Imagine offering guests the comfort, service, and luxury of a five-star hotel, with the ease, simplicity, personalization, and brand loyalty of a modern short-term vacation rental.
Locale customers don’t have to imagine—by harnessing the power of short-term rental technology, this new ‘hybrid’ company has made this dream a reality.
It is, simply, what Locale calls “a better way to stay”, and it’s part of the new set of tech-first hotels leading the way in today’s hospitality industry trends.
Founded in 2017 in Austin, Texas, Locale has since been described as the “best of both worlds” by the Robb Report and is part of an emerging style of “aparthotels”—meaning short-term stays akin to a high-end apartment living experience.
Locale is now found in five super-cool locations—including Music Row, Nashville; Rainey Street, Austin; and Galleria, Houston—with a focus on super-central locations and cozy, home-from-home design and amenities.
Against all odds, Locale has also managed to stay open during Covid. In fact, the company is now expanding, at a time when many in hospitality have struggled to stay afloat.
Such streamlined service and incredible growth have been made possible by Locale’s winning Mews and Operto integration, which combines the power of both tools for optimum success to offer technology-enhanced service that improves, rather than replaces, great hospitality.
Read on to see how they did it, and learn exactly how to implement the same ultimate tech stack in your vacation rental business today.
Connect your operations
Mews and Operto are a powerful duo, built for forward-thinking short-term rental operators. Want to see how it would work for your operations?
What makes Locale easier than a hotel and better than a vacation rental?
Locale’s mission is to offer an elevated experience compared to a traditional hotel or vacation rental, which is more personal than a hotel room and more reliable and modern than a random short-term rental booked through Airbnb or VRBO.
This includes offering benefits that many hotels and short-term rentals don’t or can’t, such as:
- Virtual self-check-in.
- Free super-fast Wi-Fi.
- Cozy, fresh, and stylish design suitable for modern, highly discerning guests.
- Large living areas and/or two-bedroom spaces.
- A fully-stocked kitchen.
- An in-room laundry.
- On-site fitness centers and parking.
- High-quality in-room amenities and facilities such as yoga mats, smart TVs, coffee, playlists, filtered water, linen, towels, 24-hour concierge, and housekeeping.
- Better prices than many comparable Airbnb options and hotel rooms.
- The Shop My Stay service, an in-room shopping experience enabling guests to buy the products in their room, for online shoppers who love to try before they buy and want ‘home from home’ experiences whenever they travel.
The power of the brand—and customer loyalty for the Locale model—is clearly paramount, as the business now receives most of its bookings direct, rather than through an OTA such as HomeAway or Booking.com.
Customer loyalty, a track record of super-satisfied guests, and customer trust are central to its success.
The winning tech stack that made it possible
All this was made possible by Locale’s winning choice of technology.Its tech stack cleverly combines the power of world-famous hotel management software Mews, with the digital agility and customer-facing expertise of property automation and guest portal specialist platform, Operto.
Put simply, Operto picks up where Mews leaves off, and combining the two ensures your operations are automated and seamless.
Harnessing the power of this Mews and Operto integration enables Locale to add welcoming touches, such as personalizing guests’ experiences (for example, by pulling a guest’s first name from Mews into the Operto ConnectTM Guest Portal to tailor emails and messages), or offer tailored temperature schedules.It can easily offer a range of digital services that guests increasingly demand and expect, such as automated check-in, in-room concierge services, and thermostat control.
As Nitesh Gandhi, founder, and CEO of Locale, explained in a conversation with Forbes: “Connected travelers today want something more. They want a space that’s not only smart, and we have a lot of smart features in our rooms, [but] the room should also make you smarter.
“We appeal to someone who values personalization. There should be a level of intentionality in all we do. We’re a younger company, so we can push the envelope.”
Behind the scenes, controlling access is a breeze, with timed and remote smart lock access for housekeeping staff and maintenance, and thermostat control based on occupancy monitoring.
As Gandhi says: “The primary factor when we were looking to upgrade our PMS was to find something that fit our model. Mews quickly rose to the top of the list for various factors, but mainly because it has a very large umbrella, in terms of who it services.
“Mews really hit the nail on the head for being flexible for us.”
Combining Mews with Operto proved even more powerful, because, Gandhi says: “Operto has the most momentum and seems to be doing the most innovation. We’ve seen that firsthand.”
Why this tech stack makes for skyrocketing growth
Streamlining services digitally by combining Mews and Operto allows you to save time on behind-the-scenes admin, so you can spend more time pleasing guests and creating a thriving business with happy, repeat customers.
Locale can automatically schedule, set and revoke access to properties remotely, with no need to have anyone on-site or waiting around at a front desk. Locale check-in takes only a few minutes, with all information sent via Mews and Operto.
Property managers communicate digitally and on the go using guests’ existing devices, meaning easy onboarding and lower overheads for you, and much less of a learning curve for staff.
Going tech-first allows managers to automate repetitive, time-consuming admin tasks such as accepting payment, sending confirmation emails, booking details, welcome texts, granting room access, check-out notices and surveys, and sending guests key information for their stay in advance.
