The acceleration of contactless tech adoption in vacation rentals

This article was originally published as Jessica’s The Trade column for VRMA’s Arrival (March 2021)

We’ve all been living through challenging times over the last 12 months. Covid-19 has been described as a ‘once in a lifetime’ event and it has certainly impacted so much of our lives. It’s not all been negative though. A lot of positive change has happened and will happen as a result of the pandemic.

One outcome has been the adoption of technology across all areas of life in order for us to stay connected and functioning. From grandmas finding new ways to shop online, to children learning remotely via online classrooms, to virtual yoga classes, the acceleration of cashless interactions to Zoom family gatherings. Out of necessity, we as consumers, businesses and members of society have been rocketed towards a digital ‘new age’.

According to recent data published by McKinsey, we vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks during 2020. That’s a considerable leap and a statistic with which I think we would all identify.

From a short-term rental industry perspective, we’ve also ‘vaulted’ in our acceptance and take-up of technology. Prior to March 2020, contactless technology, smart locks, virtual concierge services, host-free check-ins, property automation and IoT were all still somewhat on the edge of mainstream property management. High tech, high touch stays that were not only rooted in technology but also in putting guest comfort at the heart of the transaction, were mostly just the domain of the ‘new kids on the block’.

The newer management companies that have sprung up in the last five years – the ones with high ambitions for creating fast growth brands in this space – have used property automation, smart locks and operational tech as a foundation on which to build their businesses from the very beginning.

Prior to Covid-19, there was definitely some resistance from property managers (never from guests) around using contactless technology within a property. As a PR agency, part of our job is to educate audiences on why a new product, service, concept has the potential to create positive change. Change can be difficult and uncomfortable. But once a psychological switch has occurred and that initial understanding has crystalized, then it becomes easier and easier to create a lasting shift.

With regards to educating the industry about contactless tech, Covid-19 has, to a large extent, done this job for us. Contactless tech has gone from the ‘outlier’ to the norm in a matter of a few, short months.

You don’t have to be a Vacasa or Sonder to benefit from the SaaS products and hardware that are out there. Property managers that are just starting out with a growing portfolio can use the same products and services used by companies like Mint House, Jurny and Vacasa. That’s one of the beauties of technology – it’s a real leveler.

About Jessica Gillingham

Jessica is the CEO of Abode Worldwide – a specialist B2B technology public relations and communications agency partnering with clients operating in the international hotel and short-term rental industries.

Jessica writes and speaks regularly on topics related to public relations, the short-term rental and the travel industry and is the founder and publisher of PillowTalk Media.

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