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Hotel Case Study: A Discussion with Ryan Killeen, General Manager at the Annex Hotel Toronto
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Could you give us some background on the annex?

Since our inception in 2018, we were set-up as a next-generation hotel: high tech, low touch. We're located in a really cool part of Toronto, the Annex neighborhood, which is just outside the downtown core. We host a wide-ranging demographic of guests from abroad and local. During the height of the pandemic in Toronto we hosted ‘Heroes in our Hotel’, and being tech-driven made this possible.

In addition to having their own Airbnb units, our three owners all have varying backgrounds; from private finance, start-ups, tech, and real estate. Prior to launch, they saw an opportunity to bring an offering to Toronto that simply didn't exist. The annex is the first hotel in the City & Stay Hotel Group collection.

There is now a lot of talk about contactless guest stays, but the annex was way ahead of the curve.

Being contactless, even back in 2018, was very intentional; the hotel was set up to be a hotel for the future. The high tech, low touch experience really makes sense in a post-covid world, where you've eliminated the front desk in favor of smartphone interactions.

By removing the front desk and connecting directly to guests through their phones, it gives us a greater ability to interact between the guest and our team. With remote check-in, a guest can show up at the hotel and head straight to their room. It just makes sense; showing up to a hotel these days and waiting in line at a front desk seems like a very unnecessary process.

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View of annex hotel lobby and bar.

The annex is a fully technology-enabled hotel, can you tell us more?

Being fully tech-enabled is, in our view, the future of hospitality. Today everyone is on their smart devices and it really makes sense for that channel to be how you communicate access, how you interact with guest requests, and allow them to discover something new.

“At the annex, all touch points in the hotel are enabled by technology to eliminate unnecessary human interaction. That being said we're available 24/7. So if anyone wants that interaction or needs assistance, we're always here to help. We use technology to enhance the experience.”

How do you create the right balance between technology and hospitality for your guests?

Technology allows our team to focus on the hospitality aspect, going above and beyond for our guests, using tech to enhance the experience. The guest has a smartphone in hand and is able to receive suggestions for the night ahead or perhaps get a message saying “Hey, how are you? Would love for you to join us in the morning for coffee!”

Tech can really personalize the interaction without it feeling fabricated. It's not something where people have to endure the hassle of learning something new or just being a nuisance.

In our view, we want the annex to be a home away from home for our guests. We want them to feel like they are interacting with us as locals who are giving real local suggestions for their stay.

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Can you explain how Operto has helped the annex create a better experience for guests while also ensuring operational efficiency?

Operto has been fantastic for the hotel. When guests arrive all they have to do is place their palm over a keypad and enter a code and they're given access to the room. This is far smoother than the ‘old school’ room keys! It's always fun to watch people when they first realise how simple it is.

Using Operto has also allowed us to operate extremely efficiently as the access is essentially taken care of. All we do is provide that information to our guests through their phones; it really modernizes the check-in experience. It’s also fantastic from a back-end standpoint with things like housekeeping and access to room data for more efficient operations.

What is your staff-to-room ratio and how has tech helped you achieve it?

Our ratio on average is 1.5 staff to 24 rooms. We have one person on at all times with part-time help for busier times of the day. So we're able to operate a 24 room hotel with essentially one person on-site facilitating everything. That’s been fantastic. It's very efficient and software solutions like Operto make that possible.

During lockdown, you housed frontline workers - how did the contactless check-in and entry process work for them?

It was very well received. Guests didn't have to worry about keys or bringing them to work or anything like that. When they showed up to the annex, whether after their shift or on their days off, they knew it was going to be a seamless experience getting in and out. They were all self-isolating to keep those around them safe. Staying at the annex gave them somewhere they could come back to which was safe and comfortable.

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View of a typical room.

What's next for the annex?

Stay tuned! We're working on some very exciting things. This is an offering that has the potential to be very big and is not readily available in a lot of large markets around the world. Without giving away too much, there's going to be some exciting news in the near future.

Want to learn more?


