Kigo Blog

Vacation Rentals: The Perfect Christmas Gift

Thanksgiving is upon us, the final Thursday in November and traditionally, the starter pistol for the run up to Christmas. With just one month to go, it’s never too early to think about how vacation rentals could become a perfect Christmas gift. Unfortunately, you can’t put a ribbon on time in a vacation rental. But, there are ways to market time in your property for Christmas. Giving someone the gift of a stay in an a vacation rental could become a great new holiday trend that your friends and family will truly enjoy.
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 But how do you start getting people to consider giving vacation rental holidays as gifts? For some, the idea of booking somewhere, involving lots of emails and locked-in dates is too much of a hassle in a busy time of year. Receiving a weekend in an amazing property may lose its appeal if you have to organise flights and time to get to Hawaii the next week or lose out. You can change this perception by making things as easy as possible and promoting these gifts as giving someone great accommodation when and where they want it.

Today we discuss some of the ways you can promote and present vacation rental stays as gifts for Christmas.

 The Element of Surprise
An obvious problem with giving stays in a vacation rental as a gift is knowing when people are available. A thoughtful gift could be spoilt by the recipient not having the time to stay in the property on the dates you booked. Could you provide flexible dates in certain months? Or sell full weeks that can be taken at any time that your property is available? There are ways to get round this problem. You could offer a choice of weekends that people can then take when is best for them.

 Gift Vouchers
Another option is to sell gift vouchers for your properties. This would let people choose the perfect time and location for them. They would also be able to choose the property that suited them best. These could then be booked according to your normal availability process. You could offer set cash amounts that can be used as discounts toward longer stays, or vouchers for nights, whole weeks or weekends. Many companies already offer vouchers all year round and use them as a great way to fill weeks in mid-season.

 Presentation
Gifts are designed to be opened and you can’t wrap up a confirmation email. If you produced cards or professionally printed images from your property then you have a product that instantly says ‘gift’. If it is aesthetically pleasing and conveys the thoughtfulness you intend then it will help to bridge the gap between vacation rentals and traditional gift ideas. Most people will struggle at some point with finding the right gifts, so use your website and social media to promote your properties. Why not create a blog post with your top properties?

 Spread the Word
If you offered gift vouchers or promotions on booking your properties as gifts to your regular customers you will be rewarding their loyalty and generating new business. If they decide to give one to a friend or family member then you will reach more people. People that use and enjoy your business will be able to share their positive experiences with their friends and families that may not encounter your business otherwise. This is the ultimate good review.

Promoting vacation rentals as Christmas gifts is likely to become more widespread as the popularity increases and trusted, global brands emerge. It is a great way to bring in extra bookings and earn some customer loyalty to your business.

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Black Friday: The American Shopping Frenzy That is Going Global

Is this just an American retail fad? Can vacation rental managers profit from the hype and hysteria of the biggest day of the year for American shoppers?

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Black Friday is traditionally the day after Thanksgiving, where retailers slash prices to signal the start of the festive shopping season. People camp outside shops for days prior, the queues are a mad scramble. The day has become synonymous with delirious crowds and scythed prices. For some, it’s a great day to get bargains and an early start on Christmas shopping. For others it’s a horrendous melee that is not worth the effort. Either way, there is a chance for vacation rental managers to be part of Black Friday by offering promotions and avoiding the mad rush that big name shops have to deal with.

You can take advantage of Black Friday not just by creating your own sales and promotions, but marketing your properties to coincide with the major retailers’ sales and shopping too. In America, there is a burgeoning tourism industry stemming from people travelling to the best shopping areas just for the weekend surrounding Black Friday. You could combine your promotions with advertising the local shopping in your area. Market your properties to show that Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be a rushed, crowded hell-scape. It can involve travel to a new city, staying in a luxurious property, relaxing and taking your time. Black Friday presents plenty of opportunities for vacation rental managers to turn a divisive day into a worthwhile marketing angle.

Here are the best ways to promote your business for Black Friday:

Don’t Queue, Just Click!
Get all of the benefit of the Black Friday rush without having to deal with the marauding queues of people. If you do decide to offer limited promotions you may want to make sure you are ready and equipped for increased demand. A price promotion will surely bring increased traffic to your site but it thankfully won’t compare to the frenzy of shop queues on Black Friday. Shops in America regularly open at 5 am and have snaking queues for days. Make sure you use social media to promote any sales you are running and use the ease of online shopping to your advantage as much as possible.

