Israel: ShortTermRentalz speaks to Wishbox co-founder and CEO, David Mezuman, about the company’s recent $2.5m funding round, its Up-Sell by Wishbox service, and the guest experience trend of travellers seeking greater transparency and personalisation.
- Please introduce yourself, the Wishbox brand and the services you provide within the short-term rental industry.
“Wishbox is a guest experience platform that empowers hosts to take control of the guest experience. I founded Wishbox back in 2016, along with Jeremy Atlan and Shai Bar, and we each bring our own expertise and perspective to the company. Prior to starting Wishbox, Jeremy and I managed our own short-term rental company with over 100 properties, and so we experienced many of the challenges that we are now solving for our property manager customers first hand.
“I also have experience in high tech as I founded a successful startup company named HopOn that manages payments and ticketing in the public transport sector. So for me, Wishbox is really about combining both worlds – hospitality and high tech. Shai Bar, our CTO, brings his leading expertise in product development, and Jeremy is in charge of business development and strategic opportunities in the industry. Together with our amazing team, we believe we are creating the best solutions for short-term rentals.
“The Wishbox platform transforms the way hosts communicate with their guests and offers smart solutions that allow hosts to engage with guests and up-sell services throughout the guest journey, from the moment the booking is confirmed until check-out. Solutions include a pre-check-in wizard to coordinate the guests arrival automatically with document scans, contact signature, custom questions and more. This also includes a white-labelled guest app that contains all the important info about the reservation, destination and up-sell services, a review optimisation and a lot more.”
- How do you help property managers and hosts with your Up-Sell by Wishbox service? How is this solving a gap in the short-term rental industry?
“As property managers ourselves, we experienced the challenge of communicating with guests first hand. There is a disconnection between guests and hosts. Even when guests would approach us with questions it was hard to pass on all the information and local knowledge. We also weren’t able to manage payment for any services we would want to offer or recommend, so there is also the issue of the compensation for hosts that we were looking to solve.
“One of the main challenges in the short-term rental industry comes from not having a reception desk that guests can turn to for information, assistance, and for further services. Even hotels that have a reception desk still haven’t managed to crack the ancillary revenue opportunity and properly engage with guests before and during their stay. Up-Sell by Wishbox solves this communication gap with technology and allows hosts to set up the perfect guest journey, collecting information needed from guests on the one hand and sending guests the right information about their reservation, services and local experiences on the other hand.
“Short-term rental guests are looking to “live like a local” and for the opportunity to experience their destination in an authentic way. We empower hosts to offer just that in a way that allows them to offer more value to every guest and generate more revenue at the same time. For example, Wishbox knows if the guests plan on arriving early and so are able to offer an early check-in which is helpful for guests, who have a need, and at the same time the host can generate more revenue from filling holes in the calendar.
“Our web based guest app is personalised so guests can see all the reservation details but at thesame time hosts are able to add different recommendations and services for guests. Guests caneasily purchase these online and everything is translated to the guests’ native language.”
- You’ve just announced your $2.5m funding round – how will this investment help towards your global expansion strategy and grow your reputation?
“Up until now, we’ve partnered with some of the most forward-thinking hosts and the funding will allow us to invest more in communicating the value of our guest-facing platform to more companies and expand the range of services they offer their guests. We will also continue perfecting and developing unique solutions that solve the pains hosts experience and assist them deliver more value to their guests.”
- You are already integrated with Guesty’s property management software – how has this partnership been fruitful so far in creating a smoother booking process for travellers?
“We are very happy with our Guesty partnership, and we are always happy to partner with new property management softwares and channel managers. We integrate with over 60 PMS’s worldwide and add more integrations every month and receive requests both from rental companies and from PMS’s to complete this integration. Since Wishbox expands hosts’ capabilities, we know it brings a lot of value to the property managers and reduces churn for PMS’s so it is really a win-win partnership.
“We created a seamless way to integrate with PMS’s so in many cases the connection can be instantly completed by hosts without having to wait and it doesn’t change the day to day operations of properties of course.
“Our two-way integration with Guesty and other selected PMS’s, allows hosts to seamlessly manage guest communication in the best way possible. For example, when guests complete the pre-check-in all the details will appear in the PMS, including their direct contact details, arrival time, check-in method and more. All guest communication is visible in the guest unified inbox allowing them to answer directly from the unified inbox to the guest in-app chat.”
- 2019 was the year we saw Airbnb invest heavily in its Experiences division – from your own perspective, what will guests be demanding more of in 2020 on the guest experience side?
“According to Google, 85 per cent of guests book their in-destination activities after they arrive at their destination and this connects to the fact that people travel often but have less time to plan all their trips. That is why Wishbox helps guests with the local discovery and to find the activities that suit their needs.
“When it comes to guest experience, guests are expecting both transparency and personalisation. There really is so much information online, and travellers can get lost in the sea of information when conducting research for their trip.
“Since guests book accommodation that suits their style so in many ways, the host is the perfect source to get recommendations from. Guests will still do their research online of course, but curated recommendations are something that guests are looking for.
“At the same time, it is important to be completely transparent about the activities, reviews and details since guests are searching for the local experience, the unbeaten path and not the standard experience offered to “tourists”. That is why the host, who is typically more qualified to know, is the perfect candidate to offer this information and also has the opportunity to generate more revenue from selling experiences.”
- Tel Aviv has become something of a hub for tech companies in recent years: what would you attribute this to?
“Tel Aviv is truly an international city with lots of innovative minds which is also attributed to the city’s culture.
“As a global company with customers in over 50 countries worldwide we have a very diverse and international team. At the same time, there are many benefits to being a part of the Tel Avivian ecosystem which as you said is one of the largest tech startup ecosystems in the world.
“This is a great advantage granting us access to the leading talent in product and development for creating advanced and innovative features and new solutions to further advance the guest experience. We also have a local presence in New York and local customer-facing representatives on the West Coast of the US as well.”
- What are your priorities now as a company over the next year and beyond? How would you assess your development in becoming the go-to guest experience platform?
“We are determined to lead the guest experience transformation for the vacation-rental hosts! The opportunity in our market is huge for a platform like ours, that genuinely creates value both for the property managers and their guests. Even though our platform is very mature, and interacts with tens of thousands of guests every week, we are always planning and working on the next version of the product.
“We are constantly testing new things and looking into new opportunities that will deliver real value for our partners. For example, this year we invested a lot in our on-boarding process that allows companies to have a no-touch experience making it easier and instant to register to Wishbox, connect their PMS’s and finish the initial setup in minutes. We wanted this process to be as easy as possible and suit the dynamic atmosphere in hospitality.
“As a team, we are excited about what the next few years brings!”