United Kingdom: Criton has announced the launch of Pip, a travel app created specifically for self-catering properties.
With Pip, self-catering accommodation providers – such as holiday homes, cottages, lodges, Airbnbs, villas and apartments – will be able to create a personal connection with guests and ensure they have the best possible stay. It will also help owners guide their guests throughout their trip by answering all the questions about their accommodation and providing tailored recommendations about where to eat or what to see and do.
Pip host subscribers will be able to share video walk-throughs of each property and how-to guides on operating appliances, create a personal connection with guests and encourage positive reviews, answer guests’ FAQs, provide recommendations about local attractions, promote responsible hosting and reduce their carbon footprint and receive more personal and detailed guest feedback – all on one platform.
Hosts are able to upload guest information via a dedicated content management system and update it at any time at no charge while guests can download Pip and access all their property’s information by entering a personalised code on their device.
The app is free for guests to download on the Apple App and Google Play Stores and is available to self-catering accommodation providers for £6 per month (inclusive of VAT). Providers will be able to digitise their guest information within Pip from 14 November and subscribers will also receive access free of charge to Pip until 1 April 2019 as part of an introductory offer for those that sign up and publish their app by 31 December 2018.
Self-catering accommodation providers interested in using Pip can register their interest at www.piptravels.com.
STRz spoke to Criton CEO and founder, Julie Grieve, about the company’s new travel app.
- Could you tell us about Pip and what was the purpose of creating this app?
“Last year when we launched, we were able to deal with self-catering and vacation rentals and offer them a similar system to that which we often use at Criton. However, Apple made some changes for how they want to deal with developer accounts and it became almost cost-prohibitive for self-catering in businesses to have their own app.”
“For that reason, we decided to launch Pip as a way for them to have a very cost-effective location within the App Store. People get that with Pip by entering an access code and then they find the property details and all the information that the host would generally give them in paper, such as itineraries, video guides, great recommendations. It can be whatever the host wants in terms of giving the guests the best guest experience.”
- Why did Criton want to move into short-term rentals now?
“When we started, we were actually serving this market. It was part of Criton’s strategy to work with self-catering, hotels and serviced apartments so it’s the same story as when I launched Criton. I had a luxury serviced apartment business and a self-catering home so the idea came from both of them, particularly with the video guides. However, as I say with the changes Apple made, it became cost-prohibitive so I wanted to still be able to serve that market and that’s where Pip has come from. Apple made some changes to how they want people to engage with developer types which means that for small holiday homes they’re unlikely to pay that.”
- How can the app live up to its claims of being a ‘local travel hero’ and a ‘virtual host’?
“It’s about taking a guest book where people write recommendations and giving it to the guests before they arrive rather than when they’re out and about because you don’t want to take that book outside with you so firstly it’s about letting them have their stay like a local with proper local information.”
“Edinburgh for example has lots of chain pubs and restaurants but it also has some great independent chains. The host will know about them and want to share that information with their guest. The guest might read the guest directory coincidentally but a lot of them don’t and then they’re out and about and don’t know if a pub is recommended or not. That sort of information can fundamentally change a trip so ‘local travel hero’ is about putting the up-to-date information right in the guests’ hands and the system allows them to update it all the time.”
“In terms of ‘virtual host’, it’s about giving hosts who care about the guest experience the ability to have it on the guests’ phones and be able to easily update it.”
- What gap in the market do you hope this app will fill?
“It helps vacation businesses digitise their guest information and it gives them a brand that they can feel comfortable with but in a booking app. If you think about other apps in the market that might offer some cost-effective Airbnb for example, people have to book via that information. For us, Pip is very much about allowing them to offer guests information how they want it without any bookings in there. There’s a couple of apps in the States but they are web apps that don’t appear in the App Store and I think some people still feel more comfortable downloading an app than dealing with a web app.”
- What demographics are you targeting with the app?
“I hear this all the time from customers about how they have people turn up in their eighties who’ve got iPhones and they’ve got the app or the kids have got the app. I think generally most of us now have a smart phone, particularly people who travel regularly, and we expect to get information from that smart phone. I don’t think it’s about demographic anymore: I think it’s about how people have changed the way they want to experience their travels and a lot are experiencing them through their phones.”
“I think we’re helping hosts deliver what guests want on their phone and that is the missing piece of the puzzle in terms of getting the best piece of information. If you arrived in London and stood in Trafalgar Square googling restaurants, you would get 50 restaurants in about half a mile so how do you get rid of that noise? There’s so much information that hosts now want to curate that to give their guests the very best. It can make a big difference to their stay and the guests will feel cared for because their hosts have gone that extra mile.”
- What is the importance of building a personal connection with guests? Is this part of a wider trend?
“I fundamentally believe there’s been a change in how people travel now. Everyone’s busy and they want to make so much more out of their holidays. They want to feel what it’s like to live in a place as a local and so being able to offer personal recommendations goes that step further. Some guesthouses which are self-catering won’t have a book in them or they’ll have a bunch of instruction manuals in a drawer somewhere.”
“Pip fundamentally keeps that information up to date by taking the recommendations and the guest book and turning it into information that can change the day because you work very hard to present a holiday home in a lovely fashion. People think vacations holiday homes are almost like a hotel because they have to have a comfortable bed, be clean and have a good shower, but the information hosts provide them can also influence that. You have to understand that a visitor’s time with you is not just about when they’re in your house but also when they’re in the location.”
- What do you see for the future of the app turning out?
“It’s a really exciting time for us because we listen to hosts and travellers about what they’re looking for so this is very much Version 1. Now for me it’s about what else do people want in terms of functionality and control over how it looks. There are many ways we can go but getting it to market and getting feedback are the most important things. I hope the brand is fun and people engage with it and they understand we are trying to deliver a local travel hero through hosts. This is something that can continue to grow not just in the UK but also all over the world. It’s a bit of a no-brainer for the hosts.”