How collaboration and technology are key to a new golden era of holiday rentals
Insights and emerging trends of the Italian vacation rental market.
Published August 1, 2022
While the holiday rental market has seen unprecedented changes over the last decade with the arrival of Airbnb and the global pandemic, it has also proved why an established holiday provider makes all the difference in finessing the final special touches to a trip and feeling safe. Perhaps it’s that hidden gem local restaurant or introduction to a spectacular private chef or new corner of the world or contact-free check-in.
TravelStaytion is refining the vacation rental experience for a discerning global audience which means working with the very best hospitality partners to make sure our customers receive nothing but a superlative experience.
Emma Villas and ItalianWay are two of Italy's leading accommodation and distribution providers, respectively, that were handpicked by TravelStaytion for their unrivaled villas and apartments and customer service. They have been working hand-in-hand for quite a while and ItalianWay has played a significant role for Emma Villas’ online distribution channels networking. Here we sat down with Ivana Filipponio, Sales Manager from ItalianWay and Luca Bertolini, Marketing and Communications Manager from Emma Villas to discuss the future of the industry and how small changes are making a significant difference to their businesses.
Emma Villas and ItalianWay are well established companies within the vacation rental market so you can be picky about the travel partners you work with. What impact has working with TravelStaytion had on your business?
Emma Villas: We really like the TravelStaytion portfolio and believe it is "on target" with respect to our brand values of the utmost customer service and attention to detail. Being listed on their website has brought the quality of our facilities to light, especially for the regular users of the site.
ItalianWay: TravelStaytion sets a high standard with its property portfolio so we knew we wanted to be aligned with that. Listing our properties on their website has definitely broadened our clientele and increased our visibility so it has been a productive partnership from the outset.
A big advantage of working with TravelStaytion is that it connects its clients to the best technology platforms to simplify operations and maximize revenues. How do you keep up with the latest industry technology and why is it important?
Emma Villas: The secret is to invest in digital processes and technologies that allow you to build a competitive advantage in the market while constantly working on and improving the customer experience. Ultimately, it leads to a happier work environment too allowing our team to offer the best of themselves while enjoying the flexibility and freedom that streamlined digital optimization brings. Ultimately, we have seen an increase in bookings and revenues that further boosts our direct bookings too.
ItalianWay: Multi-channel distribution is an important driver. For example, with Travelstaytion we are now able to reach customers from the UK and US market that we wouldn’t usually. That customer brand loyalty to Travelstaytion means that our new customers are already confident with a customer service that speaks their language and is always on hand to help. Our future business is built around a multi-OTA distribution strategy and TravelStaytion is supporting our growth in this way.
TravelStaytion works closely with Rental United, a connectivity provider that syncs prices and availability for vacation rental companies. How has Rentals United impacted the day-to-day workflow of your business?
Emma Villas: Our constant struggle used to be manually inserting each of our properties across all OTA platforms and then making sure the information was up to date. We started working with Rentals United, through ItalianWay’s platform, from the beginning of 2021, and we can now do this with one single tool, which is amazing. It has saved us an enormous amount of time that we can now give back to the business in other ways, we have been able to increase our channels and have also seen an increase in bookings and revenue from OTAs, especially in mid-season periods.
ItalianWay: It is so efficient having all the information about all our properties in the same place, always updated and easy to reach and manage. Its connectivity works very well across all channels and OTAs and the time it has saved has been invaluable.
With technology rapidly developing, what do you see as the future of innovation in the vacation rental industry?
Emma Villas: The so-called “intelligent technologies” evolve very quickly, always presenting new innovations. Emma Villas has always maintained a great focus on technological developments related to the tourism sector and after having made a careful analysis of the solutions currently available on the market, has chosen, starting from the 2021 season, to invest resources and know-how in Smart Hospitality, by adapting smart hospitality tools (e.g. quality of the furnishings).
In 2021, Emma Villas introduced the "Emma app", a multifunctional app, developed in partnership with Vikey s.r.l that provides online check-in services, tourist taxes, and lump-sum and additional hospitality payments.
With the "Emma app", Emma Villas is able to offer owners a value-added service of simplified administrative management ("smart bureaucracy"). At a click of a button, property owners will be handling reservations and paperwork connected to the lease, carrying out certain payments related to the tourist tax, and receiving lump-sum payments in advance. We will continue to innovate with the times as ultimately, it’s best for our customers and best for business.
ItalianWay: A lot more data, reports and surveys based on customer habits that allows us to cater to our clients in the most personalized way. The vacation rental business is growing so quickly and for a company like ours that focuses on short term, long term and business travel, keeping on track with the latest and most relevant customer habits is important, especially in this post pandemic era.
Speaking of the pandemic, what changes have you seen in the way that people travel?
Emma Villas: One thing is more prevalent than ever: the request for open space. After months of being locked up at home have affected, people are looking for more room when it comes to their holidays and their homes, both indoors and outdoors. We have seen a strong demand and attention for properties that have private and wide gardens, outdoor living/patio, and pool.
