Moriya Rockman, Founder and CMO, Smiling House Luxury
There is a reason why the vacation rental industry landscape has been a hotbed of acquisition activity all of 2021. As soon as they were able to, people began to travel, and with unmatched enthusiasm, trying to make up for the lost time. Consequently, demand exploded, with booking pace up 700% for some vacation rental managers. What followed was an urgent need for vacation rental managers to step up to meet this demand.
A lot of big players saw themselves consolidating their property management businesses to meet this demand. Perhaps the most talked-about example of this was Vacasa’s acquisition of over 160 property management companies, including Wyndham Turnkey Vacation Rentals, which added 6,000 properties to its gargantuan portfolio.
This demand, however, is not only for the biggest players. Independent vacation rental managers stand to profit from it just the same. Their core challenge is the same, too, although perhaps at a different scale. They must find a way to meet spiking demand head-on by growing their inventory quickly, and efficiently, to keep both revenues and profitability high.
We turned to 8 industry professionals to help answer this question and received responses that make it clear that while the idea of vacation rental inventory growth might seem simple enough, it is crucial to do it with consideration of your unique business to make it work profitably for you. Some highlights from the responses:
Cultivate focus on your niche and create opportunities and tools to attract players within it.
The vacation rental industry based on platforms and technology is existing for more than a decade. But the Luxury segment within the STR space is one of the last to join.
Smiling House Luxury took the mission to gather both homeowners and property managers focusing on hosting luxury homes around the globe. In order to extend our portfolio, we took the following actions :
– Focus: the leisure market is symbolised by expensive homes, longer stays, but with limited seasons (summer and/or winter). Usually around 10 to 20 weeks of rentals a year. These specific criteria led us to approach actively to owners and managers based on regions with different seasonality. Our message to them was that High Net Worth Individuals looking for a luxury ski-in Chalet in winter are the same ones looking for a private beach villa in summer. As Smiling House is a niche channel for luxury, guests can focus on their desired destination and hosts can be sure they are targeting the right crowd. So focusing on luxury and ultra-luxury offers only, is a key to extend the portfolio and create demand rather than marketing.
– Technology: Lately Smiling House Luxury became an official channel. It’s now possible for every property manager to connect to us through their PMS and BookingPal within a click. Since the whole platform is based on requests to book, property managers know that they can accept or decline any booking request. This fact together with the concierge attitude of the platform makes sure that every request is handled at the highest level. This way of working together hand in hand with property managers gives them the trustand comfort they are seeking. Technology is definitely key for extending your portfolio and let other professionals/homeowners join your activity.
– Recognising trends in the market: At Smiling House, we are very busy with new trends that affect the way people travel and consume. The latest trends of workation, staycation, together with the fact that a lot of our clients are independent business owners that traveled throughout the pandemic, made us change and adapt to these trends. This has to do with local marketing for the staycation needs, switching rooms into offices with high-speed internet for workation needs, and adding amenities needed for longer stays.
– Additional distribution channels: One of the last year’s conclusions of many Property Managers was not to put their eggs in one basket. What we recognised was the need for professionals from the travel industry to reach out and find a solution for their clientele. And on the other hand, many guests reached out to get information about vacation homes that are for sale. We didn’t waste time and created 2 platforms to answer these needs. The first one is a B2B platform for travel designers, concierge companies, and others to offer luxury and ultra-luxury homes in our collection. The second one is exposing vacation rental homes for sale within our collection to private investors and family offices. By creating these platforms, we made it possible for more homeowners and property managers to share their properties with us, even if the target is to sell them. Also, working with the B2B professionals is giving property managers and homeowners the possibility to get a high budget booking (70.000.- USD average) and to be exposed to a whole new demand outside of the OTA space.