Creating a Stellar Guest Experience Amid Social Distancing
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The short-term rental industry is young and agile, and it was trending toward digital adoption even before the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, with social distancing as the new normal, technology that facilitates contact-free stays is more important than ever.

From smart locks to remote-operated thermostats, home automation is now at a point where guests can check-in without picking up keys, and cleaning staff don’t need to rush over immediately upon checkout to make sure the guest turned off the TV.

Technology has made it so property management companies can host guests without any human contact at all -- but have we lost the human touch in the process? This post explains how you can create a more personal guest experience even while using contact-free technology to keep guests safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Share Your Side of the Story

While all guests will appreciate the convenience of a contact-free stay, they’ll be even more grateful when they understand that you’ve chosen smart home automation because you care about them.

Create a message flow for guests upon arrival sharing how important it is for you to prioritize your guests’ health and safety and explaining how contact-free technology limits opportunities for coronavirus contagion. This will help them understand that the people behind the property put their wellbeing first.

You could even go a step further to explain how home automation is more sustainable, saving on energy with automatic thermostat control to avoid using excess heating or AC. Many of today’s travelers are well aware of the carbon footprint of travel, and they would be thrilled to know that their host is taking steps to help them mitigate that environmental damage.

Having this context personalizes a contact-free rental and offers guests a glimpse into their host’s value system, creating a stronger interpersonal connection and elevating the guest experience.

Not only that, but these added “touches” show you prioritize guest comfort. For example, you can check in on your guests’ preferred temperature and warm or cool the unit to the right setting just in time for their arrival, and you can also monitor air quality and humidity to make sure they’re comfortable.

Lend a Helping Hand

For guests who haven’t had much experience with keyless entry or other automated devices, a contact-free stay might feel overwhelming or simply unfamiliar. After you’ve explained to them why you’ve chosen to go contact-free, make sure they know you’re there to help if they can’t figure out the tech. Send a message with a number they can call to speak to someone who can walk them through temperature or lighting settings. Often times, just knowing they can speak to a human being if they need to is enough to comfort for even the least tech-savvy guests.

Another way to add a personal touch is by writing out instructions for each device. You can photocopy them, laminate them, and add them to each property, so guests always have a resource to turn to before calling. Little touches like this go a long way towards making guests feel comfortable and well-taken care of. During coronavirus, when many people are already feeling a bit anxious, taking this empathetic and thoughtful approach is critical for providing a top-notch experience.

Surprise and Delight (Digitally, Of Course)

Now that you have your bases covered with helpful communication, consider how you can facilitate other contact-free experiences that will make your guests feel special throughout their stay. You might want to send over a meal delivery as a welcome gift, or have flowers delivered if they’re celebrating a special occasion.

If gifts are not in your budget at the moment, you can share experiences instead. Message guests with links to local cultural events that have been moved online, so they can tune into a concert or tour a museum without ever leaving your property. They’ll appreciate the thoughtful recommendations that will keep them busy while staying safe.

Top Takeaways

Your guests will love that your rentals are contact-free -- but they’ll appreciate it even more when you go the extra mile to communicate with them, explain why you’ve invested in this technology and offer your services for any help they might need. Providing a human touch during social distancing is all about displaying empathy and letting your guests know just how much you care.

About Guesty

Guesty is the leading, end-to-end short-term rental property management platform that streamlines and automates the complex operational needs that property managers face on a daily basis – from guest communication to task assignment to payment processing. With Guesty, property managers save time so they can focus on what matters most: growing their business.


Operto Case Study: Using Automation to Rebuild Confidence in Japan
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The Peace Park of Hiroshima is one of Japan’s main tourist attractions. The surrounding area is naturally home to many hotels housing numerous international visitors. However, these hotels are often outpaced in booking volume by the largest short term rental company in this small city, Breakfast Inc run by Ooshi Takayama and Edward Hsieh. Breakfast Inc, founded in 2015 manages 300 properties within the city (including rental apartments, an aparthotel and a Japanese-style ‘capsule hotel’). Pre-COVID19, the company welcomed guests from all over the world with 90% coming from France, the US and Australia. The business was booming.

