We had the opportunity to chat with Paul Stevens, editor of ShortTermRentalz, and co-host of The Shortyz. We learned how Paul came to be the short-term rental expert he is today, along with some insider info on The Shortyz! Read on for the full interview:
Tell us about your background. How long have you been working in journalism, and what’s your favorite part about the short-term rental industry?
I was only a year out of uni when I joined International Hospitality Media back in September 2018, and I haven’t looked back since! I graduated with a degree in French and Spanish from the University of Southampton, as I’ve always loved traveling and meeting people from all over the world. With a passion for writing, I followed my instinct to go into journalism, which has since opened up many new possibilities for me.
I feel very fortunate to have progressed so quickly from intern to reporter, to news editor and now to editor of ShortTermRentalz. It’s been a whirlwind attending industry events, creating our own podcast and RockSTRz webinar series, and of course launching the very first awards ceremony for the global short-term rental industry - The Shortyz.
This year marked the second annual Shortyz Awards. How did the ceremony come to be, and why are they so important for the industry?
Before launching the Shortyz back in 2020, we’d already accumulated years of experience in establishing a global award ceremony for the serviced apartment sector - The Serviced Apartment Awards. The 2021 Awards are set to be the first in-person event back once COVID restrictions have been lifted here in the UK, so we’re really excited for that. It also has a category for “Best short-term rental operator”!
The decision to launch the Shortyz was months in the making and was based not only on the success of our other awards, but also on the fact that there was nothing like this already out there recognizing excellence, highlighting innovation and best practice, rewarding achievement and celebrating startup technology in the short-term rental space. I am particularly proud to be the host of the flagship awards ceremony that has now been affectionately labelled “the Oscars of the short-term rental industry”.
I believe the amount of entries and votes received, and reactions of all of the Shortyz winners speaks volumes about the growing importance of the Shortyz for the short-term / vacation rental industry - some teams went as far as to taking COVID tests just so they could watch the Shortyz together. Other winners have used their awards to keep their businesses going and secure new funding.
Even with the challenges of the pandemic, the number of categories, votes, and ceremony attendees all seemed to grow from last year’s ceremony. How were you able to make the 2021 Shortyz so successful, and what did you learn from the process?
Despite it being an incredibly challenging time to launch the Shortyz, I’m proud of the resilience we’ve shown to move ahead. Not just as a team, but everyone who has supported us on this journey including our judges, sponsors, supporting partners, and everyone who attended in-person in our first year and tuned in virtually this time. There would be no Shortyz Awards without you.
Our debut Shortyz Awards in 2020 was a boat party aboard Bateaux London, and to this day I’m still being reminded that it was effectively the last time we saw each other face-to-face as industry professionals! I will always remember that night with immense pride as it was the culmination of a lot of hard work and a big personal milestone for me to co-host an awards ceremony in front of 150 people.
This time around, we listened to all of the useful and constructive feedback we received from 2020 and so we grew the number of categories and expanded our judging panel to make it as easy as possible for companies and individuals around the world to enter. We worked incredibly hard to spread the word about the Shortyz, so to receive 400 entries and secure over 69,000 votes from 11,000 people in just our second year is mind-blowing, and it shows what the scope of these awards truly is.
The prospect of hosting a virtual awards ceremony that was exciting and would grab the attention of the global sector was a challenge we really rose to as a team. There were so many aspects that we had to factor into a virtual event as opposed to a live, in-person event, so to deliver the event that we did (in front of thousands of people) was incredible.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with two very strong co-hosts so far, and if there’s anything I’ve learnt most, it is the importance of bringing your own personality into presenting these awards - it’s a celebration after all! Watch the awards back here to see the intro sketch with my colleague Eloise Hanson, and our highlights video here.
Breezeway is humbled to have been shortlisted for three categories. Can you share a little more about the process to select categories, judges, and nominees?
As I say to everyone involved with the Shortyz, reaching a shortlist in a global awards ceremony is a superb achievement in its own right. The categories are selected several months prior to publicizing the upcoming Shortyz. We always want to assess the number of entries each category received the previous year or how it could be adapted. For new categories, we keep our ear to the ground in an effort to analyze emerging trends and consider how we could be more inclusive to a wider pool of companies and individuals.
Our judging panel includes consultants, head of organizations, journalists, property managers and experts within their fields (ideally as independent as possible from our nominees as we take impartiality extremely seriously). We set out to assemble the highest possible caliber jury that showcases the diversity within our industry, including having an equal share of male and female judges, and having various experts from all different parts of the world.
Once the nominations deadline has passed, all of the entries are assessed on their merits by the judges in their respective categories, according to the set criteria that we have set out beforehand. Answering this criteria is of utmost importance as it allows us to compare which entries stand out most and deserve to advance to the final shortlists.
From where you’re sitting, do you have any advice for short-term rental operators as we head into one of the busiest summer seasons to date?
All of the data being released at the moment indicates that the pent-up demand built during the pandemic will transfer to bookings of short-term rentals, particularly self-catered accommodation in rural or leisure destinations, alternative or ultra-luxury lodging, and tiny or mobile homes, such as RVs, boats or camper-vans, opening up more possibilities for travelers.
Based on this, and the likelihood for more domestic travel / staycations, I would encourage operators to look at how they can differentiate their offerings to appeal to broader demographics of travelers, such as providing additional activities or experiences, or collaborating with local partners and suppliers.
Secondly, managers and owners should consider listing their properties across multiple sites, so they are not solely relying on third-party bookings through the major OTAs. More and more niche listing sites are popping up now, targeting anyone from pet-friendly travelers to sports fans, and adopting a compelling direct booking strategy can also generate all-important brand awareness for travelers to return again in the future.
Finally, two of the buzzwords going around at the moment are flexibility and cleanliness. Now more than ever, travelers will not compromise on their expectations for cleanliness and safety protocols in the wake of Covid-19, and with the uncertainty of some travel restrictions still hanging over us, the offering of flexible cancellations will allow guests to feel comfortable traveling again.
And finally, what can we expect from The Shortyz 2022?
You’ll just have to wait and see!
All going well, we hope and expect to return to an in-person event in 2022, and it will be a huge cause for celebration when we can reunite once again. We held our first event on a boat and I would love to host the next one from a similarly unique venue that captures everyone’s imagination.
Overall though, we want to encourage even more companies and people around the world to get involved and submit entries for the Shortyz, as this is how we can continue to scale up and deliver more for our loyal readership each year.
We’re always on the lookout too for new sponsors and partners to support us for future editions of the Shortyz - these are great ways to showcase your brands on a global stage and get noticed with an up-and-coming media brand. We value the continued support from our existing sponsors and partners in helping us to put the Shortyz together each year.
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