We love highlighting great hospitality companies that embrace technology. And this is what the webinar: “3 Pillars of Tech-Enabled 5-Star Hospitality: A Practical Conversation with Marbella Lane Vacation Rentals” was all about.
We had an engaging and interactive discussion featuring experts in short-term rental business and technology. During the webinar, our esteemed speakers shared their tips on how to scale a hospitality business with exceptional guest experience and digital technology.
Our conversation focused on practical and actionable advice, where we exchanged ideas and answered audience questions in a relaxed setting.
Marbella Lane’s webinar speakers
Willy Chang, Co-owner and Co-SEO of Marbella Lane Vacation Rentals
An industry thought leader with years of experience in vacation rental business in respect to data, revenue management, platform scalability, and acquisitions in the hospitality sector.
Francois Gouelo, Confounder and CEO, Enso Connect
As a co-creator of an AI-driven platform for hospitality professionals that has rapidly expanded to serve over 20,000 homes in 53+ countries, Francois Gouelo is a valuable speaker for insights on scaling and digitizing the guest experience. He is widely recognized as a tech leader in the short-term rental community for his innovation, entrepreneurship, and significant contributions to the industry.
Koryn Okey, VP of Client Experience, Breezeway
As the hospitality tech expert, Koryn Okey is dedicated to creating long-lasting relationships with her clients and driving awareness to the vacation rental industry. Prior to joining Breezeway, Koryn spent 7 years at FlipKey and TripAdvisor as part of the team that brought Guest Reviews to the industry. While Koryn calls Boston home, she can often be found attending vacation rental conferences around the world, visiting clients in-market, or lounging on the beaches of St. John.
Richie Khandelwal, Co-founder, PriceLabs
PriceLabs is the leading revenue management platform for owners and property managers that actively prices over 200K units in over 100 countries daily. Richie is looking after GTM and Operations in the company. Before PriceLabs, Richie was the VP of Business Operations and Finance at MindTickle, a consultant with Bain & Company, and an engineer with Royal Dutch Shell. Richie has an engineering degree from IIT Madras and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management.
Marbella Lane’s webinar recording:
All four experts shared their insights and best practices on how to leverage technology to enhance the guest experience and ultimately increase revenue and grow hospitality businesses. If you missed the live chat, watch the recording below:
We’ve learned about Marbella Lane’s comprehensive solution for a successful deployment of investor capital in hospitality and real estate. Willy Chang also explained how the company uses technology to optimize returns for short-term rental investors. We covered key technology solutions that aid the company’s data-driven approach to achieving high rates and its implementation.
About Marbella Lane Hospitality Business
Marbella Lane has developed a diverse portfolio of short-stay properties in just a few years. From glamping sites to vacation homes and other short-term rentals, each space is maintained to the highest standard. These properties are widespread in various locations, such as city centers, beaches, deserts. You can find Marbella Lane’s rentals in Hawaii, Colorado, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc.
What’s unique about this hospitality business is that despite the highly regulated environment requiring permits, they’ve achieved consistently high bookings. Some of Marbella Lane’s bookings are generating up to $200k to $300k in gross booking revenue. The company’s goal is to safeguard homeowners’ occupancy rates and revenue while delivering a high ROI.
About Enso Connect
Enso Connect is a dynamic guest experience platform for vacation rentals and boutique hotels that seamlessly plugs into your property management software and helps personalize and monetize interactions all along the customer journey.
From upsells, guidebooks, smart lock-connected contactless check-in, white-labeled guest verification, AI-driven multi-channel messaging, and more, Enso Connect navigates guests through an effortless digital journey.
With “If this then that” capabilities, Enso Connect is the Zapier of hospitality. We connect all the tools you already love and use, allowing you to better manage the operational complexity of a scaling hospitality business, while increasing profit per guest.
Breezeway is a company that prioritizes property care and enhances the guest services. Since its launch in 2016, Breezeway has been dedicated to improving operational efficiency for property managers. They have developed a comprehensive operational solution that provides better visibility and insight into the work being done in the field. In 2019, Breezeway introduced a messaging product that enables two-way guest communication via text throughout the guest lifecycle. Additionally, Breezeway’s safety product, overseen by Justin Ford, is designed to meet all the needs of property managers. Recently, Breezeway launched a guide product, which is expected to enhance their range of services. Overall, Breezeway’s focus is on ensuring that properties are well-maintained and set up for success when guests arrive.
