Dwellable Q&A

This Q&A was for Dwellable and can be found here.

1) How did you get into this business?

My parents have owned and operated vacation rentals and boutique Inn’s for nearly twenty years, so the industry and it’s transformation have always been a huge part of my life.

After establishing my individuality, career and finishing grad school, I knew it was time to make the transition into this industry full-time. First by taking over the operations of my parents businesses and consulting on the side, then buying my own.

In a way, I was destined to be here. Not just because of my parents (they aren’t into free rides), but because of a deep interest in economic development. Responsible and sustainable tourism provides significant means for lesser developed countries to address their fiscal, environmental, healthcare and education situations.

I’ve also spent time working with a variety of organizations and governments addressing these issues as a hospitality consultant… It’s completely rewarding.

2) Tell us a story about the absolute best or absolute worst vacation rental experience you’ve ever had.

My friends and I were in Culebra, Puerto Rico, at my parents VR, when we met a retired couple who regularly hosted guests on their catamaran. They were locals (kinda) and offered us a trip. We hopped onboard.

I’d never sailed prolifically before, so that was a great experience in and of itself… But the way they hosted us forever shifted my perception of what a great VR experience should be.

They let us into their lives; showed us how they prepare for a trip, how to cook on board, drink like sailors (literally, Sailor Jerry—the rum—was a flowin’), tie knots and brought us diving at amazing little islands we would have never visited otherwise.

Of course, they had the details of their stay perfected and I still remember the smell of their sheets. Literally, one whiff of sea salty-butter-pineapple and I immediately want to be on that boat (talk about a retention strategy).

They were entertainers. They shared fantastic stories about their experiences sailing, history of mariners and took us all out of our comfort zones. A decade later, the girls and I still talk about that trip!

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3) How is the rise of mobile devices changing the vacation rental business?

Mobile strategy often refers to developing a mobile website that enhances the overall vacation rental search and booking experience.

I think it’s important to embrace this. But with 68% of smartphone users sleeping within two feet of their phone, it’s equally important think beyond the mobile website as devices have the ability to enhance guest engagement on a more personalized level before, during and after their stay.

Integrating an app, for example, provides guests with an easy way to control their experience.

They might buy mountain lift passes, a spa package or view a virtual tour before arrival. During their stay they might want to request additional maid services or book a dog walker. All great ways to drive ancillary revenue, by the way. I also think most owners could benefit with an app after departure by continuing engagement. Not stalking! But to say thank you, invite them back and ask for a review.

Mobile devices are also great for face-to-face interaction if you can’t be there physically. I had a guest FaceTime me because he couldn’t figure out the ski rack. Within two minutes I was able to guide him through the problem. It was super easy and it was nice to cyber meet in our PJ’s 🙂

4) Word of advice to VR owners?

Always be authentic.

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The most successful VR owners I have encountered consistently show their personality and have an ability to connect their guests to the local culture, in their own way. Consistent VR industry standards are obviously important (in terms of cleanliness, communication and so on) but the one thing no one can ever duplicate is your authentic and unique presentation of an experience.

I love what Vayando is doing. Once they are established, I hope to see them connect with vacation rentals to enhance the overall travel experience!

5) Insider tip for travelers in your area?

Regardless of what brings you to Park City, collect locals as your wingmen. They are guaranteed to be interesting people and will give you a fantastic day-in-the-life tour!

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They’ll bring you to backcountry slopes you’ll never see otherwise (maybe not via snowcat, but you’ll get there), insane bike routes (mountain or road), sketchy food trucks with delicious grub, or random concerts outside of Park City (Twilight Concert Series, for example, features the likes of De La Soul, Beck, Thundercat and local artists… for $5!).

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Kris Getzie is Founder & Principal Consultant at Volo, a hospitality consultancy, and she loves to help her vacation rental and boutique hotel clients crush with an amazing brand and dialed operations. She is obsessed with chocolate, learning, random adventures and getting her two kids out to explore the world.
Follow her on Twitter @volovantage or at www.volovantage.com.

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: http://ow.ly/zztTD

Image: Infographic by World Bank Publications

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.

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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!