Thursday, February 01, 2007

Downside of independent property listings

Nice little legal battle is engulfing some of Sydney's "elite" over desires to list apartments for short term leases (ie a week or so) on online hotel sites. The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting on an imminent court battle between a number of owners of apartments at the AEA Grand building in Sydney's Darling Harbour and the City of Sydney Council over zoning. The owners want to rent out their apartments by the week, the Council wants to stop them and is caught in the middle (according to the SMH article but I could not find a listing on Wotif of the AEA Grand).

Is an example of the regulatory and operational problems that have been hitting a number of the extranet only, flexible data structure online hotel players like, and Priceline's Activehotels in accessing and supporting rentals of independent property inventory. It does not take much for a property owner to put up a property for rent of sites like these - a couple of photographs, text, rates and a process for picking up a key. It is hard and expensive for the product/inventory managers at the sites to verify the legality of using the premises for short stay. If lawyer had to be involved in every approach from an independent property then hotel acquisition would grind to a halt. But you cannot ignore this inventory - independent properties are the last frontier of sale online.

The answer is:
  • for product/inventory managers to be trained on how to minimise the risks (ie reject private homes, search the web for other listings and yank the property as soon as there is a hint of problems);
  • to prepare the customer care team with an action plan for dealing with customers that are stung by a lock-out; and
  • develop new products for supplier access. The "old fashioned" extranet approach needs to be reworked to support a property that has only one room.

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