Kigo Blog

Japan’s Possible VR Solution For Empty Space

In a recent article, we discussed the Japanese government’s plan to triple the amount of foreign visitors over the next two decades. This is a change of huge proportions. So, how can you introduce 15-20 million more people into an already swollen infrastructure?

You use what’s already there.

In move that rides against the grain of governmental thinking in Europe, Japan is debating relaxing the regulation surrounding short term rentals so they can start to utilize the 8 million empty homes standing in the country. 17974286735_344dbc64f7_o

This should be the point. Instead of regulating against the existence of a thriving industry, regulate to ensure quality and safety. There are currently 11 million empty homes in Europe alone. This figure does not compute with the almost worldwide desire to attract tourism whilst reducing the use of resources, emissions and the last scraps of unused urban space. Which of the major European capital cities could argue that the building of new hotels in the city centre would be the most positive use of city space and would have the largest positive effect on the city population as a whole? Adding new buildings that will never be able to lived in by city residents seems like insanity for our most crowded and expensive cities.

 Building of new hotels and resorts puts extremely localised pressure on infrastructure and concentrates the income from tourists to fewer businesses. The public feel the effects yet see fewer of the benefits from mass-influx tourism. Apart from the distribution of jobs, the influx of money from tourism will then be felt in very localised areas, around these hotels.

 A 400-room hotel adds potentially thousands of new, and transient, residents to an area that will largely not extend further than a few city blocks. The majority of guests will have chosen the hotel partly because of the proximity of it to the attractions and sights that they want to visit. The streets between these locations will be well-trodden paths, filled with visitors. Tourists become the majority and the area becomes more like a theme park of nostalgia for when the city operated as more than a destination.

 A vacation rental will host a family, at most. More likely to be in contact with businesses that only feel mild ripples from the tourism of the central areas. The nature of vacation rentals mean that tourism cannot be so concentrated as resorts or even hotel districts. Even popular areas will be less densely populated with non-residents. Not even the most expansive vacation rental businesses can boast hundreds of rooms in the space of a city block.

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Hotel Vs Vacation rental distribution in Paris, 2015.

 If like Japan, cities want to encourage further tourism without damaging the integrity of their destination, a solution has to be found. Encouraging private ownership and use of empty homes by permitting regulated short term rentals seems like a solution that can do this. It puts ownership of property, and in turn the cities, back in the hands of the residents. Vacation rentals then encourage people to live in similar rhythms and patterns of residents. You live amongst the city, shop where people shop, go where they go. You are not buffeted through the corners in a tour. The natural flow of the city pushes you in new directions and each property has a different stream meaning the visitors are dispersed more equally around the city.

 The current model of hotels funnels huge numbers of people into and city and focuses their impact onto the city whilst the profits are distilled to a laser, that reaches a handful of corporations. The vacation rental model is the inverse. The visitors and the benefits are spread over, like a fine mist. Enough to notice, but not disrupt the natural operation of a city and the people that live there.

 This is what Japan is debating. Whether they can solve two problems at once.

Part of Japan’s strategy involves encouraging tourism into more rural areas. Without using empty housing and allowing people to open their homes to short term rentals, it seems difficult to imagine that hotels will gamble on building new outposts in areas previously untouched by tourism.

 Permitting vacation rentals requires minimal investment. The properties are built. The people are ready and have the means to reach to their prospective guests. There is even a national database that lists rural properties at dramatically reduced rates. If people know that they have the option to supplement their income by using the value of their property it will help lead to a higher rate of home-ownership and fewer properties standing empty as money and natural resources are expended in order to build more lodging options for tourists.

 The next point that empty housing brings up is that the areas where these properties sit have been built to cope with having people reside in them. Renting out a vacation property means that the occupancy levels remains in line with the original estimations. Not only is the local infrastructure designed to cope with these occupancy levels, local businesses rely on it. By allowing short term rentals, you are not stuffing in an extra layer of population that the people below are force to support, you are keeping occupancy at the levels that keep an area, and businesses thriving.

 You can argue that there is disruption and the risk of antisocial behaviour, but with regulated and professional property managers, these cases are in the minority. To cite this, with infrequent and anecdotal examples, fails to acknowledge that living in a metropolis comes with a certain level of risk of this type of behaviour regardless of rental regulation. Whilst a vacation rental may cause disruption, there is no evidence that rates of disruption are higher than the usual come and go of a normal rental property. This comes down to property management. Regulation breeds professionalism. Prohibition breeds a black market.

