SkyScanner has completed its forecast for how travel will look in 2024. A sleek infographic with fantastic research and a bold foresight. We’re looking at its predictions and imagining how the future will look for vacation rentals. It is convinced that the days of scouring the web for the perfect components of your trip are over. We will all have an individual ‘E-Agent’. A feature of our wearable AI (Artificial Intelligence) Device that is not only able to find each of your requirements but learn your taste as it searches and harvests. The report envisages a future where this technology will know when we want to book and suggest options without even being asked. The report envisages a future in which unsolicited lifestyle tips from your wristwatch will be welcomed, rather than seen as hideous and intrusive.This blog does not envisage such a future. There are some predictions that seem, at best, far fetched. Space travel may not be a commercial viability for many years to come. Underwater hotels are also proving difficult to make the leap from concept to reality.The section on transforming the airport experience also mostly reads like wishful thinking. At times straying more toward deluded advertisers trying to believe their own content about making airports anything more than an oppressive, commercial bear-trap. In the near future, airports will be an intrinsic part of the holiday experience, a place that we enjoy spending time in. Airports will be about giving people a better sense of wellbeing during travel. -NAH‘Passenger spend will soar, and airport commercial areas will evolve’.-YAHA recurring point in the report is that guest information is going to be used to provide personal and individual experiences. Social profiles will be linked to companies, smart technology will be used to automate nearly everything. Searches will get more and accurate and tailored to every different person. It predicts soon technology will be able to analyse minute facial expressions when you view search results, evaluate your reactions and bring you more and more specific results. Imagine searching a site and the properties being returned in order of your personal taste. You could then confirm, book and pay with just one, secure voice-command. Wearable technology that has learnt the idiosyncrasies of your voice and sifts through the overload of search results means that trips can go from ideas to bookings in minutes.Skyscanner’s Director of Hotels Nik Gupta says: ‘’2024, advances in digital technology will mean that travelers will have no need to encounter a single human being from the time that they enter their chosen hotel to the time that they check out of their room”.Whilst this sounds just a little bit sad and dystopian, the point seems to be that the future of travel is focused on reducing the time spent planning and altering the smaller elements of our trips. If you can check-in during our transfer from the airport, then that is more time to enjoy your holiday. It’s not wrong to want to dedicate your time to your friends and family, but a part of travel is the interactions with others. Whilst greeting the concierge at the Four Seasons may not be fully immersing oneself in the culture of a place, cutting out the times we encounter others can’t help but feel like we are losing things rather than gaining them. This is where vacation rentals have an option. At present, they are seen as a more authentic or real experience than a large hotel. They are for the traveller, rather than the tourist. The question is whether this can compete with the increased ease and speed that big business will be able to offer.Nik Gupta also says: ‘The fight back against peer-to-peer travel will see hotels empower their guests with incredible levels of hyper-personalization through their mobile devices to provide the unique experiences they want.’Vacation rentals are in a strange hinterland here. If this prediction for the next 10 years is accurate, they need to decide where they stand. If they want to try to compete with the ‘hyper-personalization’ of hotel experiences or market themselves with the more particular and social style of the current peer-to-peer travel sector. The peer-peer market is set to continue growing, the report suggests that between 5-10% of the world’s population will be renting out space to travellers. This means that vacation rentals and peer-to-peer networks do not have to go into a straight fight with hotels and large chains. They will have a large enough market for themselves.What seems evident is that there is going to be a widening gulf between the two. The hotel industry found itself caught a little unawares by the rapid expansion of both peer-to-peer rentals and established vacation rental businesses. They were being undercut by places offering greater space and comfort. Now hotels are using their greater resources to fight back and become more than just a bed for the night. Predictions include in-room 3-D printers, holographic personal trainers and ‘High-frequency sounds and chromotherapy deployed in bathrooms that will literally shake dirt off bodies with sound waves while soothing various pain points with color technology.’ The upcoming decade seems to herald the age of the unique experience, but as a later sentence explains: ‘The big problem scientists have is the effect these high-frequency sounds will have on the eardrums. They could blow them out.’ These unique experiences may not be quite ready yet. The SkyScanner report suggests that the being the last person to do something will replace the cultural kudos of being the first. ‘Without any instructions from him, she begins to compile journey possibilities that she knows he’ll love. Perhaps a trip to see Africa’s disappearing elephant herds? ‘Only 20 years before they’re gone for good,’ If you ignore the almost gleeful tone, describing the destruction of an entire species as a great example of scarcity marketing, then there is a point here. The widespread opportunities for travel have reduced the amount of trips that come with ‘bragging rights’ – the social currency of being the first to do something. The finite nature of our natural resources are being realised and people are eager to witness them before the opportunity is no longer afforded. This also links in with using tourism alongside conservation and the raising of awareness. These trips can provide much-needed