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Vacation Rental Management Conference: Rentivo and Klik Villas’ Marc Ribail

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This article is part of our Rental Scale-Up vacation rental management conference series. This is an extract from our May 2020 conference: “How villa and holiday rental managers are navigating the COVID-19 crisis in Southeast Asia and Oceania.”

Vacation Rental Management Conference: Rentivo & Klik Villas’ Marc Ribail

Marc is a Director at Rentivo, a holiday rental booking management, payment provider, and marketplace builder which expanded its services to include booking management software with associated marketplaces and sales & marketing services tailored to Asian markets. He has founded and led several rental and property management companies, marking more than 15 years of experience in the industry.

Vacation Rental Management Conference: Video From The 2020 Southeast Asia & Oceania Conference

  • Marc is the director of Rentivo, and he lived in Thailand for 18 years while working as a hotel manager or in property management and marketing.
  • Rentivo now works with 1400 properties in Thailand, Bali, and Sri Lanka. The company provides marketing service and advice to property owners and property managers.
  • Rentivo has a unique perspective on market trends because they have a lot of data about their properties and they are always talking with different booking agencies.
  • For Asian markets, Marc sees guests coming from three main feeder markets: Europe, Asia, and Australia.
  • Marc doesn’t think Australian travelers will start traveling to Asian markets before 2021 because of legal restrictions in Australia.
  • Travel from Europe may also be slower to rebound for a few reasons, including flight prices, which are 30% to 40% more expensive right now.
    • Europe is also facing some economic uncertainty as many people have lost jobs, suffered financial losses, or feel anxiety about a potential second wave of the virus.
    • Many European governments are encouraging people to travel domestically instead of internationally, which will also cause fewer people to travel abroad.
  • The group that will be most confident traveling to Asian markets like Thailand and Bali will be people coming from other countries in Asia. 
  • Marc thinks Thailand and Bali could see guests from Hong Kong or Singapore traveling over Christmas holidays.
  • Some Asian markets may even see domestic travel, but domestic travelers within Indonesia, for example, often don’t have the same purchasing power as international visitors, so higher-end properties would not benefit from these guests.
  • Marc recommends adding sites like Traveloka and Expedia to your distribution strategy.

Vacation Rental Management Conference: Full Conversation Between Marc Ribail And Thibault Masson

Thibault:

Dear Rental Scale-Up members. Thank you for joining us. I’m here with Marc Ribail. Marc is director at Rentivo and he’s bringing us great expertise about the Southeast Asian market, especially Bali, but especially Thailand because he’s lived there for a long time. He’s got a very, great personal professional experience there. So Marc will be able to tell us about how the markets are usually, what the Thai market is like for example, in terms of holiday rentals, but also we’ll be focusing with him today about the recovery. What to expect, what to expect is of recovery for the bookings, what he’s seeing now for the data he has. But as well as maybe the difference between different markets of origin who will be traveling first, what to expect. And if you are, if you’re a property manager with a lot of European travelers you’ll be very keen on hearing from him what’s right now on the mind of your European travelers. What do they know, what they don’t know about Asia for example, and can they even travel or fly to Thailand for example. So without further ado, Marc, thank you for being with us and how are you?

Marc:

Thank you very much for having me here, Thibault. Thank you. I’m good. Thank you.

Thibault:

So obviously we both speak French, but with English for the sake of our listeners. So Marc maybe can give us some background because as I said, you know, Thailand pretty well and that will help people understand where you’re coming from and How, how come you know so much about the markets.

Marc:

Okay. Thank you. Yes, indeed. I spent, I lived in Thailand for about 18 years and I spent most of the time working in either as a hotel manager or I’m also in property management and marketing. So the last bef and then this is after working in the property management for about seven years. This is when I created my company to develop the management system as well as a marketplace which covers Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Bali with about now 1400 properties. And finally, we also started to provide marketing representation services and marketing consultancy to property owners and property managers which we carry on at the moment.

Thibault:

And right now you’re a director with Rentivo, so it means you, you, you are, you are really bringing this knowledge of the market also to the tech side of what’s going on behind the scenes. And with that view, basically you are able to give us some ideas about what’s going on in the market. And I think you’ve, you’ve actually built a very concerted view of what’s going to happen, right? Things are going to go back but not that fast. Can you share a bit more than that?