 Whilst short term rentals are often illegal, there is nothing to stop you adding a property to the growing list of empty dwellings. You can even benefit financially from doing so. When you can purchase property as an investment, whilst avoiding tax on liquid assets, people are going to continue to purchase property never intended to be a residence, for the owners or anyone else. By limiting vacations and not actively encouraging the use of empty space, regulation is not finding a solution to the mis-distribution of housing. What it is doing is punishing business owners, that may not even own multiple properties, but use management skills to generate revenue from third party owners. The next to suffer are people renting their sole property out for a few weeks of the year to supplement their income.

 The truth is that vacation rentals offer a more egalitarian approach to distributing the wealth and disruption of short term rentals.  It is a modern-day crime that we allow buildings to stand empty:

 […] is the latest victim of what some have called “lights-out London” where absentee owners push up property prices without contributing to the local economy.

 Whilst there are cities that have properties that are rented out minimally, by absentee owners with a vast network of properties, the majority are still rented by the primary owners or by businesses that collate these properties under the umbrella of one vacation rental business. The taxes on the property are paid, the guests bring income to local areas and the rental income is also taxed. To allow people to purchase multiple homes, yet not permit short term rentals accelerates the suffocation of our cities; punishing enterprise and commerce and encouraging avarice and the collection of private assets by the few.

 What’s plain is that we have a crisis in which we prefer to leave buildings to be empty then rented out for less than the arbitrary minimum lengths imposed by increasing numbers of vacation regulations. Permitting vacation rentals will not solve the larger crisis of people being without homes. What it will do is lead to a more equal distribution of the wealth of tourism. It will be interesting to see how Japan decides to land on this issue and if they can use the vacation rental opportunity to house new visitors in a sustainable way and get more people into its empty housing stock.

If they are able to find an elegant solution, we may see destinations in Europe and America adopting a similar approach.

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The 5 Regrets of Every Property Manager

After being involved in the world of vacation rentals at every level, from starting out as a manager, to creating a startup to manage businesses, we see recurring regrets from other property managers that have been in the business for years. Bumps on the road that nearly all property managers experience as they transform their business from a small enterprise into a global business, with properties and staff in various countries.

 We thought we’d share some of our experiences and help you avoid having the same regrets as your business grows. See if you share any of these experiences:

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 Not expanding sooner
If business is doing well, why change a winning formula? Many managers end up coming to regret not disrupting the status quo and pushing their businesses forward. Allowing your business to plateau and not taking that risk to push forward means that you will be left behind, and eventually eclipsed by businesses that will do more to establish themselves and their brand in your area. It is always a risk, and there can always be reasons to not to but doing whatever you can do to expand your business will pay dividends in the future and you will regret keeping things small for so long.

 A lot of vacation rental businesses start as a side project for a second property. When this is proving profitable, it can be a difficult step to break free from the idea of this being a project, and taking the step to run it as a business. Creating a system and business plan that allows you to add more properties with a set profit margin on each, devoting money towards marketing and advertising and taking on staff is the best way to push your property management into a well-oiled machine that can be added to without increasing your daily workload.

 Spending Too Long On The Simple Things
Once you have your business ticking over, it can be easy to keep the same strategy, keep the same hours and fail to delegate control of the day to day operations and administration of your business. No one’s dying breath is that they wish they had spent more time in the office, spent more time with their nose in a spreadsheet. Automating reporting and emailing can save hours from your working hours every day. Little things like this can build into big regrets as the time adds up.

 Not Choosing The Right Software
Part of this automation will require a software to program these parts of your business. Homemade systems will be built as a business grows, to solve the issues that come up. These are reactive rather than proactive. They are not geared for expansion.  A powerful software will not only help you manage your business, it will give you the tools to drive more bookings through your business and help you to generate more revenue. The right software amplifies the promotion and distribution whilst reducing the administrative work. Put simply, you put in less and get out more.

 Neglecting Locations
The travel industry is dynamic and shifting. Tastes change on a whim. Business can be affected by these patterns and fashions, as well as government regulations. Adopting new locations and diversifying your business will give you the best chance of establishing your business as a household name. Missing out on the hottest new holiday spot because you were worried about adding to your workload can become a haunting regret and areas quickly become price prohibitive for new businesses.

 Late Adoption of Social Media
In the last decade, small business advertising has been transformed by social media. It is easy to dismiss the latest networks as a fad or a craze. However, being too late means that you will struggle to get the impact of the early adopters that do it and do it well.

