensuring occupancy, direct bookings are the gold standard. In addition to the financial benefits direct bookings offer, managers can also exert a greater level of control over the customer experience from the very beginning of their brand encounter.
Joseph Ayres, owner and president of Treehouse Grove, set his team a target of 80 percent direct bookings, which they were able to exceed with a remarkable 98 percent rate. His advice? Create a sense of urgency by opening up rolling reservations (i.e., releasing availability in six month blocks to drive high demand and enable higher pricing). He also invites managers to think carefully about their discounting strategy, especially if aiming to cultivate an air of exclusivity. Offering slashed rates rapidly erodes any sense of luxury market positioning.
Develop Authentic Partnerships to Boost Visibility
A great shortcut to better branding? Pair up with an established location, or brands that exemplify your values. Tentrr is a great example of this. They worked with renowned camping brand Coleman to deliver top-spec equipment to their guests, which added polish, quality, and refinement to their stays. The partnership perfectly encapsulates the ethos of Tentrr: Get back to nature without having to “rough it.”
Likewise, UK-based provider Canopy and Stars worked with the bohemian Bristol Harbour to transform one of their iconic cargo cranes into a pop-up urban treehouse that offered guests the chance to experience a true once-in-a-lifetime stay. It perfectly embodied the spirit of the unique and quirky accommodations which Canopy and Stars specializes in.
Own Your PR
Positioning your rentals in the very best light is essential, and a strong public relations strategy should be carefully considered and maintained over time. Unique accommodation has the advantage of offering something unusual and eye-catching—a refreshing prospect for travel writers, but all rental managers can challenge themselves to think more creatively when it comes to laying on the charm for press and influencers.
From running your own carefully curated media, to controlling the narrative that journalists deliver, there’s a lot that can be done to maximize impact. Consider tactics like offering exclusive venue imagery in exchange for a promise that your chosen property details and SEO keywords are displayed correctly.
Additionally, don’t be too precious or guarded. Niche providers frequently leverage “behind the scenes” content, such as construction updates or a focus on the teams helping to deliver their experience—building on the sense of community and long-term connection with their venues.
For Future Success, Think Alternative
While niche alternative accommodation management companies are promoting a wonderfully wide variety of rentals, they can be a source of collective inspiration when it comes to savvy marketing and management.
A detailed focus on guest experience, framing the unique character and offer of your accommodation, smart brand partnerships, and closer control of your direct bookings are universal factors that we can all learn valuable lessons from.
Paul Zukauskas is global vice president of customer success at short-term rental property management platform Guesty where he combines his passion for real estate and hospitality by helping top vacation rental hospitality brands grow and scale.