The Vacation Rental Industry Change - Part Two: Integrating Technology and Automation by Mike Harrington

The Vacation Rental Industry Change – Part Two: Integrating Technology and Automation by Mike Harrington

Carolina Retreats is at the forefront of integrating automation and technology in the vacation rental industry. Many changes have taken place over the past 20 years and operations have become more responsive, efficient and ultimately resulted in a better experience for guests and owners.

How Carolina Retreats integrates automation and technology

Let’s take a quick snapshot of a guest’s experience in a vacation rental on a Carolina Retreats property. Each guest has access to a guest portal from the moment they create a reservation. This portal provides a wide range of information, including deposits made and amounts / dates due for future payments. In addition, guests will find the description of the property for rent, services,
activities, attractions and restaurants nearby.

Next, we provide pre-check-in information. This includes items such as maps, weather forecast, door access code, gate code (if applicable), parking instructions and office hours / phone number. Immediately after check-in, each of our guests receives a check-in SMS. This message welcomes them to the property and to the beach. Provides the Wi-Fi password and an opportunity for guests to offer their feedback on the property and ask questions. It also confirms that they have, in fact, taken possession of the property. All of our properties provide an electronic guest book, instead of the binders guests used to see years ago. This handy document reiterates all the previous information
provided, plus it adds a lot more. Describes how to use home electronics, thermostat, security system, fireplace (if applicable), kitchen appliances, hot tub (if applicable), and electronic game systems. Provides the days and instructions for garbage collection. It explains both the check-in and check-out procedures. It allows the guest to explore the local area in search of a business, attraction or restaurant that will appeal to the family.

The pre-departure message thanks guests for their stay and explains checkout procedures, including how to deal with linens, garbage, thermostat, leftover food, hot tub, electronics, and locks. Explain what time is checkout, what is considered late checkout, and what are the possible consequences of an unauthorized late checkout. It also offers the possibility to book the property for the same week next year.

Automated messages and information aren’t just for guests. We also try to simplify the owners experience.
Each of our owners has access to a dedicated owner portal, from which they can monitor the day-to-day performance and management of their property. A sample of the information available here includes:

● Booking time
● Revenue reports
● Maintenance orders
● Cleaning orders
● Owner and guest reservation calendar
● Revenue estimator
● Website and OTA list settings
● Guest polls
● Management agreement

In addition, we provide our owners with real-time notice for each new booking.

The more things change …

At Carolina Retreats we find that the more things change, the more they stay the same. We were founded because we wanted to see families have a clean and safe property to enjoy a family beach vacation together. Despite all the changes and advances in technology and automation … one thing has never changed. Our wish for every guest and family to come away from this beautiful little corner of the Carolina coast refreshed, renovated and reconnected. The bells and whistles are wonderful … the “icing” so to speak. But the tides, the surf, the sun and the company of the people we love are the whole cake. Carolina Retreats is here to see everyone get a slice.


Mike Harrington is the CEO and owner of Carolina Retreats, a specialty lodging and vacation rental management company serving more than 300 vacation property owners across the Cape Fear region. Prior to founding Carolina Retreats in 2015, Mike spent 10 years in the Outer Banks as CEO and General Manager of Resort Realty, a high-end vacation rental and property sales company with 600 properties under management, five offices and more than 100 full-time employees and real estate agents. Mike is a past-president and board member of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA), the largest international trade association for the vacation rental industry, as well as Past-President of the North Carolina Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (NCVRMA). He is often asked to speak at seminars and business conferences on the latest vacation rental management trends in marketing, operations and strategy. Mike holds an MBA from East Carolina University, a BS in Business Management, and serves as an advisory board member for the East Carolina School of Hospitality Leadership.

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