Kigo Blog

Electronic Signatures: A Sign of the Times

Which is more futuristic, the fax machine or electronic signatures?

Despite seeming like an ugly relic from an 80’s office, like asbestos or sexual harassment, the fax machine is the more modern of the two devices. A form of electronic signatures have been used via Morse code since the American Civil war. So why is it that electronic signatures are not more prominent nowadays? We are still seeing print, sign and scan being used which seems so cumbersome and manipulatable. Why do we risk having a stranger verify that the idiosyncratic claws and furls of our signature match an original, written probably years previously?

3012413440_14f4b4068b_o
Is there an issue with trust and legitimacy? Do we see electronic signatures as dangerous and somehow less binding than a pen and ink signature? This is a notion that we are trying to erode as electronic signatures are the best method of getting signed rental agreements and other important documents in a quick and safe way. They keep the document secure from any risk of malevolent third parties, and provide a quick, legal way to get documents signed by people that may be thousands of miles away.

Rental agreements signed by your guests will legally protect you from liability in the wake of any damage. They give your guests a guarantee of what they can expect from your property and their rights as a customer. They are legally binding and the most effective way to ensure security for you and the guests booking your properties. But, if your guests are sent a document that they have to print, sign and then scan or fax this adds numerous steps and delays in which your customers could opt for a simpler option. Electronic signatures allow you to have this layer of insurance without having to cause your customers unnecessary difficulty.

Here are three of the main advantages of using electronic signatures for your vacation rental business:

Safe and Secure
When implemented properly electronic signatures are of the safest and most secure ways to deal with sensitive information. They are binding and legally enforceable in almost every legal system in the world. They comply with legislation passed by the US and the EU that applies the legality of digitally signed documents. The information is encrypted and guarded with the same technology that banks protect their information with. Reading about the stringency of electronic signatures makes pen and paper transactions seem wilfully prosaic and alarmingly open to abuse.

Quick and Simple
The process works at any time, from any location and on any device. You simply send the document to the email address of your guest, via a specially secured channel. Your guests then choose a unique signature and confirm. The process is safe, easy and only takes a minute or two. It allows you to streamline your business without making any sacrifices or concessions to security.

Speed Up the Booking Process
In the frantic and distracting world of the Internet, any delay or reason to click on other sites is an opportunity for your customer to find another, simpler site. Electronic signatures removes this diversion and lets your guests book quickly without compromising the security of the transaction or the security of having a signed rental agreement.

  Kigo will be implementing its eSignatures feature very soon, using the technology of Docusign to provide the safest and most effective process for using digital signatures. As paper transactions are eventually replaced, business are going to need to have this technology to stay competitive.

 Photo Credit 

6 Ways to Spot the Hottest New Neighbourhood

Certain neighbourhoods can switch from being seeing as grimey or even dangerous to being the most interesting and appealing locations for residents and tourists. And this change can happen fast. Brooklyn, East London, Portland and countless other cities have all seen huge areas regenerated in a matter of years. Decades of neglect, causing lower than average rents have led to mass influxes of white-collar workers and start-up businesses into certain, concentrated neighbourhoods. These areas have been dubbed as ‘hipster-hoods´. They are the cool, up and coming areas.The natural migration of young people into new, cheaper areas is followed by a rise in cultural installations and new small businesses. And the great thing is, these areas are immensely popular for people that book vacation rentals. The abundance of bars, cafes, galleries and music venues are all a big draw to tourists.

742305548_dd1f3e8711_o

Advocates say that rise of new small businesses breathes life back into areas that badly need it. But some say that once this area gets deemed the new place to be, it becomes too popular. The area loses any true heart. It becomes a toy-town of bars and coffee shops that cater more to the whims and eddies of popular culture than reflect the people that live there. Finally, the area becomes saturated, tired and over-priced. The next wave of young people are forced to populate a new area and the cycle resumes. Spotting the next area before it is popular is the real challenge. Property values generally soar and this goes hand in hand with the rates you can charge for vacation rentals.

We see it in cities all the time. By the time the popularity of an area is well-known and established, it is already too expensive for many. As the rents increase, small, local businesses are no longer able to open and big brands take over the available space. The secret is to spot your next property before the neighbourhood becomes too exclusive.

The way to spot the next up and coming area is to check for these six tell-tale signs of the next cool neighbourhood:

Proximity
Check where the current hot spot is. As the prices rise in this neighbourhoods, the next generation are going to have to look a bit further afield for housing and business opportunities. It is likely that the areas and boroughs next to the current popular neighbourhood are going to follow suit.

 Artists, Musicians and Young People
These are the people that are going to drive the popularity up. Once an area seems cool and exciting, its popularity will soar. A vibrant art and music scene is usually one of the first indicators that this is about to happen.

