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

Increasing Your Vacation Rental Income

This post was written by Volo for Tripping.

Unlike vacation rentals, hotels have many ways to bring in additional money. Revenue from their retail shops, food & beverage outlets, spa or premium internet charges, for example, can more than double their revenue beyond room rentals. This is what hoteliers call ancillary revenue.

Revenue managers focus intensely on their ancillary revenue channels, in addition to controlling expenses (like you would your household expenses) and increasing RevPar (Revenue per Available Room). RevPar is literally a basic health measure that looks at room rates (or ‘home nightly rate’, if you will, for VR’s) combined with occupancy.

Through buying featured ad placements on vacation rental listing sites, increasing the subscription package or taking cues from blogs posts on building a vacation rental brand, many vacation rental owners are convinced occupancy and rates are the only ways to increase profitability.

These are all very important aspects, no doubt, especially increasing occupancy through repeat guests. But I encourage you to think more like hoteliers today, beyond just ‘RevPar’, even if you don’t have immediate access to revenue enhancement centers (the physical places ‘ancillary revenue’ is generated at a hotel).

You can increase profits, aside from occupancy and rates, albeit through less traditional means.

I’m not insinuating that vacation rental owners nickel and dime guests as airlines do by charging for the basics (i.e. checking your luggage). We are in the competitive hospitality business as independents, have a standard guest experience and understand that some items are a minimum expectation!

Every single guest needs to receive a quality experience for their payment. Luxury sheets are required if you are offering a high-end rental home, for example.

I’m not fond of guest check-out chores under any circumstance; however, it works for some experiences (when the expectation is presented clearly prior to booking). I cringe when owners or managers drop a list of check-out chores, on top of cleaning fee, in their house manual just to save a buck.

I’m referring to increasing revenue through differentiating your product offerings and providing customized options.

Examples!

A Volo client had a great little Inn in Mexico near a community of soap makers. The owners offered amazing complimentary soaps in each room, but also introduced a soap concierge program encouraging guests to order personalized soap scents; lavender, melon, vanilla or any mixture thereof. Guests used them during their stay, brought them home and purchased as gifts. The ancillary venture not only increased their revenue by 5% (in addition to other implemented strategies), but gave back to the community.

Other examples could be snack/lunch boxes (preordered for planned outings, not to be confused with a gift basket left for new guests… although, pre-arrival grocery shopping is also a great add-on), upgraded bathroom amenities or linens, gift cards and other easy-to-deliver items. Know who your guest is and you will be able to define ancillary revenue sources they will engage with.

One client saw nearly a 10% increase in revenue by sending her guests to local businesses she loved. According to FlipKey, the average homeowner in its network earns $26,000 a year, that equates to $2600 in additional revenue.

We achieved this by developing referral partnerships that complemented her vacation rental experience; ski and outdoor equipment rental companies, restaurants, spas, movies theaters and art galleries. The commission per referral was between 5-15%, depending on the business partner.

Each ‘revenue center’ may not independently skyrocket your profit, but collectively, it can add up quickly!

This post was written by Kris Getzie

Kris Getzie Hospitality Consultant

Distribution Channel Analysis: 5 Things To Know

The hotel industry has changed dramatically over the past 15 years. The most challenging of which is in the area of distribution.

Each distribution channel has associated costs, benefits and is evolving quickly. Online travel agencies battle with search engines, social media platforms and hundreds of hotel websites for the customers attention.

Intermediaries act as gatekeepers and impose increasingly higher fees for directing traffic to hotels, impacting distribution costs. Simultaneously, the transparency of hotel pricing structures online puts pressure on already competitive rates. With higher booking volumes passing through intermediaries, the costs imposed and pressure on rates, hotels are challenged to maintain profit levels.

Regardless of the distribution channel used by consumers, it is important that each hotel attempt to understand the dynamic of each channel and analyze the costs and benefits in a meaningful way to create sustainable revenue and profit streams.

When approaching your distribution channel analysis, these 5 things are good to keep in mind:

1. Share Shift

In a mature U.S. lodging industry, incremental demand by any one channel is difficult. However, each channel can advantageously ‘share shift’ from another hotel in its market. Hotels should develop tools to share shift from all channels, not just OTA’s (online travel agents) as receiving business through yourwebsite.com, for example, will incur lower transactional fees and may have less impact on ADR (average daily rate). Share shifting mostly occurs:

  • From one hotel to another
  • From one time period to another
  • From one channel to another

2. Conversion

Some hotel distribution models allocate resources to acquisition, persuasion and retention. Those hotels will benefit from working harder at converting existing traffic from all channels, and on retention, rather that emphasizing acquisition. Acquisition is expensive, especially if there isn’t a strong conversion and retention plan in place.

3. Costs of Distribution

Knowing the costs associated with each channel is essential for management in the fragmented distribution landscape, even when the costs don’t appear on the P&L statement.

4. Benefits of Distribution

Equally, it’s critical to analyze the full benefits from each channel including length of stay, ancillary spend, repeat and referral potential.

5. Commoditization

In the current marketplace, a common theme portrayed is that last minute bookings result in better deals. So potential guests wait to book. These price drops inform that your distinguishing feature is price, not the quality, experience or differentiation from other hotels. With third parties targeting the same guests, and sometime offering last minute deals, it’s important to be cognizant of who controls your guest relationship. It will strongly affect the value of your brand.

*Pictures from Google Images.