How Far Should You Go For Your Guests?

This post was written by Volo for Tripping.com

In the hospitality industry we often talk about the importance of helping guests. Really, helping anyone inclined to inquire about your home, or with questions on your area.

The justification to do so is usually two-fold. First, it feels good to give knowing you probably just made their vacation the most memorable they’ve ever had. Also your kindness will not be forgotten, creating a repeat and high referral guest base.

I’ve had friends probe me on my varied ways of giving. “You just sent that guest to another house! They were ready to book with YOU!” Or, “Why spend a lot of money on gifts? The house is already great.”

For me, it’s about making sure someone’s vacation is perfect. It brings a little bit of light to people and gives them a well-deserved break from working long hours. I’m appreciative that they trust me and my home for their vacation, giving me the freedom to pursue my own independent work. Helping is the least I can do for them.

The Importance of Give and Take With Your Guests

Being probed prompted me to do a little bit more research on the impacts of giving, to which, I stumbled upon Give and Take, by Adam Grant. It’s an incredibly interesting book, grounded in research of why giving (i.e. helping) can have a more significant impact on our personal and professional success than taking or matching.

Giving, taking or matching are “reciprocity styles,” or way we relate to each other. Givers tend to have a relating style that is more concerned about creating value for others, than claiming value for oneself. Takers, on the other hand, seek value for themselves (in sometimes an insincere way- by pretending to be a giver) and matchers (most of us) desire equal giving and taking.

Through his many examples, Adam aims to prove that not only do givers perform the worst (compared to matchers and takers), but that givers also tend to outperform them to a higher degree, consistently. I tend to have a great disdain for labels, but I challenged myself to read this book with an open mind and to understand how my tendencies, according to his behavioral indicators, may impact my future growth in hospitality. I also didn’t read this book unquestioningly; “givers are great, therefore I will always give to my guests.” That would be silly.

Guests are not always right, and should not be given into, especially if there are malicious and disrespectful actions towards you or your staff.

I’m especially protective of my teams and have asked guests to pack their bags immediately. Of course, I help said guests by suggesting vacant places to rent, and offer a refund, but what matters more is that my team knows I have their back; it builds trust in me, our business, and the stretch goals we may place upon them.

Like me, many of you also move between giving, taking and matching in life and in your hospitality career. This book provided stories, research, and insights that were very interesting and applicable to our work as vacation rental owners and prove how giving (i.e. genuinely helping) can exponentially grow you and your business.

This post was written by Kris Getzie

Kris Getzie Hospitality Consultant

Your Vacation Rental Name Can Impact Search

This post was written by Volo for Tripping.com

With over five million vacation rentals around the globe, and only three seconds to capture the attention of potential guests, the importance of creating a dialed brand is critical. A brand should quickly and clearly define the experience or product, with the actual name being very much central. For example:

Apple: Think Different

De Beers: A Diamond is Forever

Nike: Just Do It

There are a lot of great blog posts online providing clear tutorials on naming your vacation rental business and the subsequent impact on bookings. In short, a name should be memorable, unique and representative of what you offer. It should be easy to connect with.

“Coral House”, for example, is much more appealing than “5 bedroom, 5 bath Caribbean beachfront rental”.

Recent property branding and naming exercises got me thinking about some words of wisdom from a particular client. He built a fortune (billions) creating and branding products for his many diverse companies and also happens to own $500M+ in vacation rental real estate globally.

He’s absurdly brilliant, humble, and arguably “the most interesting man in the world”. So naturally I asked him how he does it. His reply was to simply consider everything. Everything? Okay.

He’s not joking. He’s created success by paying attention to (and researching) consumers idiosyncratic habits and desires throughout the product purchasing and consuming cycle. Every behavior, from holding, smelling and sipping a beverage, for example, to every word and punctuation on a label. Everything matters.


Consider Property Type When Naming Your Vacation Rental

Heeding his advice when devising clever vacation rental names, I started considering the importance of the property “type”. Often used in the actual property name, types can range from a loft, castle, to cabin. Are these just catchy naming additions or can one be strategically used increase your bookings by way of more search yields? According to Tripping.com’s data, I’d say so.

chart1

Villa is remarkably the most searched property type. By definition, a Villa is a large and luxurious country home, particularly in Europe, but the term is often used for beach homes as well which may account for the large volume difference.

Of course, just because villa is the most searched property type doesn’t mean you should call your home one when it is clearly a mobile home. Your business name needs to be an honest representation of what you offer.

When we look at more data, however, it does make sense to tweak the type, when fitting. For example, you should brand a mountain property simply as a “cabin” instead of “log cabin” or “mountain home” to yield more views.

chart2

Perhaps the most difficult feats for owners, particularly those dependent on listing sites, is to be reasonably ranked in search results. Putting aside premium packages and featured listings, property type could be the biggest factor in helping owners overcome the ‘searchability’ barrier.

