Desire More Beach Time? Outsource.

One concern that has been echoed by my clients new to the vacation rental business is that of time (or lack there of) and how it may impact cash flow.

They are working professionals hoping to increase their income (and possibly replace it), but don’t necessarily have the capacity to take on another full-time gig at onset.

Home Away states that the average VR owner spends approximately 8.6 hours per week marketing and managing their business, which is feasible. However, when first setting up your business, the time needed may be considerably more.

Owners can’t rush the details when starting starting their vacation rental or when interacting with guests. It will hinder the experience you need to create to stand out.

This is why clients hire me.

My clients either don’t have the time to research how to do everything, don’t have the time to DIY, or they want to DIY but they need a help ensuring perfection.

For those feeling overwhelmed with on-going tasks, it’s time to consider outsourcing work! Outsourcing will not only save you time, but can increase your cash flow in the long-term (think guest loyalty and business growth).

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Stressful Tasks

Regardless if you have 1 or 100 rentals, a time will come when you meet dreadful, redundant tasks or those that are overwhelming (due to the job size or needed expertise).

When you feel this resistance creeping up, it’s time to identify what task is causing you duress and hire someone else to do it. Your time is more valuable enhancing the experience and marketing of your home- or spending it with your family and friends!

Besides, it’s obvious when a job is completed with excitement and passion, not resentment.

I personally am a very hands-on owner. So, when it came time to landscape my Park City cottage recently, I jumped in eagerly. After re-stacking the rock wall and attempting to plant bushes, I quickly became miserable…and thought of this post.

Park City soil is terrible (clay, hard and has a LOT of rocks… I mean boulders). I needed to hire out the rest of the job. Had I stuck it out, the end result would have been mediocre, at best. Not the first appearance I want guests to have of my home.

Concierge

Above and beyond the time needed to manage your home and inquiries, offering exceptional guest services (or acting as a concierge) can really elevate your guests overall stay.

But this takes time, a fleeting resource. Depending on the guest (some like more interaction than others), guest services can be consuming.

By providing a lot of information on your website and in your house manual (thorough FAQ section and ‘insider’s travel’ information), you can reduce time spent answering questions.

This shouldn’t completely replace personal interaction, however, as this is why we own and manage our vacation homes!

Independent concierge providers can help, should you need it. Most, that I have come across thus far, are regionally based as they have an intimate knowledge of a specific location and can really benefit owners with limited time.

Cooper's Cabin

Cooper’s Cabin, for example, offers guest services such as transportation, discounted tickets and equipment rentals, events knowledge and food delivery. If you are traveling yourself, they can even act as the full-time point of contact for guests and inquiries.

They are professional, helpful and really engage your guests with your community.

From full-service to a la carte options, concierge services can play as big of a role as you need them to. And they can save vacation rental owners, who are considering hiring a property manager, a lot of money.

Lack The Know-How

Every vacation rental blog nowadays will tell you how important it is to have an independent site with a blog. The blog refreshes your content (SEO!) and provides on-going information to potential guests.

It’s a great marketing tool.

Realistically, many of my clients cringe at the thought of writing a regular blog (even writing 200 words, once per month). They understand the importance, but writing for some just isn’t fun. Actually, it can be downright painful because they don’t know how, or even want to be, a blogger.

Hire this stuff out.

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If you are not trying to be an industry thought leader, you just want to provide fun and helpful tidbits in your area, it’s perfectly okay to get help with tasks that you don’t know how to do well, but will enhance your experience.

Today pretty much every aspect of your vacation rental business can be hired out if you are pressed for time, or just don’t want to do it.

Recent projects I have completed for clients (or have helped them find someone to do it) include:

  • Social Media management
  • Location guides
  • Activities and events
  • Competitor analysis
  • Vacation Rental Branding
  • Ad writing
  • Blogging
  • Photography
  • Logo
  • Website design and management (Webchalet, MyVR, WordPress)
  • Cleaning providers
  • Property maintenance
  • Concierge services (how-to-DIY and/or hiring the right partner)

Research the company/person you plan to hire and screen them as you would an employee. Ask for references and start with small projects (unless they come with outstanding referrals from people you know).

A quick Google search will also yield outsourcing sites like Elance and Virtual Staff Finder. I have used them all, but prefer to ‘buy local’ or from personal referral when I can!

This post was written by Kris Getzie

Kris Getzie Hospitality Consultant

 

Branding Your Vacation Rental

This post was written by Volo for Tripping

 

With hundreds of thousands of vacation homes available, owners can get overwhelmed trying to stand out from competitors… or to even start their business for fear of failure.

That being said, niche branding is one of the most important, and intangible, assets any vacation rental home or boutique travel experience can have to stand out and maximize profits.

It’s important to keep in mind that while branding is about you, it really is NOT about you. It’s about the people in your niche.
No business can be all things to all people. The more you can define your niche (who your guests are and what they want), the more you can exceed their expectations and gain repeat visits. Follow these steps to position your vacation home for success:

Anderson Cabin

Make a wish list: Who do you want to stay at your vacation property? Tap into the reasons you purchased your home (location, nearby attractions and so on) to help identify your ideal guest.

