Distribution technology in the vacation rental industry grows at a pace that often causes more confusion for VRMs than it does help. Tools to increase automation and take the manual labor out of their hands are being developed at breakneck speed. Ultimately, we vendors are responsible to ensure new features are A.) relevant to industry needs, and B.) implemented in a way that allows users to adopt them efficiently at scale. Many, we at CiiRUS included, have made mistakes in this area, causing low adoption of new features, and managers to spend money on unused tools that aren’t delivering value. In early 2018, assessing this phenomenon and trying to improve, we learned something very important about distribution technology in our industry: there are some things you just can’t automate.
We found that small-to-medium sized VRMs, usually mom-and-pop companies or start-ups with fewer than 50 homes, transacted much less on the distribution channels than larger, enterprise-level companies with similar inventory. A must-have feature for modern VRMs, direct channel management allows managers to have their rates, calendars, and listing details synced across all OTAs, automating away tens (sometimes hundreds) of hours per week. Even this time saved often wasn’t enough for the start-ups and smaller businesses to find the elusive occupancy bump or increased revenue. They still have to keep the online listings looking pristine, vet and approve inquiries, liaise with incoming guests, chase balances, and tick all the boxes approaching arrival. In addition to the hours of human work, they’re also on the hook for software fees, OTA fees, and card processing fees totaling as much as 9% of their revenue. The crux of our discovery was that these business owners who spend a ton on automation but still struggle, are best at all of the things that you just can’t automate. They’re stellar ‘boots-on-the-ground’ property managers; housekeeping and maintenance aficionados; accounting gurus; experts at delivering magical in-person guest experiences… but they’re not online customer-service or marketing experts. So why should we expect them to be? Enter Love Rentals, CiiRUS’ optional Managed Distribution platform
Love Rentals takes over the entire pre-arrival workload for CiiRUS users. We deliver guests to doors so the VRMs can focus on doing what that they do best. The Love Rentals team reaches around the world, providing 24/7 guest services and direct bookings over the phone. They also maintain, beautify, and pay for the listings on the major OTAs, collect payments, pay processing fees, and own all pre-arrival guest communication. Best of all, Love Rentals listings currently place nearly three times as many bookings on the major OTAs than standard CiiRUS channel management listings. All this using the exact same technology, but having it managed by a team of experts with decades of expertise in online guest-service and vacation rental marketing, at no additional cost to CiiRUS customers.
The crazier the tech landscape continues to get, I urge you to focus most on adopting solutions that truly work for you, allowing you to focus on growing your business, increasing revenue, and becoming more efficient. Managed Distribution is a new pathway ahead for traditional VRMs of all shapes and sizes, but especially those who prefer to spend more time in the field, and less time behind their computers.