From here, you just need to ensure the rest of your listing ad is dialed (and on-brand) to drive conversion!

This post was written by Kris Getzie

Kris Getzie Hospitality Consultant

Three Vital Tips to Protect Your Vacation Rental Profits

This post was written by Volo for Tripping.com

Now that you’ve opened your vacation home, hired your help and are maximizing occupancy, it’s important to know how to protect your vacation rental profits.

Having managed $100M+ businesses at one point in life, I can tell you that the backbone of fiscal control is managing information. Unfortunately, clear bookkeeping is the easiest for newbies to overlook, which can really hurt your chances of managing (and controlling) the business. Quickbooks, a must-have for any vacation rental business, makes it easy to record every transaction, and even create budgets, so you won’t be open to inaccurate data, waste, and poor decision-making. But above and beyond Quickbooks, follow these three steps to help protect your assets and increase your vacation rental profits.

1. Budget to Protect Vacation Rental Profits

The single best method to increase your bottom line is by way of a thoughtful budget. In corporate settings, it’s not uncommon to pad the budget to give room for error. A good leadership team, or you in this case, should flesh out the padding so you see the actual state and potential of your business.

To do so, create your budget line by line. Take each line back to zero; don’t apply a factor (inflation or otherwise) to last year’s figures, however tempting. As by doing such, you are accepting inefficiencies of the prior year(s).

A Practical Example

Let’s use “Guest Supplies” as an example budget line. To create this, you investigate every item that goes into this category. Let’s just say there’s one item, shampoo, for the sake of this example.

First understand your operating standard. Will you provide fresh shampoo bottles daily, or just one (per shower) upon arrival to get your guests started? If you operate a luxury home and adhere to the standard of providing fresh shampoo bottles daily, examine the size and cost per bottle. Does it make sense to reduce the size of the bottle, and thus the cost, while maintaining your level of service?

Assuming you move forward with the existing bottles of shampoo, simply multiply the cost with the number of forecasted nights booked and the number of showers in your home.

Now that you have an idea of what the shampoo costs should be, compare it to the previous year. Is there a large difference? This exercise will probably make you reconsider how your goods are bought, stored, and controlled.

2. Be Smart About Your Vacation Rental Inventory

Never buy too much at once, keeping your stocks as low as possible. Not only does this preserve interest-bearing cash, but your inventory is much easier to control.

If your supplier offers you a 20% discount to buy 100 cases of shampoo bottles at the start of your season, for one or two properties, proceed carefully. Shampoo sitting in a closet will not earn you any money and they will be hard to keep an eye on. Your kids might decide to give them out to friends, or your cleaning staff might feel the need to pocket a few every visit.

If your stocks are low (and delivered “just in time”), it’s much easier to recognize when items have gone astray and subsequently take action to protect your profits.

3. Liquidity is Crucial to Your Vacation Rental Business

Remember the 2009 recession? In case you’ve forgotten, in the prosperous years prior to the recession, people and companies freely spent all of their income to acquire more, and not necessarily pay off, existing debt and assets.

In terms of vacation rentals, I knew many owners who bought into the temptation of rising property values and used all of their equity to purchase additional vacation rentals. Bookings were used to pay mortgages, not to build savings or pay off the existing debt. They over-leveraged themselves. My point? Cash is king. You can have all the illiquid assets in the world, but if you don’t have cash when your credit and/or bookings decrease (the economy is cyclical), you won’t be able to buy groceries, let alone keep your investments.

If you are achieving high occupancy and are ready to expand, go for it! But pay attention to your bank balance and I suggest not tapping into more than 50% of the value of your existing home(s). This may be conservative… but at least it will always be your home.

This post was written by Kris Getzie

Kris Getzie Hospitality Consultant

Can Vacation Rentals and Hotels Work Together?

This post was written by Volo for Tripping.

Lately I’ve been hearing buzz about hotel brands entering the vacation rental market. Vacation rental owners and hoteliers alike understand that we have an attractive market; but leaders in both industries are often quick to point out the stark differences and disregard each other as competitors.

I’ve personally seen and achieved a lot of success in business through aberrant partnerships and I often ponder how such a partnership might benefit our growing industry. Take Target’s designer collaborations, for example (with the likes of Nieman Marcus and Jason Wu). Each collaborator understands what the other partner offers, how they are different, and how they can benefit each other. The goal is not to become the other.

Vacation rentals are distinguished by their unique brands and authentic experiences. What they lack is industry-wide guest service standards and independent brand awareness.

Even with great efforts to overcome these challenges by industry stalwarts, it is impossible for every owner/manager to create a brand presence that precedes them, as hotels do, simply due to the marketing expenses and execution time. It is particularly hard for new vacation rental owners. Often working families, they don’t have time to read every new post on LinkedIn and follow vacation rental blogs, let alone build and manage an independent website to build their brand.

