Lodgify Lowdown

Lodgify Lowdown (Oct ’23): Say Goodbye to Fake Reviews

The longest month of the year has also proven one of the busiest. That’s right; we have plenty to share with you in this edition of the Lodgify Lowdown, with updates from Airbnb and Google, a look at how AI is making its mark in real estate, and a recap of industry events.

(And we promise, no fake news here — just a discussion of the new coalition to prevent fake reviews.)

Let’s dive in!

The Coalition for Trusted Reviews

Industry leaders spanning various sectors — including Expedia Group, Booking.com, Tripadvisor, Trustpilot, Glassdoor, and Amazon — have launched a “Coalition for Trusted Reviews.”

The coalition’s aim is to protect consumers from fake reviews and enable informed purchasing decisions. To make this happen, they plan to work directly with policymakers, experts, and industry stakeholders to:

  • Define industry standards concerning what constitutes a fake review.
  • Establish best practices around hosting reviews and detecting fake reviews.
  • Inform the public about the importance of trustworthy reviews and how fake reviews are created.

5 yellow stars representing a 5-star review

What this means for hosts

Reviews obviously play a pivotal role in many sectors, but they’re especially important to hosts’ success in the short-term rental industry. In fact, reviews have been shown to be the third most important factor for guests deciding which vacation rental to book (after location and price).

So we’re especially glad to see companies coming together to take on this pervasive issue. But let it also serve as a reminder — not only to ensure your reviews are authentic but also to take stock of your guest experience. Are you doing enough to encourage positive reviews?

Airbnb announces record Q3 profits and new features

Airbnb’s most recent shareholder letter announced its most profitable third quarter ever, with over $3 billion in revenue. This new record was driven by 113 million bookings, representing 14% year-over-year growth.

The letter also gave us an idea of what to expect from the company’s 2023 Winter Release on November 8 — specifically, “three major upgrades to help guests understand exactly what to expect before they book.”

One of these upgrades will involve adding filters for pet-friendly stays and king beds (the company’s two most popular requests). Another involves improvements to their search features, including a redesigned filter button and the ability to find stays for similar dates.

Mobile phone depicting Airbnb's new search features
Source: Airbnb Shareholder Letter

Of course, we’ll be checking back in on November 8 for the rest of the updates and more specifics.

Google introduces price comparisons for vacation rental searches

Google is making “finding the perfect vacation rental” easier with its new price comparisons. Thanks to this new feature, travelers browsing for vacation rentals on Google will be able to see multiple sites on which a property they’re considering is listed and make more informed booking decisions.

Google's new price comparisons feature for short-term rentals
Source: Google Announcement

The most obvious benefit of price comparisons comes in the form of potential cost savings for travelers. However, Google claims it’s also looking to drive more traffic to participating travel sites, granting them a free organic link and charging no advertising fee or commission.

Google plans to launch the feature in most parts of the world by November.

What this means for hosts

Hosts don’t need to take any specific action for their properties to start showing up in Google’s travel search results. However, they should keep a few things in mind to make the most of the new feature.

For example, when comparing prices across multiple listing sites, travelers are likely to book with the cheapest option. So, if you want potential guests to book directly through your website rather than through an online travel agency (OTA) such as Booking.com, make sure you have competitive prices on your site.

It’s also important to remember that neither Airbnb nor Vrbo will appear in Google results for travel searches, as they don’t make their inventory available to Google. So, this may be a good time to consider listing your property on additional OTAs and creating your own website, if you haven’t already.

AI continues to make its mark

AI has left no industry unturned in its quest for innovation, and the short-term rental industry is no exception.

AI’s latest work in the vacation rental industry comes in the form of reAlpha Tech Corp., which debuted on Nasdaq in late October.

An AI-based real estate firm, reAlpha uses its proprietary technology to identify and acquire properties that would make successful short-term rentals. But rather than rent these properties for its own gain, reAlpha plans to democratize access, allowing fractional ownership in rental properties with investments as low as $500.

(Read: With reAlpha, you don’t have to have deep pockets to take advantage of gains from vacation rentals.)

In other AI news, Lodgify has launched AI Assistant, a new GPT-powered messaging tool that simplifies guest communications. AI Assistant is integrated directly into the host’s unified inbox and can automatically generate responses to guests’ messages. Hosts still have full control to review, edit, and send messages, but they save significant time by not having to write them in the first place.

AI Assistent Inbox

A month for events

The vacation rental industry is stronger than ever. A prime example of this is the sheer number of events that took place in October alone:

  • The Glamping Show Americas in Aurora, Colorado | October 2-4
  • Short Term Rentalz Summit in London | October 18
  • Book Direct Show in Miami | October 18-19
  • VRMA International Conference in Orlando | October 22-25
  • Vacation Rental World Summit in Barcelona | November 3-4
  • ExpoRV in Cancun | November 8-11

And yes, we at Lodgify had the pleasure of taking part in multiple of these events.

For starters, our very own Head of Marketing, Carla Chicharro, took part in a debate at the Short Term Rentalz Summit on the topic of whether direct bookings are more expensive than booking with OTAs. (Hint: They’re not!) Carla will also be presenting on SEO for vacation rentals at ExpoRV in Cancun next week.

Lodgify ShortTermRentalz Summit Carla Chicharro
Source: Srividya K

Lodgify also had a booth at the VRMA International Conference in Orlando and sponsored a party at Planet Hollywood. That’s right — we create effective vacation rental software and throw a solid party.

As for today and this weekend, you’ll find us manning a booth at the Vacation Rental World Summit in Barcelona.

If you weren’t able to make it to any of these events, don’t worry — we’ll be sharing any and all insights that come out of them.

Until next time!

October boded well for the industry, with new initiatives to promote trusted reviews, record Airbnb profits, innovative real estate AI, and the potential for more traffic to direct booking sites with Google’s price comparisons.

Soon, we’ll be back to you with insights from this month’s events and a closer look at Airbnb’s Winter Release. In the meantime, take these updates as a welcome reminder to assess your reviews and ensure your website is in tip-top shape. After all, the holidays — and a potential boost in bookings — are right around the corner.

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