In 2017, Ari Lapveteläinen and his two sons-in-law, Markus Veikkolainen and Niklas Eriksson, started Hiisi Homes & Hotels with a single vacation rental unit on the shores of Lake Hiidenvesi in Finland. Fast-forward to the end of 2022 and the company has grown to include close to 300 rooms and apartments across the country. This means they realised their goal of becoming one of Finland’s top players in the long-stay and vacation rental market within only five years.
Their tech-forward attitude is one of the main reasons for their success. For one thing, it sets them apart from other more traditional competitors. For another, it allows Hiisi to scale operations and grow the business quickly yet sustainably.
We spoke with Markus Veikkolainen, Chief Technology and Marketing Officer at Hiisi, to learn about the role Apaleo’s API-first platform played in the company’s impressive development.
Challenge: Building a tailored tech stack without a team of in-house developers
From the beginning, Markus and his co-founders wanted Hiisi to be a tech-driven accommodation business. Their goal was to build a unique tech set-up that could offer a fully automated guest experience. However, they decided it was too early to bring on an in-house tech team to create a full suite of property management and distribution software. Instead, they took on the challenge of finding tech partners that shared their vision and provided the flexibility to create a tailored tech stack.
“While it would have been great to build our own tech solutions from the start, we decided to de-risk in Hiisi’s early days and put off investing in proprietary technology. We figured that since there are so many hotel tech providers who work on these solutions full-time, we should rely on their expertise for now. However, finding the right fit proved more difficult than we’d anticipated,” Markus recalls.
Solution: Creating customisations with Apaleo’s API-first platform
Apaleo’s API-first platform presented a good solution for several reasons. First, it gives Hiisi’s team a wealth of existing integrations to choose from. Second, it offers the chance to develop add-on functionalities that aren’t currently offered in the system. Third, and most importantly, the API-first design allows Markus and his team to build custom apps that integrate with Apaleo.
“When we were first introduced to Apaleo, I immediately got the impression that the founders are on top of things and understand where the hospitality industry is going. Working with them has given us a solid base to start from, but we also have a lot of flexibility to create our own concept. And instead of hiring a large in-house team early on, we began working with our agency partner Simultem to develop customisations for our tech stack,” Markus goes on to say.
Result: A custom-made set-up as the basis for further unique solutions
After using Apaleo as a base for their tech stack, Markus and his team kept working on unique solutions to continuously improve their workflow and the guest experience. As a result, their first custom app recently went live. It integrates the four different access management solutions Hiisi uses across its properties into a single system. That means the team has a unified user experience and all guests get the same access instructions, no matter which lock system they’re working with.
“We accord the same level of importance to technology and operations which is why we keep investing on both fronts. That works well with Apaleo since it allows us and our agency partners to easily add to the platform. This has reduced our dependence on third parties and has put us on the road to creating our ideal tech set-up,” Markus explains.
Challenge: Creating a customised self-service guest journey with available hotel tech solutions
When they started Hiisi, the founders wanted a custom tech set-up that could support a unique guest journey with a maximum degree of automation. However, it was challenging to find a system that offered the level of flexibility needed to create the customer experience they envisioned.
“We didn’t want our commercial systems to dictate what type of experience we could offer our guests. But despite having a large choice of tools, most of them came with a lot of limitations,” Markus states.
Solution: A fully integrated tech stack for automated processes at every level of operations
Apaleo’s API-first design and its wealth of innovative integration partners proved to be a solid foundation for Hiisi’s plans. It provided options to automate every step of the guest journey as well as internal processes. That includes administrative tasks, guest communication, distribution and online sales.
“First, we thought about the outcome – the type of experience we wanted to offer. For us, it was clear that guests should never feel the need to get in touch with us. But at the same time, we wanted them to be confident that they were getting the very best service. Then we looked at how our systems could help us do that. And that’s where Apaleo’s flexibility and customisability have been essential,” Markus elaborates.
Result: A high degree of automation with 100% of check-ins happening online
100% of their guests check-in online since Hiisi set up Apaleo and implemented their customizations. 40% of payments are currently automated with the number steadily rising. Other areas of operations are seeing the same trend.
“When it comes to automating our processes, we’re on the right track. We still want to create more custom solutions, but Apaleo’s API-first design makes that quite straightforward,” Markus says.
Challenge: A quickly growing portfolio requires speedy set-up at new properties
Given its success and popularity among guests, Hiisi has been able to quickly grow its portfolio. However, onboarding each new property and integrating it into the Hiisi ecosystem demanded considerable amounts of time.
“Since we were adding new properties so often, we needed to streamline this process. But the goal was not only to get new rentals up and running quickly. We also wanted to ensure that the tech was set up according to our operating standards,” Markus highlights.
Solution: Fast implementation with Apaleo’s tech stack templates
Apaleo’s easy, self-service set-up, property templates and cloning functionality have played an important role in creating an efficient onboarding process for new Hiisi rentals.
“Setting up Apaleo only takes a couple of hours. Most add-on applications are plug and play which makes it quick and simple to implement needed tools. On top of that, we use the templates to copy our preferred set-up to new properties in just a few clicks. That means we can have the whole system set up and running in just a few hours. That’s a big advantage given our fast growth and the need to often add new properties on short notice,” Markus explains.
Result: Return on investment of a new unit in 4 month
Apart from saving Hiisi’s team valuable time, the short go-live period for new properties also positively impacts the company’s ROI.
“Since we can better manage ramp-up time now, our properties perform well as soon as they go live. That has improved the ROI of adding new rentals to our portfolio and allows each one to reach profitability after just a few months, generally between 4 and 6 months. Apaleo and the agile tech ecosystem we’ve been able to build around it are a huge contributor here,” Markus concludes.
Browse apps in the Apaleo Store:
Loopon - Online reputation management
The Hiisi team has developed a range of custom applications internally and with digital web agency Simultem.
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