Will the short-term rental market come out of this crisis stronger than ever? This was a key area of discussion between Catherine and Amanda Dyjecinski, Chief Brand and Marketing Officer of onefinestay. Amanda believes the privacy of a home or villa will be an attractive proposition post-crisis, but this must be combined with reassurances on cleaning and housekeeping standards.
She argues that humans are not rationale beings and make their decisions with their emotions, so it’s going to be important how they feel about risk. In the short-to-medium term she agrees we’ll likely see a lot of extended family and friends travel, as people seek to reconnect with those they’ve been separate from during lockdown. onefinestay’s portfolio of luxury homes and villas is well-positioned to meet this demand.
David Keen 0:10
Hi, this is David Keen. At QUO, we’ve worked for the last 20 years with many of the world’s best-known travel brands. During this unprecedented global crisis, our world of travel has changed, possibly irreversibly. This series will see us speak with many global leaders to understand how they see the future of travel.
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 0:45
Welcome, Amanda Dyjecinski, Chief Brand and Marketing Officer of onefinestay. Welcome to the latest episode of QUO’s podcast series on The Future of Travel. Good morning, Amanda.
Amanada Dyjecinski 0:57
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 0:59
Amanda, since onefinestay launched in London in 2010, it’s become a leader in the private home and villa rental industry. Tell me about the current situation with onefinestay right now. What’s happening in the short term? How have you reacted to the crisis in the short term?
Amanada Dyjecinski 1:16
We were really in a reactive phase. As a nimble company, we swiftly implemented a series of steps. Immediately, you know, putting our safety and wellbeing of our homeowners, guests and team first: setting new protocols for housekeeping. preparing our homes, and moving staff to remote working. We introduced an exception/cancellation policy for homeowners and guess who couldn’t travel due to the crisis. We obviously had a lot of cancellations, and as we don’t have many guests in stay, we thought, how can we help? And some of our homes are second homes, so instead of staying empty we’ve offered them for free to NHS doctors and nurses, and as of today we have 45 of them staying with us.
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 2:05
Oh wow that’s great. And then looking to the medium and the longer term what’s your strategy going forward? How are you, how are you thinking about the future?
Amanada Dyjecinski 2:14
People will be more hesitant to book, so we’ve introduced the new flexible rates for our direct bookings and in our city collection where guests can cancel for free up to seven days before this stay. I do think it is important to engage and inspire all our audiences, so we continue to produce content. We’re working with interior designers on travel inspiration. We’re also using this time to educate our travel partners about our homes. With our homeowners we’ve just sent them digital care packages, and these are exclusive offers from local artists and brands including some of our homeowners and businesses themselves.
And we are looking for those green shoots, so looking at our website interactions. We’re planning which destinations might return first, and it’s tricky for us. We’re deciding when’s the right time to put operations back into our cities, because it doesn’t make sense for one or two guests. We’re also looking very closely at airline timetables, because we are dependent on international travelers.
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 3:26
Of course, yeah.
Amanada Dyjecinski 3:28
You know, we have had a handful of new bookings this month to destinations such as Thailand, Costa Rica, and New York and London, but obviously they’re just a fraction of what we’d expect for this time of year. And longer term, you know, I’ve read a lot of travel industry reports, but I just think it’s too early to tell what shape we’ll be in in the next 12 months. Really, for us, it’s about having those good insights, being dynamic, having clear leadership and staying true to our brand. I think these are the main qualities. And just maybe that’s, given where the economy is, that we might have some new homeowners who are looking for ways to raise additional income, and hopefully they’ll think of partnering with us. We are a global business so I think it does allow us to adapt to the destinations as they open up, probably in waves. We might see domestic US, so we have New York and LA, and we’re looking potentially at ski destinations.
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 4:36
So onefinestay is now part of the global hospitality giant, Accorhotels. What difference has it made to be part of Accor during this time? How has it helped you?
Amanada Dyjecinski 4:47
So we’re fortunate to be able to lean into Accor’s sizable resources and talent, and that really provides us with the time now to invest in strategic projects so that we can come back stronger. There’s two initiatives that are worth mentioning. One is the Heartist fund, so this is a fund to support staff and financial need during the crisis, globally, and that includes our staff. And the other is a project to come up with a global cleaning standard for hotels, but would also include us. And they have scientists advising. The idea is to have these cleaning standards independently verified to reassure guests that we’re not just creating the standards, but they are being independently verified.
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 5:41
So Amanda, if we think about the travel industry, it’s been obviously hit extraordinarily hard by this crisis, and not everyone’s going to come through this. Not everyone’s going to survive. How different do you think the industry as a whole is going to look as we come out of this crisis in what we’re now calling tomorrow’s ‘new normal’?
Amanada Dyjecinski 6:02
I really think the travel [industry] is a resilient industry. I remember standing in British Airways headquarters and watching the TV as the second plane flew into the towers. The industry adapted. You know, we had plastic cutlery, we had hundred-mil bottles; we had to take our shoes off at the airport. I think we’ll figure out what adaptations we need in order to travel again. The survivors, I think, are the brands that can adapt and can maintain their brand integrity. How we make decisions and how we communicate in these challenging times can build brand affinity. And that’s what people will remember.
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 6:43
Right. And then looking at the other side of the coin, if we think about a consumer, how will they travel differently? Will we see very different shifts in terms of behavioural patterns? Or will they just go back to normal in terms of their attitude and approaches towards travel?
