By André Roque, Homeit
With emergence of short-term rental websites, such as Airbnb, the hotels market creating has been rapidly disrupted and an entirely new economy created, practically overnight. There are over 168,000 active Airbnb listings within the UK, plus a range of businesses have sprung up offering management, and other services such as laundry, cleaning etc., making hosting less arduous.
It is still early days. Many hosts still advertise on a single website and rely on manual processes to manage their bookings. Industry experts believe that the short-term rental market will gradually become more integrated into the wider accommodation market, giving customers a choice between traditional accommodation, such as hotels and hostels, and short-term rentals.
This has already started to happen on some online travel agent (OTA) websites, such as Expedia and Priceline, where short-term rental properties are listed alongside hotels and hostels.
But short-term rentals differ significantly from hotels and hostels. There is no front desk, no 24-hour attendant, homes are very different in facilities and layout, and hosts often need to leave a long list of special instructions.
In the future, short-term rentals will need to offer the same level of service and flexibility as large hotels if they are to compete. This is almost impossible to achieve with manual processes and automation will be key to earning an income through short-term rentals.
Some automation already exists. Hosts can use channel managers to centralize their booking calendar and provide instant bookings on multiple websites. A property management system (PMS) works with a channel manager to help keep track of multiple properties. And solutions such as Homeit can provide secure entry remotely, eliminating the need for hosts to be on-site to greet guests. Then if you are investing in property you need to make sure that you use the best local property management company like this one in Hampshire as we used them, and they produced excellent results for us.
Existing solutions are helpful, but there is still a long way to go before hosting is fully automated. Learn more here about the integrated home automation that’s quick to setup and easy to use. Let look at the next steps in automation for short-term rentals.
- Proximity-based Controls
Smartphones are an increasingly important part of our lives and the technology they incorporate is getting increasingly sophisticated. Location-based services are already used by retail businesses to suggest offers, for example, and similar services could help automate short-term rentals.
For example, a guest may book through an app which could be configured to recognize the Wi-Fi network within the property. As the guest approaches the property, the app could activate lights, music or even unlock the door.
Combine these controls with a property management system and the property could automatically adjust based on the user’s preferences and the host’s booking calendar, creating a customized service that is both secure and effortless.
- Saving with Smart Utilities
Hosts could use smart heating products (eg Nest’s or Google’s) to synchronize with their channel manager so that properties are nice and warm for guests’ arrival while ensuring pipes don’t freeze when properties are vacant.
In the future, it may be possible for guests to select their temperature preference, without having to touch the thermostat at all. When they leave for the day, to sightsee or attend a business event the temperature could be adjusted down to save money.
- The Self-Cleaning Home
It’s going to be a while before we have robots that can change the bedsheets but we already have robot vacuum cleaners and automated air fresheners. Programming these and future cleaning technologies around the guests’ schedules will ensure that the property is always smelling fresh and looking great without paying a fortune in cleaning fees.
- Keeping the Kitchen Stocked
While not essential it is always appreciated when hosts provide basics such as tea, coffee, milk and butter. Devices that monitor the levels of refrigerator items, sending automated purchase orders to supermarkets, already exist. It’s easy to imagine the ‘smart fridge’ concept being extended to other kitchen items, monitoring the stock of tea, coffee, bread, salt and pepper for example.
With only ten teabags left, the device storing them could send an automatic notification to the host, property manager or to the supermarket. A fresh box of teabags then arrives the next day.
- The AI Home
As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more sophisticated, we will begin to integrate all of the above automation features and allow the AI to take control. We won’t need to configure Wi-Fi networks or synchronize our smart locks with our channel managers. An integrated AI will control the lot.
From ordering food and beverages to alerting the cleaning robots to get to work, AI has the potential to take automation one step further, eliminating the need for human intervention in any of our systems. Hosts will simply sit back and watch their rental income roll in while guests will receive unparalleled levels of comfort and service.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
André Roque is founder of Homeit, a smart access technology for the sharing economy’s short-term rental properties booked online on platforms like Airbnb or Booking.com. Homeit enables hosts to rent properties without delivering keys to guests or service providers, and enables guests to check-in at any time of day. It removes the need for copied keys (and therefore the possibility of lost keys), and the system works with every door, internal and external, whatever the physical lock, and integrates with the property’s booking calendar. Guests have instant access to the property, and hosts have transparency, and therefore peace of mind. They know who’s coming in, who’s going out (whether it’s cleaners, workers or guests), and when.