By Mackenzie Kearnan
Autohost Marketing Manager and Hospitable fan
Today’s world is more connected than ever. Travelers from all over the globe can book their vacation rental with the click of a button. This accessibility is great for short-term rental companies that make their sales through online booking channels. But with increased opportunity comes increased risk, especially to operators. The sharing economy, which drives the short-term rental industry, opens the door for strangers to take advantage of your property and your business.
To protect yourself in the hospitality industry, trust and security must top your list of priorities. If you want long-term success, you need to align your business with dynamic security measures. But too many security measures can deter guests and hinder your business’s growth. So, how do you make sure your security practices grow with you instead of slowing you down?
1. Get educated
The short-term rental “horror stories”‘ strewn across the news don’t paint an accurate picture of the industry. In fact, these incidents typically stem from irresponsible operators who have failed to do their due diligence. To ensure you don’t fall into this category, it’s essential to learn about the threats and risks you face as an operator.
Educate yourself on the risks so you can come up with a plan to safeguard your operations. By making yourself an expert on the short-term rental industry, you’ll maintain a competitive edge and get a leg up on fraudsters and hackers. Start by researching your market to determine which dates and reservation types pose a higher risk. That way, you’ll know which reservations to pay closer attention to.
Next, learn how to protect your business from the inside out. If your company collects Personally Identifiable Information (PII), you need to know how to effectively manage this information to comply with privacy laws and maintain customer trust. A single data breach could destroy your company’s reputation, causing major financial loss. While these kinds of attacks might seem uncommon, they happen much more often than you’d think. In 2019, a new high-profile data breach made headlines every month. Keeping up with the latest trends and hacks will make you less vulnerable to a targeted attack.
2. Switch to proactive operating
Once you’re aware of the threats in the industry, you need to be proactive rather than reactive in your day-to-day operations. This involves taking the necessary precautions to set up your business for handling worst-case scenarios.
To reduce risk, develop a process for guest screening that involves verifying IDs, pre-authorizing credit cards, and signing rental agreements. Next, increase your security measures around high-risk dates, paying close attention to suspicious reservations, like one-night bookings from local guests and last-minute stays.
Proactive operating means investing the time and money to prevent troublesome reservations. Sit down with your team and address hypothetical situations. That way, you’ll be prepared to deal with issues before they arise.
3. Invest in the right tools
Investing in the right tools goes hand-in-hand with proactive operating. By keeping pace with the latest short-term rental technology, you’ll maintain a competitive edge while guaranteeing the highest level of protection for your properties.
To start, physically secure your properties by installing smart locks. This allows you to lock and unlock doors as necessary, keeping your properties safe from unwanted guests. And to make sure you never fall victim to technology failure, come up with a solution for managing backup keys. Figure out what works best for your business, whether that means leaving spare keys with the front desk or setting up lockboxes.
Hospitable is one of those tools
Your guests will appreciate your speed of response, while you won't waste a minute.
To ensure you always know what’s going on during a guest’s stay, install noise sensors. Should you host any noisy guests, you’ll be notified immediately, giving you the chance to deescalate the situation before it gets out of hand.
Prior to investing in a new security tool or software, do your research. Make sure the tool in question has been adequately reviewed, so you know it will work for your business.
4. Affirm your company policies
For the sake of your business and your team, it’s important to affirm your company policies. Get everyone on the same page by setting high standards and clear guidelines throughout the company.
Your company policies might cover a variety of topics, ranging from guest screening to house rules. When affirming your policies for guest screening, create rules around what you allow, based on the level of risk you’re comfortable taking on as a business. If you’re willing to host a “group hang out,” but draw the line at a party, make that clear. That way, the second a guest crosses the line, your team will know how to handle it.
When it comes to house rules, be explicit. If you don’t allow smoking within 10 feet of the property, say so. Otherwise, guests might find loopholes, such as smoking in the hallway or out on the balcony with the door to the suite-wide open.
Solidify your company policies to set your team on the right track. If there is an incident, you can review the situation at the policy level to see what went wrong. As your business grows, work with your team to update your policies, making sure they’re an accurate reflection of your company’s mission and standards.
5. Train your team
Your employees are your biggest asset, but they can also be your biggest vulnerability. If you’re not careful, they can make it easy for a hacker to steal private information. To protect your business, plan training sessions to educate your team on the latest trends and threats in cybersecurity.
Teach your team how to deal with hackers, fraudsters, and even phishing scams. In the hospitality industry, there are cases of people posing as OTA account managers, phishing for account information from unsuspecting customer service agents. If they get into the account, a hacker can reroute your payments to their bank account. This is something your team needs to be looking out for.
With the right training, you can keep your employees on high alert, armed against crafty cybersecurity attacks.
Put security first
Fraudsters and cybersecurity hackers are getting smarter and more creative. To keep your business safe, you need to stay ahead of the curve. When growing your business, consider your security measures. Are they stagnant or dynamic?
This post was written by Mackenzie Kearnan, the Marketing Manager at Autohost. The intelligent software uses guest screening and Airbnb background checks to protect properties, owners and communities in the short-term rental space. Scale your business with this dynamic security solution.
Thinking about real estate investment to make money outside your 9-to-5 job? Buying a vacation rental home might be the best way to enter the real estate business and become a property investor.
The more bookings you get, the less free time you have.
You’re stuck in the old ‘time-for-money’ paradigm…
…and it sucks.
Luckily, however, there are ways (many in fact) that you can run a successful Airbnb business and even scale it up to multiple listings in a way that doesn’t impact your free time.