Vacation Rental Technology: 7 Essential Tools for Your STR Tech Stack

Learn what tech and tools you need to maximize business performance, enhance the guest experience, keep your units safe from damage and grow your business.
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December 11, 2023
16
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Vacation Rental Technology: 7 Essential Tools for Your STR Tech Stack

To remain a competitive, growing vacation rental business, you need highly efficient processes that you can easily repeat as your portfolio expands. 

But how can you ensure the same quality of service and guest experience as you take on 5, 10, 20 new units or more?

In this article, we look at the vacation rental technology you need to sustainably manage and grow your business, so you can reduce your workload and stress, eliminate mistakes like missed cleans, protect your properties from parties and break-ins, and, through it all, give your guests an even better stay.

So, you’ll soon know: 

  • The top tools in the industry to implement and integrate
  • Why these tools are so important to successful vacation rental businesses
  • How to improve efficiency, occupancy, and revenue
  • How to gain visibility across your portfolio

The business value of implementing vacation rental technology

With a carefully integrated tech stack of property management software, you can improve your vacation rental business across four key areas:

  1. Guest experience
  2. Operational efficiency
  3. Risk mitigation
  4. Scalability

For example, with scheduled messaging and a digital guidebook, you can provide guests with insights into their stay that help them enjoy your property and the local area. Also, though, these are communications you can automate, which saves you time.

And with that time saved, you make your operations more scalable, so you can grow your business without adding to your manual tasks—which would otherwise limit your ability to manage more properties.

Equally, vacation rental technology reduces the chance of human error that could lead to a double booking, can detect security or noise issues and automate a response, and can allow you to list more widely and price your rates more competitively.

With the seven tools we discuss below, you can:

  • Automate processes to save time and reduce costs
  • Optimize your staffing needs
  • Minimize human error that poses a business risk
  • Have increased visibility over your portfolio
  • Protect your properties, prevent damage, and avoid neighbor complaints
  • Enhance the guest experience
  • Improve revenue, occupancy, and profitability
  • Access data for reporting and analysis

Top 7 vacation rental technology tools for a better guest and host experience

See this list of vacation rental technology essentials—so you can maximize business performance, grow your portfolio, protect your properties, and reduce your workload—and VRMA (vacation rental manager’s anxiety!).

1. Property management system

Your property management system (PMS) is your central hub for reservation management. When you start a short-term rental (STR) business with just a handful of properties, you probably don’t require a PMS. 

But, as your portfolio grows and you begin accepting bookings from different platforms, it’s increasingly important to coordinate your latest booking information and take advantage of the various features that PMSs offer. These include synchronizing your listings, coordinating task assignments, and centralizing guest messaging.

However, as you continue to scale your operations past 20 units, you’ll probably need more specialist tools to efficiently manage your team, guests, and business—the most important of which we discuss below.

Multiple PMSs with brand logos that integrate with Minut
Minut integrates with your PMS to use booking data so you can enhance the guest experience and automate manual tasks. Source

Here’s what to look for in a comprehensive PMS for STR management:

  • Integrations with major online travel agencies (OTAs) like Airbnb, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, and Vrbo so you can manage your booking pipeline and share key booking data with other vacation rental software in your tech stack (like Minut!)
  • Integrations with channel managers so you can diversify your channel distribution and stay fully coordinated without risking double bookings
  • Payment processing so you can easily handle deposits, refunds, and automated billing
  • Integrations with STR operations software. Many PMSs have their own task management and scheduling tools but you’ll probably need specialist software as you scale.
  • Reporting and analytics tools so you can easily review performance and share data on occupancy rates, revenue, and booking trends with current and prospective homeowner clients

Here are some of the top PMSs that integrate with Minut:

  • Avantio
  • Guesty
  • Lodgify
  • Hostfully
  • Streamline

For a comprehensive view of Minut’s integration partners, see our integrations page.

2. Channel manager

While most PMSs perform the role of a channel manager by synchronizing your booking calendar across multiple OTAs, you may need a specialist solution to further expand the number of booking sites where you list.

As well as connecting you to dozens if not hundreds of booking channels—including major OTAs as well as niche sites for specific audiences (like digital nomads, vegans, hikers, or last-minute bookers)—channel managers make it easy for you to update your listings with property descriptions, images, and house rules, and align rates and availability.

Also, you can use channel managers to coordinate multi-unit properties, so whether you’re renting single units or the entire compound property, it’s easy to oversee unit assignment and avoid double bookings.