Not only was Breakfast Inc. growing but it was also very profitable, and operationally efficient. According to Transparent Intelligence data, the average short term rental company has a ratio of one full-time employee for every 10 units under management. This is largely due to the distributed nature of a portfolio, inefficiencies of operations and other technological factors. Edward and Ooshi, however, have managed to reach a staggering ratio of 60 properties to each member of staff whilst still maintaining high guest and owner satisfaction. They both credit this impressive figure to their use of technology.

Operto, and Breakfast’s use of our home automation software, can’t, of course, claim all the credit! When we started working together, the company was already at an impressive 40 units managed per one full-time equivalent employee through a combination of software automation and strategically locating units around the highly visited Peace Memorial Park. Partnering with Operto technology has however allowed the company to become even more operationally efficient through the use of smart locks from Yale and igloohome.

“When the coronavirus hit Japan in January of this year, it was very hard to instil confidence in bookings. Literally, no one wanted to have any personal interaction with our team. Thankfully we already had Operto’s keyless entry system installed on all our properties. The ability to rent properties with no need for a human ‘check-in’ has allowed us a booking volume 5 times the average on Airbnb, according to Airdna”, says COO Edward Hsieh. “In addition to this, our cleaning staff, which were already very strong, are now even more effective at cleaning units. For this period of time, in the midst of the pandemic, the guests we are welcoming are of course no longer international but include healthcare workers and local guests that need to self isolate away from their homes and families. They feel confident, through the use of the Operto software and igloohome locks, that we are providing them with a completely hygienic and safe environment.”

Even prior to the global lockdown, Breakfast had always been able to adapt quickly and achieve high occupancy rates while also achieving a strong revenue per available room. This strong RevPar is achieved by leveraging a deep understanding of the value each unit offers their guests.

The company is confident that they will be able to weather the storm of the current pandemic and once again welcome international visitors to the city’s historic Peace Park.

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Yale smart locks used for automated entry at the B-hotel.

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Igloohome smart padlocks at the Breakfast Capsule Hotel.

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Igloohome smart lockbox at a Breakfast home.

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B-hotel (“Better than hotel”) - brand new opening in Hiroshima.

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Self-check in keeps guests safe and secure at Breakfasts units.

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Smart layout in one of Breakfast’s rental apartments.

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Comfortable, stylish, and economic accommodation at Breakfast Capsule Hotel.


5 security ‘best practices’ every property manager should implement
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The team at Operto Guest Technologies is pleased to announce that it will be partnering with Autohost, a cybersecurity company that performs Airbnb background checks and ID verification to protect property managers from fraud and unwanted guests. To launch the partnership, the two companies have created a list of the 5 security practices every property manager should implement as a best practice.

1. Research & Education

Knowing what to look for during a booking request is your first line of defense. Fraudsters and partiers come in all different shapes and sizes, and as technology gets smarter and more advanced, so do they. A single reservation can lead to major property damage and a ruined reputation.

To protect your business from the wrong types of guests, it’s important to educate yourself on current fraud trends in the short-term rental industry. Keep an eye on news updates and talk to other property managers in your area. Patterns often emerge, revealing the type of threats targeting properties in your area. It’s also a good idea to stay up-to-date on cybersecurity trends to ensure you’re aware of the latest phishing scams and fraud schemes.

Educating yourself on trends is a great first step to protecting your business, but you need to make sure your team is also up-to-date. Reinforce the importance of security with your team by running them through your business’s policies, house rules and security trends. Customer service employees are particularly vulnerable as they’ve been trained to prioritize guest satisfaction, making them extra susceptible to phishing scams, social engineering and other forms of fraud.

2. Guest Screening

No matter how knowledgeable your team is about security threats, bad guests will still book your properties. That’s why you need a guest-screening process that helps you assess the risk level of each guest before they make it to your properties.

An effective guest screening process should require each guest to provide a government-issued ID as well as a selfie to confirm their identity. Next, compare the ID to the name on the guest’s credit card, ensuring they match. Look out for red flags in the reservation details as well, such as a couple booking a three bedroom suite on a weekend just for themselves. While you shouldn’t jump to conclusions, you also want to avoid your property turning into the go-to party spot.