Regeneration
Cultural rejuvenation and gentrification are always auspicious signs. If the government as well as business is investing in an neighbourhoods, this is an excellent sign that the area is set to become more appealing. Increased transport links to city centres, local amenities and facilities are all things that are going to increase the allure of a borough.

 Rising Prices
As soon as an area is labelled as the new hip place, prices will rise surprisingly quickly. Check for the areas that are moving from the surprisingly affordable toward the popular and costly.

 Bars, Restaurants and Art Galleries
These will all be springing up and will be being talked about. Any location that is seeing a sudden surge in its culture and night-life scene is bound to be a popular choice for vacation rental guests.

News and Media
Papers and television are a great place to find out about the most promising neighbourhoods to watch. Check for news about galleries, restaurant reviews and the property guide. If you are seeing an area coming up frequently, you will know that you are onto something.

 Adding properties in the new cool neighbourhoods makes clear sense for vacation rentals. The rates are lower than the city centers and the location almost markets itself. New business, interesting shops and a typically bustling night-life mean that people are going to be looking for accommodation as close to the heart of the coolest neighbourhoods as possible.

Photo Credit

Vacation Rentals: The Perfect Christmas Gift

Thanksgiving is upon us, the final Thursday in November and traditionally, the starter pistol for the run up to Christmas. With just one month to go, it’s never too early to think about how vacation rentals could become a perfect Christmas gift. Unfortunately, you can’t put a ribbon on time in a vacation rental. But, there are ways to market time in your property for Christmas. Giving someone the gift of a stay in an a vacation rental could become a great new holiday trend that your friends and family will truly enjoy.
75854707_4558d71552_b

 But how do you start getting people to consider giving vacation rental holidays as gifts? For some, the idea of booking somewhere, involving lots of emails and locked-in dates is too much of a hassle in a busy time of year. Receiving a weekend in an amazing property may lose its appeal if you have to organise flights and time to get to Hawaii the next week or lose out. You can change this perception by making things as easy as possible and promoting these gifts as giving someone great accommodation when and where they want it.

Today we discuss some of the ways you can promote and present vacation rental stays as gifts for Christmas.

 The Element of Surprise
An obvious problem with giving stays in a vacation rental as a gift is knowing when people are available. A thoughtful gift could be spoilt by the recipient not having the time to stay in the property on the dates you booked. Could you provide flexible dates in certain months? Or sell full weeks that can be taken at any time that your property is available? There are ways to get round this problem. You could offer a choice of weekends that people can then take when is best for them.

 Gift Vouchers
Another option is to sell gift vouchers for your properties. This would let people choose the perfect time and location for them. They would also be able to choose the property that suited them best. These could then be booked according to your normal availability process. You could offer set cash amounts that can be used as discounts toward longer stays, or vouchers for nights, whole weeks or weekends. Many companies already offer vouchers all year round and use them as a great way to fill weeks in mid-season.

 Presentation
Gifts are designed to be opened and you can’t wrap up a confirmation email. If you produced cards or professionally printed images from your property then you have a product that instantly says ‘gift’. If it is aesthetically pleasing and conveys the thoughtfulness you intend then it will help to bridge the gap between vacation rentals and traditional gift ideas. Most people will struggle at some point with finding the right gifts, so use your website and social media to promote your properties. Why not create a blog post with your top properties?

 Spread the Word
If you offered gift vouchers or promotions on booking your properties as gifts to your regular customers you will be rewarding their loyalty and generating new business. If they decide to give one to a friend or family member then you will reach more people. People that use and enjoy your business will be able to share their positive experiences with their friends and families that may not encounter your business otherwise. This is the ultimate good review.

Promoting vacation rentals as Christmas gifts is likely to become more widespread as the popularity increases and trusted, global brands emerge. It is a great way to bring in extra bookings and earn some customer loyalty to your business.

Photo Credit 

Black Friday: The American Shopping Frenzy That is Going Global

Is this just an American retail fad? Can vacation rental managers profit from the hype and hysteria of the biggest day of the year for American shoppers?

8659551962_a90113cd11_o
Black Friday is traditionally the day after Thanksgiving, where retailers slash prices to signal the start of the festive shopping season. People camp outside shops for days prior, the queues are a mad scramble. The day has become synonymous with delirious crowds and scythed prices. For some, it’s a great day to get bargains and an early start on Christmas shopping. For others it’s a horrendous melee that is not worth the effort. Either way, there is a chance for vacation rental managers to be part of Black Friday by offering promotions and avoiding the mad rush that big name shops have to deal with.

You can take advantage of Black Friday not just by creating your own sales and promotions, but marketing your properties to coincide with the major retailers’ sales and shopping too. In America, there is a burgeoning tourism industry stemming from people travelling to the best shopping areas just for the weekend surrounding Black Friday. You could combine your promotions with advertising the local shopping in your area. Market your properties to show that Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be a rushed, crowded hell-scape. It can involve travel to a new city, staying in a luxurious property, relaxing and taking your time. Black Friday presents plenty of opportunities for vacation rental managers to turn a divisive day into a worthwhile marketing angle.

