The first industry summit in Europe since the region went into lockdown last year, the Short Stay Summit, took place earlier this month in London. We spoke to Ryan Pearson, Regional Manager at Booking.com, to learn more about his experience and find out the topics that got the crowds talking.
Click.: For those who haven’t heard of the Short Stay Summit, what’s it like?
Pearson: The Short Stay Summit is a great way for us to connect with new and existing partners. Alongside the opportunity to attend thought-provoking sessions and roundtables while networking with industry leaders and contributing to valuable discussions, the event set-up enables easy access to a diverse range of exhibitors.
As the name suggests, it’s very much focused on the short-term rental sector – homes, apartments, unique places to stay – with exhibitors ranging from online travel platforms, such as ourselves, and Connectivity providers to software providers and supply chain distributors.
This year there was collective excitement and a bit of emotion, too. The last time the event was held was in March 2020. That was also the last industry event I attended before Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions came into play, so it was a full-circle moment – it felt like we simply picked up from where we left off.
Click.: What were the hot topics of the day?
Pearson: The obvious question on everyone’s mind was when will demand fully return and will the demand we’ve been seeing – leisure, domestic, rural – continue. In the UK, I expect those trends to continue into 2022. People are starting to take their first steps towards travel, but restrictions still exist in many parts of the world.
The launch of our extended longer stays got the crowd talking. Historically, 28 nights was the maximum stay a guest could book on our platform. We’ve recently extended that to 45 days for properties globally (with some exceptions). Partners have heard the stats surrounding the demand for longer stays, but to show that we’re investing in this trend underpins that claim. It was an exciting development to share with attendees.
I also talked about our innovations in search and how we’re optimising the search experience for guests – from highlighting Entire Places to our Work-Friendly Programme – as well as changes we’ve made to increase the visibility of useful property information, such as health and safety protocols and sustainability practices. It was encouraging to see these topics were well received by attendees.
The usual suspects – tech, professionalisation and industry regulation – were also hot conversation starters that made for interesting discussions, particularly around topics like accreditation and software for professional short-term rental managers.
Click.: You participated in a fireside chat at the event. What were the key themes you spoke about?
Pearson: Data is king right now. None of us have a crystal ball that can predict exactly what the future holds, but data provides a strong indication. In my fireside chat, Outlook on the VR industry and what’s ahead, I talked about enhancements we’ve made to our analytics dashboard in the extranet. From there, you can see who is looking at and booking your property, where prospective guests are coming from, what device they’re using, popular policies and more. Not only does it tell you important information about your property but it shares valuable insights into your location, which can help you optimise your listing to match demand.
Another theme was availability. We see that some travellers continue to book last minute. If it’s a Tuesday and you haven’t sold your weekend yet, you need to look at what restrictions you have in place and consider releasing some. If you’re holding out for a three-night minimum stay, that may mean your property isn’t visible to guests searching for a weekend getaway. Also, make sure to put any cancellations back online as quickly as possible. Those types of actions can increase your chance of being seen by customers.
Transparency is also something I emphasised. Whether it’s health and safety protocols, sustainability practices or specific facilities and amenities, guests want to know exactly what they’re getting. This has a direct impact on our partners’ review scores, with high review scores indicating guests’ expectations are being met and managed.
Click.: What was the biggest highlight of the event for you personally?
Pearson: The general positivity from everyone who attended was incredibly uplifting. There’s a real sense of resilience throughout our industry, and it was inspiring to get back out there and see everyone connecting in real life again. We talked a lot about the trends we’re seeing and what we’re doing to stimulate demand and propel the industry forward, and it was exciting to hear so much positive feedback surrounding those conversations.
- The 2021 Short Stay Summit took place in London earlier this month – the first industry summit in Europe since the region went into lockdown last year
- Regional Manager Ryan Pearson shared details of our investments in longer stays and innovations in search during his fireside chat
- Hot topics included tech, data and the ongoing professionalisation of the short-term rental industry