Holiday Season
Black Friday is the perfect time to market your properties for a last-minute seasonal or Christmas holiday. The combination of the holiday season and the emphasis on shopping gives you a great chance to fill the last weeks of the year.

Why not use images of the crowds and stuffed shops to contrast with the peace and quiet of your properties? A few clicks compared to taking to the November streets is surely going to be preferable for most shoppers.

Publicity
Part of the reason that the tradition of Black Friday is creeping over from America’s shores is the publicity it generates. We have seen the power it exudes. Some companies and business have even declared it an unofficial public holiday, choosing to give staff this day off as opposed to Columbus day. When a day for shopping eclipses the day honouring the discoverer of the nation, you know this day has an immense importance for people.

Unused Inventory
Having an unbooked week coming up in the off season is the perfect chance to test out the power of Black Friday. You can fill an empty week and offer an attractive price to your guests. Using dynamic pricing to create tempting offers and having an on-line payment system that allows you to confirm and accept payment instantly will tempt shoppers to book these deals right away.

While mostly still an American trend, the ubiquity of on-line retailers means Black Friday is spreading across the world. You can use the publicity to reach American guests or do your best to use this day to book unsold weeks at attractive prices. It is certainly a strange phenomenon but days like Black Friday could be a great chance to give vacation rentals an end of year boost, no matter where they are.

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The Rise of Russia and China: The New Tourists of Europe

There is a sense that Europeans are growing bored of Europe. Cheap flights mean that more and more of us have been able to visit the top destinations in Europe and are now looking for further flung destinations. This bonanza in cheap air travel doesn’t mean disaster for European destinations though. We are now seeing an influx of travellers from more remote countries such as Russia and China. In 2012 Chinese travellers spent $100 billion overseas. During the Soviet period, many Russians were effectively banned from travelling abroad. They now rank in the top ten of international travellers in terms of numbers. As the largest and most populous countries respectively, they really are just too big to overlook.

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Mass industrialisation and rapid wealth creation in these countries have created a new generation of international travellers.The question whether the next decade will see more international travel from Russia and China is almost certain. How to appeal to this growing market will be the real question. Translations, social media and highlighting the major sites and proximity to others will be the key. With visas being arduous to acquire, many visitors from China and Russia aim to make the most of their trip and visit as many famous locations and countries within Europe as possible. One may take for granted that a visitor to Paris can safely expect to see the Eiffel Tower but this may not be the case for travellers from places as far away as China or Russia. Travellers are going to want to know that your property will allow them visit all of the major attractions. If you can show that your property will allow your guests to see all of the major sites this will be a major advantage. Also, European distances pale in comparison to travel in Russia and China. Guests will want to know about attractions in other cities, even other countries.

 Despite the mass appeal, traditional modes of advertising may not be effective for these markets. Facebook is banned in China, and the most popular social network in Russia is VK which remains relatively unknown in the West. These sites are available in various languages and will help with your exposure. Baidu replaces Google in China. To really rank on this search engine you will need a translation of your site into simplified Chinese and have a local Chinese domain. These might seem like arduous tasks but the expansion of tourism from these areas in the upcoming decade may make it a question of when rather than if for most sites. Having your site in cyrillic will also be integral when appealing to Russian travellers.

2455261693_29db9e78b8_oAs well as the obvious difficulties with the language, there are also numerous cultural differences to negotiate. For example, in China, the first price quoted is open for haggling. If you have flowers for your Russian guests, make sure you have an even number, odd numbered bouquets are reserved for funerals. There is likely to be confusion at some point but any concessions are bound to be appreciated. There are websites where you can register your apartment as suited to Chinese tourists. Even just checking sites like these can give you a good idea of what is expected by travellers to your property.

 Whilst marketing your property to these new markets may be difficult to do as effectively as normal, the sheer numbers available means that even basic efforts should be lucrative. Tourism from Russia and China is going to develop exponentially in the next decade. Russia’s outboard tourism expenditure increased 32% in the previous ten years and China is currently the largest spending nation on foreign travel. Just as vacation rentals have appealed to the European market for the value and quality they offer, there is bound to be a huge demand as travel to Europe and America from the East increases.

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Writing Your Own Review

Analysing what makes your property stand out
This is not a suggestion for how to boost your Tripadvisor score. It is about raw and unbridled self analysis; the best way to improve your service. If you were to write a review of your service how would you rate it? What areas would not score as high as others? What better way to improve your business than to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. A good way to audit your own experience is to try it out. From searching, booking to staying – see what parts of the process you find aggravating or difficult. From there you can then try to streamline and simplify your website and process.