But they do have a vision. Most have created a high quality experience with amazing guest service and are taking one step at a time towards running their business as a full-time career.

One Way Vacation Rentals and Hotels Could Partner

A recent trend I’ve been noticing across a host of different vacation rental sites is the use of stamps of approval. A stamp of approval can certainly add some credibility but do guests really know what these mean and how it may add to the vacation rental standard and experience?

Guests know hotel brands and their standards (by way of millions spent each year in advertising), the biggest area of uncertainty for vacation rentals guests.

According to Oracle, 86% of customers will pay more for a better experience. If newbies (or vacation rentals in general) were able to get a “brand stamp of approval” from a relevant boutique hotel, would they see an increase in conversion, retention, and rates based on the perception of a more dialed experience?

At the same time could hotels also benefit by driving much needed patronage to their ancillary revenue centers (restaurants, spas, shops and activity spots) through recommendations from partnered vacation home owner(s)?

There are many logistics not addressed herein. Hotels, for one, would need to understand that vacation homes are independently run and a source of ancillary revenue. Independent homes would have to meet and adhere to select standards set by the hotel (that would not diminish their uniqueness, of course).

Is this topic off in left field or reasonable enough to test the possibilities? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

This post was written by Kris Getzie

Kris Getzie Hospitality Consultant

Choosing the Best Vacation Rental Location

This post was written by Volo for Tripping.

There are many reasons why people choose to purchase vacation homes. Sometimes it’s for the love of an area and pure personal enjoyment. Other times it’s purely for cash flow. If you are somewhere in-between or are looking to run your home as a full-time business, the location of your vacation rental is one of the most important decision you will make.

While it can be possible to turn a vacation home in the middle of nowhere into a successful business venture, I do not advise the risk if you cannot afford uncertainty. Choose a location you love, but be cognizant of its ability to attract tourist.

Tripping.com’s Top City Destinations

San Francisco, CA

New York, NY

Seattle, WA

New Orleans, LA

Chicago, IL

Tripping.com’s Top Beach Destinations

San Diego, CA

Destin, FL

Key West, FL

Gulf Shores, AL

Honolulu, HI

Top Tips For Choosing a Vacation Rental Location

For most, location seems basic and research often ends after selecting a particular city or a general neighborhood. Don’t stop there. Just because your condo boarders Central Park, doesn’t mean it’s on the right end. So what’s an out of towner to do?

1. Go for a walk and take in the surroundings

Don’t hire a cab or rent a car, walk. Walk in all directions around your property for blocks. What do you see? Look at the quality (and type) of shops, businesses, homes. Will they complement your business? Do you feel safe on your walk? Take another walk at a different time of day, including the night. A beautiful beach can look completely different when the tide is out. It can also be quiet and pristine on a Wednesday but packed with locals on Saturday (which may or may not be great for your intended experience).

I once stayed in a vacation rental right next to train tracks where trains passed by every thirty minutes. While some noise levels, particularly in urban locations, are inevitable it’s important to understand what is around you. This may sound ridiculous but not too long ago I stayed in a property that was located about 500 yards from a sewage treatment facility. I was sick to my stomach a few hours everyday when the wind blew wrong.

2. Study the local landscape

If you are buying a home or land in an area you aren’t intimately familiar with, take extra time to study the details of the land and area. You don’t want to show up on a pristine day, only to find out later that during your peak season strong winds blow large tides onto your beach and make swimming a hazard.

The same holds true for erosion. Understand what happens to your property when the extreme elements (rain, cold, heat, whatever) are in full effect. Will your property flood? Do you have exposed water mains that could freeze and burst?

My Personal Experience

When I bought my vacation rental in Park City, Utah, I noticed the neighbor had recently excavated and laid a new driveway, which had already cracked. Park City happens to be the high desert, so this was a big red flag. Sure enough, the water main was exposed and had a history of bursting. In my purchase negotiations, I had them move the water main from the side of the home to the front where it now connects with city water (all underground). The project was estimated to cost $15k, but really cost over $20k due to the depth of the city water connection. A fee I’m glad I didn’t have to pay!

luxury pool

3. Be aware of the elements

If you are planning on having a pool, you will need to create a space with consistent sunshine. If a building permanently blocks this opportunity, your rates might be substantially lower than you would have thought. Too much sun, or high temperatures, can also be problematic and reduce travel to your hopeful location for long periods of time. Lastly, understand how the elements will impact the design of your property and maximize what is naturally bestowed upon you if you are building.

4. Never be pressured into buying

Don’t let anyone rush you! I don’t care if an all cash offer is supposedly looming, if you are not allowed time to research your investment, walk away. This is when the biggest mistakes are made. Likewise, if something doesn’t feel right, even if everything else by examination seems perfect, trust your gut and move on.

This post was written by Kris Getzie

Kris Getzie Hospitality Consultant