money to conservation and research projects whilst the traveller can also use social media to depict and share their passion.The role of social media is also not to be underestimated. Experiences are now a public commodity and status symbol. And as sort of heartbreaking as it is, people are going to semi-consciously consider the social resonance of their trip as part of the booking process. How many Likes will a picture of another tired sunset over the Grand Canyon get when it is compared to a shot of the Moon rising over the curve of the Earth, taken from a hotel window, hanging in Inner-space? Or a video of the last blue whale grazing up against the glass in your underwater suite? Whatever technology from these predictions actually makes it into the mainstream is anyone’s guess. What seems clear is that travel is set to change drastically. In a generation we have seen air travel change from a giddy, novel thrill into a tedious necessity. No-one is impressed by a overpriced mini bar or a Corby trouser press in their rooms anymore. SkyScanner´s report suggests that travellers want to be amazed again.What vacation rentals will have to decide is if their property needs to try. You can read our debate on home automation and Smart technology here. In the age of underwater hotels and Virgin Galactic we are forgetting that a holiday is just a break from your routine, maybe somewhere new. Anything is work when you have to do it. Having to check in through your phone will soon be just as irritating as doing it now. The bar for tolerance is just getting lower. Reduce the amount the amount of things your guests have to do, don’t try to make these things easier.But with all this there seems to be a big caveat left out. All of these amazing options are if you can afford them. Are we going to see a industry-wide shift towards this micro technology or will there be a divide? The exceedingly wealthy adopting this technology as the world muddles on fine without it. There is also another big question that the report ignores- will people be so quick to hand over this personal information about themselves? People may not want a hotel chain to know their shoe size, or evening drink preference. If not, then half of these systems will be obsolete. The report paints an nice image where everyone has worked together to iron out any inconvenience from the travel experience and give us trips full of unadulterated wonder and ease. But there is an ignored question of complicity from the traveller. Will we go along with this? And should vacation rentals try to follow suit? In these times of big data, would there not be an opportunity to just offer privacy and serenity? A option for an experience where people don’t know what you want at all time, or make everything contactless and easy- but allow you to try new things and experiences for yourself?The advances in technology certainly are impressive. But can these touches really improve a holiday? Is controlling the thermostat and closing the electronic curtains from a tablet device really going to be anymore more than a briefly pleasing novelty before just becoming another chore? Are holidays and travel not better serviced by relaxation and adventure rather than gadgets or slightly less waiting time. Technology cannot manufacture experience in the way that it is seeking to. The advocates of these advances in technology and the harvesting of Big Data or ‘Big Friendly Data’ -as the report subtly rebrands it – want to believe they can. They want a future where instead of a mini bar full of drinks you don’t like, you will be greeted by a knock. The campari and soda you usually like at this time on a Friday is here, delivered by an endangered Sumatran Orangutan.
Does your business pass the test when it comes to the very highest standards?If you’ve ever wondered how to spot the difference between a cappuccino spoon and a sugar spoon, or whether a duke or a marquis should be announced first at a formal function then you may be familiar with Debrett’s guide to etiquette. For those of you who are not, it is a guide to conducting yourself in public and social situations that has been in operation since 1769. Their style is exacting, some might stuffy and overbearing, but they are still considered to be the best authority on manners and behaviour that we have. And now, they have teamed up with Airbnb to produce a guide a guide for guests and hosts alike on the standards that we should expect from vacation rentals. The Debrett’s guide makes for fascinating reading for anyone involved in the vacation rental industry or anyone looking to book a property. Its stiff and formal style may be at odds with the looser and more relaxed ethos of many vacation rental managers (Debrett’s is what many would look to if royalty were coming to stay) but this guide is made for the day to day running of a rental business:This guide sets out a code of behaviour for homesharers and reminds us that the basic rules remain the same, whatever the situation, and should always be respected. Their rules are fairly comprehensive and may even cover things that some hosts may have never considered:Hosts must open their door to guests with a warm smile and welcoming demeanour. The muddy shoe question can be addressed with a straightforward and friendly request; alternatively, a shoe rack in the hallway will provide a more subtle hint. The rules the guide sets out are rather rigid once they have been decided, the guide even calls the sending of text messages ‘cowardly’. It seems that experienced vacation rental managers have to adopt a more fluid style when it comes to their hosting, learning how to deal with the unexpected.Whether you agree with all the points is one question, but this guide demonstrates two encouraging things. Vacation rentals are becoming established enough to warrant this sort of document. Enough people use them regularly that they are expected to be a lodging option for travellers all over the world. Like a glowing debutant stepping out at an opening ball, the recognition from Debrett’s may not mean much to your day to day business but it does suggest that the vacation rental industry has ‘arrived’.Secondly, there is a drive to set standards. To give hosts and guests the confidence to become involved in the industry without the fear of inconsistent service or even fraud. For some, there might be a certain level of awkwardness in