Meet the Entrepreneurial Duo Shaking Up Dubai’sTourism Sector with Tech | Everything Property

Meet the Entrepreneurial Duo Shaking Up Dubai’sTourism Sector with Tech

It was only 12 years ago that the world’s biggest short-term rental app officially disrupted the South African market. Now, it has been reported that South Africa is the biggest Airbnb market in Africa, accounting for half of the continent’s listings and collectively earning hosts in the country over R2 billion in 2021 alone. This positions the platform as an invaluable tool for the local hospitality industry.

Chregan O’Flynn and Max Urban, Co-founders and Managing Directors of Propr, South Africa’s largest short term rental management company, saw a gap in the market in 2015 and launched their business on the coattails of the Airbnb boom. Today, Propr manages operations at 500+ properties across South Africa and Dubai and is the only host management company based in Africa and the Middle East to have direct API integration with Airbnb. Additionally, select Propr homes are featured on Homes & Villas by Marriott International, a curated vacation rental platform.

Taking short-term rental management to the next level with local tech

With the company’s co-founders having backgrounds in tech, they saw that most short-term rental operators utilised off-the-shelf software applications to cobble together a working property management system. The problem with this approach is that hosts need to make compromises and find workarounds to stitch these disjointed pieces together which then impacts the guest experience. What’s more, many off-the-shelf solutions are designed for developed markets and are not suitable to the South African context.

Over the past seven years, the Propr team has developed their own property management system. “The goal,” says O’Flynn, “has always been to automate those elements that can be automated and give our team tools to make them superhumanly more effective.”

Urban adds that it all starts with a delighted guest. “A happy guest leaves a good review, which leads to more future bookings, which, in turn leads to happier property owners who trust us with their properties. The guest is the start of that virtuous circle, and our tech allows our team to spend more quality time with them while also automating processes that are either tedious or prone to human error.”

“Most people don’t realise the sheer number of moving parts in this business. It is an order of magnitude more complex than running a hotel since our properties are disbursed across cities which adds logistical complexity to housekeeping, maintenance and meeting guests. Moreover, each property is different, with its own requirements, features and inventories. Our property management system keeps track of all of these moving parts so that we are able to deliver a consistent guest experience. It also harnesses technology like machine learning and AI to ensure that we get better over time. The longer we’re in this business, the more needs arise and so we code processes for these into our system. Without the ability to customise our tech, we wouldn’t be able to innovate and streamline as much as we have.”

Digital solutions transform market challenges

Some of the needs Propr has designed solutions to include archaic housekeeping management methods, rental owners’ inability to control guests’ noise levels, the struggle of being able to price properties correctly and lack of personalisation when it comes to the guest experience, amongst others.

To tackle the issue of housekeeping management, Propr developed an app to remotely monitor and manage cleaning in real time using input and images from the housekeepers employed by the company to ensure that the standards pre-set for each rental unit are met. “In the past, housekeepers would have to cross off cleaning checklists manually, but now, through our technology, the process has been simplified and made customisable for each property,” says Urban.

O’Flynn adds that: “Housekeeping, traditionally, is a thankless job as we only find out about it if it is not done well. This can be very demotivating for housekeepers who might feel that their only motivation is to do well enough not to lose their jobs. We are trying to change this by incentivising housekeepers through spot check bonuses and individual rating systems based on guest reviews of the cleanliness of a property.”

Regarding noise control, he explains that short-term tenants and guests are typically on holiday or in town on business and can be loud, especially when relaxing on vacation. “This can cause issues for property owners as neighbours sometimes complain. Propr makes use of technology integrated with noise monitoring sensors to provide automated and instant notifications or calls to the guests as well as to the rental operator to alert them to any breaches in noise levels.”

While it is almost impossible to know exactly what the right price is for a property on a given night due to fluctuating variables such as additional direct flights being added from overseas or demand driven by events, Propr has developed an automated real-time pricing algorithm. Urban points out that this creates a set price point for each property every month that is adjusted daily in accordance with fluctuations in the market.

Personalisation is the watchword among millennial travellers. To this end, the Propr Shopper feature was recently developed to help guests stock up on essentials prior to their arrival. “In future, this tech will be taken a step further by enabling guests to choose from experiences and activities tailored to their location and likes,” says O’Flynn.

The future of hospitality is tech enabled

Going forward, the entrepreneurs will be developing even more top-line tech tools to meet the needs of tomorrow’s travellers and short-term rental owners. “The key is to use tech in a way that adds to the guests’ delight, rather than making them feel that they are dealing with robots. At every step of the guest journey, tech can help make the experience better – from the time they book to when they arrive back home, and everything in between. There are also many new trends in hospitality like sustainability, payments and hygiene that only tech can help solve. Propr is well placed to be at the forefront of these developments both in SA and abroad,” concludes Urban.

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