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4 Ways to Stay Booked When Summer is Over

 The summer holidays generally belong to families. The children are off school and days have to be filled. The car is loaded up and properties are booked, ideally as close to a beach or as many attractions as possible. People expecting peace and quiet in popular destinations know to avoid July and August. For vacation rental managers, family holidays mean full calendars and a handful of extremely busy months. However, we’re now getting to that time when children are being ushered back towards the school gates.  

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But this doesn’t just mean that you can have time in your properties during the last waves of summer, there are some real advantages to the end of the summer and the gradual descent towards autumn. Destinations are less busy. Flights are cheaper. There is no choice to be made between a lazy afternoon in a chair, doing nothing and having to herd a pack of wild infants through a cartoon-themed wonderland. The end of the summer is not the end of vacation rental season. The transition towards autumn provides ample opportunity to reach a different clientele and keep your property calendars full.

 City Breaks
With the weather cooling across the Northern hemisphere, it’s the perfect time to promote your properties in cities. August and July seem too stifling to be wandering the streets of European capitals, dipping into museums and shops. But Autumn is now the perfect time to attract cultural tourists. Focus on the areas surrounding your properties, find interesting blogs and promote them via email marketing and your social media. Sell the destination as well as the property.  

 Promote the Peace
The space and privacy of vacation rentals is one of their major selling points. You can cut yourself off from the world and the end of summer means this is possible without the interruption of hordes of other people looking to do the same thing. For some, the end of the summer holidays is the perfect time to take a vacation. Having some properties that are marketed as less family orientated and more aimed at travellers looking to relax in sophisticated cities and properties will help you get bookings from this sizeable market.

 Business Travellers
Business travel is not as seasonal as holiday travel. These trips need to be taken a moment’s notice throughout the year and vacation rentals are beginning to establish themselves as a legitimate option for business accommodation. However, perception is important. If your site and marketing are still geared toward summer holiday travellers and families you will reduce your appeal to business travellers. Few workers are going to want to present their expenses for an apartment that looks as though it is designed for a holiday rather than a serious business trip.

 Having a dedicated site or page for your most suitable business accommodation will allow you to show your properties in two different modes. Having images with workspaces, links to conference centres and travel networks will all help to show your property is a quiet and relaxing space in which to work and even host clients or meetings. Two sets of photos and the appropriate changes to the property at the end of summer are all you need.

 As the holidays are over, a promotion to encourage people to stay an extra day over the weekend will help to keep your calendars full. If you offer 4 nights for the price of 3 you will get far more bookings for more days. A problem with the end of the summer is that weekends get booked up, leaving the undesirable mid week hanging empty as people return to work. By doing what you can to encourage longer stays like this, Mondays, Fridays and Thursdays will begin to be booked up and it makes so much more sense to stay for the promotion.

 These tips can ensure that your calendars stay full long after the heady days of summer are over. A shift in approach, marketing and your property listings can make all the difference when trying to connect with a different type of guest.

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The Hidden Charges Guests Hate

Why companies are willing to lose customers for a small term gain.

Trends in the travel industry are usually pioneered by the airlines and major hotel brands. They have the customer base to test and what’s more, people need  to fly and find places to stay. Their customer base is almost captive. They have the base to lose a few customers if their experiments don’t pay off. Once they have tested their solutions, that’s when smaller businesses can start to take inspiration from their ideas and apply them to their own businesses. This transition happened with online booking and revenue management and vacation rental businesses have been able to follow suit. However, there is a worrying trend from these industries of adding extra charges for altering the details of bookings and increasing pressure on optional extras.

 We think that upfront and straightforward pricing has been an important part of the strong surge in people choosing vacation rentals over other types of accommodation. Hidden charges are a hated phenomenon of modern consumerism, yet are becoming almost ubiquitous in the travel industry. Find out why vacation rental managers should stay clear of this trend for applying extra charges.

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 These charges can feel petty and even duplicitous. They slow down the booking process and  make advertised prices seem farcical. There may be optional extras that cost your business money that it is perfectly acceptable to charge for. Extras such as trips, excursions or products are a great way to build value into your business but just charging your guests to go through the booking process is what many guests and travellers are taking exception to. What has riled guests and travellers is applying a charge to anything that requires a decision from a guest. It smacks of a boardroom full of malevolent VPs rubbing their hands together and asking ‘Is there anything we haven’t charged for yet?’.

 Choosing your seat on an airline is one such charge. Where once this was just a decision that would be made when you board the plane, the airlines have monetised this aspect and turned it into a commodity. Where before only a handful of people with special requirements would need to select their seats, the application of a charge has turned this process into an unnecessary cost and booking hurdle for the majority of their customers.

 Opting for a non-smoking room is another charge that has baffled hotel guests. If these options are offered by the business, then they should be offered as exactly that, a choice rather than a tax. Wifi is another point of contention. Whilst standard in numerous cafes, bars and the majority of vacation rentals, hotels are persisting with charging a daily rate to access their network.