PriceLabs is an all-in-one dynamic pricing and revenue management platform that automates rate adjustments based on supply, demand, and operational controls. The platform has three parts: dynamic pricing, market dashboards, and portfolio analytics.
Market dashboards provide detailed real time data of hyperlocal markets to uncover insights for optimizing pricing and acquisition strategies.
Portfolio analytics provides an overview of your portfolio’s performance, whether you have one property or one hundred. You can quickly assess your booking patterns, KPIs, revenue, and progress towards monthly or quarterly goals. This allows for better-informed decision-making and effective revenue management.
PriceLabs works with both individual hosts and property managers, providing tools based on the user’s portfolio. Their products have helped customers see an average increase of 10 to 40% in revenue. The platform currently serves 30,000 customers and 250,000 properties daily.
Tech ecosystem in a successful property management business
The success of a scaling hospitality management business heavily relies on technology. It does the heavy lifting for the team by automating and streamlining processes.
Enso Connect is a prime example of how technology positively influences the hospitality business’s success by enhancing the guest experience. It is providing a seamless mobile check-in process and outstanding guest management, ultimately leading to increased guest satisfaction and stronger loyalty.
When it comes to homeowners, using technology creates transparency by allowing them to view statements, portfolios, and real-time bookings. This is essential and requires hyper tailored high-tech solutions. Marbella Lane has designed in-house applications, providing homeowners with access to their luxury home portfolios.
Marbella Lane is focusing on delivering exceptional experiences to both homeowners and guests, while effectively managing properties.
The company’s strategy is connecting existing best-in-class apps with in-house solutions to fill the gaps in the tech ecosystem puzzle. Marbella Lane’s operations team, led by the CTO, is making sure that all the pieces are aligned.
How Enso Connect is unlocking scale for hospitality businesses
Enso Connect’s approach involves combining different tools together, like the Zapier of hospitality apps. Connecting property management systems, guest verification, cleaning and operations tools and more, all in one place to enhance guest experience. This, in turn, can lead to better reviews, more returning guests, more direct bookings and more properties under management.
The product is divided into three main segments: condition-based automations, a web-based guest super app aka Boarding Pass and upsells.
Smart automations, tailored to the needs of every unique vacation rental business, provide significant efficiency gains.
Boarding Pass is a branded Apple wallet-compatible web application that guides guests through each step of their stay. It’s one of the coolest guest apps on the market.
Upsells generate additional revenue by offering early check-ins, extended stays, and other custom services such as personal chef offerings and more. Enso Connect unlocks hospitality scalability by increasing staff productivity, driving more returning guests and direct bookings and adding new revenue streams.
Property management scaling challenges and responses in the current economic climate
What are the typical obstacles to scale in your industry and how do property managers operate or must respond to those changes in the industry, especially in the current economic conditions?
As companies scale, they progress through different stages, similar to a human’s development from childhood to adulthood. The tools that were once useful, such as open-source free tools, are no longer relevant, and enterprise-level applications become necessary.
Marbella Lane believes that using Enso Connect, PriceLabs, and Breezeway in their tech stack can help them reach $50-100 million in booking revenue.
There are several biggest challenges and growing pains that these tools help us overcome. Breezeway, for example, is a necessary application for on-ground operations.
How Breezeway Helps Scaling Marbella Lane’s Operations
Marbella Lane Vacation Rentals operates in multiple markets, which means managing a variety of homes that can be different in climate, needs, and features. Despite having luxury properties, each home may require unique attention and care. Thus, scaling operations and providing guidance to field staff becomes challenging.
Breezeway sets clear guidelines for cleaning and tailor the approach to each property’s specific requirements. This ensures that property managers can be confident in the work being executed, and the team performing the work has a clear understanding of what’s expected of them. Bridging the gap between what the property owner wants and what the cleaner thinks needs to be done is crucial to delivering a guest experience that meets expectations.
As a software partner, we aim to create configurable solutions that standardize operations while still accommodating different property owners and management companies. This approach, allows us to provide the best possible customer service and user experience to our clients and their guests.
What is required to scale today?
In order to achieve scaling, it’s crucial to increase revenue while maintaining fixed or lower costs. This requires a well-connected technology that can coordinate both online and offline operations seamlessly, while providing homeowners with a great management experience and guests with the best possible experience.
