Our short-term rental industry is under pressure. Guests love us and use us more and more. But a minority of unruly guests is poisoning our relationships with neighbors and communities around us. That is a key political driver that brings sometimes absurd regulations. In French, we call that throwing the baby with the bath water. How do we save that growing baby, and get rid of poison guests?
One of the solutions worth exploring could be shared blacklists. Or whitelists if blacklists are legally too difficult to build and manage. I defended the idea years ago at a VRMA conference, but what Delta Airlines proposed recently in the Airline industry reminded me of the potential of that approach. Kristen Manion Taylor, Delta’s senior vice president of in-flight service, wrote to flight attendants: “A list of banned customers doesn’t work as well if that customer can fly with another airline.”
And yes, to run the parallel with our industry, if one rental company bans a guest, he has thousands of others to go. If an OTA bans him, he can go to dozens of others. The power of such lists is in sharing. In a way, there, sharing is caring.
But how could we get there? How could this work?
Our short-term rental industry is under pressure, and exceptional unacceptable behaviors drive most of that:
Many destinations, especially cities, increase regulations and threaten with bans and more restrictions. That point is easy to make, this fresh link should suffice. https://lnkd.in/ehhvGYQi
Let us first insist that although this article focuses on bad guests, most short-term guests are nice and polite and do not disturb neighbors. Many of them are families that find vacation rentals much more convenient than hotels with kids. Many of them are couples who appreciate the extra privacy. All of them appreciate the experience of living like a local. The rest of this article focuses on the fraction of guests that create issues, to prevent these issues. So, the graphic examples provided here must be kept in mind as the exceptions that confirm the rule: about 99% of our guests are problem-less.
That being said, the fraction that create noise or other issues, making neighbors angry, has a huge impact. As an example, the most active collectives against short term rentals in Prague are http://chcisevkliduvyspat.cz/. (“I want to sleep quietly”). And I know friends like Eliška who had sympathy for Airbnbs but got furious because they felt powerless against the noise from an Airbnb in the building next door. Noise and unacceptable behavior are only a few of the arguments against short term rentals, but I believe they are a key motivation that creates our most furious opponents. In a Pareto style law, these less than 1% of our guests create 80% of our opposition.
Today, the ability to ban guests with unacceptable behavior is limited
Let me state that noise is the most frequent issue, and that issue can be dealt with noise detectors- a solution tested and that works. I will detail that in a further article. But not the only unacceptable behavior.
We once had guests who found it funny to battle with fire extinguishers in building stairs during the night. We did expel them, and they had to pay for the clean-up because we had taken a damage deposit and handled the process as well as we could. But when subsequently they gave our company a bad review, booking.com would not even take that review off- and the bad score was counted in the average score on Booking.com.
We did not mind leaving the review on the Booking.com website- with our response that this guest had been fined and expelled for proven unacceptable behavior, future good guests would understand, and potentially bad guests would have been warned. But we were penalized by the bad rating included in the average score- and most future guests would just see the average score, obviously they do not read all reviews and responses. This shows that channels are so guest centric they make short sighted decisions that penalize our industry in the future.
We could blacklist the guest in our software and could put them on our own blacklist on Booking.com, but Booking.com would not even put them on their own blacklist for other accommodations, so they could create havoc in other places any time they want. This must change.
In that respect, Airbnb is more advanced, with the ability for hosts to rate guests. But that profile and rating stays within Airbnb, so bad guests can repeat bad behavior through other channels.
A shared blacklist would be more powerful
Obviously, today bad guests banned from one property manager do not care -they still have many options. If they risked getting banned from all major OTAs, most rental companies and individual hosts, they would think twice. One objection is that in a group of guests, another member could make the next booking. But in many destinations, renters must provide the whole list of guests and their IDs anyway. And within groups, the number of people active enough and skilled enough to organize a stay is limited.
When shared blacklists are not possible, a global blockchain-powered whitelist could help a lot
How could this work? Well, your ideas are welcome, but here is a first draft.
We could create a global blockchain-powered register. After each stay is completed without issues, guests would opt-in to get a token that links to that record- a kind of badge saying “This guest -Joe Smith born dd.mm.yyyy stayed with us and did not create issues”. @lucadegiglio, I will let you elaborate on the blockchain feasibility of this, but it does not sound so far from the way crypto-currencies or NFTs work. This register could be queried through APIs- basically guest Joe Smith born dd.mm.yyyy opted in to have their rating/whitelist status checked, can you return their rating and the list of renters who approved them.
Then guests able to provide that badge when making the next bookings would get various advantages:
- Reduced damage deposit.
- Simplified check-in or self-check-in.
- Access to more sensitive/luxury properties.
- Prioritization when booking – renters will prefer to rent to whitelisted guests first, unregistered guests would only get the leftovers. A kind of yield/risk management.
In the register, channels and hosts could check which hosts gave the badges and for how many stays.
The benefits for our industry would be huge
· Better relationships with our neighbors and communities -fewer rental bans.
· Happier employees- because dealing with stupid behavior is one of their pain points. Going to face a dozen drunk Brits in the middle of the night is an unpleasant challenge.
· Lower costs – dealing with these bad behaviors creates a lot of work and complexity, while processes can be light and simplified when there is trust – for 99% of guests.
· More owners willing to go into short term rents. Often maximized rental revenue is the cornerstone argument but preserving the good state of the property and good relationships with neighbors is a close second.
How could we make it happen?
Shared blacklists are so complex from a legal point of view that they would need help from legislators and that could happen only at local level first – and for the foreseeable future.
But the opt-in, global blockchain powered whitelist could be started by an agreement between OTAs, PMSes and renters represented by VRMA. And members of that alliance would definitely benefit from better relationships with communities – in the form of easier licenses, and less vacation rental bans.
propose to start by discussing that idea at EHHA and Vitur https://vitursummit.com/ next week in Malaga