Discover the 10 best short-term rental automation tools to help you save time and run your vacation rentals more efficiently and profitably.
Automation: the heart of your property management
- It’s the last week of the high season.
- You raced around for weeks to make sure every guest enjoyed their stay.
- You made sure that you’d recorded all last minute bookings and hadn’t missed any payments.
- You coordinated your cleaning and maintenance team.
- You sent each customer the arrival information.
- You greeted newly arrived guests and filled them in on local landmarks…
The list is long, and the time needed to do everything can seem endless!
The good news? All these tasks can be automated for you. Here are the top 10 vacation rental automation tools you should consider to save a lot of that most valuable asset, time, and help you with the day-to-day operations of your short-term rental business.
1. Synchronization of booking calendars
The most crucial aspect of your business is managing your bookings — and that includes making sure you avoid costly overbookings. A Channel Manager helps you achieve this by instantly updating your availability on all the online travel agencies (OTAs) you use, simultaneously.
At a minimum, your availabilities must be synchronized via a channel manager and your reservations centralized in a single calendar if you want to eliminate those pesky overbookings. However, there are hundreds of channel managers in the market, so you’ll need some tips to choose the best one according to your needs.
Once you’ve chosen your channel manager, automating the synchronization of your booking calendars takes the hassle out of what used to be a stressful and time-consuming task.
In addition to your booking calendar, you should be able to automate updating all your photos, descriptions, rates and offers across all OTAs, simply by making changes in one interface.
There is nothing worse for a customer than seeing different pictures or descriptions on different websites and not being sure what you really offer. Consistency is key, yet you don’t want to spend hours updating the same content on each OTA separately, one by one.
Updating everything automatically saves time while ensuring you display a consistent offer across your channels, which makes your accommodation more recognizable to your audience over time.
3. Guest communication
To ensure that your guests receive all the information they need during their stay, you need to communicate with them frequently.
Setting up automatic guest messaging is essential throughout the entire customer life cycle: from the booking stage to during their stay and once they’ve returned home. Because regular communication is increasingly expected by customers, getting it right helps you deliver a great guest experience and earn excellent reviews.
Automatic communications to put in place include:
- A clear and professional booking confirmation containing all relevant information (dates, room, terms and conditions, rate booked, amount paid, etc.).
- Prior to arrival, an email containing all the information needed to access your property and links to any pre-booked services you may offer. You can also ask your customers to complete an online check-in form to easily collect all their contact details and speed up their check-in.
- After check-in, an email with useful information about your property and local attractions.
- Before departure, an email to make sure they don’t forget anything.
- After departure, an email to encourage them to share their experience online.
You can also automate emails to cover all possible booking scenarios, including cancellation emails, payment emails and stay confirmations, as well as set up email marketing campaigns.
Email automation features are typically found in property management systems (PMS) or guest management software (CRM).
Running promos is a key part of your pricing strategy, as well as your customer loyalty program. Automating your vacation rental promotions helps you drive early bookings and encourage repeat guests more efficiently.
Promotions do not only consist of granting last-minute discounts (which we do not recommend, by the way). They also concern the following elements:
- Generating direct bookings with promotions that only apply to rates available on your own website
- Encouraging longer stays by offering lower nightly rates based on length of stay
- Boosting customer loyalty with promo codes
- Generating cash flow with offers for early bookings
With effective promotion pricing software, you can run a range of promo types automatically while retaining full control and flexibility. Choose which rate plans you discount, what channels show your promotion, and auto-expire dates for your promos.
When it comes to managing your payments, you better make sure that (1) you’re the one handling the money, (2) you don’t forget any payments, and (3) you avoid making mistakes.
Automating payment collection helps your short-term vacation rental achieve all three of these goals. It especially simplifies things if you manage a large number of rooms or multiple properties.
With the right short-term rental automation software, you gain the ability to automate a wide range of vacation rental payments:
- Validity checks
- Full prepayments
- Security deposits
- Balance collection
- Cancellation fee collection
The other critical element of your payment collection processes is their security. Connecting a payment tool to your PMS allows you to safely reduce manual handling. Make sure to always opt for a payment software provider that is secure, PCI certified, and compliant with PSD2 and all other local banking regulations. Having a 3D secure payment process on your booking site is additional proof for your customers that you are a professionally managed company and that they can book directly on your website with total peace of mind.
6. Cleaning management automation
We all know that in this business, communication is essential. You have to make sure that all the members of your cleaning team, and your subcontractors, are on the same wavelength. This means you need to use the right channels to communicate with them.
Provide your cleaning teams and subcontractors with the access to your centralized booking schedule (PMS) they need. Good PMS software allows you to add team members with different permission levels, enabling you to share the right information while protecting sensitive data.
Arrival, departure, cleaning and maintenance reports should be sent automatically and regularly to the relevant teams or team members. This saves you a ton of time organizing who does what and when. It’s best to schedule these reports early in the morning so the team knows exactly what to expect for the day and can plan accordingly.
Your cleaning teams should be able to confirm that a unit is cleaned and ready for your guests’ arrival through a centralized cleaning dashboard, rather than having to call, email or text you. This saves you from making manual updates or having to mentally check off the checklist you keep in your head every day!
And because you’re never completely safe from a leaky air conditioner, broken internet box, or burnt out light bulb, you and your team should be able to report those issues in your PMS, too. This allows you to assign maintenance and repair work and alert the relevant team member or contractor in seconds.
