Kigo Blog

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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How Auctions Could Spell the End of Unsold Weeks

Going, Going, Gone.
The first thing ever sold on Ebay was a broken laser pointer. Not an auspicious start, but since then, auction sites have since taken off in an incredible fashion. A number of vacation rentals are now using the opportunity to use the popularity of these sites for auctioning off stays in their properties.

Unsold weeks should be unfathomable. Either through specialist sites or through social media, we look at the options you have for auctioning off time in your property.

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Having an un-booked week coming up is the perfect time to do this. Your property may end up being booked for less than the usual price but if this is a week that was going to go empty anyway, this is still revenue gained. And, with the right promotion you could drive up your price. It will also drive traffic to your site and your social media.
There are also specialised sites that you can use for this very purpose, but they charge a fee. Why not try using the power of social media or your own website to promote these? The key will be to generate enough buzz and and excitement before the event. Numerous posts with all of the details and engaging images will help to create excitement and give you enough potential customers to make this viable. You will need to be very clear and exact, for example if your auction is for any week in the year or just a specific date. It is probably too spontaneous to be used for business travel or exact holidays but having this as an occasional promotion could recapture some lost revenue and also provide some great additional benefits.

Generate Views and Excitement
An interesting new feature or promotion is the perfect chance to reach people with your marketing and social media. A truly original campaign is going to capture the imagination of your audience and bring new people to your site and social media pages. You might not see an instant return on your investment. But – if your products and service are consistent in quality across your site then people are likely to remember your site. A chance visit to your page because of an interesting auction may turn into a booking six months down the line.

Turn Wasted Inventory Into Revenue
If the property is currently empty, auctioning the upcoming weeks rather than offering weeks far in the future could get them booked. Even if your property is auctioned for less than your usual weekly price, any revenue gained is better than letting your week go unsold.

Unique Selling Point
It can seem that every business offers great properties from a slick and professional website. Providing the basic standard now longer seems enough for the vacation rental industry. New businesses are going to have to offer something special to separate themselves from the pack.

Implement Weekly or Monthly Auctions
People that don’t win may book another property on your site. If people know when to expect an auction then it will generate traffic and views to your site. As there can only be one winner, it stands to reason that some people will go away disappointed. If you know the times when your auction generates the most traffic then you can use this time to offer other promotions or push other properties.

Reach New Customers
Finally, the variable and interchangeable outcomes of your auctions will mean that you have the opportunity to reach a much wider spectrum of customers. Some may have been put off by price or having to book well in advance. Now, you never know who will book your property through an auction and could reach a whole new section of the market.

Vacation auctions could be an interesting way to put an end to unsold to weeks. Do you think your customers need more certainty when booking accommodation or will it create a market in spontaneous bookings?

Would you be open to trying this?

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Personalisation – The VR Innovation You Can’t Ignore

After attending the VRMA annual conference in San Diego last week, one of the key recurring points we kept hearing about was personalisation. From the CEO of HomeAway Brian Sharples’s speech to the general buzz around the conference. This means tailoring the service you offer to each of your guests. Taking note of their individual needs and providing a service that makes them feel valued as a customer and listened to as a consumer. This is not just a fad, but part of a shift towards using technology, social media and the free distribution of information and thought to provide a better service.

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The hospitality industry is in a rare position where it can use reviews and the plethora of information on social media to alter its product in response to customer opinion almost immediately. Personalisation is geared toward improving customer experience first, then seeing profits grow as a result of that. Personalisation is part of a larger trend of accommodating travellers. It is not just about making small changes. It involves thinking globally, acting locally and being personal.

Global
Your brand should be recognisable and consistent all around the world. By seeing your brand you customers will know that they can expect a certain level of service and professionalism even if they have not stayed in this property before. Well maintained brands inspire trust from your guests. Having a global brand also shows that you are open to innovation and change. To have a brand that is appealing to a wide range of travellers shows that you keep up with industry changes and the latest technology. Yours is a product that can be relied to the best currently available.