If you have any doubts about a guest, get in touch with them to ask about their reasons for travelling. Specifically, you want to know why they’re travelling, where they’re travelling from and how many guests they’re travelling with. Make sure these reasons align with your house rules.

While guest screening can save you a lot of trouble catching bad guests before they check in, it’s a lot of work to manually verify each guest. To save time and resources, invest in software like Autohost. Using its proprietary algorithm, Autohost analyzes hundreds of data points, performing Airbnb background checks and ID verification, spotting troublesome guests before it’s too late.

3. Smart Locks

Smart locks are the perfect security tool for companies with a sprawling portfolio of properties or any property manager that wants to ensure that their properties are looked after and their guests have maximum convenience. The locks are installed on the door and opened using a code you send to the guest. They remove the need for keys, meaning you no longer have to worry about lost keys or having to change the lock on your suite.

If you connect Operto’s software directly to your PMS, unique access codes are automatically issued for each guest (and staff member!) so guests only have access during their reservations, and you can track who is coming and going. Smart lock data can also be combined with noise monitoring and CO2 analysis to prevent violations and over occupancy. All while guest privacy is maintained.

Since smart locks are connected devices, you can control them remotely. Withdraw access codes at a moment’s notice to stop unwanted guests gaining access. This is also a huge selling point to owners who are worried about the security of their property.

4. Automated Messaging

When it comes to the security of your properties, it’s always better to be proactive rather than reactive. That’s why automated messaging is so important. It gives you the opportunity to outline your rules and expectations to the guest right from the beginning.

Set up automated messaging within your property management software (PMS), and schedule a message outlining your house rules to be sent to the guest once their booking is confirmed. The message should clearly explain to the guest what is and isn’t allowed in your property, whether it’s smoking, parties or pets. You should also include the consequences associated with breaking these rules. This could be anything from the loss of a security deposit to eviction. Show the guest that you take your property’s security seriously.

Consider sending another automated message when the guest checks in, welcoming them to the property and including your contact information in case anything goes wrong (remember: even though you want to protect your property, your guest’s safety also needs to be a top priority). And you can send another message upon checkout, thanking them for the stay and asking for any feedback.

5. Noise & Occupancy Monitoring

Some guests look perfect on paper. Their ID checks out, they answer all your questions, they even pay up front. But then, next thing you know, you’re getting a 2 a.m. phone call from your neighbour complaining about loud music and a large gathering. To avoid this, you need to monitor stays for inappropriate behaviour, like loud noise, and violations, like unregistered guests.

Monitoring your guests requires a certain amount of tact to avoid invading their privacy. To do this, use a device that monitors noise levels without a microphone or the ability to listen in. That way, if there’s a spike in noise, you know something is going on.

But how do you know if it’s a party or just the TV turned up loud? Operto is the only solution in the world offering real-time occupancy. We do this via CO2 monitoring. All humans breathe out CO2, which means the CO2 concentration in any space rises when someone is there and alls when they leave. The higher the CO2, the more people inside your unit!

With Operto, you get instant alerts when your unit exceeds capacity. Combined with noise levels this gives you complete peace-of-mind that your properties are protected 24/7.

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To handle all of your security needs, try Autohost and Operto. Autohost screens your guests, catching fraudsters before they book, and Operto provides smart guest entry, automated messaging, and monitoring of noise and occupancy to keep your properties safe.

With the right security practices in place, you can safeguard your business and owners, while providing the best experience for guests.


A message from our CEO amid COVID-19
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Dear clients,

As the COVID-19 situation unfolds around the world, we wanted to let you know that we are thinking of all of you and hoping you, your family, and your team are safe and well.

We’ve been hearing many inspiring stories from hosts and managers doing fantastic things for their communities. Some have offered stays for nurses or those stranded away from home. Others are spending hours doing deep cleans and extra sanitizing for guests with compromised immune systems. Still others are offering their time to make food deliveries to the elderly.

We were so inspired by selfless efforts like these, that we would like to do the same for you.