Marc:

Yeah, so the idea is like, we will, we’re looking at like every company, be assistant provider or management company or marketplace or TA, we all looking at data to actually try to set up a view of what will happen. So in our case, we have information coming from a management system because we have a fair few clients in Thailand and Bali. So we see the booking trends, we have our marketplace as I explained, so we can see how where people are coming from, what, what are the source markets and the evolution for the past 18 months. And finally, we also, as we provide marketing consultancy or representation services, we see, we speak to a lot of booking agencies. We manage the OTs accounts and we seek equally well the volume of inquiries coming in for this year next year.

Marc:

So the view is like, I think the, for Asia specifically, there are three, I would say two and a half markets. There’s European source market, there’s original Asian regional source markets and Australia, which is a little bit different. So I’m going to start with Australia because that’s the quickest, I think Australia will, from what we see, will not authorize massive travelers traveling outside of Australia before 2021. So I think as Bali, Australia is one of the biggest ones, the largest source market for Bali, sadly, this will not happen this year. It will very likely happen next year. For Thailand is not so much, Thailand and the rest of Asia not so much impacted because of the distance of traveling and the cost of travel. Now, for European travelers.

Marc:

There’s been a, just to go back a bit of history. During the 2008 crash there was, there was a massive and sudden decrease in the number of travelers from Europe to Asia for obvious economical reasons. So this downfall is being West composited at the time when it started 2009 with the massive influx of Chinese tourists. Okay. So the view we have at the moment and taking considerations, other information from media and, and and also sources is that there are several factors, which I think we limit the volume of travel and the comeback of European travelers: the first one is the obvious cost with looking at flights, the flights for next year look like they are at the moment, 30 to 40% more expensive than it used to be, which when you’re a family of five or six or even four is represents a certain increase in terms of budget.

Marc:

Okay. The second element is the, the possible recession and the uncertainty about what, how big, how strong with that recession be. And everybody is adopting a conservative view on this and saying, okay, yeah, those who have been affected economically by the COVID, they will keep the settings, those who were lucky enough to keep, were able to carry on working. They may consider a stay. Okay. Let, let’s just wait in, what is the risk that we have of falling into the trap of this recession? Will, is our job at stake? Yes or no. Okay. This is real, but also psychological, so keeping everything close to the chest. The other thing, the other element is the fear of a possible second wave just before the winter. Okay. As we’ve seen, Europe has been more affected than Asia.

Marc:

And people say that the surveys will say, or the experts say that the weather is impacting the way the virus is being spread as well. Okay. Compared to Asia, which was in a more tempered or warm climate. So whether it’s true or not, this is to be debatable. It’s not, you’re not going to talk about here, okay. But there was this fear because when you read the press, there is this, not constant, but continuous repetition. Like there may be a second wave, there may be a second wave and therefore creating a certainty. Okay? So all of his factors are and the last factor is that if you’ve been to Asia, you know exactly how it works. Okay. Do you know how the food is? You know how the service is, you know how the streets are, if the streets are clean or how they’re clean and all of this environment, which we were used to when we traveled there. For us, it’s normal for people who have never been to Asia and who may have the wrong perception that they are this developing country. We actually have become very developed. It could be another factor that’s maybe making them think twice whether it would go back to Asia.

Thibault:

And I think, Marc, a good example of that is wearing a mask or not, right? As we know it, if you’ve ever been to Asia, whenever somebody has a cold buyout of a cold seat, they would wear a mask. It’s not something completely weird and it’s something that’s only getting now to Europeans. But, so this, to your point, why do you, you took this probably a perception for some Europeans that maybe the measures in Asia that had been strong, this, how much do Europeans know about the measures have been put into place or what, how bad the virus was. Do you think there’s good level of information about that?

Marc:

No, that’s another point as well. We, within Europe, we know very well how the neighboring countries have handled COVID. Okay. It’s very simple because there’s been a lot of communication, this European community and everything. However, we have seen very, very little information about how the Asian governments have handled the COVID situation. Okay. And I will say that vice versa is the same in Asia. You have everything information except the number, the massive number of lethality and in cases where, which can be scary for Asian travelers coming over to Europe. Okay. So it’s two ways as well. So there is also this, this, this lack of understanding and, and seeing that knowing how Asia has dealt with it in addition to this, I think there’s another small element which is SARS. Okay. SARS in 2003, 2002, 2002 and 3 was mainly Asia.

