Estimated to be worth over $193 billion by 2021, it’s safe to say that the vacation rental industry is at a turning point. An increasing number of new companies are emerging in this lucrative market every month, meaning that there’s now an app or service provider for everything from property cleaning management to noise control.
Consequently, many owners are realizing the rental potential of their second property and are turning to the sharing economy for additional income.
In addition to posting ads on listing sites, more and more property owners are starting to understand the importance of vacation rental software. While the technology can seem daunting to recent market entrants, it’s often the one tool that can help you organize your business, save time, and earn big bucks.
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a newcomer taking advantage of the industry’s upswing, when you look for vacation rental software keep an eye out for these five essential features. If your software has these basics covered, you’ll routinely avoid the most common headaches that plague vacation rental managers.
1. Website builder
Your website is the basis of all your marketing efforts, making a website builder a top feature that should be offered by any good vacation rental software.
Even if you have little-to-no prior technical knowledge, you’ve got to have it.
Lodgify’s website builder
Some website builders are template-based, which makes it even easier to build your page. Select a template you like the look of, customize it with your property information and photos, and hit publish.
Software doesn’t have to be scary or complicated, and there are plenty of providers out there who cater to inexperienced users.
2. Booking engine
With U.S. travelers spending almost $189 billion on online travel bookings this year, it’s clear that you need a booking engine on your website. Vacation rental owners must be able to accept online bookings and payments. If you can’t, you’ll lose potential customers to other renters who can.
“Paying by credit card is by far the most secure method available, because of the consumer protections in place that defend guests against fraud or unforeseen cancellations,” says Dennis Klett, CEO of Lodgify. “As well as being the preferred payment by consumers in most countries, it’s also ideal for hosts, too, as they will be paid instantly.”
Software with an integrated booking engine lets you accept payments in any currency and set rate policies depending on whether you charge per night, week, or month. You can also increase your revenue by providing optional add-ons like breakfast and airport transport, which appear during the guest booking process.
Airbnb listing screenshot
3. Reservation system
The ability to oversee, update, and manage reservations is key to running an efficient and effective vacation rental business.
Choose a vacation rental software option with a built-in reservation system and you’ll enjoy simplified management of your properties, whether you manage one unit or 100.
A reservation system lets you keep track of calendars and block off any necessary periods, approve bookings and create customized quotes, answer inquiries and automatically collect payments, and even set up autoresponders or email templates to automate processes and save you hours of admin time.
4. Channel manager
This feature isn’t standard in vacation rental software, so you might have to do some extra digging to find it. A channel manager lets you synchronize bookings from external listings into one centralized place.
That means you’ll be able to see all reservations—no matter where they come from—in one single calendar. Why do you want it? Well, you don’t want someone to book a room through your website and then find out the next day that another customer booked the same room through a third-party listing. That’s a recipe for frequent headaches.
Not only do channel managers reduce your margin for error when it comes to things like double bookings, but some allow you to export rates and availability from your software to the listing site, as well as import reservations with all guest information included.
5. Other integrations
Finding a software option that integrates with other apps and tools you already use (or want to use) will save you a lot of hassle down the road.
According to travel and hospitality expert Frederic Gonzalo, social media is one of the most successful ways to market travel services. More than 50% of direct bookings now come from social networking accounts.
Post interesting content to your website and then blast it out on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social networks. After all, that’s where your guests hang out online, making it one of the best ways to reach them.
If your software integrates with apps like Facebook Messenger, you can create canned responses and handle all inquiries from your reservation system. While these tasks themselves will always be time-consuming, managing them from one place will speed up and simplify the process.
Integration with other marketing and reporting tools can help you better understand your website’s performance, and identify areas for improvement.
For example, if your software integrates with Google Analytics, you can check website metrics such as how long guests are spending on your website, which pages are the most popular, and your conversion rate.
What features do you use the most?
Are there features you consider a must-have for vacation rental software? What makes them so important, or more important than other features? Let us know in the comments below!
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