Interview: Tips for hosts from 5 leading women in the vacation rental industry

Tips for hosts from 5 leading women in the vacation rental industry

Gender equality and inclusivity are topics we are (rightly) hearing a lot about in recent years. In an effort to ensure that women in the vacation rental industry receive the same attention as their male counterparts, we decided to interview five prominent female personalities whose work is shaping the future of the sector. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we want to share their expert advice with our hosts to help them achieve success in their short-term rental business.

Women in the vacation rental industry

Let’s be clear: all industries would benefit from having an inclusive workforce that understands the needs of all genders and minorities. Specifically, the short-term rental industry and the hospitality sector affect everyone. No matter the gender one identifies with, their sexual orientation, or country of origin: it’s good for everyone to take a vacation at some point.

Both guests and vacation rental owners are often women. This makes the need to listen to the voices of female experts in the field self-evident. Not only can female hosts gain inspiration from this, but those who identify as men will gain an additional and perhaps different point of view from their own. Thus, let’s take a look at these five insightful interviews we collected for our hosts.

Tips for hosts from our vacation rental experts

The five women in the vacation rental industry featured in this article cover leadership roles in different companies. Here is a brief introduction:

  • Marianne van Ooteghem, Head of Sales and Service at Smoobu, the Short-Term & Vacation Rental Software that enables hosts all over the world to manage their property easily.
  • Inga Flicker, Director Small Partner Solution at HomeToGo, the SaaS-enabled marketplace with the world’s largest selection of vacation rentals.
  • Noelia Novella, founder and CEO of Doinn, an all-in-one housekeeping operations and services platform that helps property managers respond effectively to all operational needs related to local accommodation.
  • Alice Marmorini, CMO of Smartpricing, Hospitality Revenue management software that thanks to its advanced algorithm, proposes hosts the best dynamic pricing strategy for their business.
  • Elisabeth Hörtnagl, Connectivity Partner Business Manager at Booking.com, one of the world’s leading digital travel companies.

Marianne van Ooteghem

Tell us about your role in the travel industry

As a Head of Sales and Service at Smoobu, I lead a team of 18 professionals. Together, we offer comprehensive solutions to vacation rental hosts seeking to centralize and optimize their property management operations. My role is to educate, nurture, and empower hosts, equipping them with the tools and knowledge they need to thrive in this dynamic and ever-evolving industry.

In what ways can the tourism sector benefit from an inclusive workforce?

Ensuring a gender-inclusive workforce at all levels is the key to accurately understanding and representing the diverse needs of our audience. It is crucial to note that this inclusivity should extend to managerial positions, where imbalances often persist. I firmly believe that the tourism sector, like any other, stands to gain significantly from embracing a wider range of perspectives.

Moreover, it’s increasingly evident that promoting equal opportunities, narrowing the gender gap, and facilitating career advancement not only fosters individual growth, but also produces profound benefits for families, communities, and economies on a broader scale. By committing to gender inclusion, we not only enhance our business practices but also contribute to positive societal change.

What main trends have you seen developing in the short-term rental business?

An enduring trend post-pandemic is the demand for increased flexibility in booking options, which has become a crucial factor for guests when choosing accommodation. Additionally, more emphasis on cleanliness standards has become a requirement across all types of accommodation types. Furthermore, I noticed a compression in the booking window: people book closer to their stay date. Lastly, with many companies continuing to offer hybrid work arrangements, ensuring properties are conducive to digital nomads and remote work professionals has become essential, prompting most vacation rentals to adapt accordingly.

Based on your expertise, what’s the one thing vacation rental hosts should focus on in 2024?

This year, short-term rental hosts should prioritize integrating revenue management with guest experiences to develop a comprehensive strategy. By emphasizing sought-after amenities and aligning them with data-driven pricing recommendations, hosts can unlock the potential for a successful 2024.

Inga Flicker

Tell us about your role in the travel industry

As Director Small Partner Solution at HomeToGo, I take care of all of HomeToGo’s activities focused on private hosts and small property managers and agencies. In my role, I work with our various businesses and service & solution teams to provide the most holistic portfolio in the industry for small partners. Together with our functional and business leads, I set the vision, strategy, and roadmap for our initiatives. Moreover, I support the teams in delivering their objectives individually as well as working towards further integrating the solutions and services we provide to hosts and guests.