sharing another person’s home or opening theirs up to guests. This guide aims to remove this barrier. Many experienced business owners will not be surprised by some of the advice in this guide. After all, a professional approach and exacting standards are part of the reason why vacation rentals have managed to become so popular before guides like became available. What is possible is that having guides and expected standards will be more useful to people that have never used vacation rentals before. It’s always daunting not knowing what you can expect, it can be enough to put people off booking vacation rentals. Guides like Debrett’s might do more to reassure the people that have not considered vacation rentals than helping current hosts.Despite the sage advice contained in Debrett’s guide, many experienced hosts will tell you that a guide can never be comprehensive. You can never meet the expectations of every guest or expect every guest to have the same expectations from you. The Debrett’s guide to vacation rentals is a great benchmark for standards but will not be able to replace the need of a well run and organised business. One that can react to different guests, different cultures and the unexpected.This guide could be great for your business to share with your customers and your hosts. Is there anything in it that you disagree with? Photo Credit
Different Guests; Different Content. Want to get the most out of the content you send? Reach more of your guests and see a better return on investment from the things that you spend time and money to create? A way that every vacation rental manager can start doing this is by offering more personalised, more specific content to their customers through their email marketing and social media. This means content created with only a certain section of your customers or leads in mind. As you will have experienced, you can’t please everybody all of the time with your content anyway, so this approach is designed to split your audience first, and then just send the content that is most suited to them.To look at the statistics, 78% of guests prefer content personalisation and 54% find personalised ads more engaging. Your guests are not all the same, and your content needs to reflect this.A practical suggestion for how to do this is create content that is not always designed to be as broad as possible. Create marketing campaigns that are specifically aimed at certain sections of your customers. To do this, you will have to split your guests into content categories. You can base these categories on whatever criteria you choose; location, demographic, age, booking history, your reward programme. The choice is yours. For example, you may have hesitated over posting about the new ski location you have added because 70% of your revenue comes from summer beach resorts and this wouldn’t be of interest to most of your guests. If you can split your guests into groups that have booked ski holidays with you or expressed an interest in on your site then you can create emails, blog posts, or other content and make sure it is being sent to the people that want to read it. Before clicking and engaging with content people like to know why they are receiving it. For most email marketing this answer is simple – you expressed an interest in a business and now you are receiving more information about it So, how can you go about making it more personal? Dividing your guests by the services they use and then tailoring the content you provide gives you a better chance of reaching interested leads. To use the example of people that have booked ski holidays in the past again, why not address this? Start your email with reference to the fact that they have booked ski resorts with you before and now you have a great new property that you think they will be interested in. Imagine receiving an email that was personalised and sent to you because of specific interests you have, rather than just having signed up to a mailing list that distributes all the content that a company produces. You are going to see better numbers and better engagement. And a great thing about personalised content is that you can use all of your older content as you find out more things about your guests. If every article, every post you create has a strong, useful message for your customers then it can be used again and sent your customers that fit into the category it was created for. You may have content that was created a year ago that is perfect for your new customers but your older customers do not need to receive, splitting your mailings will interest new customers and stop your current customers receiving information that they don’t need.One of the main reasons people cite for unsubscribing or unfollowing from social media is because of ‘Bursting’. Bursting is where a company sends a big cluster of updates across every platform and then nothing. This means that there is a high frequency of contact in a short time with only limited relevance to certain customers.Personalised content means that the people receiving your email are the people that will want to read it, giving you not just better numbers from your marketing but more bookings from these clicks and shares.Photo Credit
We are simple creatures. The more we see things, the more likely we are to use them. The problem is how to get your product in front of the people that want to see it? When you have a website, social media platforms and adverts, it might feel as if you are doing everything you can to get your product out there. But perhaps there is a cerebral side-step than can be done. Vacation rental managers can try lateral thinking and product view optimisation to see if it is possible to revolutionise their exposure.A long time ago, astute marketers found out that the fridge is opened twice as often as cupboards. Anything in the fridge is going to be seen more. The trickle-down effect of this is that it is used more, and eventually bought more. So, how did these marketers get their products in front of their customers twice as often? With just three words of copy: ‘Refrigerate after opening’.This was an inspired moment that cost nothing, did not change the product or increase the advertising. It just put the product in the most prominent position possible.Brands and businesses that make it into common consciousness do not do so by accident. They conduct meticulous research