Effective immediately, we will be reducing your bill by 50% for the next 3 months.

No restrictions, no footnotes, and there will be no action needed on your part. These changes will be automatically reflected in your next 3 billing cycles.

The entire Operto team is still actively working to support you. Hardware deliveries are still being made and our Client Success team remains at your full disposal, whether you take this time for new installs or just want to catch up on dashboard training.

Staying connected is more important than ever in times like these, so please don’t hesitate to reach out. Drop us a note any time at michael@operto.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Stay safe and healthy out there!

Warm regards,

Michael Driedger Co-founder & CEO, Operto



Operto integrates with Cloudbeds to bring Smart Stay technology to hotels, hostels and hosts
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“Operto Guest Technologies, has announced a cutting-edge integration that brings together Operto’s Smart Stay property automation solution with Cloudbeds, the hospitality management system empowering hotels, hostels, and property managers globally.”

To read more clickhere
Vacation Rentals in a Climate of Change - Operto CEO Michael Driedger
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“There isn’t really much of a downside to combating climate change. The worst that can happen if climate change isn’t real is that we make the world a better place and save money.”

To read more clickhere
Operto integrates with property management suite Cloudbeds
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Michael Driedger, co-founder and CEO of Operto said: “We are very excited about our integration with Cloudbeds. Hotels and hostels are a customer base that have been interested in our Smart Stay solution for some time and the Cloudbeds integration makes that so much easier and streamlined.”

To read more clickhere
Smart City Strategies and the Forgotten Visitor Economy - Operto CEO Michael Driedger
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“Any smart city strategy which doesn’t include the terms ‘tourism’ or ‘visitor’ certainly won’t be able to build a strategy around smart buildings or significant energy reduction. A smart city strategy in 2020 which doesn’t account for smart travel or smart stays isn’t really much of a strategy at all.”

To read more clickhere
How technology and eco-friendly practices are helping short-term rentals go green
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“According to Michael Driedger, co-founder and CEO of property automation software company Operto Guest Technologies, sustainability and operational efficiency are effectively the same thing.”

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The convergence of smart travel, smart stays and smart cities - Operto CEO Michael Driedger
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“Just as a really well-planned air and land travel route is already possible for smart travel, a smart stay is also already available with advancements in property automation technology. For instance, at Operto we’ve been able to create smarter stays, through smart door monitoring.”

To read more clickhere
Enterprise smart home IoT – less is more. - Operto CEO Michael Driedger
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“The unbelievable variety and ubiquity of smart and connected tech for both our homes and the short-term rental properties…has led to some interesting problems.”

To read more clickhere
Operto brings the retrofit flexibility of August Smart Locks to short-term rental property managers
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“Operto Guest Technologies and August Home, Inc. announce a cutting-edge integration that brings Operto’s Smart Stay property automation solution and August’s easy-to-install locks together for the first time.”

To read more clickhere
Operto integrates with Expedia Group Multifamily Solutions
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Operto Guest Technologies recently announced it has entered a partnership and integration between Operto's Smart Stay property automation solution with Expedia Group Multifamily Solutions.

To read more clickhere
Operto integrates with August Smart Locks
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Operto CEO Michael Driedger said: ‘We are really excited to bring a greater degree of operational efficiency to busy and scaling short-term property managers. ASSA ABLOY, August and Yale’s parent company, has been a partner of Operto for a long time with many of our customers using their Yale Real Living series of locks.”

To read more clickhere
Why is there such a lack of R&D in construction? - Operto CEO Michael Driedger
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“In my view, for the construction industry to really be able to focus on R&D there needs to be a lot less noise and a lot more simplicity. It’s nigh on impossible to research, innovate, and develop something new within the current climate of design and construction.”

To read more clickhere
Keyless Entry is Becoming the New Normal
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“Keyless entry provides balance between tech solutions and traditional hospitality to enhance the guest experience. “Technology isn’t here to replace hospitality, it’s here to complement it,” says Ryan Killeen, general manager at The Annex in Toronto, which uses Operto.”

