Owners of vacation rental properties are turning to automated booking systems for property management. Your vacation rental may be your own personal house, a hotel, or a bed and breakfast. The fact that a private owner can automate rental management has encouraged increasing numbers of them to go into the hospitality industry.
Similar software manages hundreds of units and guests for larger facilities. The best management software has many features that enable you to make property fully available for booking by travelers from all over the world. They will be able to view a calendar of your units’ availability, make a reservation, and stay apprised of special offers and sales. Your rental management system will collect data about your guests, and send automatic responses and emails. Perhaps the best result is that most of your administrative tasks are handled without delay or mistake. That leaves you free to supervise maintenance and plan renovations.
Most Common Features of Vacation Rental Management Programs
You’ll find a number of features in the top-rated options. Among them are:
- An easily accessible calendar
- A comprehensive and agile channel manager
- A reservation system that displays special offers and all fees
- A booking system that is instinctive for guests to navigate
- Vacation rental software that encompasses all of the elements you need and interfaces with your marketing website
- Access to website builder software that can be updated easily and regularly
- Capabilities to receive vacation rent payment
The Availability Calendar
Perhaps the most visible and fluid of your rental management system is the availability calendar. You need to be able to access the calendar to make manual changes securely and accurately. One of the first things your guests will look for is your availability calendar. It is a valuable visual aide for vacation guests and rental staff alike.
With the availability calendar, your guests can scroll through your site and view suites or rooms that are available on specific dates of interest to them. The great thing about this type of system is that it updates your calendars across all platforms. Your website and social media pages, as well as all online travel agents, or OTAs, will receive simultaneous updates every time a booking is made.
In addition, a vacation rental calendar will display any additional fees and taxes, if you want it to. You can also have it provide details on local attractions, which excites the viewer’s imagination concerning your destination.
Managing a property is easier with a vacation availability calendar. You will have a more comprehensive view of when specific units will be open for renovation or improvement. You will need to schedule and communicate guests and maintenance, as well as provide descriptions and accessibility for the properties.
These tasks are most successfully accomplished with a quality online calendar which interfaces with your booking system, website and channel managers.
Use a Good Channel Manager
A channel manager will give you the competitive edge with OTAs. Online travel agents handle fully one third of all travel plans. Another 21% consult with an OTA before they ever book their trip. Travelers often have questions about destinations, and the OTA plays a viable role in the decision making process.
Besides the big names, like Expedia and Booking.com, there are many smaller, regional OTAs that will give your vacation rental personal attention. However, to keep up with the many different platforms, you need a channel manager for your property management.
A good channel manager can easily be upsized as you add OTAs. There is usually no need to pay for more channel management systems than you actually use.
Your channel manager will automatically update your website and other OTAs every time a guest books your property. While your website maintains its own booking and reservation system, you need further management to keep everyone else updated, as well.
Your property management is much more accurate with a channel manager. Guests are happier because there are no overlooked bookings that can cause booking problems. Your vacation rental will be available for more visitors to view. External listings and reservations are immediately updated, increasing the rate of capacity bookings.
In addition, a channel manager will interact with your reservation system to keep your units booked consistently. This reduces loss and increases profit margins for your homes.
Vacation Rental Management and a Reservation System
Key to successful vacation rental management is your reservation system. The best reservation system makes it much easier for an owner to communicate with their bookers, giving them the security and satisfaction of immediate confirmation and receipts.
Besides providing the owner with templates for emails and other marketing or communication features, the reservation system makes it easier for travelers to plan their vacation. They can view your online calendar through the reservation system, and make reservations accordingly.
This software also provides an SSL-protected payment options for security, which is crucial to profitable business regardless of the industry. There are some very good free online reservation systems available, and others, with more advanced features, can be subscribed to for very affordable rates.
Your reservation system will offer autoresponders. While you may not want to totally automate your bookkeeping, you will find that a guest will prefer an immediate response when they make a payment or reservation. You can have this as part of your software package.
Having an automated reservation system does not exclude you and your staff from personal involvement. You can still access your software to add or cancel bookings. You can also adjust fees and charges, should the need arise. This type of system simply makes property management much more efficient and timely, reducing the margin of error.
Computer Booking System
Your booking system is another feature that makes your rental website more user-friendly and efficient. This is another way to get your vacation rental calendar out there, making it available to a potential guest. They can see what properties are available and do their booking on the spot, accordingly. This will automatically update to your social media sites, as well.
There are a couple of major benefits from using interactive booking system software. First of all, the margin of error is significantly reduced. Since rooms or suites are automatically updated across all pages of your website, you are less likely to experience double booking for a particular property.
Another major benefit is that a guest can book on the spot. They don’t have to contact a staff member, only to find that the room they wanted has already been reserved. The actual availability of your properties is evident and constantly updated, so that travelers receive accurate data in real time.
Your management team will thank you for a good booking system, as guests know that it is impossible to argue with a computer. If a room is not available, they look for another room, rather than pressuring your team members. They can clearly see what dates and rooms are available, and are far more likely to be pragmatic in their decisions.
Vacation Rental Software
With that in mind, it is important for every vacation rental owner to have a dynamic, powerful online presence. With the right software, you can build a memorable brand presence in the hospitality industry.
The chain hotels no longer dominate lodging. In fact, people are opening up their homes in greater numbers, offering roomier and more comfortable lodging to travelers. And, travelers are flocking to this type of lodging in record numbers. In fact, some cities have found as much as a 71% increase in travelers because of the availability of homes from private owners.
Before the widespread availability of vacation rental software, travelers were limited to regional information for lodging or to chain hotels and their advertisements. Now, even the most remote areas may have vacation rentals available from private home owners, giving guests a chance to visit areas they otherwise would have skipped.
Your vacation rental software should be intuitive to use and provide for manual editing of rates, fees, taxes, deposits, and cancellations. With so many of the mundane, unchanging features of reservations and maintenance automated, you will find that you have more time to actually manage your business.
Choose Your Website Builder Software
Your website builder software can be a lifesaver. This is where you set up your public persona, introducing your rental to the world at large. The images you post, the text and graphics, and more are determined by the type of software you select.
Consequently, you need to find website hosting service that understands the hospitality industry. They will be able to make suggestions that you might overlook, such as the ability to manually manipulate fees within a single reservation.
Your website builder software can be as intuitive or as technical as you need. If you are already fairly experienced with HTML and CSS, you may be able to handle the coding yourself. Chances are, though, that you need an IT person for all of that. This is where the right software makes a big difference in your property management.
With the right software, the off-page work is done for you. All you have to do is update information using the templates provided. Do you need to block off a set of rooms for a period of time, while they are renovated? With your website builder software, you can do so from your smartphone, and it will update to the calendar and channel managers.
Take Advantage of Vacation Rent Payment Online
Perhaps one of the handiest features is online vacation rent payment. Owners find that they rent out their homes more quickly and regularly when they provide guests with an online payment option.
Travelers are reluctant to give out their credit card details over the telephone. They are, however, more confident with a payment page online that offers SSL certification. Few people use checks anymore, and even fewer choose to mail a check that might get lost or stolen.
Not only are your guests more protected, the payments you receive are more secure. When a guest pays online with a credit card, your money will be in the bank in just a couple of days. The old “snail mail” way leaves you without confirmed payment for a long as two weeks.
The convenience of online vacation rent payment is also a major factor in its popularity. The increase in the use of smartphones and other handheld mobile devices makes it imperative for owners to make sure their properties are visible and accessible on all kinds of screens and all kinds of operating systems. You will find that your rate of click-through bookings increases when you offer online payment options.