Kigo Blog

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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The Edge of Your Empire : New Destinations for 2015

Where are the new up and coming destinations for vacation rentals?

Some destinations or cities immediately connote the idea of holidays. Mauritius, Barbados, the Seychelles. Some cities can do this too. Paris and New York have an instant aura of excitement and interest for travellers. Other destinations struggle to create this immediate association. But things are changing.

Whereas London, Paris and New York are perennials, they are expensive, crowded and people have already ticked them off their lists of places to visit. We’re looking at the cities and destinations that VR managers are thinking about expanding their businesses into. Countries and cities that once seemed unappealing or even dangerous for travellers are now becoming safer and more accessible. Tourist boards are working to improve the image of their destinations and introduce tourism as a major industry. Today we look at places that are not primarily known for their tourist appeal but are looking to change this in the upcoming years and could be profitable new destinations for vacation rental businesses. Investment opportunities abound.

2476599906_53db7c091f_o Iran
With some lingering security concerns Iran may not be ready for the influx of mass tourism just yet but the seedlings are starting to sprout. There are tour providers that provide security, insurance and local expertise. The US and Australia deems most areas safe enough for travel. Iran has the rich culture and natural attractions to become an appealing destination. It may be an option for future development or investment as it becomes safer and more accessible for international tourism.

9647627452_5529638b41_o Panama City
A Newly emerging destination in the vibrant setting of Central America that has captured the elusive aura of ‘cool’. With an individual style and culture, coupled with a New Orleans Mardi Gras atmosphere, Panama City has retained the charm and authenticity of its original design and is now adding designer shops and high quality restaurants. It of course, also boasts the eponymous canal.

749777625_87d487dcb5_o Hull
Famed locally for its creamy, off-white phone boxes, this Northern English shipping town may not be the most well known of UK destinations. However, the city is taking bold steps to emerge as a shining light of UK tourism. It is European City of Culture for 2017, the home of the world’s only submarium and boasts the third longest single-span suspension bridge in the world. The marina was designed to reinvigorate the city much as Barcelona’s did. The current gentrification and development of the old fruit markets surrounding this marina is set to transform the area into a center for art and culture. Whist always consigned to suffer from the notoriously unpredictable British weather, Hull also has links to some remarkable stretches of coastline with surprisingly clear waters, natural geography and a rich fossil history.

9997912316_d689cd92f2_oIceland
Stunning natural scenery with increased travel links to mainland Europe. Glaciers, mountains and volcanoes have created a unique landscape. Natural wonders such as the Northern Lights are going to be constant attractions, as is the cosmopolitan allure of Reykjavik. Individual, remarkable experiences are taking prominence over traditional sun trap holidays and Iceland is a perfect example of this. As the most sparsely populated country in Europe there is sufficient space to build and rent striking properties amongst the undulating backdrop.

158865628_65c54234eb_o Rwanda
Increasing levels of stability and safety in the last twenty years have revitalised the county for its inhabitants and now is becoming a viable option for tourism. Virunga national park has been opened to cater for mid-price accommodation that could be perfect for vacation rentals. Natural habitats for gorillas and conservation centers can work hand in hand with tourism to attract visitors and generate money to these projects.

These locations are just some of the areas we think will make great destinations in the upcoming years. Cities and even countries can dramatically transform their appeal surprisingly quickly.

 Do you have properties in any of these locations or would you consider expanding your business into these areas?

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Community VS Privacy – The Great Debate

Is there a divide growing between two sides of the rental industry?
Some vacation rental companies and portals have been very vocal about wanting to form a community between guests and owners. They want to develop an industry where human connections form the basis of the experience. Uncontrived touches and additions from the people that operate and use the business are what make them special and unique. Having a connection between people reduces the corporate dynamic of business and consumer; predator and prey. It is a rebellion against the uniformity of big brands.

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Others want to make the process more streamlined, more efficient. To take away any un-required steps in the system. This isn’t about reinforcing that corporate dynamic but letting people have full control over their social interactions. Some people have reacted to the idea of building a community from the business as seeming forced and largely unwanted. Connections and interactions should be organic and natural and they consider that renting a vacation property is not enough to build this on.

Airbnb tells us ‘We all know that getting in isn’t a transaction. It’s a connection that can last a lifetime’.

Is this an overly romantic notion that hides the grisly business underbelly from the public? Is this just marketing to make the company seem human and approachable and do we really believe that this overshadows their bottom line? Consumers are becoming increasingly cynical to marketing campaigns that try to disguise the avarice of the company. Relentless advertising has lowered our collective acceptance of concealed agendas. If you genuinely want to try to create a community stemming from your business, you should. But if you try this just because it seems to be a prevailing trend with the largest portals and businesses and an interesting marketing angle, then it may not be as effective. Customers have an instinctive ability to differentiate between genuine passion and cynical marketing.

Are we deluding ourselves with false bonhomie, does either party actually gain from this connection? Some guests will use this relationship to provide them with an individual and more local experience. Visitors get a condensed and concentrated experience. Less time cutting through the fatty, outer layer of tourist spots and more time in the ‘heart’ of an area. They can use the knowledge and experience of their hosts to have a trip that they would otherwise be unable to enjoy.

This, in turn can lead to better reviews and recommendations. If your guests have met you, they will be able to approach you with questions and any potential problems. They may feel more at home and more ready leave better reviews and recommend your properties to others.

But despite their company rhetoric, Airbnb has been providing more options for people to book instantly and skip the process of creating a ‘connection’. HomeAway have stated that they aim all of their properties to have a ‘Book Now’ function within the next 24 months.

For some guests and hosts alike, the emphasis on demanding human interaction as part of the process is an unnecessary headache. There is a side of the industry that considers booking a holiday or a business trip to still be just a business transaction. Much like hiring a solicitor or buying a wheel of parmesan. We don’t strive for this type of community  or connection with other purchases, what is it about vacation rentals that makes them separate? Are we deluding ourselves with false bonhomie, does either party actually gain from this community?

However, you will never know if your guests prefer to have the simplest possible transactions and don’t want to try and forge this connection. Having a reservation system in place that allows for instant booking is likely to become standard. Some will prefer the ease and anonymity of a basic booking and payment process but others will want to know your story. Does being to book immediately damage the connection between host and guest or is it the natural way forward?

Where do you stand on this debate? Do you think there is a middle ground to be found between community and privacy?

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