Offering Guests a Sense of Connection

Connection and ‘the experience’ is one area I work diligently to maximize in my consulting practice.

The most successful hospitality businesses that I have worked with (vacation rentals, hotels and/or boutique experiences) are able to connect with their guests on many levels, in an exceptional way. Not only do they go through great length’s to know who their guests are/what they want to experience (to tailor the travel experience accordingly), but they create a holistic environment of connection; to the environment itself, the community, historical significance, the property and to the owners.

Give your guests a ‘tour’ of the community, from your perspective and provide a space for them to build their own- whether that can happen on your property or elsewhere. For hotels, staff training is critical. They must be informed, prepared and empowered to interact and provide unique experiences for your guests.

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

The sense of being physically alone in a foreign land triggered in me the deep need to connect with other human beings, quickly.

Even in death, we are part of a community.

Even in death, we are part of a community.

I think modern travelers are seeking a sense of belonging and connection again as our lives at home are becoming increasingly disconnected. La Casa Fitz Roy was my home-away-from-home in Buenos Aires because of the friendly staff and welcoming social crowd. I didn’t really care that it had cockroaches or dingy bathrooms. Of course, I would recommend eliminating these things. But what made my new home memorable (even so years later) is their authentic staff and communal spaces that encourage conversation and interaction among travelers.

The people I met at La Casa Fitz Roy became my network. I encountered time-and-time again all over the continent of South America; it was always comforting, and fun, to see a familiar face in a sea of foreign ones. It still baffles me how I ran into more people I recognized in South America than I do in my own hometown… I think part of it is because when we travel we are open and have the time to genuinely connect with others, while at home we often get bogged down with work, household, and family responsibilities.

Part of the joy of travel is the free time to make new acquaintances and feel a sense of universal connection.

How can you help cultivate authentic human connection for your guests? How can you invite your clients to be part of a unique community experience?

Cori’s Previous Post: Southwards

Tourism In Africa

This post was written by World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and can be found on their facebook page… I personally cannot wait to work with more African Vacation Rental and Hotel clients!

Tourism is a key contributor to socio-economic development in Africa, and UNWTO data clearly shows that the African tourism sector is growing with record rates.

The new World Bank publication “Tourism in Africa: Harnessing Tourism for Growth and Improved Livelihoods”, recommends practical, evidence-based measures to maximize the tourism sector’s development potential, using data from UNWTO among others.

Sounds interesting? Download your copy here:

Image: Infographic by World Bank Publications

Trademarks 101: Your 10 Biggest Questions, Answered


The below article was written by Nellie Akalp for Mashable.  A lot of good things to know below regardless if you are starting an Inn, Resort or any other type business… so I wanted to share. Thanks for the great article!


For a startup, intellectual property is often the most valuable asset. Yet, IP isn’t just about patents and inventions. It can also include your brand assets — everything from the company name to the logo and product tagline.

Trademarks help keep your brand ID safe, with the idea that no one else in the market can come in and use your brand or trademark for a similar thing. But how much do you understand about the trademark process? Here are the answers to 10 of the most frequently asked questions surrounding trademarks:

1. If I trademark my company/product name, does that mean nobody else can use it?

The main purpose of a trademark is to prevent confusion in the marketplace, ensuring that consumers will know who is behind a certain product or service. That’s why trademark protection only applies to a particular category of goods and services. Nike Inc. owns the mark on a variety of shoes, clothing, sporting goods, etc. But there’s also a Nike Corporation that’s involved in hydraulic lifting jacks and other heavy machinery. There’s really no risk of a consumer confusing those two companies.

2. What’s the difference between a trademark and registering with the state?

When you incorporate, form an LLC, or submit a DBA (Doing Business As) for your business, you are essentially registering your business name with the state. This prevents anyone else from registering a similar name for a similar business type in your state. The key difference is that this act does not offer any kind of protection in the 49 other states; that’s where federal trademark protection comes in.