 These are all things that are consistently charged for, despite being readily available for free elsewhere and can really add to a final bill. Having a certain level of choice and amenities should not be a paid-for privilege but a part of the customer service provided by a business. This process of applying costs wherever possible has even been dubbed ‘Hate-selling’. It presents the idea of a greater amount of choice yet it actually removes choice from the consumer. You have no choice but to enter the labyrinth of additional charges if you want to use the company’s product.

 Whilst the widespread adoption of these fees and charges amongst hotels and airlines suggests that they are profitable (they are set to generate a predicted $2.47 billion this year), the damage they are doing to consumer trust and respect is so far untold. They demonstrate a certain lack of respect for the customer. If vacation rental managers were to adopt this technique they would lose a unique selling point that they currently have over other types of accommodation. A clear and hassle-free pricing structure that gives guests exactly what is advertised, for the initial stated price. It also allows you to exceed your guests’ expectations. If you can go above and beyond you will ensure repeat business and loyal customers that are happy to pay the stated price.

 For years people have been frustrated with these charges and fees but have been forced to pay them through necessity. Vacation rentals are able to separate themselves and become renown as giving guests far more than other businesses. By staying away of this trend for charges for any possible variations in a booking, they will retain their reputation as the highest standard of holiday accommodation for the fairest price.

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4 Tools To Enhance The Guest Experience

How A Property Management System Improves the Guest Experience

At Kigo, we can get wrapped up making things easier for property managers. It can be easy to forget that the role of an exceptional software is also to make sure that every guest has the best stay possible, too. Making things easier for you as the manager helps you provide the best quality stay for every single guest. For many property managers, more of their time is spent on their guests during their stay rather than the management of their reservations and bookings. It can seem as if you have to choose between running an efficient and lean business and providing world-class customer service. Luckily, this isn’t the case.

 In this blog, we’re going to run through the ways in which you can use Kigo’s tools to save time and enhance the guest experience in every single property.

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One of the first things you can do is to automate Information emails to provide your guests with all the information they require about their booking without them having to contact you. This also means that you can provide attentive and dedicated service to every guest without adding to your daily workload. These can also include check up emails to make sure that your guests have no problems or questions during their stay. Part of providing great service is making sure that the onus is not on your guests to have to contact you if there is something wrong. Memorable and exceptional service preempts any problems and goes above and beyond what your guests would expect.

 The next tool that makes it easier to focus on your guests is Kigo eSignature. eSignature allows you to send secure rental agreements. Reducing delays in the booking process for your guests without having to endure the hassle of printing, signing, and sending of documents. Having a rental agreement gives your guests the reassurance that their booking, and the money they have paid is safe and secure. It also gives you the insurance of having set and signed rules and clauses for all your guests so you can relax as the property manager that any damages or problems with your property will be covered.

 Another tool Kigo offers to enhance your guest experience is Revenue Management – You give every guest a fairer deal. If your demand is low, you pass this reduction in value of your product onto your guests and you still take bookings that would otherwise may have slipped past you. Revenue management applies these prices across all your properties and gives guests a chance to book your property for a lower price than usual. And, as this is based on the demand for your properties these lower prices will actually add to your overall revenue as these nights may otherwise go unbooked.

 Part of being able to concentrate on your guests and your service is simply having the time to do so. Schedule maintenance and cleanings so an appointment is never missed. Your properties will always be perfectly cleaned with every appliance in full working order. These scheduled tasks can then be sent directly to your staff, even through third party email clients. Your check-ins, handovers and cleaning will all be controlled like a disciplined army. The first step to having satisfied guests is to provide a well-cleaned property that is just as the images portrayed. These are things that guests don’t even think about, it is just a given. But, for property managers it can be their most time-consuming task. By having an automated system, you can make sure that these tasks are consistently taken care of without constant planning, organisation and delegation.

 All of these tools are designed to give you more time and more resources to focus on your guests during their stay. By having time saved on every booking, and more bookings coming in, you are in a far better position to provide the kind of personal service and ‘above and beyond’ approach that people look for when booking a vacation rental property.

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Joining and Building Vacation Rental Associations

Sticking Together and Becoming Stronger

Community is the best option for success. Lone wolf businesses can’t thrive. You need competition and consultation to hew your edge and become ever better. One of the best ways you can do this is join, or even start your own Vacation Rental association. There are national and even global associations that you can join now but joining a more local community will help you share and discuss the issues that concern you and your business. A local association will also help you to be more forceful when it comes to making your voice heard in legality and regulation issues. You arguments will have more weight, you will have more sources, evidence and more examples of the benefits of vacation rentals to cite.

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Working with and learning from other property managers also helps your business to expand and develop. You can compare properties, marketing strategies and expand your inventory by adding partner properties from other agencies in your area. You will have the resources to direct guests to other businesses in your area if your properties are full and have guests diverted to your business. At Kigo, our Channel Partner program allows business to do this through the Kigo system so with more and more connections in your area you can really take your business to the next level.

 So, how do you go about starting a vacation rental organisation if one does not exist?

