US: STRz speaks to Matthew Loney, president and CEO of guest experience solution Xplorie, to learn more about guest expectations and technology within the short-term rental market and Xplorie’s future growth plans, as well as why he is looking forward to attending the Short Stay Summit and Shortyz Awards in May.
- Please introduce yourself, your company and the services you provide in the short-term rental industry.
My name is Matthew Loney and I am the president and CEO of Xplorie. At Xplorie, we provide a suite of turnkey technology solutions that enable vacation rental managers to leverage local tours and attractions to better attract and retain guests and homeowners, while also reducing operational overhead.
- Xplorie claims it is “the leading guest experience platform for the vacation rental industry”. Can you explain how the technology works and how it improves the guest experience?
Xplorie allows property managers to access and partner with local tours and attractions in ways that increase the guest’s perceived value and build loyalty. Guests today want to fully experience their destination but they also want the journey to be as frictionless as possible, and that is where Xplorie delivers. From voice-enabled virtual concierge technology to our complimentary activity programmes, Xplorie’s solutions help guests create experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. Whether it is accessing curated local information on the best things to do, or helping guests discover new and exciting local attractions, Xplorie partners are setting the bar for guest experience in the vacation rental industry.
- The short-term rental market is booming. What are Xplorie’s growth plans?
In terms of growth, we are focused on continuing to build density in our existing 45+ US markets, while also expanding our footprint both domestically and internationally, with plans to enter the UK market in 2022.
One key driver of our growth has been the launch of our Xplorie Enabled Voice Assistant [XEVA], which is a custom-built virtual concierge that connects to the property management software system to answer over four million questions, including questions pertaining to the home and the guest’s reservation. Guests can even connect to our on-demand activity concierge to book tickets to all of the best local tours and attractions. It is truly a game-changer for our industry, particularly right now when so many of our partners are dealing with staffing issues.
- Why should property owners and managers use Xplorie for their vacation rental business operations?
There are a number of aspects of the short-term rental business that make it operationally much more difficult than traditional lodging, such as smaller staff, larger units / homes and greater geographical coverage of inventory. Because of this, it can be difficult to meet and exceed guest expectations, yet the guest experience has a profound impact on a business’ ability to attract and retain guests. Xplorie helps our partners to deliver an exceptional guest experience while simultaneously allowing them to focus on the operational aspects of their business.
- You say Xplorie helps lodging providers differentiate their properties in a crowded market and that this aids owner acquisition. Can you explain how?
There has never been a point in our industry’s history when the competition for inventory and homeowners has been more fierce, and with the rising real estate prices, expectations of property management companies have never been higher. To meet these expectations and to successfully grow their inventory, property management companies must be able to increase both occupied nights and ADR.
A sound strategy to increase these two metrics must be multi-faceted and will include yield management / pricing, distribution, length of stay, SEO, SEM etc, but it also must include increasing the perceived value of the product. No different than the importance of capital improvements within a home to maintain or increase guest perceived value, utilising local activities and attractions to increase the value perception of the guest allows sophisticated property managers to increase the return to their homeowners and consequently increase their number of homes under management.
- 2021 was a phenomenal year in terms of tech innovation in the industry. What developments do you expect to see in 2022?
Yes, there is no question that the global pandemic has spurred technology development in the short-term rental industry and I am really excited by the innovation that I am seeing.
The two issues that I see, however, are  that the leading technology systems today still do not do a great job of integrating well together, which leads to inefficiencies and increased operational costs, and  that the cost of the technology stack has ballooned and for the average operator it is no longer economically feasible.
For both these reasons, I believe that we are going to begin seeing significant consolidation on the vendor side of our industry. Additionally, with this consolidation and as the premier solutions begin to distance themselves from the pack, I think you will see more resources being invested in building better interconnectivity across platforms.
- And what about guest expectations? What do you think guests will expect from their vacation rental experience this year? What should property managers be aware of?
Between the convergence of inventory and the continued rise in average daily rent, guest expectations are the highest they have ever been in our industry and are only going to continue to escalate. This will make it difficult for the short-term rental industry, which as I mentioned earlier, has inherent operational hurdles that can make it more difficult to meet guest expectations on a consistent basis. It is crucial, however, that we rise to this challenge as the stakes have never been higher. With awareness of vacation rentals at an all-time high, the next couple of years will determine whether the post-pandemic shift to vacation rentals is sustainable or whether travel trends will gradually return to historical norms.
- At the Short Stay Summit in May, you’ll be discussing the secret to an exceptional guest experience. What are you most looking forward to at the event?
I’m thrilled to be joining James Cassidy [Expedia Group], Jeremy Gall [Breezeway] and Nils Mattisson [Minut] for this workshop – it’s shaping up to be an insightful discussion and I’m sure we’ll all bring a different perspective on this topic. I’m personally very excited for the conference season to be in full swing again. I believe we shouldn’t underestimate the value that the networking and knowledge sharing has for us all and our industry. Lastly, given Xplorie’s future plans to expand into UK, the talks from the UK Minister of Tourism and the future of short-term rentals in Europe at the event will be particularly interesting for me. I am really looking forward to it.
- Finally, what is next for Xplorie?
The thing I am probably most excited about is our efforts to begin to build tools for our lodging partners that will allow them to better leverage the data that they are collecting around guest activity usage and operational interactions. Aggregating these unique data sources gives Xplorie clients a better understanding of who their guests are, which we can then utilise to help them further reduce their guest acquisition costs.
I know that we do not like to talk about it, but the US economy is already showing signs of softening and I do believe that we will see a reduction beginning in 2023 to the record-breaking occupancy and ADR numbers that many US markets have realised over the last couple of years. This is why it is important for Xplorie to build tools now that will help our partners stand apart from the competition.
Xplorie provides guest experience solutions for short-term rental operators. Since 1996, Xplorie solutions have assisted short-term rental operators in leveraging local tours and attractions to differentiate their properties, improve guest loyalty and increase top-line revenue. In 2020, the Florida-headquartered company launched the Xplorie Enabled Voice Assistant [XEVA], which was custom-built for the hospitality industry and delivers tailored content to answer popular guest questions about the property and local area.
The Short Stay Summit on Thursday 19 May will feature a vibrant mix of presentations from many high-profile industry leaders alongside fireside chats, panel debates and plenty of opportunities for networking.
A number of leading industry brands are sponsoring the event, including title sponsor Vrbo [part of Expedia Group], platinum sponsors Booking.com and Host & Stay, gold sponsor Styled Interior Design, silver sponsors Sykes Holiday Cottages, Beyond, CoStays, Awaze, Hospiria and UnderTheDoormat, and ruby sponsors PriceLabs and Guesty.
On the evening [Wednesday 18 May] preceding the event, the annual Shortyz Awards, organised by ShortTermRentalz, will be held near to Tobacco Dock at The Skyline London to celebrate the excellence demonstrated by companies in the sector.
Book your tickets for the 2022 Short Stay Summit at this link.