For anybody in the vacation rentals business, the emergence of integrated vacation rentals management software will more than likely seem like either a too-good-to-be-true new product with which to navigate the vast ocean of the online market place or a gimmick that is here today and will be gone tomorrow. So, which is it? It is really as effective as its fans would have us think? Here is an in-depth look at the technology, what it does and what it can – or can’t – do for your vacation rentals portfolio.
First of all, what is it? In short, advocates say, software of this sort is a two-part system for both maximizing your online presence and minimizing your offline paperwork. The idea is that the software comes with an easy-to-use (ah, if I had a coin for every time I have heard the phrase ‘easy to use’ applied to impossibly difficult products) website builder. This usually contains all of the sort of features you would expect a property owner to need – well-placed and attractive photographs, price lists, vacancy calendars, booking forms, contact information, payment options and so on. Customers, it is certainly true, are greatly encouraged by good quality websites and clearly secure payment options. But what of the other part?
In short, the other part (the offline element of the software) is designed for the property owner. Whereas when you only have a single property to rent, you might be able to rely on scraps of paper and notes on the back of beer tabs, a proper property rentals business necessitates good organization. This is the idea of vacation rentals management software – it does all the organizing so that you don’t have to. But this once again sounds a bit too good to be true – surely you are still going to have to sit down and do your paperwork somehow or other. So, what is the idea?
In short, rentals management software integrates your offline activity with your website automatically. You do have to fill in boxes, but they are all made bespoke for precisely the sort of business you are trying to run. This means that instead of having to build your own spreadsheets and/or lists, and then keep all of them up to date with your bookings, the software automatically updates your website, calendar and inventory when you enter details into, for example, your vacancy calendar. The same is true in reverse: customers wanting to find out about property availability, prices and so on will always see the latest information as soon as you change it ‘offline’. Cutting out the need for emailing to and fro also would, you’d expect, cut down on the amount of time you need to spend on your portfolio.
Again, though, this all seems a bit ‘too good’. However, there may actually be quite an encouraging reason for this. Because the market is such a specific one – customers for this sort of product are invariably going to want a piece of software that minimizes their work while maximizes their property’s visibility. Because the demands are so similar across the board (and from small-, medium- and large-scale property owners) the software can actually be very closely aligned to the needs of the individual customers while still being a ‘one size fits all’ product.
So there you have it – there may be something to be said for vacation rentals software after all. Having said that, there’s only one sure way to find out…