In what ways can the tourism sector benefit from an inclusive workforce?

As in most, if not all, consumer industries, the ultimate decision-makers oftentimes are women. On the traveler’s side, wives, mothers, and fiancées choose where to go on holidays and what makes the family vacation special (ie, at HTG, we know 58% of our “users” are women). On the host side, we are at a 50:50 share of female to male hosts.

Whilst any company always has to make sure to develop its offerings according to its target consumer needs, service providers catering to “travelers” or “hosts” will be well advised to be especially careful to de-average and to make sure their (digital) products truly meet the needs of women and appeal to them. And what better way to ensure that you are deaveraging, taking diversity of your users’ needs into account in everything you do, than “simply” having a diverse workforce that drives the very development processes of the services you are providing?

What main trends have you seen developing in the short-term rental business?

A: On the supply ecosystem side, I would call out:

  1. The integration of adjacent services into core offerings across the industry leads to an increasingly difficult-to-navigate landscape of service & solutions providers
  2. AI applications are starting to move in to create level playing fields between private hosts (with limited resources) and professional players. This aspect increases the opportunity space for private hosts but also increases the “pressure to compete” they face.

On the demand side, I notice a blurring of the lines between travel occasions – the often time quoted “workation” and “bleisure travel” (a mix of business and leisure) – creating new and higher expectations of travelers towards properties that hosts must navigate efficiently and effectively.

In sum: a proliferation of opportunities for hosts – but also an increased need for them to stay on-top of ever more & quicker evolving new market developments.

Based on your expertise, what’s the one thing vacation rental hosts should focus on in 2024?

Demand is recovering, but stays somewhat unpredictable in light of ongoing crises in different parts of the world. Also, we are still in a phase where supply and demand are adjusting post-COVID. While we have already seen some oversupply leave the market, hosts remain challenged to ensure their property stands out from the crowd.

Thus, I would recommend every host to focus on investing in what makes her or his property stand out, while also ensuring to provide great traveler experiences during the stay. This way, they can fuel the flywheel of high traveler satisfaction leading to great reviews which – in terms – support the property to stand out.

Noelia Novella

Tell us about your role in the travel industry

I’m the founder and CEO of Doinn, the housekeeping platform for short-term rentals. Our software enables vacation rental hosts to organize and improve cooperation with your cleaning or maintenance teams, external providers, or customers.

In what ways can the tourism sector benefit from an inclusive workforce?

Embracing an inclusive workforce in the tourism sector, especially recognizing women as key decision-makers in travel planning, enhances customer understanding and satisfaction. Diverse teams offer varied perspectives, catering effectively to a broad customer base. This inclusivity fosters innovation, strengthens communities, and boosts talent retention.

Creating an inclusive workforce in the tourism sector is not just the right thing to do, but it is also a smart business decision, a strategic move that drives business success, making the tourism industry more adaptable, competitive, and resilient.

What main trends have you seen developing in the short-term rental business?

The distinction between direct bookings and third-party platforms continues to blur, with some platforms offering loyalty programs and direct booking platforms adopting more sophisticated technology. Let’s see how both are able to take the most of the AI, users are lazy so AI is poised to disrupt the way we plan our holidays.

Based on your expertise, what’s the one thing vacation rental hosts should focus on in 2024?

One pivotal area that hosts should concentrate on in 2024 is the digital transformation of their operational processes while ensuring the outsourcing of cleaning and laundry services to reputable companies that prioritize ethical treatment of their workforce and reward excellent performance. Sustainability is an environmental issue, but it is also a human issue.

Leveraging data from these digital operations provides insights into operational efficiency, enabling informed decisions to improve services and guest satisfaction. This approach not only elevates standards but also aligns with sustainable and responsible business practices.

Alice Marmorini

Tell us about your role in the travel industry

As CMO of Smartpricing, my role involves steering our marketing strategy. Our goal is to revolutionize the hotel and accommodation industry, providing owners and operators of small and medium-sized rental properties with the most user-friendly tools while equipping them with the most sophisticated technologies.