 It’s easy to see businesses that found their niche on new media platforms such as Instagram, businesses that established themselves as the leader on one or more networks and manage to generate thousands of followers before other companies have even created an account. Guests are only going to follow one, perhaps two vacation rental companies on social media so speed is key to establish your business as one of the leaders on social media. Being one of the top accounts for your industry is an incredible boost to a small business and missing out on this has been a troublesome regret for many property managers throughout the years.

 These are common regrets that you can avoid with some forward planning and assistance from experienced vacation rental managers and the right tools.

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Industry News

The Latest News in the World of Vacation Rentals

 Keeping up with the latest happenings in the vacation rental and travel industry is just simply not possible at times for a busy property manager. There is so much to read and digest that at times it can be tempting to ignore it. To help you keep up with the most important events, we’ve compiled the biggest stories that impacted the vacation rental industry in the last weeks.

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OnlyApartments Acquires Migoa and Holiday rentals

Onlyapartments quadruples in size with the acquisition of Migoa and Holiday rentals. The luxury property listing company has added to its roster with two new companies. They have now greatly expanded their potential market seem to be making a play to become of the biggest names in the vacation rental industry.

 The company that markets online urban tourist apartments has bought Only Apartments platform for Professional Holiday Rentals. This company specializes in the rental of holiday homes on the coast and in the mountains and operates under two brands, Migoa and Holiday Rentals.

 Only Apartments manages the marketing of 30,000 houses and Holiday Rentals, 90,000 apartments, which, after this transaction, the buyer quadrupled its size. Last year, this company had a turnover of 3.8 million euros.

 Philadelphia Legalises Short Term Rentals

Faced with a visit from the Pope and a chronic shortage of hotel rooms, Philadelphia have permitted short term rentals, being taxed at the same rate as hotels. Being able to add to tourism without requiring any new building is one of the biggest advantages of permitting vacation rentals in cities. If successful, the Philadelphia example could be used as a shining light for other cities across the world.

 The city changed its zoning rules to allow for short-term rentals in residential areas, which have been operating tax-free. Rentals lasting more than 30 days in a row require a permit, and accommodations cannot be rented out for more than 180 days in total each year. That’s a provision to prevent residential housing from turning into year-round hotels.

 Short-term rentals will be subject to an 8.5% hotel tax. Short-term rentals will be subject to an 8.5% hotel tax. City Councilman William Greenlee explained that short-term rentals are essentially short-term hotels, and should be made to follow the same rules.

 These are some of the biggest changes in American city regulations. They permit more rentals than San Francisco or London and could set a precedent for other cities around the world.

  Airbnb Unveil Plans For Expansion into the African Market

The travel rental market in Africa has grown 257%, with listings in the main cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg growing 138% in the last year. The company is looking to expand after regulation in established markets such as New York city threatens to curtail their value.

 Airbnb recently hired a general manager for Middle East and Africa, Nicola D’Elia, who was the former head of international growth and partnerships at Facebook. D’Elia, based in London, will hire staff to manage the business in Africa and says he may eventually open local offices in the region. In the coming weeks, Airbnb says it will also roll out its “host guarantee” in Africa, which reimburses hosts for up to $1 million U.S. dollars if a guest damages their homes.

Many Africans had already taken to Airbnb despite the company’s lack of a physical presence there. With news spreading mainly through word of mouth, some 9,400 homes are for rent in South Africa, making it the company’s largest market on the continent. The biggest cities for Airbnb are Cape Town and Johannesburg, and the company says listings in South Africa are increasing 138 percent a year. The number of people staying in Airbnb homes in the country is growing 257 percent. “Africa is an incredibly exotic place to travel to, and this is an incredible way to experience it like a local,” says Chesky, on his first trip to the continent.  

   These are just three of the biggest news stories we saw this week. Feel free to share any other interesting news with us on social media.

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Make Your Booking Process 3x Faster

Ease and Convenience Without Compromise

 Instant booking is a contentious point. Some owners love it, others see it as blasting open the doors to their properties to every poisonous corner of the Internet. But, whether you opt for instant booking or not, it’s a universal truth that a quick and simple booking process is going to result in more enquiries ending in bookings. People don’t want to wait when it comes to booking. They are worried their dream destination will be snapped up before they have a chance to confirm. Having a set time and clear system for your bookings will reassure your guests that they won’t be waiting around for hours for a confirmation email that never comes.

