370,150 – that’s how many active rental properties there are in the UK, and the stat across Europe is even more staggering: 4, 878, 489. The past 12 months has thrown the biggest challenge the industry has ever faced, but arguably, the stakes in 2021 are even higher. For many of us, our respective governments in 2020 took many big decisions away from us, so 2021 for property management companies is a tipping point.
What does 2021 look like for property managers?
As tourism returns in the months ahead, now is the time for us to put in place the tools and new channels to market to help us capitalise on the surge of travel that is coming. Are we still placed to get the bookings? Are we charging the right prices to maximise income based on completely new supply and demand patterns? Whether you are in a holiday destination with record levels of staycations coming or a city where demand is still weak, ensuring you are well positioned to win in the new environment will be critical to your future growth prospects and the more you can deliver for your owners, the better positioned you will be.
In most countries, the short lets industry is getting a head start over hotels. In the UK, for example, it is able to reopen a full 5 weeks before hotels are able to welcome guests, in recognition of the fact that the transmission risk is far lower in self contained accommodation (or short term rentals) than in hotels. Pent up demand logic tells us that we should all expect a bumper year, but as ever there are likely to be winners and losers. There are, however, ways to ensure you’re ahead of the pack. Property Managers who thrive will have nailed 3 categories for their businesses, no matter whether they are big or small;
Which channel manager is best for you?
52% of property managers rely on a single platform besides their own, and it won’t surprise you that it is usually Airbnb. ‘Put all your eggs in one basket’ recommended no one, ever. Yet many of us see channels like Airbnb as the first and only route to market. However, as this NY Times article recently highlighted, hosts who had a one channel strategy were hurt by approaches of the platform during the pandemic that they felt were too heavily in favour of the guests and many realised they needed to look elsewhere. Regardless of your situation, spreading risk across a number of channel managers is a great solution.
Most channel managers claim to elevate you onto more than 40 platforms and they usually cover the well known platforms likely to drive volume. It’s worth looking out for the more exclusive or niche platforms like Homes & Villas by Marriott International as these can provide a large volume of reliable and high spending guests. Options like Hospiria can provide access to this platform providing your properties are of a certain standard.
Do you have dynamic pricing in place?
Hands up those of you with manually set seasonal pricing? You’re not alone. It’s estimated that 75% of smaller PMCs rely on a finger in the air approach to pricing their properties. Nothing wrong with that – and many of us have enough experience to excel at a gut feel to pricing. However, in a world where demand and supply are being push to extremes at both ends of the scale, a historic approach can mean you’re selling too cheap or not catching the demand you deserve. Dynamic pricing can be hugely beneficial here and you can often manually adjust your floor and ceiling pricing if you’re uncomfortable with letting it completely dictate your pricing! Transparent provide granular market data to underpin your pricing strategy with proactive demand insights.
How do you handle enquiries & reservation management?
Once you’ve diversified your platforms and taken the plunge with dynamic pricing – these two alone can take your occupancy levels and revenue to a whole new level. But with additional platforms and bookings, comes additional enquiry management and administration.
It’s also not a case of ‘plug in and go’ with some of this tech. Your listings on the 40 or more OTA platforms need nurturing, constant updating, tinkering and most importantly, fast and reliable responses to guests. This is an undervalued workload by many Property Managers and those who put the effort here gain ground over those who don’t. Global guests require 24/7 attention and those who respond promptly and professionally secure the bookings first. Larger businesses often have the capacity to outsource some of this outside of normal working hours, but most smaller property managers can’t be that flexible. The best option in this case is to be clear about your working hours and response times and ensure they are communicated well on your listings. However, there is also a third option. Technology solutions like Hospiria integrate a channel management and dynamic pricing software together with property management AND also offer 24×7 reservations support.
Have you thought about recovery and growth in 2021?
One thing is for sure, 2021 will be a year of demand after so many restrictions on travel last year. However, this is likely to be localised and seasonal with most international travel likely to be on hold for some time. This map shows the variances in the UK with areas like London down by 47% compared with 2019 and South Yorkshire enjoying a 57% increase compared with 2019. Therefore, you really want to ensure that when there are opportunities, you seize and optimise them. A winning formula is to cover Channel Management, Dynamic Pricing AND Reservation Management. Options like Hospiria cover all 3 of these and take on reservation management and platform admin for you if required. That means you can focus on what you do best, onboarding new properties to grow your business and welcoming guests! And we will all be welcoming them back with open arms.