7. Contactless arrival and departure
Automating the guest check-in and check-out process as well as access to your property saves you a considerable amount of time, especially if you don’t live locally. It also brings much-needed flexibility to your guests’ experience by extending the window of time in which they can arrive at your vacation rental.
Set up an automatic contactless check-in form that your customers complete before they arrive at your property. In this way, you’re able to collect all customer details in your database, including any information required by law, customer arrival times, transfer requests and any other information that simplifies their arrival.
There are multiple hardware options available to help you facilitate contactless check-in and check-out. Lock boxes are a good option, but they are generally not automated and can pose security issues unless the code is changed regularly. Smart locks (The Keys, Nuki , etc.) automatically generate unique access codes for each reservation when connected to your calendar (PMS). If your PMS allows it, include building and gate codes in an automated pre-arrival email with a link to download your welcome booklet.
If all these functionalities are not native to your PMS, you have the option to connect it to a third-party software provider that allows the automation of contactless arrivals and departures in your vacation rental (GuestTalk, Chekin, Duve, etc.).
8. Invoicing and accounting
If you’re a hosting professional, you probably have to report your annual revenue and expenses.
The connection between your PMS and your accounting software can save you hours of copying and pasting accounting entries as well as your invoices. If your PMS is not connected with the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software you are using, check whether it generates a revenue and invoice report that you can customize to your needs and export in your preferred format.
Another important component of your business may be landlord billing. If you manage a property on behalf of an owner, you need to charge for the services you provide. Some PMS systems offer tools to automatically charge management fees, cleaning fees, or any other type of fee you want to deduct from booking revenue, before sending it to the owner.
Finally, you need to be able to automatically charge recurring items such as city tax or optional breakfast on your customers’ reservations to generate a clear invoice.
9. Revenue management and smart pricing
Originally developed in the airline industry, revenue management is now widely used in hospitality. From international hotel chains to independent accommodation providers, optimizing room revenue through dynamic pricing has become common practice.
So, how does automated pricing work? Software like PriceLabs or RoomPriceGenie offer automated analysis of the local market, events and competitors, then suggest an optimal rate for getting the most revenue from your accommodation while optimizing your chances of getting bookings.
These types of software use algorithms to analyze local market events, trends, demand and competitors, which, along with your own set of rules, is used to suggest the best rate for each date. When connected to your PMS, Channel Manager, or both, your rates are then automatically updated across all your distribution channels, saving you stacks of time.
While these tools are very useful, especially when operating multiple properties in different markets, it’s also essential to use your own knowledge of the local market to make the best decisions about your pricing. Learn more by downloading our pricing strategy white paper.
10. Customer relations
The customer relationship is not intended to be fully automated. After all, the reason you hopefully automated the points above is so you can spend more time with your guests.
However, you may not want to be available 24/7 to respond to customer requests and questions when you have a full-time job, other occupations and a desire to sleep at night!
Thus, automating access to all relevant information on what’s available in your accommodation, as well as in the surrounding area, is beneficial for:
- Customer satisfaction – guests will get quick answers to their questions.
- The generation of extra income – you communicate, at the right time, the additional products and services that guests can book during their stay.
Automating the relationship with your vacation rental guests starts with all the automated emails you send them, as discussed in section 3 (Guest communication). Additionally, you have the option to create an app for guests with tools like Duve, which lists all your services and those of your partners.
To achieve 24/7 responsiveness for guests, why not leverage the power of artificial intelligence (AI)? For example, eviivo Concierge™ saves endless interruptions – and countless hours – by providing AI-powered responses to common guest enquiries on your website at any time.
And if you prefer to respond to each request manually, you’ll want to unify your inboxes so that you can view and respond to messages from different channels in one place.
Finally, consider automating the sending of a satisfaction questionnaire while your guest is staying at your vacation rental. This is often a valuable tool in identifying dissatisfied customers and gives you the opportunity to rectify any issues or questions before they leave. If all goes well and guests are fully satisfied with their stay, why not encourage them to share their experience online?
10 Automation Tools for Your Short-Term Vacation Rental Business
- Automating key tasks across your short-term rental business allows you to operate more efficiently and frees up time to focus on delivering exceptional guest experiences.
- Use a channel manager to automatically sync your booking calendars and keep your photos, descriptions, rates and offers up-to-date across all OTAs. This helps you eliminate overbookings and present your accommodation consistently across channels.
- Automating payment collection helps you simplify and secure a critical daily process for your vacation rental. Payment management software allows you to automate a wide range of payment types.
- Automating elements of the guest check-in and check-out process helps facilitate contactless arrivals and departures at your vacation rental.
- Connect your PMS and your accounting software to save hours on your revenue and expense reports. Automate owner & guest charges to generate clear invoices and ensure you accurately charge for the services you provide.
- Automation simplifies your revenue management. Automate your vacation rental promotions to drive early and repeat bookings, and consider using pricing automation software to keep your room rates optimized.
- Give your guests access to the info they need more easily by automating elements of your communications and customer relations, including emails and guest chat services.
- To keep your operations as streamlined as possible, consider investing in an all-in-one booking and property management platform that allows you to access a range of automation tools from one place.
- Discover the full automation capabilities of eviivo Suite by booking a free demo below.