This article was organically published in VRMA’s Arrival publication (December 2020)

As 2020 draws to a close, we’ve all experienced a great deal of challenge, uncertainty and, at times, absolute turmoil. The impact of the global pandemic has been felt universally and has impacted each and every one of us to a greater or lesser degree – both personally and professionally. 

For many, our sense of feeling safe and secure has been shaken to the core as we’ve navigated protecting ourselves, our teams and our loved ones from the virus. We’ve also 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. This has been followed by a very skewed picture of predicted future bookings against so much uncertainty. Even our assumption that we can work with our teams together in an office has been challenged. 

When our very foundations are rocked to the core, like they have been for many this year, the need to return to a feeling of safety and having a sense of security in the face of the unknown becomes paramount in order to ease feelings of discomfort. This is partially why we’ve seen so much emphasis on quality assurance and trust in our industry. We know both our guests and owners also 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 this year’s challenges as a catalyst to reimagine how they are running their businesses. They’ve been 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 guest service provision 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 service they provide. 

As we continue to move through our changed world, it’s my prediction that the focus for short-term and vacation rental management in 2021 will be on operations. What the impact is on the entire business, what the pain points are and the tools adopted to enable managers to deliver this side of the business simply better.

The technology developed and deployed for the management of bookings, the distribution of listings and marketing to guests is often hailed as being ahead of the technology solutions that take care of operational processes. This however is no longer the case. 

The tech scene around IoT, processes and automation tools which better enables vacation rental property managers to run their businesses has, and is, leaping forwards. We have companies like Breezeway, Operto and VRScheduler and BeHome247 offering everything from maintenance management, intelligent task scheduling, team coordination, cleaning protocols, keyless entry, occupancy monitoring, intuitive checkin/out and dynamic service optimization. These solutions support property managers to run their businesses better. 

Moving into 2021, we’re seeing an increased emphasis on the fragmentation of aspects of property management. Some property managers, with tech behind them, have become very, very good at operations and now sell this as a white-labled service to other property managers and asset owners. Property managers outsourcing operations is something that we will see increase. 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 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 achilles heel that can impact, either positively or negatively, 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. 

About Jessica Gillingham 

Jessica is the director of Abode PR, a boutique public relations agency and consultancy working with clients in the international short-term rental, hospitality tech and PropTech space. 

Jessica writes and speaks regularly on topics related to public relations, the short-term rental and the travel industry and is the founder and publisher of PillowTalk Media. www.abode-pr.com

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Posted in Our Thinking, Short-Term Rental Industry