Marc:

And there was this kind of, but because of this, because of SARS, every single Asian country has policies in place on how to tackle such an epidemy. Okay. Such a virus. And you mentioned the fact of wearing masks. They don’t just wear masks when, when they have a cold or anything. Like you see people cooking, they wear masks just out of pure cleanliness. Asian people are very clean in in a sense a lot more than some of our European counterparts, but and, and and therefore it’s, it’s it’s normal for them and they are handled having a lot of, I’ve not been in Asia, obviously for, for during the COVID, but having a lot of colleagues and, and friends and clients, which we’ve been talking a lot. And the way they have handled the COVID was extremely well and probably better than, than some of the areas in Europe because wearing the mask is a normal thing and, and it can help a lot. So so does the does the aspect, we’re getting the cleanliness of Asia

Thibault:

And another aspect. So again, we were using your, your time here because you can really give this perspective on European straddling a knot. I know that the other point I think I believe is that European governments also basically tell people not to travel internationally. They are very pushing people to go domestically for real or, or bad reasons. Could be the reasons but not judging here, but it’s happening as well. Like clearly a push for domestic bookings.

Marc:

Hmm. Yeah. I think it’s, it’s I think it’s a word of caution from the, the, from each European government saying, I mean in France they literally said, do not plan to travel abroad. Full stop. Okay, let’s go and rediscover and support the tourism industry within France because the tourism industry is one of the, one of the industries that suffered the most. Okay. So therefore it’s like staying in France, enjoy France. There’s a lot to see and a lot to do. And, and besides this, there’s also another side, the word question is also in case there is another way of, during the summer or just before the summer, we don’t really want you to be stranded because it’s very expensive. And we’ve seen people that are being stuck in Asia for the past three months. They have to make due, they have to find accommodation at a reasonable price, which they can afford and basically stay for three months. And you’ve seen countries like Thailand easing the rules. We’re getting immigration laws because normally when you come to Thailand, you have one month stamp and you can only extend it by another month or two weeks. I don’t remember exactly. So, they have extended up to three months to allow to accommodate the people that were stranded because catching a flight when there’s nearly no flights between Asia and Europe, it’s very expensive. It’s not, it becomes absolutely not affordable.

Thibault:

Yeah, it’s a very good point. I can barely, there’s a lot of Russian people who either don’t want to come back to Russia or just can’t because there’s only few emergency flights available. It’s just impossible to get on that. So that’s the situation with Europe. So as you’re saying, so this is because maybe people won’t have money or fear they won’t have money. Their fear of this second wave as you mentioned. So maybe some lack of knowledge about how safe it is in Southeast Asia at the moment. So, so the, all this basically makes you feel very conservative in terms of the recovery.

Marc:

Yeah, I think it will. I think that the rest of 2020 would be very difficult for, I mean, the perspective of welcoming European guests in 2020 it will be, and we see it with the booking trend. At the moment, this is quite early. It’s still a little bit early because countries have just started to reopen, right? So they’re in confinement in Europe starting in May, in Thailand it started to resume domestic flights a few days ago, May 15th, so it may be obituary and that’s why I’m saying it’s conservative, because it’s always better to have a good surprise than bad surprise. But I think that the recovery of European travelers is more likely to happen in 2021 than before the end of this year. We may have, we still, there’s still a lot of properties available for Christmas and new year, obviously, because this, this February to May is the booking period for, for the the end of the year. So there may be a good surprise there. I would say. Yeah, let’s just, they just plan on the European recovery of travelers coming back to Asia next year.

Thibault:

So is it safe for, for Christmas to, to bet on Hong Kong or Singapore travelers for example?

Marc:

Yes, completely. I think that it’s the other region, so Asian regionally because like in Europe, they have the, there’s a lot of communication about how things were handled in Vietnam, in Thailand, in Bali, in Sri Lanka and cases in Singapore and everything. So I think they are a lot more confident. They know this country, they’ve been traveling already originally, so they will be a lot more confident to travel. Okay. this will be conditioned with the number of flights that would make, that would be made available between, from one country to the other or even domestically, for example, within Thailand or from Hong Kong too, because all the fries, for example, Hong Kong is, I’ve been, I’ve been, I’ve been I’ve, I’ve stopped but there’s still flights coming from Hong Kong, Singapore. So it’s, it’s there’s a lot more, there’s a higher chance to have some kind of a season this summer.

