6 min read
by Jaime Garín, Barcelona Market Manager
Published February 8, 2023
Time flies! It's already been seven months since we landed in Barcelona. And what better way to celebrate than to publish the following interview with one of the partners who trusted us even before we arrived? We’re proud to be working hand in hand with Stay Unique, one of the most important vacation rental management agencies in Barcelona and Spain, awarded in 2019 and 2020 as the leading Serviced Apartment Brand in Spain by the World Travel Awards.
Together, we're further improving the guest experience for many of their guests by allowing them to enjoy their stay in Barcelona to the fullest and make the most of their free time without carrying their suitcase
It was an absolute pleasure to chat with Giovana Falcão, Head of the Customer Service and Reservations Departments at Stay Unique.
We hope you enjoy it.
LUGGit: How did Stay Unique come about, and why did you decide to start a business in the Vacation Rental sector?
Giovana: We started as a holiday rental portal (OTA) called "Rent the Sun" focused on holiday flats. Enrique built an excellent relationship with the owners who advertised on our portal and started taking over their properties' management for some of them. With a lot of hard work and dedication, more and more owners entrusted Rent the Sun to manage their properties, and one thing led to another.
From then until now, 18 years of hard work, challenges and continuous improvements.
As for me personally, I have been working at Stay Unique for two and a half years now. I started just a month before the pandemic hit.
L: How did you combat this challenging crisis, and what lessons did you learn from this process?
We mainly focused on offering our mid and long-term accommodation portfolio during the pandemic. Today we keep some of them in this modality, also due to the fact that there are no tourist licences.
But, of course, our priority and core business is vacation rentals. Apart from Barcelona, we have accommodation and offices in the Costa Brava and Malaga. In those parts of Spain where we are not physically present, we have another type of contract called "online management" that allows us to provide a service to owners anywhere on the peninsula. We take care of all the online management: Revenue, Payment Management, Reviews, visibility on the different platforms, and many other tasks.
L: How many properties are you currently managing? And what will be your next destination where you will be physically present?
G: We are currently managing more than 300 properties.
Our next destination is going to be Seville. After landing in Malaga, we want to continue expanding in the Andalusian capital, as it shares a very high tourist interest similar to Malaga.
L: If we talk a bit about figures, have you experienced growth after the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis? If so, how are you managing it?
G: Clearly, there has been growth and recovery. Now, we have a significant challenge regarding managing last-minute bookings because people are increasingly booking less and less in advance.
we believe that there will be no low season. One example is Ryanair and Vueling's prices for flights to Barcelona, which are very low. However, it is also true that this shows there is a type of nightlife tourism that does not appreciate or spend money on a longer stay.
L: While you are on the subject of customer service, in your opinion, what is the key to providing an excellent customer experience and how important is it to the satisfaction of your guests?
The core value of Stay Unique is Care - starting by taking care of our staff so they can take care of our guests. To be careful from the beginning and to be able to extrapolate that to the customer.
We try to personalise your stay as much as possible. For example, when children come, we offer cots. It is a matter of studying each case and knowing what you can offer them. We have close and real-time communication with our clients.
To highlight another point, our most loyal customers are business travellers. The truth is that word of mouth is also effective and works for us.
L: From your point of view, how does the partnership between Stay Unique & LUGGit help to improve the experience of travellers staying in your accommodation? And how does it improve your management/operations?
G: The service offered by LUGGit is totally different. It definitely adds value. Above all, it is ideal for families who come with a substantial volume of luggage. We bring them peace of mind and comfort.
L: What other tools (besides LUGGit) do you use to optimise the management of your accommodations?
G: The PMS we use is ours, developed by our IT people. Regarding OTAs, Airbnb is the primary channel and the one that works best for us. Of course, Booking.com is as well. Regarding channel managers, we work with Rentals United.
Other important additional services could be Transfers. We rely on Welcome Pickups. We want to enhance and improve direct bookings once we launch our new website in 2023. We are working very hard on it. We also have automated access to the accommodation with smart locks, and we use sound level meters to monitor the noise.
L: One last question, what are your expectations for the future of the Vacation Rental sector, and how do you think it will evolve in Barcelona specifically?
G: In Barcelona, it is difficult to grow anymore because of the tourist licences. They will not give more, and the properties will only pass from one property manager to another, but no new property managers will appear. The trend is mid-term and long-term.
We see opportunities with digital nomads and people travelling for academic or business purposes, who need a longer stay, with the comfort of a home, but with a rental that does not exceed a year's contract.