As the spring conference season for the short-term rental industry gets under way, it’s interesting to reflect on what the key themes and nuances are likely to be for 2020. Every year the threads of discussions, panels, talks and the network chatter converge to give a picture of where the industry is heading, what it’s currently struggling with and where the next opportunities lie. In PillowTalk Media’s opinion, the big topics for this year will undeniably revolve around responsibility.  

This isn’t just about the inevitable need to further professionalise the industry in what service and product solutions property managers are offering to owners and guests. It is also about the need to be a cohesive and measured collective body in the conversations about the impact of short-term rentals on the rest of our communities. It’s about ensuring that standards and safety for guests are non negotiable, not just a minimum requirement. It’s about ensuring that the industry is continually looking to improve, which is really the underlying theme of all conferences. But this year, responsibility for the environment and carbon footprint is also finally becoming a core focus. 

To hear more about these themes, and other issues, we sat down with Diane Lloyd and Jim Curry, founders of London’s Short Stay Show, to discuss an industry deepening its sense of responsibility.

As founders of the Short Stay Show, you are able to reach many different sectors of the industry and speak to a wide range of key players. With this overview, what would you say are the big themes to watch out for as we enter conference season?

Our sessions are focused on improving the experience for guests and travellers at all their touch points within the short stay industry. That naturally leans towards discussions around professionalism, raising standards and improving on the opportunities to deliver an amazing guest experience. 

We are also focused on the duty of care by short stay businesses, primarily for guests but also the wider stakeholders that are impacted by the growth of the industry whether those are local communities or tourism-related operators. 

Finally, the ever-present and all-encompassing technology convergence, and by that we mean technology which makes the lives of short stay specialists easier and has real-world impact on much needed solutions – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

In your view, what are the biggest challenges and/or threats to the short-term rental industry?

The biggest threat is probably the industry itself. 

Last year the industry grabbed massive headlines about investment and growth which was exciting, but it needs to be tempered with a growth that is sustainable and overseen by an industry which can be held accountable. 

That means tackling the issues that are being raised by policymakers in many different and diverse regions. It also means tackling issues of guest and property verification, procedural responses to in-property situations and delivering consistent standards across hundreds of thousands of properties. 

Conversely, where do the main opportunities lie in this space for both property managers and the industry as a whole? Which areas are ripe for expansion or disruption or investment?

Corporate and business travel is always top of the list. As it stands, it is a $1.4 trillion industry so it would be unwise to ignore this as an area for opportunity. Social media and smartphone bookings are also increasing, so it’s important for property managers to consider this when looking at booking channels, website UX and their comms strategy. 

Finally, an opportunity that goes well beyond business is environmental sustainability. At the show, Operto, one of our exhibitors, will be hosting a session to talk about the role of technology in lightening the carbon footprint of the industry. It’s a real wake-up call about what we need to do in the industry as a whole. 

Technology is playing an increasingly important role as an enabler for growth in the ecosystem – what emerging tech is on your radar and why do you think it will be successful? 

It has to be AI and the automation of simple tasks and functions. 

With that in mind, guest verification, complaint handling, check-in handling, in-property guest experience and rental fraud are all pretty high on the list. At the show we will be looking at how technology can help to solve these problems for accommodation business owners and managers. 

Convergence is a buzzword at the moment and everyone is talking about the blurring of sectors – for example short-term rentals and hotels. What’s your take on convergence? What are the advantages and disadvantages?

Convergence is huge now and we see that reflected in our audience profile. The core will always be short stay businesses but last year we had delegates from all the main hotel brands who are also looking at this space. 

The growth of short stay will be driven internally by the innovative companies and the hotels looking to be part of an exciting, fast-paced industry. Disadvantages are likely to come when people take strategic positions between the two entities which are to the detriment of the guests and travellers.

As the short-term rental industry matures, do you see a shift in the type of content being discussed at conferences and how does this impact on the wider issues being debated in the media or on social media?

Content at conferences is always hard to develop and to get right. To some degree you need the evergreen content which is repeated at every event because you always have a percentage of the audience that is new to the industry and is on a learning pathway. On the other side, you have an established industry audience who go from event to event and from city to city – they need new topics, personalities and discussions to keep them feeling motivated and refreshed. 

On top of that, you have a different approach if an industry is in a growth or maturity cycle. We balance that out at the Short Stay Show by having a Premium Access Stage which talks about industry-wide matters for the established players and then smaller Marketplace Stages which are loaded with info and takeaways for the short stay businesses looking to start, grow and scale up.

And finally….. describe your perfect holiday destination and what type of accommodation would you choose to book and why?

High up a snowy mountain with a snowboard, plenty of powder and a clear run down to dinner. We’d need a short stay rental that has plenty of room as we take a lot of gear on a boarding holiday.   

About the Short Stay Show:

Established in 2019, the Short Stay Show is the leading event for the short stay hospitality and accommodation industry in the UK. It is the only event in the UK dedicated to highlighting the opportunities that are arising from the high-growth short stay industry and its disruption to the wider travel and hospitality market. The 2020 Short Stay Show is on 12 March and is exclusively presented with Booking.com as well as being supported by industry leaders Expedia and HomeAway, Cottage.com, Sykes Cottages, Guesty and Rentals United.

For information on how to get involved with the show, please click here.

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