This involves careful analysis of the market to identify trends and opportunities and developing targeted campaigns to meaningfully engage hotels.

In what ways can the tourism sector benefit from an inclusive workforce?

It’s worth noting that the travel and tourism sector is one of the most diverse in the world. It employs individuals from all socio-economic backgrounds, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity, with nearly 50% being women and up to 30% youths. This diversity should be cultivated as much as possible because an inclusive workforce in tourism is a strategic lever for improving business performance.

A recent WTTC report found that companies in travel and tourism that stand out for diversity and inclusion gain a competitive edge, with employees who are 20% more productive and customers who are 20% more satisfied.

In general, diversity leads to more thoughtful decisions and products that better meet the diverse needs of a broad audience, requiring a deep understanding of cultural specificities. Moreover, an inclusive and respectful work environment boosts employee satisfaction and motivation, thus reducing turnover.

What main trends have you seen developing in the short-term rental business?

The first notable trend is the significant increase in competition post-pandemic. In 2023, Airbnb achieved a milestone with 7 million active listings and over 115 million nights and experiences booked, marking an 11% surge from the previous year.

This, along with regulations many countries are implementing to regulate the sector, calls for a more professional approach from short-term rental owners. Among the emerging trends, leisure travel certainly stands out. The flexibility of short-term rentals, offering home-like amenities and locations immersed in local culture, cater to the new traveler’s extended stay needs better than traditional hotels do.

Based on your expertise, what’s the one thing vacation rental hosts should focus on in 2024?

Without a doubt, the focus should be on data. In today’s scenario, relying solely on gut feelings and intuitions is not enough to ensure success.

The ability to collect, analyze, and interpret both internal and external property data will make the difference in 2024, both in terms of managing pricing strategies and enhancing customer experiences, by highlighting the amenities and experiences guests are searching for in the host’s area and creating flexible marketing strategies.

Elisabeth Hörtnagl

Tell us about your role in the travel industry

Hello everyone my name is Elisabeth and I am a connectivity partner business manager for the DACH region. I support the connectivity providers by enabling and finding new possibilities to automate and improve processes of channel manager/PMS systems for the properties.

In what ways can the tourism sector benefit from an inclusive workforce?

At Booking.com, we know that our differences are our strengths. And we are lucky enough to have 150 nationalities represented in our 140 global offices. But we don’t plan on stopping there because the more diversity you can bring in a company the more new ideas and great value will be added.

What main trends have you seen developing in the short-term rental business?

Travelers in 2024 are increasingly inclined to embrace spontaneity and adventure. We have a range of AI-powered tools, including our AI Trip Planner (available in the US). By integrating some of these tools into your listing, you can help travelers organize more flexible trips and incorporate the unexpected.

Over half of travelers want to book a surprise trip where everything down to the destination is unknown until arrival, so promote your property as a haven for spontaneous travelers.

Based on your expertise, what’s the one thing vacation rental hosts should focus on in 2024?

The one thing vacation rental hosts should offer is flexible cancellation policies to accommodate travelers’ changing plans. So offering different Rate plans with different policies is key and you will be soon able to assign those rates via your Smoobu interface. In addition, having different price strategies for different occupancies will be enabled via your Channel Manager as well and will give you the opportunity to grow your occupancy. These are huge improvements on the way to enable an easy and seamless experience for you as a property owner.

Showcase the uniqueness of your location by adding new photos that show people having fun at the property and its surroundings to encourage future guests to explore the unknown. By embracing this trend, you can create an environment that caters to the adventurous spirit of modern travelers.

Conclusion: inclusiveness enriches the short-term rental industry

Achieving gender balance should be everyone’s goal. Not only because it is morally right, but also because it yields clear benefits and improves a company’s chances of growth.

For your vacation rental success, make sure you consider the needs of all your guests. Post-pandemic competitiveness has put hosts in the position of bending over backwards to create a unique travel experience tailored to their guests. To achieve this, listen to the voices of industry experts who are women or part of minorities, as well as men. Welcome their suggestions and points of view. Build your strategies together, whether they be marketing, organizing day-to-day operations or dynamic pricing. Your vacation rental business will thank you.

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