Research: First, find out everything there is to know about your local market. Then, to help narrow your niche, define what your property is and what it isn’t. Is it a secluded ski-in/ski-out mountain chalet or a cottage in town, near mountain access?

Develop a Position: You may already have an idea of who will desire your property. But if your market isn’t clear, or is saturated, try to find a unique solution to needs that aren’t being addressed. For example, if most vacation rentals prohibit dogs in an otherwise dog-friendly area, allow dogs (with additional deposit) and create something special for them.

doghouse

Okay, this dog zen-zone is extreme (thanks live.pant.play for the idea!). But something this creative would be memorable for guests, that’s for sure! Other positions to consider are: accommodation size, handicap accessible, honeymooners, and so on.

Brand Definition: Once you’ve found a niche that fits both you and your business, understand what your guests need. Writing a brand definition will help you articulate what you offer, why you offer it, how it’s different, better and unique. If you already own a vacation rental business, read your past reviews to understand what guests desire.

Develop your name, logo and tag-line: Together they represent your property and what makes it unique. The name creates a brand image, logo is the actual symbol of your brand and a tag-line, or slogan, is the memorable phrase that provides insight into the experience.

Manage and leverage your brands: Continuos management is the step that leads to a strong, healthy, resilient hospitality business. “Just like good parenting, good branding management can be summed up in a single word — consistency.”

Rebranding: You can (and should) change how your brand is presented occasionally to keep it relevant to your market.

With the vacation rental industry at a record high, in terms of traveler interest and inventory, success is contingent upon your ability to capture travelers attention and set clear expectations of your experience with a well conceptualized brand.

By doing so, your home will appeal to those best suited for it, they will return and you will have fewer negative reviews!

 

The Five Tasks of Life

In Adlerian counseling there is a belief that each individual has five tasks of life: work, love, social, self, and spiritual. I often use an assessment technique with my clients where I ask them to rank on a likert-type scale their level of satisfaction with each of these life tasks.

  • I describe the work task as your career, school, volunteering, or managing a family and household
  • The love task is defined by having one person that you trust to support and unconditionally love you.
  • The social task is broken into family and friend relationships.
  • The self task is how you feel about yourself as a unique individual.
  • I direct clients to define the spiritual task however they see fit.

We then discuss what would need to happen to increase their level of satisfaction in each of the life tasks they ranked low. It is such a simple tool that offers an interesting way of evaluating life satisfaction.

How satisfied are you with each of the five tasks of life?

What would need to happen to increase your level of satisfaction in the areas you ranked low? Could self-employment and owning your own vacation rental property increase your level of satisfaction in your work, love, social, self, or spiritual tasks?

This blog is written by Cori M. Hildebrandt | Volo Blogger, Globe-Trotter & Therapist

Cori’s Previous Post: Onwards & Upwards

 

When/How To Work With Volo

Like most business decisions, those that are thought out, and not reactive at the last minute, yield the best results. The same holds true with vacation rentals!

I’ve gotten a surge of emails in the past week (in regards to Park City income properties specifically) asking when the best time to reach out to Volo is… so I thought I’d give provide some general time guidelines.

But first, please do email me with more specific questions and/or if you are interested in working together. I give all potential clients a free 30 minute consultation (in person, phone or Skype) to understand your needs and the scope of your project. We’ve actually solved client issues during this initial consult! Some ‘fixes’ are super simple, just not often thought about. It’s not my goal to cost clients hard-earned cash, if it’s not necessary.

Back to project timing:

In general, vacation rentals are booked 3 month out from the start of the season but start seeing inquiries 6 months (or more) in advance. In Park City, our season kick-off is really at Christmas (but there are definitely early season visitors!). My local vacation home, Casa Blu, is already fielding Nov-Dec inquiries and booked the first December guest.

With that being said, it is my recommendation that we begin scheduling out projects related to the ‘selling’ of your rental early (defining your market and guest, name, logo, tagline), website/listing site (the writing of your ad, photo’s, etc); 6-7 months out. This ensures maximum exposure with a great presentation.

Not everyone needs help setting up an entire VR business. In fact, a lot of clients need help with small projects. Examples, the writing of a house manual, creating a simple and efficient guest experience (from booking, communication and checking in/out), to understanding how to create memory moments and upgrading furniture). I love these projects! And they can often be done closer to the start of the season… but please do reach out soon to schedule.

My work for local clients has already begun (working on some cute Park Meadow homes with week!)… but let’s face it, it feels like the season just ended!!! No problem if you haven’t thought about it yet. There is still time. But I do recommend you schedule the larger projects to be completed from June to October for sure.

For those of you with income properties in summer destinations, fall is a good time to start working together with Volo.

Kris Getzie

Vacation Rental & Hospitality Consultant

 

Buy Income Property in Africa?

