The Long-Lasting Power of Amenity Booking Platforms
The benefits of these online systems extend beyond the pandemic, potentially improving resident comfort and even the design of multifamily projects.
As the health crisis took over the entire world last year, people were required to follow strict social distancing rules meant to keep them safe. Consequently, a substantial number of employees have embarked on the work-from-home ship, navigating an ocean of uncertainty. And just like that, many people’s homes became their entire universe.
Community amenities designed to encourage social interaction—once a magnet for residents—suddenly felt like hazardous areas. In some multifamily properties, property managers even decided to close all those non-essential amenities that used to be bustling with activity. For a while, pool and barbecue areas, fitness centers, club rooms and all other gathering places remained deserted, like abandoned ghost cities.
This decision, however responsible at that time, needed fixing. Even though demand patterns for amenity spaces varied by community, season and stage of the pandemic lockdowns, residents wanted to continue using fitness centers and outdoor spaces. “We knew it was important to try to provide access to amenities in our communities,” Melody King, vice president of property operations at BH Management told Multi-Housing News.
For many property management companies, using a reservation system for on-site amenities seemed to be the best solution. One such product was created by the development team at Yardi Concierge—a platform built into Yardi Voyager, RENTCafé, CONDOCafé and CommercialCafé to make concierge services easier for multifamily, condo, co-op, HOA, student housing and commercial portfolios. They acted fast in responding to this need as the world of COVID-19 began to affect how businesses had to behave, recreating existing features.
“Overbooking and Overbook Reasons—which started off as a way for residents to double book elevators during deliveries—quickly became a way for clients to manage their headcounts for spaces such as pools and gyms,” Amanda Greco, technical account manager at Yardi Concierge, told MHN. “Number of Guests—(a product functionality) which started off as a way for sites to charge for amenity spaces based on defined guest counts—adapted into ways to ensure our clients were abiding by their state and local guidelines for gatherings paired with our Max Occupancy functionality,” Greco explained.
Property managers also began using multiple scheduled times within their templates to define hard time slots for bookings. This way, their site staff is able to allocate ample time for cleaning between reservations to ensure compliance with CDC guidelines. In addition, many resident portal documents that contain all the amenity rules and agreements now feature contact tracing forms and other area-specific required virus-related documentation.
Unsurprisingly, such a tool quickly became popular among property operators. It helps give residents the peace of mind that they can work out or hang out while maintaining social distancing. And it all fits in naturally, as “most residents are very understanding and have readily accepted changes in hours and reservations for our on-site amenities,” King said.
Of course, not everybody is a fan of the idea of waiting for their turn, but for the most part, residents are happy that they have an option for working out or playing a game outside of their own apartments. Moreover, they know that it is expected to reserve a spot and are respectful of other residents’ reservations of the space. Most people have been good about maintaining social distancing and have respected any restrictions that have been put in place, according to King.
To give sufficient time to enjoy a specific amenity while also enable a higher number of residents to make a reservation, a time limit must be set. For example, in many communities, gym reservations were to 30 to 45 minutes.
Old, Yet New
Yardi Concierge reported remarkable growth in 2020, specifically by 45 percent. This substantial growth reflects property operators’ attention to ensuring their residents can safely utilize amenities at their properties. In addition, Greco said that during this time, many purchased the module specifically for its amenity booking functionality and integration with the resident portal for a seamless resident experience.
What’s more, with a reservation system in place, more and more companies are seeing increased interest from residents who didn’t use community amenities before. “Booking a time and knowing that others would not be sharing the space gave some people the reason and confidence to work out,” a King told MHN.
This experience proves beneficial even post-pandemic, as providing a reservation system to residents enhances privacy and relieves some of the pains of sharing spaces, including overcrowding and extended use. Reservation systems establish an expectation for how many people and for how long an amenity can be used, allowing shared spaces to truly be shared by the community. “We learned that most residents happily adopt reservation systems and that having one in place relieves the burden on our teams to oversee the use of spaces,” according to King.
Reservation systems have another underlying value: Data collected through these amenity bookings can not just see into residents’ amenity preferences, but can even influence the design of future multifamily projects.
Using data from reservation systems provides with insights into residents’ behaviors and preferences. “By tracking seasonal demand for every amenity, we can determine how to allocate resources at a property,” King said. “This can help us decide not just how to develop or redesign a property, but how we can adjust hours to save energy or other resources. Since many reservations are made outside of office hours, our teams get a better idea of how and when amenities are being used.”