Hosthub multi-calendar view in the dashboard and mobile app
Channel managers let you manage multiple listing sites from one location. Source

Here’s what to look for in a channel manager:

  • Integration with your PMS
  • Integrations with multiple booking channels including major OTAs, niche sites, and local booking channels
  • Solutions for individual and multi-unit properties so unit assignment is simple and synchronized across channels
  • Booking calendar with real-time inventory updates so the chance of a double booking is minimized
  • A single location to manage all your listings including property descriptions, imagery, amenities, local events, availability, and rates
  • Customization options so, as well as synchronizing data, you can market and price to specific audiences by channel—for example, to accommodate the differences in commission rates between channels (you might offer a lower price on your direct booking site) or to target the interests of a niche audience

Here are three of the best STR channel managers to consider:

  • Rentals United
  • NextPax
  • Hosthub

3. Noise monitoring and property protection

Smart locks can tell you when a guest has checked in but how do you know if they’re having a party at two in the morning, disturbing the neighbors, or smoking in the living room?

With a comprehensive noise monitoring system that includes occupancy monitoring and cigarette smoke detection, you can: 

  • Protect your units from damage
  • Ensure the most important house rules are being followed
  • Save yourself from having to deal with neighbor complaints
The standalone Minut device
The Minut sensor is quick to install, easy to use, and gives you multiple home protection and guest experience features. Source

Using Minut’s standalone sensor as an example, the noise monitoring technology lets you customize thresholds by unit and time of day, so you’ll be automatically alerted when the decibel levels go too high for a sustained period (so you won’t be alerted for a single door slam in the middle of the afternoon, for example).

Equally, you can customize the crowd monitor to alert you if occupancy goes past your limit for a particular unit, and receive an immediate alert when cigarette smoke is detected by Minut’s unique machine learning AI technology.

With a multi-feature sensor like Minut, you can also detect hazards, reduce costs by monitoring temperature, and be alerted to break-ins or other security events.

To effectively manage dozens of units, though, you also need a way to automate how you manage guests. 

So, Minut automates messages to guests when an issue is detected, lets you schedule messages like check-in or check-out information, and offers Call Assist and Guard Assist (Guard Assist is currently only available in the US and UK), which provide trained operators and security experts to manage guest communication on your behalf.

Here’s what to look for in an all-in-one noise monitor:

  • Privacy-safe noise and occupancy monitoring
  • Cigarette smoke detection
  • Environmental hazard detection
  • Weatherproof noise monitoring for outdoor spaces
  • Device tamper detection
  • Window break detection
  • Motion detection
  • Home alarm
  • Automated alerts and guest messaging
  • Scheduled guest messaging
  • Professional guest management services

4. Dynamic pricing and revenue management software

Dynamic pricing tools connect with your PMS to automate and synchronize your rates based on market information from thousands of data points, including:

  • Seasonality
  • Local trends in demand which can fluctuate because of special events or according to your amenities
  • Lead time (how far from the check-in date the booking is made)
  • Competitor analysis so, for example, you don’t get priced out by other local vacation rentals

You can also use your dynamic pricing tool to set customized pricing rules so you never go below a specified base rate, to take into consideration the length of stay, or to offer discounts when there’s a single night available (orphan gaps).

Wheelhouse dashboard
Dynamic pricing saves you time and helps you remain competitive whatever the market conditions. Source

Meanwhile, revenue management tools provide you with data for deeper insights into pricing trends and influential factors, so you can not only more accurately manage your rates, but also create quarterly budgets, better manage your costs, and generate predictive reporting for benchmarking and performance analysis.

As you can see, using these tools can take you into highly sophisticated areas of vacation rental business management, but the tools themselves are designed to be simple to use, so you don’t need to be an expert in data analytics to gain valuable insights from them and improve profitability.

Here’s what to look for in revenue management and dynamic pricing tools:

  • Integration with your PMS
  • Market data analysis including competitor pricing, demand trends, event tracking, and historical data
  • Customization options like minimum and maximum rates, length-of-stay pricing, and special pricing for special events
  • Lead-time analysis to help maximize revenue and occupancy rates
  • Real-time pricing updates
  • Robust reporting and analytics
  • User-friendly interface so you don’t need to be a data expert to use the platform
  • Support and training resources so you can get the most out of the tool

Vacation rental management pricing and revenue tools to consider:

  • Beyond
  • Key Data
  • PriceLabs
  • Rented
  • Wheelhouse

5. Housekeeping and maintenance management

On-the-ground operations are one of the most demanding areas of management in a vacation rental property business. 

Some of the typical challenges you’ll face with housekeeping and maintenance is coordinating cleans with your latest booking information, communicating schedules and changes with housekeepers, tracking work done and unit status, and running inspections.

All of these challenges are intensified by having a growing portfolio of units and managing them remotely.