Guests get everything they need when they need it via automated communication and the Operto ConnectTM Guest Portal, and you have more time to focus on giving them the best stay possible.
As CEO and founder Gandhi says: “My background is in hospitality and hotels, and seeing how people-heavy and manual labor-intensive a typical hotel operation was, the plan was always to start a company to embrace the latest tools and technology.
“We always wanted to operate it more efficiently, operate it virtually, and just provide a seamless guest experience at the same time. Any time we can cut out manual processes that will translate into time savings, that translates into resource savings.”
Guest loyalty from the value they provide
As a result of this care, the majority of Locale’s bookings come direct (although they do partner with some OTAs too), and from repeat custom, and the simplicity of Mews’ booking engine interface helps make it as easy as possible.
As Gandhi explains: “Booking is an easier and more simplified process. Bookings have gone up over the last 12 months, and I think part of that is due to the technology, the interface, just being better. Mews is a big part of that argument. It’s a better experience than our previous platform.”
Reviews show that guests are eager to come back as soon as they depart, especially because of the super-easy communication that the Mews-Operto technology enables.
One guest said: “This is a new, modern apartment that we would like to use again”, while another said simply: “I would stay here again in a heartbeat.”
Simplified, easy, on-device and in-room messaging puts guests’ minds at ease and helps them feel cared for even when all staff are remote.
As one guest put it: “Communication with the property managers was so easy.” Another specifically mentioned that staff were “very friendly”, and yet another was happy to report that “very responsive management” was a key reason they would stay again.
Locale never closed during the pandemic, because their guests trusted that their tech-first systems would allow them to provide Covid-safe accommodation, with zero fuss.
Gandhi summarizes: “Our repeat bookings are so high because people feel a part of our hospitality experience, whether it was virtual or not.”
Brand awareness and value proposition
By leveraging tech-first solutions, Locale offers much more than your average vacation rental. It’s able to offer high-end luxury touches guests might expect from a hotel, with the ease and relaxation of an apartment.
Professional cleaning, which is coordinated remotely. Property managers can revoke and allow access to guests and housekeeping with a touch of a button.
Resort-style pools and fully-equipped fitness centers. Saving on costs elsewhere means Locale can offer luxury facilities not normally on offer at a simple vacation rental.
On-site parking. Guests don’t have to worry about where they will park, even in the city center.
24/7 customer support. Digital automation systems mean guests can access help and customer service without needing to go to a front desk, no matter what time it is.
Parcel concierge service. Locale understands that its digital native guests may need to receive mail from online shopping and allows them to do this with ease, leaving them free to explore the local bars and restaurants.
And Locale doesn’t just use tech for its own brand. The Shop My Stay service means guests can purchase items used in-room directly from their phone, ensuring they remember their stay and build loyalty to the products used, too.
Providing a hybrid approach
Locale’s success is precisely because it uses technology to improve hospitality, not to replace it. Switching to digital automation doesn’t have to mean a cold or clinical experience; quite the opposite.
“We’re very cognizant of not replacing the entire hospitality experience with technology.
We’re not trying to be tech-only, just tech-first or tech-forward. We don’t want to lose sight of the hospitality of what we’re doing. It’s a balance.
We still want to make sure that we’re a hospitality company just as much as we are a tech company.”
Locale CEO & Founder
Locale does this by continuing to have city managers—or “folks on the ground”, as Gandhi calls them—who ensure that guests feel personally taken care of. For example, if a guest is celebrating a birthday, Locale will make sure that their communication reflects that.
Gandhi describes it as “a less robotic, more personal way to use technology to interact with our guests”.
He says: “In-person experiences and touchpoints are important as well. A little bit goes a long way. We see that in our reviews.”
Combining Mews and Operto is the opposite of clunky: The two complement each other easily, allowing managers to streamline operations, making your business much more agile and responsive.
Locale itself still only has a dozen employees, with operations based not in the apartment locations, but in Austin. Everything is virtual, agile, and fast.
Lean operations mean you can:
Reduce excess staff and costs by replacing the front desk, and going mainly remote.
Respond quickly to challenges such as Covid-19, by enabling contactless arrival and check-in, and remote-yet-still-friendly communication, customer service, and updates.
Use existing devices to reduce set-up costs and deliver helpful technology directly to guests, via the Operto ConnectTM Guest Portal.
Locale is leading the way for hybrid hospitality
Locale has proven that prioritizing technology by embracing a super-powerful tech stack—without forgetting about luxury touches or a warm, friendly guest experience—right from the start, is a winning strategy.
As Nitesh Gandhi explains:
“Becoming a tech-first hospitality solution was always part of the game plan. It was about embracing the start-up culture and infusing technology into hospitality in a way that hasn’t really been done before.
Locale CEO & Founder
“We lean into technology anywhere we can. It’s about building something better. And we’re excited to bring the Locale experience to more cities and properties in the next 12 months.”
Connect your operations
Mews and Operto are a powerful duo, built for forward-thinking hotel and short-term rental operators. Want to see how it would work for your operations?