Here are the best ways to promote your business for Black Friday:

Don’t Queue, Just Click!
Get all of the benefit of the Black Friday rush without having to deal with the marauding queues of people. If you do decide to offer limited promotions you may want to make sure you are ready and equipped for increased demand. A price promotion will surely bring increased traffic to your site but it thankfully won’t compare to the frenzy of shop queues on Black Friday. Shops in America regularly open at 5 am and have snaking queues for days. Make sure you use social media to promote any sales you are running and use the ease of online shopping to your advantage as much as possible.

Holiday Season
Black Friday is the perfect time to market your properties for a last-minute seasonal or Christmas holiday. The combination of the holiday season and the emphasis on shopping gives you a great chance to fill the last weeks of the year.

Why not use images of the crowds and stuffed shops to contrast with the peace and quiet of your properties? A few clicks compared to taking to the November streets is surely going to be preferable for most shoppers.

Publicity
Part of the reason that the tradition of Black Friday is creeping over from America’s shores is the publicity it generates. We have seen the power it exudes. Some companies and business have even declared it an unofficial public holiday, choosing to give staff this day off as opposed to Columbus day. When a day for shopping eclipses the day honouring the discoverer of the nation, you know this day has an immense importance for people.

Unused Inventory
Having an unbooked week coming up in the off season is the perfect chance to test out the power of Black Friday. You can fill an empty week and offer an attractive price to your guests. Using dynamic pricing to create tempting offers and having an on-line payment system that allows you to confirm and accept payment instantly will tempt shoppers to book these deals right away.

While mostly still an American trend, the ubiquity of on-line retailers means Black Friday is spreading across the world. You can use the publicity to reach American guests or do your best to use this day to book unsold weeks at attractive prices. It is certainly a strange phenomenon but days like Black Friday could be a great chance to give vacation rentals an end of year boost, no matter where they are.

Photo Credit

The Rise of Russia and China: The New Tourists of Europe

There is a sense that Europeans are growing bored of Europe. Cheap flights mean that more and more of us have been able to visit the top destinations in Europe and are now looking for further flung destinations. This bonanza in cheap air travel doesn’t mean disaster for European destinations though. We are now seeing an influx of travellers from more remote countries such as Russia and China. In 2012 Chinese travellers spent $100 billion overseas. During the Soviet period, many Russians were effectively banned from travelling abroad. They now rank in the top ten of international travellers in terms of numbers. As the largest and most populous countries respectively, they really are just too big to overlook.

2965836307_0b5d450394_o
Mass industrialisation and rapid wealth creation in these countries have created a new generation of international travellers.The question whether the next decade will see more international travel from Russia and China is almost certain. How to appeal to this growing market will be the real question. Translations, social media and highlighting the major sites and proximity to others will be the key. With visas being arduous to acquire, many visitors from China and Russia aim to make the most of their trip and visit as many famous locations and countries within Europe as possible. One may take for granted that a visitor to Paris can safely expect to see the Eiffel Tower but this may not be the case for travellers from places as far away as China or Russia. Travellers are going to want to know that your property will allow them visit all of the major attractions. If you can show that your property will allow your guests to see all of the major sites this will be a major advantage. Also, European distances pale in comparison to travel in Russia and China. Guests will want to know about attractions in other cities, even other countries.

 Despite the mass appeal, traditional modes of advertising may not be effective for these markets. Facebook is banned in China, and the most popular social network in Russia is VK which remains relatively unknown in the West. These sites are available in various languages and will help with your exposure. Baidu replaces Google in China. To really rank on this search engine you will need a translation of your site into simplified Chinese and have a local Chinese domain. These might seem like arduous tasks but the expansion of tourism from these areas in the upcoming decade may make it a question of when rather than if for most sites. Having your site in cyrillic will also be integral when appealing to Russian travellers.

2455261693_29db9e78b8_oAs well as the obvious difficulties with the language, there are also numerous cultural differences to negotiate. For example, in China, the first price quoted is open for haggling. If you have flowers for your Russian guests, make sure you have an even number, odd numbered bouquets are reserved for funerals. There is likely to be confusion at some point but any concessions are bound to be appreciated. There are websites where you can register your apartment as suited to Chinese tourists. Even just checking sites like these can give you a good idea of what is expected by travellers to your property.

 Whilst marketing your property to these new markets may be difficult to do as effectively as normal, the sheer numbers available means that even basic efforts should be lucrative. Tourism from Russia and China is going to develop exponentially in the next decade. Russia’s outboard tourism expenditure increased 32% in the previous ten years and China is currently the largest spending nation on foreign travel. Just as vacation rentals have appealed to the European market for the value and quality they offer, there is bound to be a huge demand as travel to Europe and America from the East increases.

 Photo Credit