To read more clickhere
Operto and Expedia Group Multifamily Solutions partner
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“Operto Guest Technologies is announcing an industry-leading integration and partnership that brings together Operto's Smart Stay property automation solution with Expedia Group Multifamily Solutions.”

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Operto and Expedia Group Multifamily Solutions announce partnership
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Operto co-founder and CEO, Michael Driedger, said: “We’re very excited to work with the Expedia Group team. They’ve created a great model that makes it easy for multifamily operators to capitalise on the explosive growth of short-term rentals.”

To read more clickhere
Operto integrates with thermostat supplier tado°
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“With the introduction of tado°, European property managers will be able to manage heating systems, as well as air conditioning/heat pump units using infrared remote controls, to automatically save 20-35 per cent on heating or cooling.”

To read more clickhere
Operto partnership with tado brings intelligently controlled thermostat to European short-term rentals
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“Operto Guest Technologies, the leading property automation system and purpose-built software for managing connected devices in guest accommodation, has announced an integration with European smart thermostat supplier tado, ensuring European short-term rental property managers and their guests can benefit from intelligent smart home controls, automated workflows and superior guest comfort.”

To read more clickhere
Operto and MyVR integrate to bring Smart Stay technology to high-growth property managers
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“We are excited to introduce such an innovative product to our clients,“ says Markus Nordvik, Co-founder and COO of MyVR. “Most of our clients are growing rapidly and integrations like Operto help our clients scale their business while providing a world-class guest experience.”

To read more clickhere
MyVR integrates with Operto to offer Smart Stay tech to help managers
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“Our integration with MyVR will bring Operto’s Smart Stay property automation solutions toMyVR’s ever-expanding marketplace of tools for managers. This integration will save property managers lots of time, and therefore reduce costs, on both platforms.” Michael Driedger, Co-Founder and CEO of Operto.

To read more clickhere
Operto reveals integration partnership with PMS MyVR
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“Leading Smart Stay system and purpose-built software, Operto Guest Technologies, has announced an integration partnership with property management software MyVR, which is used by master-leased properties and high-growth vacation rental managers.”

To read more clickhere
Why some short-term rental tech vendors are turning away from independent hosts
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Operto and Direct integrate to bring Smart Stay technology to short-term and vacation rentals
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“Direct has been building a really elegant and technology forward solution. There is no doubt that our shared integration will bring value to vacation rental managers big and small,” – Michael Driedger, co-founder and CEO of Operto.

To read more clickhere
Operto integrates with management firm Direct to develop Smart Stay tech
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“Operto aligns with our mission to provide next-generation technology that is built to work at scale, and I'm extremely excited for the future of this integration,'' said Wes Smithe, CEO and Co-Founder of Direct. "Our platforms are innovative and powerful, and will stand the test of time for managers who wish to take their operations to the next level.”

To read more clickhere
Operto and Direct complete integration partnership
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"The integration will ensure that Direct property management customers can easily access the Operto in-property automation software and solution for Smart Stays"

To read more clickhere
Operto named winner of VrTech startup competition
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“Operto is very honoured to win this unique award and we would like to thank the team at VrTech and all those who voted for our solution. Our Operto team in Vancouver, who work so hard to service the vacation rental industry and continually improve our Smart Stay property automation software for professional property managers, are truly the reason for our success.” –Michael Driedger, co-founder and CEO of Operto.

To read more clickhere
Personalizing PropTech - The App Bias: Operto CEO Michael Driedger
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“PropTech, will only come of age and be a mature sector when it starts to put people at the center of an ecosystem of interfaces.”

To read more click here
VrTech Startup Competition reveals trio of finalists
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CEO Michael Driedger said: “We’re incredibly honoured to be the jury of experts’ choice as a VrTech Competition finalist. It’s great to see an organisation and competition encouraging innovation and collaboration in this fast-moving industry.”

To read more clickhere
Operto teams up with Nuki to offer smart locks to Europe's short-term rentals
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“As a software provider who works with best in class hardware, we are always very excited to find great partners like Nuki. We are particularly excited to start working with more European vacation rental managers.” says CEO Michael Driedger of Operto.

To read more clickhere

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