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Solving the Alternative Accommodations Quality Problem

Quality consistency in alternative accommodations has been a topic for over a decade. This is particularly because there aren’t any large Online Travel Agents (OTAs) that have been able to curate and guarantee hotel-like standards across their apartment portfolio.

Therefore travelers are left with a mixed selection made of private landlords renting their home for a few days, professionally managed rentals, serviced apartments, and vacation rentals – all with extremely variable quality standards and services.

The irony is that a demand for such a curated portfolio of alternative accommodations does exist – be it from quality concerned leisure travelers (multi-generational families and elderly travelers in particular) or digital nomads and corporates. That said, there is a huge need for quality-assured short and mid-term home rentals.

The questions are:

Can companies aggregating alternative accommodations guarantee quality at scale? Or do we need to rely on local hostels, property managers, and operators for quality control?

Let’s consider the following for insight:

Airbnb Plus vertical had the vision to curate a portfolio of verified homes that meet hotel-like standards, but the project recently failed. Quality certified homes were set to include full kitchens, quality design, luxury towels and linen, professional cleaning services, and high-speed Wi-Fi. However, because of a lack of continuous quality control and customer support, Airbnb recently abandoned the project.

To add, analytics from AirDNA estimated that there were only 26,000 active Airbnb Plus listings globally in January 2020 as opposed to their original vision of 75,000 listings.

This statistic indicates that even an established enterprise such as Airbnb is failing to meet the demand for quality consistency in alternative accommodations.

Other accommodation booking platforms have also made attempts at offering quality-assured accommodation – but with limited success.

For example:

– PlumGuide has been focusing on quality control by conducting one-off property inspections. However, they have not been able to do this at scale (so far only six countries). The large benefit of this niche platform is that PlumGuide can offer instantly bookable inventory and quality customer support to travelers, including “matchmaking” with the right apartment for the stay.

– ReloQuest is promoting serviced apartments and apart-hotels, but only superficially vets operators, instead of every property. Also, business travelers or relocation management companies need to wait until the vendor submits a quote with detailed accommodation, including availability, photos of the property, and amenities. This requires a lot of vendor’s manual time & commit ent but hardly guarantees any bookings.

Suffice it to say, travelers who are seeking consistent quality assurance when it comes to alternative accommodation are left in the dark. They are restricted with choice and often need to rely on offline-working agents and travel concierge to offer options from their vetted network of vendors. These lengthy processes can significantly increase the final accommodations charges.

Why Quality Consistency Matters? (The Problem)

“We arrived to find the place to be uninhabitable. No running water, no promise of repair, and the oven looked as if it was vintage 1970s and had never been cleaned. There was a huge crack in the microwave rendering it unusable. We had to use water from the hot tub to flush the toilets. There was nothing about the place that was as described.”

The above extract has been taken from one of many Airbnb horror stories where guests were promised one thing, but on arrival, were met with an apartment that was poorly kept and nothing like its description.

While some leisure travelers may be less concerned about the quality and features of an apartment, this “hit or a miss” approach doesn’t meld well with more elite guests. For instance, when companies move their employees to assignments, then the duty of care and health and safety are key components that cannot be neglected. The same applies to families and mature couples who enjoy a more luxurious and convenient environment.

To curb this problem, continuous quality monitoring and increased property manager performance are needed. This is because:

– Properties can depreciate over time due to wear and tear (sometimes within months).

– Property management performance can change.

– Home rentals differ from hotels – there’s no system to their upkeep but they are, instead, custom units that need a custom-care approach (and this approach needs to be consistent for quality assurance).

This brings us back to the possibility to guarantee quality consistency at scale.

Essentially, the idea is realistic, but only when applied as an area of focus with guest experience and customer service being enforced priorities.

Focusing on Guest Experience and Customer Service (The Solution)

A flaw in Airbnb’s Plus service is that guest experience isn’t managed or controlled. There is no continuous quality monitoring; incident management and customer service have been left to fall to the wayside.

However, the model, based on one-off verification & no accountability has created an opportunity for first-class travel partners to assist travelers who are looking for quality short and long-term rentals that fit their description (allowing for the desired accommodation consistency).

The solution:

A combination of curation, continuous inspections, close collaboration with vendors, and impeccable customer service. This human-centric approach cannot be eliminated but can be supported by innovative technology to scale the portfolio globally.

AltoVita’s Approach to Consistency in Alternative Accommodations

At AltoVita, we run our services using a cloud-based global corporate housing platform. Our successful approach also includes a personal element. The result is a 3-tiered quality control process consisting of:

1. Stringent onboarding verifications – which includes quality accommodation identification, evaluation, strict onboarding, the duty of care training, performance reviews, and reporting.

2. Continuous pre-inspections – which includes professional property inspection before guest arrival

3. Customer Support by AltoVita: Access to 24/7 support and emergency response, a dedicated Guest Experience team, possibility to book additional lifestyle services (including daily cleaning, airport transportation, grocery delivery, family activities among others).

This 3-tiered and customer-centric approach have been ultimately refined for quality and automated for scale. It takes on a dedicated approach to consistency in quality alternative accommodation where guests are guaranteed a high standard of services from the time of booking to check-out.

This Active Collaboration Ensures Customer Success

Airbnb Plus could base its failure on a lack of consistency. Hosts were treated as once-off vendors and quality control wasn’t monitored. With collaborative training and a tighter reign on quality services, the program may have been a success.

Post-COVID Recovery and Increased Hygiene and Quality Expectations

With the onset of Covid-19, alternative accommodation providers will have to align with stringent cleaning and hygiene protocols now more than ever. Hotel-like homes will be in demand naturally with better social distancing environment vs. hotels coupled with paramount health and safety assurances.

Introducing AltoVita’s Travel with Confidence Programme

As a leading global corporate housing platform, combining a cloud-based portfolio with a 3-tier quality compliance process, AltoVita has taken quality alternative accommodation options one step further. The recently launched Travel with Confidence Programme follows the practices of the World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Control & Prevention. A dedicated guest experience team has committed itself to proactive communication, an enhanced guest experience, and health, safety, and cleaning protocols.

ALSO SEE:

AltoVita’s Travel With Confidence Program | Regaining Customer Trust In Corporate Travel: Preparing for Recovery | AltoVita’s guide to help travelers through the Coronavirus

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