Until recently, the humble hashtag occupied a mostly unknown purpose in the corner of your keypad, hinting vaguely at international calls and noughts and crosses. That is until it exploded as a Twitter phenomenon. In a moment of organisational genius in August 2007, the use of hashtags to group conversations was suggested and quickly absorbed and hyperlinked by Twitter. Since then it charged through other social media networks and forced its way into even the most resistant corners of popular culture and speech. But now they are even more than that. They are a powerful tool in your online marketing and are a simple, effective and free way to reach a global network of people and potential customers. Search through social media accounts to find content that interests you. Find the people tweeting about the same subjects as you be found by the people that are looking for businesses and products like your vacation rental properties. Join in discussions and be part of a community and become a prominent part of the industry by joining in with, and even starting, popular hashtags.Today, we’re exploring the most effective hashtags you can use to bring guests to your business as well as the tools and techniques you can use to do you own hashtag research and spot the latest discussions happening in the vacation rental industry. One of the easiest ways you can discover effective hashtags to add to your posts is to go straight to the source. Twitter will provide you with a tailored list of the top ten most popular hashtags in your network. This is a great place to start and will help you begin to add appropriate hashtags to your posts. However, these are often very general and your network may not be talking about anything that you can relate to your business. This list from Kigo’s Twitter feed shows a range of topics, but none really related to the world of vacation rental management, whilst it might be interesting to others, we assume our followers do not want to hear our thoughts on #HipHopMovies. This is when you have to get more specific, and consider using hashtags that may not be trending at the moment, or look for smaller, more localised trends. With a tool like TrendsMap we can see the current hashtag trends in different locations. This is great for aiming posts at certain locations or markets.You can also search your hashtags to see where is using the same ones. A quick search of #vacation gives us these results:We can see from this that North America has the most activity under our hashtag and can use this information to time posts to this market at the right times and avoid countries where this term doesn’t resonate. Now, you can localise your #vacation tweets and Instagram posts to the US, at the time when the most US users are active. A localised and tailored approach will bring you significantly better results and a higher return on your social media investment as your posts don’t just reach people, they reach interested people, in the right place and at the right times. So, now what if you want to go deeper, and use more tags on your posts? Twitter and Instagram both thrive on people adding multiple hashtags to their posts. You can really narrow down your audience to the most relevant whilst still reaching big numbers of people. With Hashtagify.me you can see which other hashtags are being used alongside your initial choice. Using the example of #vacation again we see: The most frequently used hashtag alongside #vacation is #travel with over 20% of tweets featuring #vacation also including #travel. With this tool you can add multiple hashtags that will work with each other to create an even more effective outcome. You can go even further down the chain to add the most As well as finding relevant discussions to join, creating your own hashtag gives your guests a chance to post and share their content with you. Having a consistent hashtag means your guests will post images to their network, with a link right back to your business. Many hotel chains and other businesses have capitalised on this such as the Omni hotel with their simple hashtag, #AtTheOmni. They encourage every guest to use this when staying at their hotel, creating unique and interesting content. We created the hashtag #KigoLive in order to cover our events with our partners and so anyone who attends can join the conversation! These are just some of the tools you can use to start adding the most effective hashtags to your posts. Allowing your business to get even more reach and generate even more bookings through social media.Photo Credit
FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out is a new name given to an old sensation. That shiver of angst as we realise that by not doing something, not attending, we are taking the chance of missing something potentially life changing. By passing up on an opportunity, the world is a little bit narrower and slightly more limited. Acting fast gets you the best deals on the best properties, right? Delaying your decision means other people are booking whilst you’re thinking and you might just miss that dream property.Using FOMO provokes an emotional response. When we think we are about to miss out on something logic just seems to fade. Just by clicking and confirming we are entering the possibility, by not clicking we are letting something imaginary and intangible slip through our fingers. If the property is booked up later then by not acting it seems as if you have lost something. Your possibilities are narrowed. By not acting it can feel as if you are now in the lower category of people who didn’t book quite quickly enough and now have to settle for a lesser property. Acting fast meant that you had the most choice, and therefore, chose the best property at the best price all the time fighting off the hordes of other holidaymakers looking to snatch your booking out from under you. This may not be logical or accurate but it is hard to resist the creeping tension of FOMO and property managers can use this marketing technique to take their calendars from 90% booked to 100%. You can tap into this sensation in your guests like a rich seam of oil. Sites like Booking.com even have a countdown of the available rooms left. Whilst many might take this information with a grain of salt, it is hard to ignore the need for urgency when there is a literal countdown of your chance to book the property you want. With Kigo you can use the digital footprint of your guests to see what part of your site they last looked at. An email when this property is nearly fully booked will tap into the sensation of FOMO. ‘Act now, or miss out forever!’, by knowing that this is really the last chance to book it serves as motivation to act. It’s rare that people will ever be left with no accommodation options but we are still at the mercy of this emotional response If we take an example from a Booking.com listing, we can see that they appeal to this idea of scarcity in no less than four different ways in a small thumbnail listing. There’s only one left, someone booked a room just 10 hours ago, they’re going to sell out within two days and there’s someone looking at this room right now! If we look at the language they use, you can see how it serves to not just make the hotel seem scarce, but needle that emotional response from potential guests. ‘Last chance!’ – this is not just a room. It’s a chance, an opportunity. It’s as if by booking, you’re not just purchasing, you’re winning something because it is such a good deal. They also use different colours for every part of this marketing. They want your eyes to dart around and see each piece of information as separate. It makes the booking process seem more exciting, by booking you’re sliding in before the door rumbles shut. Social media also provides abundant opportunities to tap into people’s fear of missing out. Something like a special promotion only available to the next five people to like or share a post means that people are invested in booking with you (as well as sharing your content). They are now in the exclusive section of people that took advantage of your offer whilst the rest of the world looks in from the outside. At this point, by not booking with your business they would be missing out on the advantage that they have over the other people looking to book. FOMO is not always related to time but that idea of losing an edge. Losing a slice of possibility that things will be better than you can imagine.Photo Credit
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. 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.
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. Photo Credit
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: 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 ThingsOnce 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 SoftwarePart 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 LocationsThe 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. Photo Credit
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.OnlyApartments Acquires Migoa and Holiday rentalsOnlyapartments 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 RentalsFaced 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 MarketThe 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. Photo Credit