Are we approaching a tipping point where artificial intelligence will be a normal part of the guest experience in a short-term rental? The technology makes sense in this setting since there is no front desk like in a hotel and the product varies greatly
from single-family residences to condos to yurts.
When guests can ask a smart speaker for things like restaurant recommendations and get the host’s own personal picks in response, it adds value to their stay. As more voice-enabled features are added, the tipping point is getting closer.
Voice: An experiment no more
This story about what a voice-enabled future looks like for the vacation rental market was published four years ago. At the time voice technology was only used in a handful of vacation
rentals run by trailblazing hosts. The idea was to equip a voice assistant with unique knowledge of the rental and the surrounding area, effectively turning it into a virtual concierge for the specific property. It worked.
Today there are more than 10,000 short-term rental properties using voice assistants. By the numbers, it is still a small fraction of the overall market; however, it is validation of the value that voice brings to the guest’s experience and the operations
of property management companies.
The top 5 list
The basic premise that a voice assistant can act as a virtual concierge for short-term rental guests is pretty well understood. But what are some more specific ways in which voice has been used in rentals?
- Checking out via voice: Guest reviews frequently highlight how the voice solution in their short-term rental made the checkout process quicker and easier than ever before. Moreover, the introduction of voice tech to vacation rentals
has brought about a new type of guest review – the "voice review." Instead of sitting down at a computer to write a few sentences, guests can just verbally share their experiences at the property. Conveying emotion far more effectively than text,
hosts are now capitalizing on "voice reviews" by posting them to their website as a means of driving new bookings.
- Guest messaging: Hosts are using smart speakers to send custom messages to their guests for all sorts of operational reasons, and because the devices are placed in common areas like the kitchen, messages are more likely to be heard by more
people than just the group organizer. For example, with a broadcasted notification about trash day, it is more likely that the trash cans will be put out in prep for pickup.
- Incremental revenue: From notifying guests of opportunities to extend their stay to upselling on-premise extras such as grill rentals, pool heat and late checkout, voice solutions are helping property management companies generate incremental
- Scheduled reminders: Proactive reminders based on a property’s reservation calendar help guests know about things like scheduled pool and yard maintenance and also their responsibilities at check-out.
- Maintenance assistance: Aside from notifying maintenance or housekeeping of an existing issue, today’s voice-enabled solutions can provide the guest with trouble-shooting recommendations that can often allow the guest to resolve the issue without
assistance from the property management company, saving both time and money.
Predictions that didn’t play out
Some early predictions were that voice would help property management companies re-take control of guest data from the online travel agencies. The theory was that personal data lost to an intermediary in the booking process might be recaptured through
Although this is not happening at scale – yet - impressive adoption rates by guests provide a glimpse of the impact that voice assistants may have on future marketing efforts. In 2021 Xplorie reported that a single occupied night drove an average of over
six interactions with its SmartHost solution (over 24 unique interactions per reservation).
What are Amazon and Google doing?
Google recently announced that it is shutting down third-party development for Google smart speakers. Other than smart home and media streaming, Google is dismantling its
third-party development ecosystem, opting to push developers to creating apps for Android. This decision eliminates the option to use a Google Smart Speaker as a virtual concierge.
Smart speakers can deliver emotional and social value.
Dana Young - AIPEX Technologies
By contrast, Amazon is doubling down on the
hospitality sector. The Alexa Smart Properties division has created a unique code base that protects guest privacy and enables special features that cannot be done with Alexa devices outside of the Alexa For Hospitality program. Amazon has also made
it possible to leverage the combination of voice and a touch screen – a combination that holds significant promise for short-term rental use cases.
What’s next for voice in short-term rentals?
A recent academic research study on voice technology
in vacation rentals offered some interesting insights:
- The trend is inevitable. As people become more confident in using voice tech in their daily lives, the value they get from a voice solution while on vacation increases.
- When thinking about the value of a voice assistant in a short-term rental, the functional value of what you get is the first thing that comes to mind. In other words, the specific answer to a question, or streaming music in response to a command.
But the research team found something less obvious - smart speakers can deliver emotional and social value as well. Emotional value is delivered as guests have fun exploring what the device can do. Social benefits are achieved when guests are
made to feel more connected to their host.
With this in mind, we can expect to see solutions where the individual personalities of the host shine through the voice experience. One example of this is increasing use of personal welcome messages delivered by the voice assistant but recorded in the
host’s own voice.
Smart speakers with screens will no doubt play a major role in the evolution of voice-based systems for short-term rentals. With the ability to provide digital signage sharing useful information to guests, hosts will increasingly swap out voice-only devices
for those that can also display video.
While we don’t know where the tipping point is precisely, we do know that the value of voice tech is rapidly increasing for short-term rental hosts. With any luck, maybe the three-ring binder still found in many rentals can finally be sent into retirement.