 You need to first ask who you are aiming the group at, how you can reach them, what you aim to achieve and how you plan to do this. Social media is a great place to start. Online communities are the perfect place to share information and then share details of important events and meetings that your association can attend. Creating a blog for other professionals rather than your guests where you speak the industry from the point of view of an insider. Share interesting content from others. You can be proactive and contact other agencies in your area to join the group. You can then start to build on this, interviewing key people is a great way to have useful and wholly original content in your group. Attend other events and try to narrow down each group to join your cause in your area. Be specific and clear with your goals, whether you just want a place to talk shop or if you’re looking for people that are keen to become more active in civic discussions.

 Having a professional and reference-able organisation gives weight to the argument that the majority of vacation rental owners are responsible professionals. It also gives the community a focal point to talk to, address concerns and actually make changes that help to make vacation rentals a more sustainable business in cities. You can have set community standards that your association follows, quickly establishing your businesses as the professional standard for both guests and your local community. Once your association is established guests will even start to look for properties that carry the cachet of being in the association as they know that a high standard of quality will be guaranteed.

 You can affect real change. Groups in New York, Los Angeles, Berlin have all formed and building a library of evidence to support their cause. The people that are most active in the fight to implement are mostly not people in the community. They are groups built to protect business interests.You can also organise mass attendance at council meetings, discussions and votes. How much regulation and local council business is conducted and passed through without ever hearing from the majority of people it affects? Change can be won but it takes organisation and participation from as many people as possible. Even isolated anecdotal evidence can be enough to damage the reputation of short term rental managers in the eyes in the of the decision makers. Forming an alliance gives you more power in these discussions. And, this is important. The main people working against short term rentals are powerful hotel groups. The hotel industry has already bonded together to form an association that exerts real influence in America. To have an impact against this rich and influential organisation as an individual is like fighting the tide. To fight against it with the support and evidence of a professional association makes it possible. In an example from Los Angeles, the group Peer managed to mobilise 40 vacation rental owners to have a real effect:

 Anyway, according to a Peers email, “With little advanced notice, around 40 Peers members attended the [Venice Neighbourhood Council] meeting to demand that the council protect home-sharing.”

 Building a community or advocacy group for your local industry will help to protect it as well as helping you enhance the reputation of vacation rental managers in the community. Joining or creating associations will lead to business development, new contacts and a stronger, less diffuse industry. The takeaway is that vacation rental professionals are stronger together. 

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Why the Best Guests Make the Best Hosts

There’s an old saying: Never trust a skinny chef. Never trust a business or professional that does not partake in their own wares. The best businesses are run by people with an unswerving passion and commitment to what they do and a belief that they provide the best product or service out there. We expect professionals to know everything worth knowing about their industry. We want them to be more knowledgeable than us on whatever aspect of the service or product. They should burst with this knowledge rather than having secrets that have to be probed out with searching and esoteric questions. So, part of being a successful property manager must involve staying at vacation rental homes whenever you can.

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By switching from host to guest, it allows you to see how other hosts treat their guests, what they do to make you feel welcome in their homes. You can use your business as a yardstick and really see how you compare in the industry. Staying as guests at various vacation rental properties mean you may even pick up a few ideas you can implement right away, like a small touch that one host added to their welcome basket, or the wording of an email that really connected with you. If you limit yourself to the usual ideas and approach you will eventually be left behind by other businesses as they innovate and set new standards in guest service.

 See how hosts in other countries do it. Find out if there are cultural divides or barriers that are stopping people finding your website or making that final commitment to booking in certain markets. Try the booking process on a site you’re not on. Is it simpler than yours? Do you find yourself becoming frustrated at any point? These are all things that it can be easy to be oblivious to from the business side of things. Becoming the guest allows you a new perspective on things and gives you the perspective to see the problems and highlights that your customers see in your business. 

Plus, you will get a chance to speak with other hosts. You don’t have to think of yourself as an undercover agent, infiltrating the business secrets of bitter rivals. We find that property managers are more than willing to share their expertise and challenges with guests and other professionals. Or, you can use your travels to do some self-review and see how your own properties stack up against the competition. You can see if there is anything that makes things easier for you as a host, but that you found made the guests’ experience more complicated or time-consuming.

 You will be in august company, the CEOs and executives of HomeAway and Airbnb search through their sites to find places to stay for their business trips and personal vacations. You demonstrate faith in your product and get to see how your business works at every step. Every stay gives you more knowledge and more capacity to be able to empathise with your guests’ questions and concerns. The most complete hosts will have just as good knowledge of the guest experience, as they do the business side of the operation. Neither operates in a vacuum and even the most lean and efficient business model cannot thrive without a good knowledge of the final customer experience, at every level.

Many vacation rental managers started out as holiday makers with an extra property, building their businesses out from the experience of being a guest. Returning to this, and seeing new businesses doing the same thing will help to drive the creative spark to do even more for your guests and develop a reputation as the very best in an increasingly competitive industry.

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