Kigo Blog

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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Vacation Rental Phishing – How to Spot the Fakes

On-line security is a big concern for people considering booking vacation rentals. This is especially true for first-time customers. One of these concerns is phishing. This ambiguous term can cause worry because people don’t know what to look out for. Genuine businesses are suffering because people don’t know the signs of a phishing attack. Vacation rentals are much more likely to be disregarded due to suspicions than a hotel chain or brand. Guests know they will be able to complain, have recourse to speak to someone in charge if there is any problems with a major brand. With smaller businesses the risk is that if you are a victim of fraud, you have no option but to accept the loss and then go with a major brand next time.
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We’re looking at the ways you can make sure that prospective customers know you are a legitimate and professional business that takes security seriously. Part of this process is to understand the characteristics of a typical phishing operation and making your site stand out clearly as reputable and verifiable. It is possible to not only avoid these types of scams but to also to instantly assure your customers that you are a safe and secure option.

Be Contactable
Phishing sites are set up quickly with no genuine infrastructure behind them. A good way to test a site is to call or email their contact details and gauge the reply. Make sure your details are kept updated and if you can’t always be there to respond, give your customers a guide to when they can expect a response. Even an automated reply will provide reassurance, especially if they are properly created and tailored to the type of question you received.

Be Vigilant About Your Own Security
Phishing is not just reserved for customers browsing dummy sites. Calculating fraudsters are targeting the email addresses of property owners too. They hack email addresses and intercept actual inquires, they will then negotiate a stay in your property and request a wired payment up front. The guest then arrives at your property to find that you have no knowledge of their booking or payment. Make sure your anti virus software is up to date and that you regularly change your email passwords.

Have a Secure Payment System
As mentioned, phishing attacks will try to get the largest amount of money possible wired to them straight away. US customers are particularly mistrustful of money transfers so try and have options for more secure payment gateways. Another option is to take a small deposit when booking then the full payment after the guest has stayed. If you outline this information on your site your guests will also know if they are being contacted by someone other than the owner.

Grammar and Knowledge
Operators of phishing scams do not want to spend the time typing lengthy, correctly spelt emails to prospective guests. They also do not have the knowledge of your property and the local area so demonstrate this in your emails. Professional emails will be the main contact with your guests so it is the best to way to show that you are a authorised and lawful business, operated by professionals.

Reviews. And Lots of Them
The more reviews you have, the better. Fraudulent sites will also have reviews to make them seem genuine but these will always be short, generic and contain no specific information relating to the actual property. Highlight a good mix of your reviews, especially ones that show people really did stay at your property.

Unfortunately, for some, vacation rentals are considered high risk for phishing scams. But, by following this advice and keeping your site, operation and properties consistently updated, you can make sure you don’t fall victim to them. Once there is an established standard for high quality sites, fraudulent ones will be easily spotted by customers. 

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Unbelievable, must-read tips on creating online Content

(You won’t believe your eyes at number 4)

Unbelievable. Iconic. Sublime. Epic. Must-see. These words all most likely appear in the titles of articles dotted up and down your news feeds, Twitter and email subject lists but do you believe any of them? We know that our lives are not going to be changed by the ‘life-changing’ article yet we click and read these posts. Then feel the inevitable frustration of being mislead by the click-bait title. Despite having clicked on their posts, the message is adulterated by the misleading title. But there is a rebellion coming. Not only are people growing weary of the same inflated claims in titles, major sites are taking action to reduce the spread of this language. 

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 Language is a shifting beast but some words have had their meanings utterly mangled by exaggeration and excess. The word ‘Epic’ used to be reserved for the Iliad and Ulysses. Within just a couple of years it is now almost exclusively a precursor to videos of cats falling off tables. It is not the content that is going to change. It is the outrageous colouring of titles and subject lines to lure people in that is set to change.
 
Exaggeration on the internet has become de rigueur. You can´t open a page without seeing literally millions of ads being fired at your eyes. Earth shattering news about a new type of pastry. Blogs and articles are always having to find new ways to capture their readers’ attention in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Businesses need to reach people on their site, they need to draw them in with links on social media and through their blogs. Short subject lines on emails, or article titles have been stuffed with hyperbole and exaggeration to do exactly this. But since the techniques of doing this have become ubiquitous these hooks are becoming less effective.
 
There are some words and phrases that we see everywhere within the text of the Internet. They are used to hook us in and generate views but, like insects and pesticides, we are becoming resistant to them. When we see ‘Unbelievable’ heralded in a title, our text filter translates this to ‘Mildly interesting’. ‘Unmissable’ becomes ‘Missable’ and that blog that promises to ‘Change your life’ is easy to ignore.
 
The question now is whether to fight this by piling just more on or start curtailing this trend now. Will we be seeing titles like: 50 Ultra unmissable, must see, life changing hacks that will transform your business in just 20 minutes! Or will content have to catch up with the promises made by the words we have rinsed dry of meaning?
 
The line between an engaging title and scurrilous click bait is becoming increasingly fine. And this is not just a argument regarding semantics, Facebook and Google are altering their algorithms to downgrade posts that they consider to be ‘Click-Bait’. They will be giving prominence to more considered and researched content. Posts that will be featured in news feeds will contain photos, clear concise titles and an introductory paragraph. Users are going to be able to make proper judgements if the content is interesting to them, rather than vaguely misleading them for the click throughs.
 
We have reached the horizon of how excited we can appear to be about a blog post or a Facebook update. Language has nowhere else to go. We cannot keep piling on adjectives and adverbs to dress up unremarkable content. Exaggeration and hyperbole has been like pouring toxic waste into the oceans. It seemed like it was a bottomless pit; a perfect solution. But soon this bubbled to the surface and there is going to be a fallout from the misuse and misrepresentation. As soon as the damage is noticeable, it is already too late to reverse it. We are left with a corrupted and damaged language on the Internet that requires a near constant focus on the subtext and reading between the lines.
 
The novelty effect of lists, videos and gifs is wearing off. The future of using content to engage customers is going to come from the content itself. And it is not just news and entertainment sites that need to consider these new developments. Any business that uses social media, blogs or inbound marketing will be forced to adapt. For the vacation rental industry there is the opportunity to use images and appealing pictures to reach people. Combining these with your thoughtful and interesting content will be the best way to engage customers and still remain high in the rankings of the major sites.
 
Research, passion and accuracy will be the new, unspoken buzzwords. Will Facebook and Google’s new focus on content over titles force a change in the language of the Internet?

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