Automated check-in processes and smart technologies are becoming increasingly important, particularly in the vacation rental industry. In conversation with Vikey’s founders Luca Bernardoni (CEO) and Matteo Caruso (CTO), we discussed these latest tech trends and the future of check-ins.
What is Vikey? Vikey is an automated check-in system, which allows hosts to open their doors to guests at check-in via an app or an intercom call. Thanks to the self check-in feature, the guest can also enter the apartment in complete autonomy. As an idea born in Italy’s chaotic capital in 2017, Vikey is already finding its way into European metropolises.
Smart technologies are becoming an increasingly integral part of our daily lives. What is their role in the vacation rental industry these days?
Luca & Matteo: The market is evolving at a rapid pace and these developments are creating new expectations of technical amenities, like wi-fi or smart home systems. There is a lot of potential here because these features attract more guests and boost bookings. Among the areas where technical advances can make the biggest difference is the check-in process as it remains one of the biggest operational issues for rental properties. Check-ins moreover have a clear effect on reviews. Especially with technological advancements, there is a significant demand for an automated and standardized check-in process that makes both the host’s and guests’ life easier. Sooner or later, hosts will have to react this demand.
You speak of positive effects on the reviews. What are the other benefits of automated check-ins?
Luca & Matteo: Many hosts face the challenge of having to be present at check-in. The distance to the property, heavy traffic, late arrival of the guests or the lack of expertise of the check-in staff are just some of the problems that can be solved with automated check-ins. You simply open the door remotely for the guests or service partners, e.g. the cleaning service, by using the app.
How exactly do automated check-ins work?
Luca & Matteo: Generally speaking, every check-in, even a non-automated one, is divided into two basic steps. On the one hand there is the bureaucratic part, where formalities, taxes and documents have to be collected, and, on the other hand, there is the actual being on-site, handing over keys and opening doors. Vikey covers both of these steps. The system itself consists of both a software, which is a website optimized for mobile where customers can upload important documents, as well as a hardware, which is a kind of door opener to be installed in the home. It is, so to say, a 360° system that was designed to simplify the entire check-in process. Since guests are given the responsibility to upload necessary documents, hosts are freed not only of the burden of having to be present at a specific time but also of the bureaucratic component of check-ins. The host’s job is done with one click or a short call.
Every idea has its origin – what is the story of Vikey?
Luca & Matteo: The idea was inspired by a friend’s difficult situation, who at the time was managing more than 40 apartments in Rome. Like many other hosts, he was no longer able to handle the amount of check-ins on his own and asked us to develop a solution for him. This was the beginning. When we saw the need for a standardized check-in solution in big cities, we decided to make our system accessible and we founded Vikey.
So is Vikey only suitable for rental properties in big cities like Rome?
Luca & Matteo: The core market is big cities, but Vikey can also be installed in a country house or villa. We now even supply international customers in Italy, France, Spain, Israel and Germany.
How complex is the installation?
Luca & Matteo: First a property is inspected to ensure that it is compatible with the hardware. This only takes one day. Homeowners should then plan about one week for the actual installation, depending on your current bookings and the occupancy rate of the property. The system can also be installed by any technician.
Vikey offers 3 different subscription models. What are the services included in the packages?
Luca & Matteo: Our first model is our online ‘web concierge’ (Vikey Digital), which includes the online check-in (like a pre-flight check-in), the processing of tourist tax and all bureaucratic matters. The second model is called ‘Vikey Mini’ and is typically used by customers managing hotels and B&Bs. A device is installed next to the apartment intercom handset and allows the host to open both the door to the building and the door to the apartment using his smartphone. The third and most comprehensive model is our biggest competitive advantage; Called ‘Vikey Full’, it offers all the features above as well as a system to allow communication between guest and host via the property’s intercom. When the guest rings the doorbell, it triggers a call on the host’s mobile phone. The host can identify the guests remotely and open the door with just one click in the app. There are two big advantages here: firstly the mechanism is intuitive for the guest and secondly he or she does not need internet connectivity or a smartphone. Homeowners can also mix different components of these models for their properties. For instance, in an apartment complex, you can have one ‘Vikey Full’ at the main entrance and many ‘Vikey Mini’ at the individual apartment doors.
On your website, you mention how Vikey results in big savings for customers. Can you explain that statement briefly?
Luca & Matteo: On average, one personal check-in costs 20€. These check-ins can become very time-consuming and expensive no matter the kind of vacation rental business. Fifty percent of our clients are private individuals who sublet their holiday home on a seasonal basis and the other half consists of entrepreneurs who have made a career of renting out hundreds of holiday homes. Check-ins lead to financial and time-related difficulties for both the private individual, who has to hire an external agency or spend a lot of his freetime at the vacation rental, and the entrepreneurs, who organise parallel check-ins for several dozen holiday apartments with similar check-in times. However, with an automated check-in system, both of these groups save considerable time and money, as one or two people can manage all check-ins remotely for all the properties.
What is the general response to technically-advanced products like yours? Are there skeptics who are not so open to technological change?
Luca & Matteo: Of course there have been skeptics too. We have often heard the concern from homeowners that they will not meet their guests personally anymore. The fact is, most guests don’t necessarily want or need to be welcomed by your physical presence – especially when the check-in takes place in the middle of the night. First and foremost, they want to arrive safely and enjoy their privacy. In addition, it is very difficult to find the perfect staff to handover keys personally. Not all check-in agencies have professional personnel as a matter of course. With an automated process, however, you don’t have to worry about these factors.
And what about the “security” aspect when you no longer meet the guests in person?
Luca & Matteo: For this purpose, we have integrated an identification process. The guests can upload photos of themselves with their passport or identity card before or during online check-in. This corresponds to the same security standard that banks operate with.
How do you see the technological development in this industry? What could a check-in look like in 10 years from now?
Luca & Matteo: We assume that in the near future everything will be managed entirely by devices like our smartphones. There will be no need for keys – neither for cars nor doors. We also believe that the way bookings and reservations are made in the vacation rental industry will change dramatically. It will be as simple as choosing a movie on Netflix. Guests will arrive in a city, choose an apartment – and that’s it. In this process, automated check-ins are absolutely indispensable and all important access information will be available on the go.
If you want to learn more about Vikey, please click here.