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The first step will be to see how visible your site is. What keywords do you think people type in that end up finding your business? People are going to search for the area and then filter through the properties from that search. Make sure your site is visible and high in the rankings. Consider other keywords that relate to your area too. Including these in your SEO data could be a good way to boost your ranking.

 Next will be to make sure your website looks professional and works seamlessly. Check for dead links and any confusing information. What services or other products could you offer that you might find useful at this stage? Once you have examined the booking process, what information will your guests require to find your property? Directions from the airport, from the station or roads. Is there anything else your guests may need to know before arrival?

 As well as trying to find any flaws in your operation, find out what works. From your time in the property what about it did you like most? Were there parts of the local area that make it special, or events? Use your experience to highlight the best features of your property and make them stand out on your site. If you give yourself a critical and honest review then you will have the perfect basis from which to grow your business. Ask for guest feedback too and see if there are recurring issues, or consistent positive comments. If so you can address the issues and highlight the positives.

 Next comes the all important first impression. What impression do you get when you open the front door to your property? What would you like to be greeted by? Are there missing amenities or anything in need of repair? Analysing these important things should help you see little areas that could be improved and set a competitive price. If you are able, why not stay in the property? There may be things that become apparent only after spending time in the property such as late night noise or difficulties with any appliances.

 Finally, the process for leaving. Is it simple and seamless? Are guests able to leave in a rush if they need to catch an early flight? Do you have the option to leave feedback or are you prompted to leave a review? As well as being mandatory for most potential guests considering your property, varied and detailed reviews are the best way to find out any possible areas for improvement.

 Once you have considered every element of staying in your property think about where, if anywhere it was lacking. Have a look at the reviews of other apartments in your area and see how yours measures up.

What score would you give your own properties?

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Are Video Tours Set To Replace Pictures?

All vacation rentals require pictures to capture online bookings, but we are seeing more and more sites including short video tours of their properties. Apps like Instagram and Vine have made these easier to produce and share. The development of Hyperlapse from Instagram has also seen some vacation rental managers including high speed video tours of the local area on their sites. These video tours have given some hosts the platform to show their property, and some of their personality in a professional and exciting way. But are they better than pictures and will they become an industry standard?

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Words; pictures; videos; virtual reality. Is this just a natural progression or will high quality pictures always suffice for vacation rental sites? Having too much content, too many videos of your property could just ruin the surprise of arriving somewhere new. Everyone likes to know exactly what they are paying for but would this damage the ‘wow factor’ of your property? Do people want to know everything they can expect before they arrive or is the element of surprise part of a holiday?

Freshly emerging from development and heading toward production are virtual reality systems. The SkyScanner industry report suggests that in ten years’ time we will be able to use virtual reality to feel the texture of the furniture in an apartment, experience the sea-breeze on the balcony before even booking. This immersion will let guests effectively stay in your property and then decide whether they want to book it or not. Would you want this level of prior knowledge before booking accommodation? There are definite advantages to being able to see all parts of a property before booking, but is this too far?

As ever, just because technology may make something possible, it is no guarantee that it will then take off commercially. For many, the point of a holiday is to try somewhere new and different. Vacation rentals have a wonderful advantage of being separate and mostly unique places to stay. Every property has its own charms and characteristics that make them remarkable. They have managed to attract a large range of customers that find this much more appealing than a standard and uniform hotel room. To be given the chance to see, and even feel every part of your holiday before you arrive feels somewhat like defeating the purpose of exploring somewhere new.

However, some major portals already give owners the option to add short video tours and people have been using Youtube to advertise on for a number of years. The question is, if having a video tour will be ubiquitous in the future or just the reserve a few technology minded owners. If they do take off, how will the most successful websites use videos to their advantage and what will be the features that make them remarkable? Any videos you create should be worth sharing and highlight the attractions of the city as well as your property. If your site does not currently have the option to host video content, see how Kigo’s custom designs and templates can provide this capability so you can stay ahead of the curve.

When considering vacation rentals, we think the best videos are the ones that will leave guests intrigued and wanting to see more. Rather than giving a full demonstration of everything in and around your property, effective videos will give your guests answers to the questions they need to know. Things like the number of rooms, the size of your property and the amenities it offers. But the actual experience should aim to go above and beyond what can be seen in your video tours. Guests will be given the confidence to book, but you can still retain that ‘wow factor’ for your property with the things that cannot be conveyed by technology. These are things like your service and knowledge, the personal touches you include and the overall relaxing atmosphere of your property. No matter how prominent video tours may get, these touches they can’t convey will always remain more important to your guests.

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