into eye line trajectory and product placement. The characters on children’s cereal may seem harmless, but their eyes are designed to meet those of children. Eye contact from these characters increased trust by 16% so the eyes are angled down 9.6 degrees to create with eye contact with the children in the aisles. These techniques are not just reserved for impressionable children. Adult cereal is placed higher and the eyes on these boxes stare straight out.This technique is called product view optimisation (PVO). It is all about increasing the amount of times your product is seen and the effectiveness of these views. So how do you apply this process to vacation rentals? Where is the fridge for our industry? Should you develop a company mascot with hypnotic snake eyes? Perhaps not. The idea behind PVO is that people will see your product at times when they are not actively looking for it. You have to consider your product as something that people want, but don’t know that they want it at that time. Product view optimisation is basically similar to the principles of SEO. You put your business in the position where most people are likely to see it. SEO lets your business sit at the very top of online searches. PVO puts your business in front of people in the offline world.An example of how non-traditional marketing and PVO could be used for vacation rentals is to sign up your property as a film or TV location. This means that production companies will hire your property to film in. It could be for adverts, educational shorts or even blockbuster films. What this does is three-fold. Firstly, it brings you revenue from the production company that will not be as seasonal as your regular guests. Secondly, it puts your property in front of thousands of people that may never see your normal advertising. Whilst this is not advertising, it puts your product in a prominent position. Companies pay exorbitant amounts to place their products into popular culture. Finally, you then have the option to market your property as a location from whatever it was in. Holidays based around visiting the locations of TV programs like Game Of Thrones or films like Lord Of The Rings have soared in the last decade. Imagine how many people would see your property, and then the boost in bookings you would have if people could stay at one of the locations from a major part of popular culture!This is just one example of alternative marketing and PVO. It can require lateral thinking to develop an innovative and original way to implement PVO but having vacation rentals being seen and being noticed offline, as well as online will be of great help to the growth of the industry and your business.Have you considered any other strategies to get your properties and your business seen by the mass market? Photo Credit
Today’s blog is all about a quick feature that you can add to your site today that will help you convert more visitors to your site into bookings. This is the simple addition of an interactive map on your website. An interactive map is one that shows the local area as normal, but that you can add the location of your property and places that your guests might be interested in. From there you can see the proximity, read reviews and check the distances and times between attractions all whilst keeping customers on your site. If you guest selects a property you can feature the location on an interactive map on the page for that property. As well as showing the property that has been selected, your interactive map can also show the locations of other available properties in the area. So, if the property is booked people on your site can choose available properties that are closest to their original desired location. You can even have the price of the properties on the map, and photos with a short description when your guests hover over the points on the map. This prevents people from leaving your site to start a new search based on the area they want to stay. Rather than having to search through the pages for different vacation rentals on your site, or possibly leaving your site, they move on to the next best property in just one click. A map that shows all the properties in the area can then be distilled to a map showing just the selected property. This would then feature highlights of the local area. Local restaurants, museums and bars can all have pins that lead straight through to reviews, their own websites and contact information. The same goes for tourist attractions. An interactive map can then show the best routes to get around these attractions either by walking, driving or on public transport. You can then have blog posts about the places on your map. Showing your knowledge and passion about your local area will bring this to life and engage the people that come to your site. You’re turning your site into a complete and definitive resource for people looking to book a holiday. You already have your property listings set up, but now you have all the information that people need to make the leap from research and comparison to an actual booking. We’ve spoken before about how a good vacation rental website not only provides all of the information that your guests will want to know, but taps into the anticipation of the holiday that they are planning. You should show your guests what they can do when staying in your property. Show the local knowledge you have amassed and give them an insight into the area they are hoping to stay in. You are allowing people to visualise their holiday, making it more real, and leading to more bookings from first-time visitors to your site.Using tools like Google Street View and reading reviews can all help this but being able to see everything on the same page, whilst they are considering their booking means you are in a great position to convert that visitor into a booking right there and then. Showing your local knowledge and your commitment to ensuring every guest’s enjoyment of your property helps to show that yours is a business that can be trusted.And, if you are using a Kigo website template, you can simply add your properties and the attractions in your local area to the back office and they will automatically be added to your interactive map. It is one of those smaller features that helps professional and innovative hosts stay ahead of the competition. Click here to find out more about this feature.Photo Credit