3. When is the right time to trademark our company name?

You should lock up trademark rights for your company or product name as soon as possible by submitting an intent-to-use trademark application. This ensures that your brand is protected once you begin commercial sales. In addition, a comprehensive trademark search usually accompanies the registration filing. This search will ensure that your mark is available and you aren’t accidentally infringing on someone else’s mark. You definitely don’t want to be on the wrong end of a trademark dispute.

4. How long does it take to get a trademark?

The registration process can take anywhere from nine months to several years, although most applications are completely processed within a year. The length often depends on the complexity of the mark and any conflicts or legal issues that arise while the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office examines your application. Once you file your paperwork, you are given a receipt and your filing date is marked. In terms of future trademark disputes, the earlier your filing date, the better.

5. What class should I choose?

When you apply for a trademark, you need to specify the particular goods or services that you are using your trademark with. There are 45 different classes to choose from. Software traditionally falls under Class 9 “Electrical and Scientific Apparatus.” The USPTO website provides a handy search feature to help you identify your class. For example, enter “beer” in the search field, and you’ll see that “beer” is class 32; Non-metal taps for beer kegs are class 20; and beer pumps are 7. If your mark is used on different products, you may need to file trademarks in multiple classes.

6. How long is a trademark good for? How long does a trademark last?

Trademarks today have a 10-year term. Once that term is up, you can renew a registration for another 10 years, and there’s no limit to how many times you renew the trademark. As long as you keep filing your renewals, along with your Declaration of Use forms, you can have a trademark as long as you’d like.

7. Should I register my company’s name or logo?

You can’t register your company name and logo in the same application, so many businesses will submit multiple filings — one for the company name, company logo, product name, product logo, etc. However, the reality is that many small businesses and bootstrapped startups are working with a limited budget and prefer to just register a single trademark.

If you can only do one trademark registration, you are probably best off registering your business name with a “standard character claim.” This means that your trademark broadly covers your name regardless of what font or stylistic elements are used (for example, no one could use your company name with a different font or lower case instead of upper case letters). But keep in mind this doesn’t offer protection for the design elements of your logo.

8. Can I trademark my name?

Yes, particularly people whose names are also their professions like actors or designers. If your name also identifies your business, you should consider trademarking your name.

Generally speaking, a personal name can be trademarked if it’s considered “distinctive”. The more common a name, the less likely your trademark application will be approved. But even an unusual name is no guarantee that you’ll be awarded a trademark; just ask Jay-Z and Beyoncé who have been struggling to trademark their baby daughter Blue Ivy’s name.

9. Can a trademark help me get a domain name?

Yes. Under the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection law, a trademark owner can sue for damages and recover a domain name when someone is squatting on a domain name that’s identical or similar to their trademark. For example, Morgan Freeman trademarked his name so he could take back the domain name To do this, you need to prove that the person has been using the domain name in bad faith (i.e. to make a profit off of your brand).

10. What happens if someone else uses my trademark?

If another company is in a different type of business than you, you may not have legal grounds to stop them from using your mark. As the owner of a trademark, you can stop someone else from using your mark when it’s being used on competing goods or services, and when consumers would be confused by their use of the trademark.

If you believe someone is infringing on your mark, an attorney will first send a cease and desist letter on your behalf, demanding the other user to stop using your mark. If that’s unsuccessful, you can file a lawsuit (most likely in federal court) to stop the use. In many cases, you can also sue for money damages from the user. In fact, legal recourse is the biggest advantage of registering your trademark.

Awesome Kitchen

Kitchen experiences take part in significant memories; talks over wine in the kitchen with girlfriends and cooking hearty breakfasts with family before hitting the slopes.

The truth is that travelers thoroughly consider where to dine and what to cook!  It can save a few bucks for the guest on a budget and having a private kitchen is often the reason, one way or another, for choosing a vacation home over a hotel.

My biggest recommendation is to ensure your home provides opportunities for these memorable moments to happen by offering a great kitchen.  By ‘gourmet’, the intent isn’t high expense (unless you are offering a true luxury home).  Just…thoughtful, my favorite tip.  The feelings associated with those experiences will never be forgotten, nor will your home.