 Today, we’re discussing a method to make your booking process three times faster, without having to rely on instant booking.

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If you want to resist instant booking, let your guests know that your booking process is quick and simple. Instant booking is becoming ubiquitous, sites such as Airbnb and TripAdvisor making no secret that it aims to have all its properties available for instant booking as soon as possible. Guests expect it. So if you can advertise that you can confirm bookings within a set time, guests will still be inclined to book. One of the biggest annoyances for holiday bookers is having to delay one step of the process to wait for questions to be responded to. Booking a holiday is a relay, in which the next steps can only be confirmed once the step before has been confirmed.

 Here are some of the tools you use to confirm bookings in just a matter of minutes with compromising your security:

 Automated emails If your answers are prepared and ready to go, your guest can get all the information they require to book in a matter of minutes. Hanging around, waiting for availability information is all time that your guests can spend searching for other properties. Accurate property and availability information will be sent in response to your guest’s questions as soon as they enter their dates. You can then add as many templates as you require, to send your rental agreements, other documents or specific information about your property.

 Pricing As well as availability, the price is one of the most important factors in deciding a booking. Send accurate and final pricing in response the initial enquiry, including all taxes and charges for the total stay. This means your guests will have one less question to ask and will be one step closer to booking after just one email.

 Using ESignature will then allow you to send and sign rental agreements between you and your guests. These don’t involve any downloading or signing in and uses the technology of Docusign. This means your guests can confirm their bookings with the security of a signed agreement in just a matter of clicks. Sending, printing, signing and faxing documents is a time-consuming process that involves technology that not every guest has.

 Mobile Responsive Sites mean that guests can book on the go. If your site and your booking are not mobile responsive it’s hard to imagine more than a handful of guests waiting until they get home to book your properties. They will most likely move on to the next site where booking on a mobile is a possibility. Having a mobile responsive website means that there will be no gap between a decision to book, and then having the ability to book.

 These are just some of the ways you can speed up your booking process and ensure your safety without compromising any control.

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Instagram – The Ultimate Vacation Inspiration Destination

Utilizing the Power Instagram With None Of the Effort

When hearing about the latest and greatest network for vacation rental promotion, it can be easy to think, ‘Not another account!’. Taking on another social media account can be a big undertaking for a small business. It is more than just creating the account and uploading a few images. To get any real results from social media, it has to be nurtured and constantly fed. You can only ever get out what you put in, and the sad truth is that not every vacation rental business has the time to devote to properly cultivate another account like Instagram.

As part of our research into this potential market for property managers, we saw numerous accounts that had been created for vacation rental businesses but never properly used. It shows us that property managers understand having an Instagram presence can be a great marketing resource, but just do not have the time to build the account enough to make it effective.

A floating, dead account can have a disastrous effect on your business. Should a potential guest search for your business and see an account that has not been updated in months, it makes it seem like the business is rudderless and ungoverned as well. You may have a bustling Facebook or Twitter presence, but what guest will take the time to check? Guests will move onto the next business on Instagram and forget yours in an instant.

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Instagram is a new way to market. It shuns specific information like dates and properties. It sells a lifestyle and a dream. For younger people, looking for vacation rental properties, social media has taken over as the primary tool to search and discover properties and inspiration. Accounts featuring properties have gathered thousands of followers. Lifestyle accounts, bloggers have all found popularity on Instagram and vacation rentals have the opportunity to use this visual medium to show off the individuality of their properties.

 These images build anticipation and excitement. There’s something so much more exciting and engaging about scrolling through images of the best properties you can imagine than entering calendar dates, filtering by amenities and scrolling through lists. Instagram sells vacation rentals as they should be, dream destinations that allow people to live a different life for a week or two. The admin and reality of booking, comparing and checking insurance and currency rates comes later. Instagram promotion gives guests the ideas and the impetus to choose to stay in a vacation rental property rather than other types of accommodation.

 Instagram is where your guests will fall in love with your properties, your website is where they will go to book. We wanted to help our clients capture this avenue of marketing without having to devote time to managing the account. We created a dedicated account to feature vacation rental properties.

 @TravelRentals has been created to feature the very best images of your properties.

 This means you can have an active presence on Instagram without having to manage the account and add to your workload. Follow our account, or simply send us images and we will post them to our growing number of followers.

 It is an account built by property owners, for guests to view properties. Every image will mention the business that it comes from. So, follow us today and send us your images to be featured on our account and generate more bookings from guests looking for vacation inspiration.