Marc:

Okay. With the original travelers than, then the rest of the, the rest of the world definitely. Okay. And Christmas and New Year. Yes. Because I think we’ll see an adjustment in the prices you will see a lot of some promotions, some discounts being offered to fill in to fill in the gaps to fill in the villas and a lot more flexibility as well. Well, we already see that some property managers have implemented COVID rules in terms of cancelations in a sense that if the flights are canceled or there are travel restrictions, not a travel warning, but the travel restrictions from the source, from the source, like a government, then the people would get their money back or they have the choice to postpone their stay for the next 12 months as opposed to nine months like it was before. So we see. So there’ll be an interest from the original market will be very luckily price reduction. There’s not, there’s not such a thing at the moment or the promotions and at the end in mid December, but we’ll see. I think let’s in, in, in, in the year and a couple of months, some prices coming down and greater flexibility in terms of cancellation.

Thibault:

That’s the question as well as domestic travel. But it’s interesting, for example, when I think of Indonesia there’ve always been a lot of domestic travel people especially, you know, booming in the 2000’s’-2010’s people coming from Jakarta to discover Bali or people going from one Island to another. Obviously not, it’s not the same kind of, of, of travelers. It’s not, maybe the purchasing power is a bit lower. They may not hit three villas, although some, you know, some people in Jakarta can completely afford luxury villas anywhere in the world. I’m not sure about the market in Thailand, for example. I don’t know whether there’s already a strong domestic market that would support villas for example. Or it’s mostly cheaper options. But what do you think here?

Marc:

It’d be a cheaper option because the disparity between the wealth spectrum is, is, is, is quite great. It has a much lower population than Indonesia, so there’s less people that have a middle class or upper class. But Thai people love traveling, so they will, they will travel but they are not necessarily able to stay in luxury villas. So mostly like bungalows, hotels, hotels would provide massive discounts, that’s for sure. And there’s always a special price for, for domestic markets anyway. So that’s, that’s a very custom marketing policy to have specific pricing for, for domestic.

Thibault:

Okay. And is there any, any channels that people should be opting up or using more to capture more of these, either regional or, or domestic demand?

Marc:

Yeah, I think I mean in Asia, you see the Traveloka has been pushing a lot for, for promotions, Expedia as well. It’s always been coming and coming up OTA in Asia and in Thailand, for what I know. They are very active in basically incentivizing, incentivizing for better rates for promotions, for flexibility. I am good. I even thought about the sad news of the reduction in the number of staff. It’s the big structure is very good for the regional markets being based in, in Singapore and Bangkok. So I think these are the other platforms. I would recommend, definitely.

Thibault:

All right. That’s thank you so much Mark for this overview. I mean, we, I know thanks to your personal experience in the market to the current view you have through the tools and your measurement system, marketplace and the advice you’re giving now to high end property managers, you’re really able to give us some trends. So it’s a very conservative view. But on the other hand, that’s what we all need to hear. Calmly said that’s what to expect and this sort of, I think we’re great insights into the mind of Europeans, right? But what to expect. And I’m also thinking about different channels to activate. So, obviously you are very active in the market. So if people want to reach out to you to know more about your expertise or know about the tools what’s the best way to connect with you?

Marc:

Simply by email, send me an email at [email protected] And I’d be very happy to, to spend some time giving some advice or giving some, some insight or support. Any, any thoughts that conversation. So but I think it’s just one final touch I think is yes, I have a conservative view but I think there is there’s a whole lot of cohesion and a lot of management companies in, in Asia the very, quite solid, even though they are competitors and, and I think there’s an opportunity here to have a joint message, find a way to have a joint message by pushing booking partners so they can help communicate what is happening. Because at the end of the day, most of the properties in most of the villas in Asia, I’ve got living stuff. Therefore, the cleanliness is very different. The approach to the services is very different. And it can be reassuring as in, in the meantime for, for, for travelers, we’re not a hundred percent certain. So communication is essential. Definitely. So whether it be your email campaign or on the website or anything that is, is very, very important.

Thibault:

Yep. Thanks a lot for this extra tip on communicating around cleanliness, staff and making sure people are reaching out to guests or people who are even thinking and then communicating on the conditions of a stay in a luxury villa if people have never been there. I once again, thank you so much for your,

Marc:

Thank you for having me

Thibault:

And I hope to see you in person soon enough. Take care.

Marc:

Okay. Thank you. Bye bye.

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