This post focuses on mountain town kitchens, but is really applicable to any. Guests themselves created this list of kitchen “must-have’s” but I thought it equally important to gain the perspective of chef, author and mountain vacation home owner, Jennie Iverson:

Picture 6

As the author of Ski Town Soups, I wanted to showcase the perfectly balanced recipe for life: a ski town, a comfortable restaurant and a yummy bowl of soup.  With a little heart and attention to detail, I believe you can capture that ambiance in your Vacation Rental’s kitchen.

In my active life as a wife and mother of 2, soon to be 3, rambunctious boys, my mission is to enjoy days on the mountain (skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, etc.), then return and relax in a cozy home environment – quite possibly relishing a bowl full of soup in front of the crackling fire.

Upon finishing the coffee-table caliber cookbook, Ski Town Soups, it reaffirmed that although soup is typically meant to simmer, life is meant to boil.  This is the experience that your travelers are trying to savor.

I suggest making it easy for your traveling guests by personalizing your kitchen for ease and comfort.

In a mountain community, there is nothing more inviting than a large kitchen with a spacious island for gathering around – sampling artichoke dip appetizers, hot toddy drinks, and a pot of Bavarian Goulash just removed from the stovetop.


I have a very good friend with the most inviting, expansive, and congregating kitchen – she has hosted sushi-making parties, a Ladies Pastry Party and a festive holiday gathering with separate drink stations throughout her kitchen.  In her culinary haven, there is a breakfast nook and a large stovetop on the island that allows her to mingle while stirring her homemade caramel sauce or beer cheese soup.

However, not all properties have the luxury of being “large” and “spacious”.  Our kitchen in our European Mountain Chalet in Vail is a little more modest and traditionally laid-out: the kitchen is separate from the more formal dining room.   But, I can still make “magic” in this accessible and well-appointed kitchen.


When your guests enter the less familiar kitchen, it’s wonderful to have options on display to give them ideas of what they can create.  I would suggest having the soup pot on display with the ladle close-at-hand with Ski Town Soups standing adjacent.

Soups are easy to make in advance for large group sizes and are incredibly forgiving. You could also have a Kitchen Aid standing mixer on the counter with a muffin pan or quick bread pan beside.  Or, in your designated bar area, you might set out the wine opener, martini shaker, and chilling bucket.

Accessibly grouping appliances and accompaniments together will make your kitchen and their experience in it stress-free. Also, giving guests ideas when they arrive adds a home touch and uniqueness to your property.

I believe, if a person is vacationing in a mountain community, one of the last things they are inclined to do is slave-away in the kitchen, all day.  And, even if they are excited about this prospect, you can surely make it more approachable and enjoyable with ease: have sample recipes available and provide sample grocery lists.

Another especially personal idea would be to make a guest book for culinary comments, such as “Page 178 – This was the best soup I’ve ever made; it is hearty and perfect with herbed bread!”


Finally, in the food world, I continually talk with restaurant owners and chefs about being ahead of the curve and creating “the experience”.  As a Vacation Rental Owner, that is what you are trying to maximize!

Often times, my friends and I entertain in each others homes; the flow and informality is more conducive to conversation, especially in peak season when the restaurants are at full capacity.  I’m guessing that not every night do your traveling guests want to splurge on restaurant meals, but not every night do they want take-out pizza.  So, make it easy for them to optimize the culinary options that your kitchen offers, thus making more memorable meals and experiences.


 Great kitchen Must Have’s

Large Appliances: Mountain travelers I spoke with regarding this project have never insinuated the need to buy a La Cornue’s Grand Palais range, or even Viking for that matter. But they do desire a cooktop in a functional location (and preferably gas)!  Guests want to whip up something delicious and take part in family conversations.  I recommended paying attention to the layout of the large appliances and kitchen prior to purchase or remodeling; it can turn a good rental experience into a great one.

Ensure your large appliances work properly, are clean and esthetically pleasing. Unless you are offering a rustic experience (an old cabin, yurt or canvas tents), a dishwasher is also mandatory. A built-in ice maker will really please guests as well.