Amanada Dyjecinski 7:00
So I think travel has become more risky. I think trusted brands have a role to reduce that risk—that perceived risk. I mean, I studied behavioral economics, and I know that humans are not rational beings but make their decisions with their emotions. And so it’s going to be important how they feel about the risk of their travel decisions. I mean, we can’t see the virus ourselves, so we’ll make judgments based on the cleaning standards communicated by those hospitality providers and our belief that they will deliver on those promised standards. But you know, I think that after some time has passed, when hopefully the virus is not the current health threat that it is today, that cleanliness will probably drop back down in the guests’ buying needs. You know, maybe it will be higher than it was before, but probably not front-of-mind like it is today.
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 7:54
And if we think about, obviously, the sector in which onefinestay operates and is the villa and the private-rental market… compared to the traditional hotel industry, how do you think you will fare coming out of this crisis? I mean, everyone will probably gravitate towards brands they know and trust, but on the flip side, private accommodation offers the benefit of being more isolated, potentially, or being able to control the environment a little bit more carefully. So what are your thoughts on that kind of balance and that shift going forwards?
Amanada Dyjecinski 8:26
The short-term rental market has been a growing segment of travel for some time, and we do think that, given the conditions, that people will be looking for private homes… more private homes and villas overall. But I just don’t think that just the privacy of the home is enough. I think consumers are going to be looking for additional reassurances—and that’s around the home standards, around the housekeeping standards, potentially even externally certified. I think you know we’ve almost had a head start because we do a lot of this already. And you know we are in a unique position because we control most of the variables. So, we have operations in our cities. And that means that you know we know how the linen was cleaned. We supply the linen. We know how it’s prepared, how our housekeeping are trained. There are communities. And so, you know, because we control that environment. We are more able to implement global standards. But, you know, of course we’ll continue to innovate and look at those consumer needs as they change. But yes, we will already offer this very high standard. I think will be more important.
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 10:02
A lot of people are saying that maybe in the short-term, at least, when we do start travelling again, people will travel less frequently, but maybe for longer stretches of time. And maybe their preference will be to travel with friends or family that they’re close to. What is your take on that, and how would that benefit what you offer as a service provider?
Amanada Dyjecinski 10:22
For sure, we’re a good proposition for guests who want to stay longer. I mean, we’ve always been a good choice for families, big and small, who are looking for more space, and I think this will definitely grow. We have been monitoring and seeing a trend in the rise of multi-generational trips. And I think. you know, if you haven’t seen your grandparents or your mother or father, then now’s a good time to take those types of trips, and hopefully we will benefit from that.
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 10:55
Yeah, absolutely. And then obviously onefinestay operates very much in the luxury segment. How do you think the luxury segment will fair? Do you think the demand will still be there when we travel again? And obviously, economically, many people around the world are going to take a hard hit from this crisis… have financial difficulties. But perhaps there is some hope in the luxury segment, maybe that they are less affected by the crisis financially and maybe have the ability to travel more easily. What’s your feelings on that?
Amanada Dyjecinski 11:32
Onefinestay operates at the luxury end of the private rental market. And I think we might see an uplift from guests, choosing us because we can offer that privacy; we can also support that with highly personalised services that guests expect at this level, so we help guests organise a chef, more regular housekeeping, anny service. We can order a gym and stay. So there’s lots of things that we can offer that would really appeal to the luxury segment. I think that with regards to the luxury segment that, you know, a lot of our travellers, they’re well-travelled. They don’t see travel as a luxury. It’s such an integral part of their life. And I think these are people who will miss travel the most, because it’s such an integral part of their life.
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 12:39
Amanada Dyjecinski 12:40
So hopefully, they will be some of the first to return, because it’s just part of their lifestyle.
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 12:48
Right, absolutely. Yeah. And when they do start travelling again, what kind of experiences do you think they’ll be craving, or will they be looking for?
Amanada Dyjecinski 12:56
First, I think they’ll appreciate it a lot more. I think it will take longer to plan a getaway, not only because you want the best experience, but also those little details will matter more. And you’re gonna have to understand which destinations are open or not. You’re going to have to understand people’s cancellation policies. You might have a preference for travelling outside of peak. You’re going to be checking cleaning protocols. It sounds exhausting. And I think that travel companies like us that help take away that complexity will do well…
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 13:31
Amanada Dyjecinski 13:32
…in the mid-term. And I think that luxury is freedom to enjoy life, simple pleasures such as travel. I think we’ll be looking to do so with just an added peace of mind.
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 13:47
Yeah, we’ve all missed it, right? And looking to the future. Do you feel that onefinestay will need to adjust or rethink or pivot its strategies going forwards? Or will it just be back to business as usual once travel does open up?
Amanada Dyjecinski 14:05
So, I think our fundamental proposition won’t change. In fact, I think what we offer will become more attractive. So, it’s really about understanding these ways when destinations will be opening up and we’ll hopefully resume our operations as those destinations come back online. But no, I don’t think what we’re doing will be fundamentally different, but we’ll adapt, probably to those destinations.
Catherine Monthienvichienchai 14:37
Right, right. Okay, Amanda Dyjecinski, Chief Brand and Marketing Officer of onefinestay, thank you so much for your time this morning. Thank you for joining us on our podcast series, The Future of Travel. Thank you, Amanda.
Amanada Dyjecinski 14:49
Thank you. Thank you, Catherine.