Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Short-Term Rentals

RedAwning Upgrades Guest Communication For Superhosts

6 months ago

California-based RedAwning has introduced updates to its communication features for Airbnb superhosts. 

The new communications hub communication features include:

  • Centralized communications management , where hosts can send messages from their email, mobile phone, or via the RedAwning Portal or the mobile app, to guests which will then appear on their booking platform or email or text inbox. 
  • Automated messaging for hosts, with customization of design and text for all messages.
  • Automatic conversion of PDF attachments to channel inboxes.

“The fundamental core idea that you’re in the hospitality business is not what people necessarily think of when they think they’re in the rental business,” Red Awning CEO Tim Choate said. “So by using AI and real hospitality thinking, we’re hoping that we can get people to both be very efficient but also be able to personalize and customize something that’s very professional and hospitality oriented.”

Although this particular launch doesn’t have ChatGPT add-ons, Choate hinted at that being the second phase of this launch.

“The next phase for communication, which we’ve already been working on for a while, is integrating AI features,” Choate said. “But it’s really hard to get it right to get AI to suggest responses by using your history, and high hospitality standards.”

Next among product updates is automatic integration of internet of things or smart devices including locks, thermostats, hot tubs, pools and lights. 

This is how Choate described it: ““You automatically send all your personalized messages to each guest via their communications method of choice, automatically set and deliver your door codes, and then you automatically turn up the heat 6 hours before check in and turn it down 2 hours after checkout, so the house will be warm and you save energy. Maybe you also have a hot tub so you automatically turn that up, or maybe you have a pool and the guest opted to pay a fee for pool heating, so you turn up the heat automatically and automatically bill the guest too.”

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky Hints at More Upgrades This Summer

1 year ago

Airbnb released a host of new upgrades and features in its summer release last week. Airbnb chief executive officer Brian Chesky has promised to work on more.

In a response to a suggestion from a user on Twitter, Chesky hinted at working on: lower cleaning fees, better search & filters, verified listings, better customer service, guest loyalty program, total price with taxes, better review system and lower prices. 

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has promised more features this summer. Source: Airbnb

“Millions of people have given us feedback on how to improve Airbnb. We’ve listened,” Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said during the announcement. “Today, we’re introducing the most extensive set of updates ever. Our design-driven approach means we’re always making Airbnb better, and our over 50 new features and upgrades are just the beginning. We will never stop improving Airbnb.”

The company said that the summer release was a response to user and host feedback. At the center of this is Airbnb Rooms, which the company characterizes as “an all-new take on the original Airbnb.” There is now a rooms category with over 1 million listings, redesigned filters and added new privacy and other features. 

For guests, the features include total price display — so guests can view the total price with fees, before taxes, across the entire app including in search results, price filter, maps, and listing pages. There is also now a “months” tab to look for hosts accommodating longer-term guests.  For stays over three months, the guest service fee after the third month will be reduced. 

Business Travel

Former Kayak Exec Jan Valentin Joins Rail Tech Startup Seatfrog

2 years ago

Former Kayak Europe leader and now travel investor Jan Valentin has joined Seatfrog‘s board of directors, as the rail startup looks to move on from the pandemic by tapping into the trend for more sustainable travel.

The app, which lets train travelers upgrade their ticket at a reduced rate on the original cost by bidding, was named a Skift Top Travel Startup to Watch in 2019. Then the pandemic hit, and it lost 97 percent of its revenue.

Now the company wants to put coronavirus behind it with the appointment of Valentin, who used to be Kayak’s managing director and senior vice president in Europe. Valentin also runs ennea capital partners, which in 2020 merged with Howzat Partners to create a new $100 million fund to invest in travel startups and other digital businesses.

Howzat also invested in Seatfrog’s $1.2 million seed round, but Skift understands no extra investment accompanied Valentin’s appointment to the board.

Valentin is also a backer of Comtravo, the German corporate travel agency that was recently bought by TripActions.

Seatfrog said in a statement Valentin joins at a perfect time to support the company’s mission to reimagine the rail experience in a category that has been “trundling along without meaningful innovation for decades.”

“Governments are spending $400 billion plus in Europe to drive modal shift to more sustainable train travel, but it remains a massively under-digitized category, and the customer experience is a mess,” he said.

Seatfrog said it had recorded 1,400 percent growth so far this year, and is expanding internationally.

“We’ve delighted millions of passengers, and driven large revenue uplifts for rail companies well beyond the capabilities of the category’s legacy systems,” added Iain Griffin, CEO and co-founder of Seatfrog.