Local
Each of your properties should then attempt to fit in with local culture. It should make an effort to be individual and unique to the area the property is in. Your brand will produce trust and you can still avoid offering a boring, homogenized experience that is the same in any country or city. Travellers are finding more and more value in having unique and exclusive experiences. So by being in touch with the local area and character you can offer authentic, singular experiences. Your guests will benefit and you will add to the richness of the local culture rather than diluting it.

Personal
Finally, you can then use the information that your guests give you over their stays to provide a personal service for each of your guests. There is a fine line between using initiative and personalisation and things that breech personal privacy. So do not use information that your guests do not specifically provide you with. You may be able to see from social media or other reviews that some of your guests like certain features or perks, but until this information is shared with you, it may seem intrusive. So, consider the reviews of your property, send out surveys and most of all, speak to your guests. If you can find out what is working for your business from your customers, you are in the best position to capitalise on that.

You have the option to offer small additions and personal touches for your guests at no extra charge. For example, you could allow your guests to choose their own check-in and check-out time. You can provide local knowledge that you know will appeal to certain guests, such as a list of vegetarian restaurants or a guide to museums in the area.

The options for how you choose to personalise your business are up to you. You can list more extravagant extra options and services on your site to generate extra revenue. Onsite concierge services, insurance – the list is endless. If your guests want these, they can add them when booking or simply choose not to. Options, choice and quality are the three tenets that create a better consumer experience.

Travellers now expect a high standard of quality and service from all vacation rentals. Variations in the quality and professionalism within the industry are reducing as businesses manage to carve out a defined niche. Consumers now expect more than just the standard. Personalisation allows you to give them that.

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What If Customer Reviews Dictated Your Price?

Stand out with a innovative new approach to pricing
Have you ever felt mislead by a site or a review? There wasn’t something so bad that made you request a refund but you had the feeling that you were paying a little too much for what you received. Today we imagine a world where owners gambled their price against their service!
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Imagine a scenario where Vacation Rentals were grouped into 5 categories, similar to hotels. This would be based on the location, setting and facilities of the property and would be decided by an impartial and independent third party.
  • The seemingly highest quality properties would score a 5, meaning their price was set at $5, the lowest at $1, and so on.
  • The property would then be scored out of 100 by customers that actually stayed there. This score would then be multiplied by their price category and this would set the price per night.
  • For example, a $4 property that scored an average score of 75 would have a per night price of $300. A $2 property that scored 86 would cost $172.

Customers pay the price set by the average score at the time of booking and submit their own score after their stay. This would ensure proper reviews from people that have actually experienced the property. It would also stop crafty guests aiming to queer the patch for a cheaper stay before booking.

How many vacation rental managers would sign up to this? Could it ever work?

Would it drive an emphasis on the quality of experience and fairness of price? Or would it collapse into chaos?

There are certainly advantages to the system. No business could ever afford to become complacent. A 5 star rating has consistently been based on the quality of the facilities in the hotel, but this rating system would be the first to concentrate on the overall experience. Every guest would have to be concentrated on with the utmost importance.

But there are also disadvantages – we operate in a free market where people are free to choose their own prices and the level of service that they provide. People would be reticent to let others set their price. Also, can we trust these opinions? Some guests may have unrealistic expectations for their stay and reflect poorly on a place that doesn’t meet them – even if they never professed to be a 5 star experience. Secondly, it is very easy to muddy the review of the accommodation with your overall experience of a holiday. It would be hard to give a glowing review for a place if your holiday was ruined by weather or some unexpected disaster.

It is far from a perfect system but it does serve to show that use reviews are becoming more and important. 29% of customers cite positive reviews as the most likely factor to make them book a holiday on-line. Sharing of information and personal experience is now part of the process when booking on-line.

So whilst this is just a hypothetical scenario, treat your business like this is the structure we have. Aim for a score of 100 with every guest. Treat their reviews as if they do dictate your price. And if you’re confident enough with your service, you could try it out. It would certainly be a risk but it would be an interesting and bold new strategy that may garner you some great publicity.

Let us know if this is something you would be happy to try.

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