Increasingly, business travelers are recognizing the added value of utilizing a short-term rental versus staying at a hotel. Forget the noisy ice machine next door, the sneaky hidden Wi-Fi charges and the stale-sweet roll-and-generic-coffee “Continental Breakfast.” More and more, business travelers are electing to forego hotels and motels and opting for vacation rentals when on the road.
According to a 2016 annual “State of Business Travel” report by Concur Technologies, a leading provider of travel and expense management services, business travelers utilizing home sharing services is up 56% from the first quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016. 8% of business travelers utilized short-term rentals at least once last year, Concur reported. Moreover, the average stay in a vacation rental is 5 nights versus 3 nights in a hotel, according to the same report.
Not the least of the amenities offered by an STR is the quality of “hominess.” Jeremy Sparks, a high-end business traveler cited in the Concur report, said that, “Business travel must be as comfortable as home.”
The challenge for the property owner then is, how do you make your property business-travel friendly? Offer what corporate hotel chains cannot:
Free and Fast Wi-Fi: Whether on a business or a pleasure trip, few things annoy travelers more than being nickel-and-dimed for (often balky or erratic) Internet access. As a property owner, you are able to provide a ready-made, dependable and most of all free Wi-Fi experience which is the lifeblood to every business traveler.
Room to Roam: According to Furnished Quarters, a company that specializes on corporate housing and relocation, a one-bedroom furnished STR typically offers a minimum of double the square footage of an average hotel room. The value only accumulates if the property has more than one bedroom, especially for business travelers accompanied by a spouse and/or children.
Chow Down: A property owner can offer an invaluable alternative to the often deadly dull room service/chain restaurant dichotomy: a fully furnished kitchen. Business travelers can eat what and when they choose, can often eat healthier and do so more economically than they might otherwise at a hotel. A selection of staples, including some fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy and other basics can make the traveler feel instantly at home. Additionally, preparing a meal can often be a stress-reducing activity on the heels of a hectic business day.
Bang for the Buck: Property owners can add value to a business traveler’s experience. For instance, not all hotels charge for parking, but many do, especially in big cities. Nearly all property owners have dedicated—and free—parking, be it in a driveway or parking spot or simply curbside. Providing a coffeemaker or teapot, along with bottled water and soda or fruit juice can help business travelers cut expenses. Also, many states and municipalities have a litany of local taxes that are piled atop the basic room rate of a hotel or motel. STR owners also have a tax burden they pass along to the renter, but it’s typically much less than what is found on a hotel bill.
Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Key: One of the potential pitfalls of handing over the keys to a vacation rental is simple failure to connect. A missed email, phone message or text can result in a botched handover that aggravates the property owner and business traveler alike. In addition, a physical key is just one more thing for the traveller to keep track of. The savvy property owner will consider investing in a keyless entry system with programmable codes that can be changed for each renter.
Everybody Crazy ‘Bout A Sharp-Dressed Man (and Woman): Business travelers are in your town because, well, they’re on business. Property owners can and should provide the means to make oneself presentable: a full-length mirror, hairdryer, a selection of basic toiletries, stain remover, an iron and ironing board, a steamer, etc. A washer and dryer are also desirable amenities. Directions to the nearest reliable dry cleaner can only help.
Home, Sweet Home: Hotel rooms (and hotels in general) are deliberately designed to be impersonal and interchangeable. And yet, according to the Concur report, more business travelers are valuing the experience of feeling at “home” while on the road. Sam Thompson, who was cited in the report and makes 15-30 trips per year, concedes, “Business travel is an annoying but necessary part of my job” and added he values “home comforts.” A shady porch, a well-stocked bookshelf or a cozy backyard are all possible amenities a property owner might be able to offer that a hotel cannot. Space with a personal touch by the property owner confers a sense of place that a hotel cannot match.
Local Color: No matter where a property is located, there is something at hand to give a business traveler a sense of being somewhere unique. In more and more aspects of life, be it dining and drinking, shopping or simply getting out and about, the appeal of “locally sourced” commodities and experiences is gaining currency. The savvy property owner can seize on the opportunity to showcase his or her local community. Got an STR in Oregon? How about providing a nice local pinot noir or a six-pack of hometown craft beer? In New York? Stock up on some sandwich fixings from the neighborhood deli and bakery. In Austin? Think about burning a personally curated mixtape CD of some of the city’s acclaimed musicians. Albuquerque? Gotta be some local tortilla chips and a jar of hometown salsa handy. Additionally, the property owner can have handy a handmade guide to nearby favorites, being either a park, a hike-and-bike trail, a museum, a unique neighborhood shop, or maybe that little coffee shop, bar or restaurant that only the locals know about.