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From foundation to acceleration: vacation rentals with Booking.com

In the last decade, the vacation rental segment has undergone seismic change. Amy Leavenworth, Director of Product, Booking.com explores the landscape and Booking.com's role

From a comparatively small market predominantly occupied by professional management companies, to a booming economy in its own right ranging from side-hustle homeowners to global networks - vacation rentals have soared in recent years.

In parallel, the desire for travel experiences that feel more authentic has exploded. Almost half of travellers want to live like a local with alternative accommodations being the gateway to those opportunities. This demand is fuelling immense growth: 30% of US travellers stayed in private accommodation at least once in 2017 and according to Statista there will be 361.2 million vacation rental users worldwide by 2023, up 21.5% on current figures.

The growth of homes and apartments

When we consider the evolution of the market, Booking.com’s journey with its partners really echoes that. Historically, the platform was geared towards hotels and we had a wealth of experience in this area. When we introduced homes and apartments it admittedly took time to make the platform more accessible for these unique places. We understood what was lacking but the ability to change was somewhat slow as we were still living in the hotel ecosystem. From setting the foundations, we are now actually building tools and features that we know our vacation rental partners need and want. We’re at a stage where we can anticipate and accelerate to the future with development and delivery. The pivot has happened.

One of the biggest changes we have seen was the arrival of entrepreneurial property owners - those renting out their primary or second homes. The speed with which they operate has increased, and to facilitate this we introduced a simpler registration process (that takes less than 15 minutes) helping get their property online quickly and with ease. Today, a property can potentially receive its first booking within hours of going live, which is incredibly exciting. But it also means you need to have all the right information at your fingertips so you can understand how the platform works and find everything you need to operate efficiently. This is where our virtual account manager comes in, helping you navigate best practices and avoid any mishaps.

There are inherent trust considerations with vacation rentals that are not so prevalent in the hotel segment - for the host and guest - so building a relationship helps you get off to the right start. Today, guests can get in touch before a booking is made, giving you the opportunity to answer any questions through the Extranet or our property management app Pulse, and turn potential customers into real guests. But the reality of having to personally answer every query can be intense; to alleviate this - and increase guest satisfaction - automatic replies, templates and pre-scheduled messages reduce operational impact. On the other side, setting house rules and guest verification give you reassurance and greater control when it comes to risk mitigation.

Tourists are increasingly seeking somewhere convenient where they can feel at home, cook together and not be tied to the expense of what a hotel may offer. That‘s what makes vacation rental properties so attractive for longer vacations in particular. And ultimately, people are travelling more, the landscape is changing and global travel is more accessible - so there’s a basic need for new accommodations which the vacation rental segment can undoubtedly meet. There is real momentum behind the segment right now and a hugely enticing business opportunity.

Regardless of how digitally enabled our daily lives become, there is a lot to be said for the human touch - particularly when it comes to welcoming strangers to stay in your home. In many ways that has been our approach to helping our partners become serious about bookings. While technological advances have certainly propelled the industry forward, it really comes down to ensuring that a partner feels empowered, has the right guidance and tools to really get as much from the experience as the guest does, and is primed to reach the millions of travellers that are ready to explore the world.

 

To learn more about becoming a Booking.com partner head to join.booking.com/homeowners.

Takeaway
  • Entrepreneurs can sign up a single property in just 15 minutes, importing details from other sites as required and syncing calendars to avoid overbookings or duplication
  • A virtual account manager provides step-by-step guidance on how the platform works, best practices and common pitfalls while celebrating your achievements
  • Guests can get in touch before a booking is made, giving partners the opportunity to answer questions through the Extranet or Pulse
  • Features such as automatic replies to check in/out requests, personalised FAQ message templates and scheduled guest journey messages help with operational efficiency
  • Partners can set house rules and guest requirements in advance to manage expectations from the start