Caitlin Moran started it. One of her summer columns in The Times Magazine (UK) referenced the holiday rental bingo that is our industry’s greatest stigma – mediocre accommodation and minimal consideration for the paying guest.
Denis Schaal raised the volume on the very same topic direct to the industry in his piece reflecting how his vacation rental experiences in California had left him longing for a hotel.
And then, at the VRMA Awards, we were honoured with the Supplier of the Year award. What do we do? Help owners, hosts and managers deliver a better guest experience.
The juxtaposition of terrible guest experiences still creating holiday rentals headlines and our efforts directly in contrast to that did not pass us by.
Why are holiday rentals headlines so stuck on the stereotype?
Because the stereotype still exists. In the UK, self-catering holidays have a longstanding hang-up tied to the granny annex with its furniture off-loads and car boot sale cutlery and crockery. The purpose built holiday home or the intentionally let holiday property still accounts for a proportionally small part of the holiday lettings marketplace.
In short, really good holiday rental accommodation is not in plentiful supply.
But if you’re reading this, you probably already know that. And you’re probably in the minority of those doing it well.
The void between hotels and holiday rentals
So when a hotel behemoth like Marriott chooses to enter the holiday villa space, ears prick up. People choose to rent vacation homes because they want an individual experience and privacy and because they don’t want a mono-hotel experience. Vacation rental guests are not keen on sausage factory holidays.
But that doesn’t mean their expectations are any less.
And that’s where the disparate and intensely unique nature of our sector has to gather its smarts.
The pandemic benefitted the vacation rental industry. Its privacy and individuality appealed to the authorities and to the masses as we unfurled from lockdowns. But those sleeping giant hotel chains rarely miss a trick when it comes to tourism. They want a piece of the pie and they’ve got decades of experience of service delivery at scale, which is doubtless why Schaal was hankering for a hotel.
What can we learn from hotels as they’re hot on our heels?
The programmatic, routine nature of hotels will always appeal to some consumers and absolutely not to others. But as an industry, the formulaic hotel basics that put guests first and loyalty close behind are sweet songs from which vacation rental providers could learn many a lyric.
No, you don’t need to adopt the role of an on-call concierge. The fact is that if you invest in your guests, your property and location as an experience they’ll love, you’ll do that in your sleep.
Make guest experience your headline
When we submitted our entry to the VRMA Awards, we were confident in our application. Where we are today is proof of the choices we made, as the pandemic hit, to focus on improving our software and our user experience.
Yet confident as we were that we had more than justified our entry, what were the chances of guest experience coming out ahead in an ecosystem swollen with vacation rental tech?
Honestly, when we heard we’d won the award we were shocked. Not because we don’t believe in the value of Touch Stay, but because we usually fly under the radar. The focus in the tech space is traditionally on PMS, dynamic pricing, channels, keyless access and property care/maintenance. There isn’t a huge focus, at least not directly, on the guest experience. But this is our passion, this is our sole focus, and it’s humbling that an organisation of VRMA’s stature recognised us for such a huge award.
We long ago committed to making guest experience our headline and despite the tumultuous nature of the last two years, we haven’t waivered, whether we’re talking about our customers or theirs.
How do we resolve the holiday rentals headlines that paint the industry in poor light? We strongly believe that if owners, hosts and managers make guest experience their headline, it’ll reap rewards.
We don’t just believe it. We know it. Our customers tell us almost every day.
It’s one uphill battle to professionalise a sporadically set industry. It’s one collaborative effort to focus on enhancing how we manage guests, their expectations and experiences so that the holiday rental headlines some of them write say all the best things about our industry.
What do you reckon?