We recognize the need in new technology to drive costs down, increase team efficiency, eliminate human error to move the business towards scaling. We support property managers who are often overwhelmed with on-site day-to-day operations and lack the time to manage their businesses effectively.
With the PriceLabs API, we offer a solution that allows property managers to connect to our system while retaining their branded website. Our Property Management System, Guesty, works behind the scenes to manage online operations through synchronization. This way, property managers can scale their business while keeping their own website.
Breaking barriers to scaling hospitality businesses with PriceLabs
Every vacation rental unit is unique in terms of location, the type of guests it attracts, and the supply and demand dynamics. Pricing these properties on a day-to-day basis can be a time-consuming task. Time is a crucial asset for scaling professionals, and having more time means more opportunities to pursue growth. This is where PriceLabs comes in to help save time and improve revenue.
Scaling involves increasing the top line without incurring higher costs. Even if you have one vacation rental, effectively pricing it every day can help grow the top line. PriceLabs helps managers and owners achieve this by providing well-priced rooms every day. By doing so, they not only improve revenues for each unit but also save time at the portfolio level, making it easier to grow a 50-unit portfolio into a 60 or 100-unit portfolio.
With PriceLabs, Marbella Lane can price their vacation rentals without going into too much detail. With thousands of houses to manage, it would be too much work to spend time on individual pricing. PriceLabs provides a dashboard that offers a 360-degree view without dwelling on the details. However, if the details are needed, they are available. This allows Marbella Lane to save time and focus on growing their business. Additionally, PriceLabs provides pacing analysis that compares performance between the current year and the previous year, helping managers identify gaps and opportunities for improvement.
“How can technology assist hospitality professionals in scaling? By optimizing the use of your resources and allowing your team to focus on tasks that require human interaction while leveraging technology to handle redundant work.
It’s crucial to prioritize people-focused, one-on-one interactions, and utilizing technology to eliminate redundancy can support this effort. This allows people to focus on work that requires their skills, which technology cannot replace in many instances.”
– Koryn Okey, Breezeway
What are the pillars of tech-enabled hospitality?
Guest experience, operations, pricing, and obviously your property management system, Guesty.
The property management software serves as the central hub for all marketplaces, integrations, and connectivity. This is one of the core pillars of our operation.
Another crucial pillar is big data and machine learning, as it enables us to react, predict, and estimate accurately. It is even incorporating macroeconomic data into pricing strategies in the future. While we have been relying on mechanical pricing methods, intuition and a macro-sense can be integrated into algorithms. This allows to anticipate events like a recession and adjust prices accordingly.
Additionally, I anticipate that artificial intelligence will become the next big thing in the future, especially in messaging. Rather than having staff handle messaging, AI can take on this major role and help drive our business forward. This has been one of the largest hospitality technology trends in the recent years.
When you begin to outsource your teams, there can be issues with information not being properly shared. This can create tension among internal teams. Therefore, it is important to use new technologies to effectively organize and provide information for your team.
For example, indexing Notion, Google Drive, and other sources of information for employee onboarding, so they could ask ChatGPT questions. This would pull all the relevant information and provide an answer. This can greatly improve the efficiency of the employee onboarding process. There are many opportunities to utilize language models in similar ways.
While pricing heavily relies on machine learning, it also has a strong foundation in statistical basics. Like ChatGPT, pricing models can produce excellent or poor outcomes, and it’s crucial to understand why. We strive to make our pricing models explainable because black box modelling can be problematic.
We want to be able to adjust and tweak the models based on a clear understanding of why they’re producing certain results. In PriceLabs, we break down the model outputs to understand how they’re generated, not just what they are. This focus on machine learning and explainability ensures that we can provide transparent and accurate pricing recommendations.
To promote transparency, we also need to communicate with homeowners. PriceLabs has a technical dashboard and a simplified dashboard to cater to different levels of detail that homeowners require. We recognize that homeowners may not need to know all the technical details, so we have created an intuitive system.
Transparency is still important, especially when explaining why occupancy is low at a certain time. And how we are working to fill the calendar by prioritizing average pricing, capturing key dates, or increasing market share during recession. It is crucial to communicate these factors to homeowners rather than waiting until the last minute.
“ All four of us are in scaling companies. Willy, as a property management company and Koryn, Francois, I in software companies. But at the core of it are the resources at the end of the day that human brain power is limited of how much you can get. And so how you can most optimally use it is what is important. Do you want to use it in a lot of mundane tasks?”
– Richie Khandelwal, PriceLabs