Housekeeping operations software resolves this by: 

  • Connecting with your PMS to automate and share cleaning schedules
  • Tracking supplies and organizing linen packing
  • Sharing digital cleaning checklists with cleaners
  • Allowing you to remotely inspect turnovers via photos uploaded by your cleaner
Doinn dashboard
Operations management software auto-schedule turnovers and help you manage quality while saving you time. Source

Here’s what to look for in an STR cleaning operations platform:

  • Integration with your PMS
  • Auto-scheduling so your cleaning schedules always reflect your latest booking information
  • User-friendly app so cleaners and service providers can easily see where to go and when, and perform tasks exactly as required
  • GPS and task tracking so you have a real-time view of unit and team status
  • Digital cleaning checklists with photo uploads so cleaners know your expectations and you can run remote inspections
  • Inventory tracking and linen packing reports so you know which units need what supplies and can easily create an effective workflow to manage linens
  • Owner reporting so, connected with your task tracking and inventory management, you can track billables and easily share key information with property owners

Here are some of the top operations management tools in vacation rentals:

  • Breezeway
  • Doinn
  • EZcare
  • Operto Teams (formerly VRScheduler)
  • Turno (formerly TurnoverBnB

6. Smart locks

Modern guests expect streamlined, tech-enabled experiences throughout their customer journey. With the best smart locks, you not only get to meet that expectation, but also create a scalable workflow for property access that increases your visibility across your portfolio.

With the information and features an integrated access management system provides, you can: 

  • Auto-share access codes and mobile keys
  • Create unique access codes for cleaners and maintenance teams
  • See when guests have checked in and out
  • Remotely revoke access in the case of an issue
  • Access historical logs to see who entered each unit and when

With these solutions in place, there are virtually no manual processes to manage—so no waiting around to hand over keys, no need to replace keys when they get lost, and no need to respond to a call-out in the middle of the night because your guest got locked out.

Nuki smart lock
Keyless entry improves the guest experience and allows you to automate repetitive manual tasks that otherwise cost you time. Source

Here’s what to look for in a smart lock:

  • Integration with your PMS so you can enjoy features like automatic code generation
  • Integration with Minut so you can easily share access credentials using Minut’s scheduled messaging
  • WiFi and/or Bluetooth connectivity that’s compatible with your tech stack
  • Ease of use for guests so they don’t experience any issues on arrival
  • Remote access control so you can easily manage access across your portfolio, guests, and team
  • Activity logs and notifications so you can always see who’s accessed each unit 
  • Long battery life and low-energy alerts
  • Easy and quick installation

Here are two of the top smart locks that integrate with Minut:

  • Igloohome
  • Nuki

7. Digital guidebook

To help guests enjoy an autonomous experience throughout their stay, provide them with a digital guide that you can share automatically as part of your scheduled message workflow. 

In your guide, you can include essential information about the property and local area to help guests get the most out of their stay—and to minimize the chance of them having to reach out to you with any questions.

Here’s some of the information to feature in your digital guide:

  • Directions to the property with a map and handy visual reference points 
  • Parking information and instructions
  • Property access details
  • WiFi access instructions
  • House rules including information on garbage collection and recycling, noise limits, and check-out procedures
  • Appliance instructions with helpful videos
  • Safety information for example for the use of the pool
  • Local recommendations
  • Extra services like tours and equipment hire
RueBaRue digital guidebook
Alongside a scheduled messages solution like Minut’s, a digital guide helps your guests be independent throughout their stay. Source

Look for these features in a vacation rental digital guide:

  • Integration with your PMS so you can easily provide stay- and property-specific information for each guest
  • Easy access so there aren’t multiple steps to follow to see all your information and insights
  • Quick setup so you can easily create and customize your guides in minutes
  • Customization options for branding including your brand colors and logos
  • Multimedia uploads including photos, videos, and interactive maps
  • Guest surveys so you can gather insights into your service and identify issues, and gain contact details for post-stay marketing
  • Multilingual settings

Here are some of the top STR digital guidebooks to consider:

  • Hostfully
  • RueBaRue
  • Touch Stay
  • YourWelcome

Vacation rental tech—so you can host with confidence

The modern guest expects a fully streamlined, tech-enabled experience from booking to check-out. Fortunately, the same technology that gives guests the autonomy they want, also helps you make your operations efficient and scalable.

With solutions like Minut’s scheduled messages with auto-populated data—including guest names, access credentials, and WiFi passwords—and digital guides with local insights and recommendations, you can preemptively answer guest questions. 

This saves you from handling dozens of messages and calls each stay.

Meanwhile, your PMS, channel manager, and dynamic pricing tools help you coordinate bookings, diversify your channel distribution, and optimize rates. Plus, you can connect your PMS to your operations management software to auto-schedule turnovers, and then use digital checklists to inspect each unit before check-in.

And, with an all-in-one noise monitoring system like Minut, you can prevent neighbor complaints, save properties from party damage, and be instantly alerted to environmental hazards and security events.

Crucially, all these STR tech solutions allow you to automate your processes, so you can improve business performance, grow the size of your portfolio, and host each guest with peace of mind.

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