ItalianWay: In a post Covid era, most of our travelers are looking to spend their holidays with friends or family in more remote, peaceful locations – big houses in the hills or quiet apartments by the sea.
The vacation rental industry has changed so much over the last few years with technology developments and of course, Covid.What trends have you noticed?
Emma Villas: Emma Villas was inspired by the days of the Grand Tour when tourists would come to the iconic Italian destinations – Florence, Siena, Rome – and marvel at the art and antiquities there. Our customers came to us when we first started 16 years ago with the desire to stay in quality villas and country houses, explore Italian art and culture, and their appetite for it continues to grow. We opened with properties in Tuscany and now have 500 exclusively managed villas and residences all over Italy to allow for a complete modern-day Grand Tour!
In recent times, we have also seen an increased desire and need for our customers to be immersed in nature - to enjoy the privacy and relaxation that only a green area, with no humans around, can offer. We hope to offer a balance between nature and art in Italy with all our properties.
In general, our customers continue to look for a similar experience, with these key elements: privacy, customer care and holiday organization to ensure an unforgettable holiday, whether in a well-known destination or in one of Italy’s many hidden treasures.
ItanlianWay: We have seen Italians holiday in apartments, which is something we only previously saw in other countries (Germany, Netherlands, America). We now have an equal number of Italians and international guests in our apartments. When the quality of the product is high, it means customers will choose an apartment as a home away from home or launchpad to explore from.
It is clear that understanding your clients’ needs is vital in ensuring excellent customer service. What are the other key components?
Emma Villas: At the heart of Emma Villas' activity there is a strong relationship that we have forged with owners and customers which is a thread that runs throughout our standard of care. These long-term collaborations and personal relationships help us ensure a profound experience that exemplifies Italian hospitality.
We pride ourselves on the high standard of quality and the exclusivity of the properties offered, and the multiplicity of services. This is then emphasized by our effective marketing and communication strategy. The widespread presence of our staff in every corner of the country allows us to cater to all the needs of our guests from the moment of booking to the end of their stay in the villa. With the support of our Concierge Team, available 7 days per week, our clients can enjoy calmness and relaxation in their villa.
ItalianWay: A personal touch goes a long way. Our guests are assisted from the first moment they get in touch until the moment they check-out. Our in-house travel guide each guest throughout their holiday journey from choosing their accommodation to planning their itinerary. It is difficult to know what to do in a place if you haven’t been there before, so our travel guides do all the leg work for our guests so they can arrive on their vacation knowing they can completely relax.
What arethe discerning features of the most desirable destinations in Italy?
Emma Villas: The most popular destinations in our portfolio are Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Apulia, Sicily, Emilia Romagna, and Amalfi Coast. For Tuscany we think that it is so popular because it is not only a region but also a place where people dream of going to, with the Chianti region, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Pienza and so on. Tuscany is something that people want to live and touch, a once in a lifetime holiday. That is the same for Amalfi Coast that perfectly embodies la dolce vita. About Umbria, we would say that as a destination it represents the green heart of Italy, full of small villages to discover. Apulia and Sicily are so popular because of their charm and their wonderful seaside. Marche and Emilia Romagna for the variety of the landscapes. And of course, for all of them – the food!
ItalianWay: Most of our travelers tend to pickPuglia, Sardinia, Liguria, Toscana. The criteria of travelers’ choices are mainly focused on views over the city or sea, there is a huge amount of different accommodation types: from studios to villas and typical houses. Where guests stay forms the basis for the rest of their trip so it is important that they get that right, whether they are close to the sea or the countryside, or in the throng of a city or town.
What makes a trip to Italy so memorable?
Emma Villas: Surely the first components that make Italy so special are like the ingredients of its famous dishes – simple but of the highest quality. First is the welcome and warmth of our people. Then there are the wonderful cities rich in history, its charming and unique villages, a nature that showcases an amazing diversity of landscapes, a multifaceted and rich cultural heritage, and of course, our incomparable gastronomic tradition. We believe that Italy is a little bit the dream of all those who come from outside our borders. It's sufficient looking at its particular shape and its unique morphological characteristics to understand that Italy is unique and can offer everything.
ItalianWay: Italy is a brand itself. In a post Covid era, many travelers would love to spend their holidays with friends or family in a very peaceful and isolated house to feel safe and away from the enormous crowds, whether in the foothills of Umbria or one of Italy’s less trodden islands. This trend is growing constantly, and Italy continues to be a place that people want to travel back to because they know there are a lot of options of places to stay and destinations to discover.
Ok, thanks for the inspiration. We’re planning our next Italian adventures already! What are your travel plans for this summer?
Emma Villas: This summer we are excited to travel to the Italian seaside. Our sea is famous for being varied and unpolluted: from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic, Ionian and Tyrrhenian,you will be spoilt for choice!
ItalianWay: In Italy, absolutely! In an amazing villa in the countryside where both seaside and countryside are equidistant, with a dreamy pool to welcome friends for a sunset party.