Cookware: Upon settling into any vacation home, I always prep a meal for my family. It’s a routine I enjoy.  When a mountain town client asked me to assess one of his difficulty vacation homes, I gladly obliged and followed my typical nesting behaviors.  I unpacked my overnight bag, slipped into pajama’s and attempted to cook over a glass of wine.

Every pan was warped or had Teflon flaking off.  Nothing is worse than cooking on a sticky, wobbly pan.

Sturdy cast iron pans, pottery dishes, sturdy hot cocoa mugs and perfect wine glasses are on the must-buy list for any mountain home.  Guests love a fabulous copper mug for a fabulous Moscow Mule, too!

No one wants a painful cooking process.  Meals on vacation are often a poignant part of the memories created.  Make assessing your cookware apart of your regular property audit and provide good quality products.

Coffee Maker: You don’t have to buy the most expensive model, nor the cheapest.  My guests have always appreciated those with a few bells and whistles- hot water on demand for tea and soup, height to fill traveler mugs and charcoal filters to keep minerals out (if you have really hard water).  Buy a backup, too.  Nothing is worse than a morning coffee snafu!

Kettle: Electric or old school.  I provide an old school, steel kettle at my Park City cottage as it adds nicely to the decor.  Guest often use it to add moisture in the air as Park City is very dry (I also provide multiple humidifiers!).  Most often, I’ve been told deluxe coffee pot offering hot water on demand is a nice (and quick) touch for tea time.  But that an old school kettle adds to the charm and experience.

Beverage Selection:  Guests really appreciate a kitchen stocked with a selection of gourmet coffee, hot cocoa and tea.  I buy small serving size packages, so the home offers a great mixture of flavors that remain fresh.  It’s a nice touch to get my guests started!

4-Slice Toaster: Make sure a bagel can fit!

Slow Cooker: A great extra for cold-weather climates.  Jennie has already said it much better than me, but nothing beats coming “home” to a warm bowl of stew after a day in the snow!

Stand Mixer: Guests prepare anything from breakfast waffles to an entire Christmas feast while on vacation.  Stand mixers make everything easier (read: multitasking)!

Blender or Magic Bullet: I stock my properties with a blender and “Magic Bullet”.  I started with a nice blender for smoothies and the like.  But after receiving a couple requests (nearly at the same time for two different vacation rentals) for a Magic Bullet, I provided all my properties with one, too!  They are great to help with any task in the kitchen and are small in size.  Your guests will appreciate having both.

Herbs and Spices:  Herbs and spices are expensive, which can be frustrating for a guest when they only need a dash or two during a weekend trip.  I stalk a variety of fresh spices (check these in your property audit be sure they haven’t gone stale) and even have fresh potted herbs available at some vacation homes.

Offer to Grocery Shop:  Guests would rather not spend their vacation time at the grocery store. It snows a lot in the mountains and trudging through drifts (after your long day skiing) isn’t very appealing.  You’d rather be next to a cracking fire, right!?  I always offer to pick up groceries for them or work with local grocery delivery services.

Cookbooks:  Offering unique cookbooks at your vacation rental is an easy way to differentiate your kitchen.  Find those that offer local recipe’s or have a cultural flair specific to your region.  My favorite at my Park City rentals is Jennie’s soup cookbook “Ski Town Soup”!  Not only is every single recipe amazing, some are local!  It’s been a big hit.  Whether or not you own a mountain vacation home, I suggest checking out this book!

A great kitchen should provide enough amenities for family to make a full holiday meal or fabulous cocktails, should they so desire.  The layout should flow to encourage interaction, but doesn’t necessarily have to be large in size.

Travelers love dishes, cook wear and amenities that add to the experience of the local environment.  They don’t have to be expensive; just unique and charming!  Local craft fairs and markets are usually a good place to find pieces for your vacation rental (and it supports your community).  A little extra attention to the kitchen details can go a long way as cooking, eating, and savoring delicious beverages is the most common way to entertain inside the vacation rental home.

Written by Kris Getzie, Volo Founder and Principal Consultant and Jennie Iverson, Author of Ski Town Soups and Chef.