International travel is projected to grow 4-5% in 2014 according to the World Tourism Organization, which is increasing interest in property investment abroad (VR’s and/or boutique hotels). Some clients have specific requirements, like a beach villa or mountain cottage in preferred regions. Others just want to invest into locations to achieve high capital appreciation and high occupancy.

There are a lot of ways to slice this cake but as I’ve said for the last decade (back to my days as a Senior Investment Analyst), keep an eye on Africa for high growth rates. Specifically, Rwanda.

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Twenty years ago Rwanda experienced genocide that claimed over a half of million lives and was listed as one of the world’s least developed countries. Unfortunately, these images are still burned into people’s minds.

In reality, Rwanda has focused on key sectors (including IT, service and tourism) and borrowed the Singapore model of development to grow the economy over the past two decades. They, as well as many African countries, are doing a fantastic job of building healthy countries.

Rwanda shared many similarities to Singapore, including small size and diverse ethnic groups, and has grown significantly since adapting this method. According to the World Bank, Rwanda’s economy will expand by 7.5% in 2014.

Singapore has been listed as a top four developed country since independence in 1965 and in 2013, Rwanda was regarded as the fourth international finance hub behind London, New York and Hong Kong (CNBC Africa).

President Kagame has been able to control inflation, reform revenue systems and boost tourism.

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Rwanda Emerges As Popular Tourist Destination

Rwanda steadily emerged as a well-known tourist destination internationally and is a leading foreign exchange earner and major economic contributor in East Africa.

Travel here is appealing to tourists because of the natural scenic beauty, rich culture and unique flora and fauna in its national parks, home to magical mountain gorillas. In addition, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) recently joined the International Council of Tourism Partners. This helped the nation to rank among the top five “Top Emerging Destinations”.

New Travel Offerings

Due to RDB efforts to elevate and diversify offerings, Rwanda’s travel and tourism industry has boomed. Although mountain gorillas continued to play a key role in growth, the country is shifting from relying on their attraction to remain competitive in the fast-growing and changing tourism market.

Additions will include three birding routes outside the national parks, a Canopy Walk in Nyungwe National Park, as well as the Congo Nile Trail, which offers a wide range of hiking experiences around the shores of Lake Kivu.

Rwandan-landscape-1

RwandAir

RwandAir has grown into a major regional player. They now have flight services in Africa, the Middle East and have increased frequency on existing routes and have also launched new regional ones.

In its aggressive expansion, RwandAir has signed bilateral air service agreements with a number of airlines and revamped the main gateway, Kigali International Airport, to boost the future travel and tourism industry.

Hospitality Guest Service Improvement Plans

Despite emerging as a top tourism destination, its travel and tourism industry has struggled over the years due to poor customer service levels. Rwanda actually ranked last in customer service in the East African Community (EAC) region, according to the 2011 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI). However, Rwanda is aware and implementing programs to address and enhance service.

Rwanda has remained steadfast in their commitment to growth in all sectors. Despite the increasing contribution of travel and tourism to the national economy, I think there is still a need for enhanced long-term tourism plans if Rwanda is to enjoy success on a global scale. In my opinion, the country is committed and investors should continue to watch. Starwood also believes in Africa (and Rwanda) as they continue to increase its portfolio throughout Africa, with the most recent Sheraton being added in Kigali, Rwanda.

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Ecolodges, boutique hotels and VR’s are trending and I think independent owners, well informed on hospitality best practices, have an opportunity to stand out from competitors and capitalize in the future.

Any which way, Rwanda is certainly a country I hold near and dear. I was involved with local orphanage for quite some time, Nibakure Children’s Village, and studied the area extensively in grad school. I’m excited to see how they continue to grow!

 

Onwards and Upwards

A deep-seeded feeling of dissatisfaction is no stranger to me. I carried it with me for the majority of my twenties and I still feel it creeping in from time-to-time. I tried, I tried hard to feel satisfied while maintaining a responsible, stable life. I bought a house. I quit my job. I traveled. I played pseudo-stepmom. I joined new social activities. I explored new hobbies. I went to counseling. Yet that small, still voice within always a whisper, encouraging me to change it all.

The courage to listen to that small, still voice within arrived. I quit my job of six years that I was awesome at and that offered financial stability. I ended an almost eight-year relationship realizing that love is not enough to make a relationship work. We sold our comfortable house and most of our belongings. I departed the area I had lived in for almost twelve years. I left behind my sense of community, family and social connections, a beloved psychotherapist, and my Moose dog.

I never doubted my decision to toss my whole life up in the air even while enduring several hellish months of transition plagued with crying, stressing, grieving, and being overwhelmed with anxiety. I got to the point where I was numb. The numbness was a welcomed reprieve.

I showed up on my mother’s doorstep broken. I held onto my faith in the world to guide me. I kept placing one foot in front of the other. I had a plan. Onwards and upwards, or should I say southwards?


By Cori M. Hildebrandt | Volo Blogger, Globe-Trotter & Therapist