What Vacation Rental Managers need to know.

Using social media has always been an important way to market your business. But now Facebook and Twitter are taking out the middle man when it comes to converting exposure into actual sales. Both platforms are trialing a ‘Buy Now’ button that is to feature on certain products. It allows the user to buy straight from Facebook, without having to go the the seller’s site. Whilst initially launching for clothing, charities and music, we are looking at how this feature could impact the vacation rental industry if it is rolled out across the board.
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It means that emphasis would be even more based on eye-catching posts. The type of images that make people want to book right there and then. This could be a great opportunity to secure some last minute bookings by using social media. The majority of last minute bookings come from mobile phones and the majority of Internet access with phones is for social media. Great potential to get bookings.

When thinking about booking a holiday, the logical thing seems to sit at your computer, do your research and book your trip using an established portal. The apartment in Portugal that you ‘liked’ on Facebook or retweeted may be forgotten by this point. There is a tendency to think mobile phones are for more frivolous or perhaps less expensive purchases than a holiday. This may be down to security. Or possibly, the general human assumption is that if something is quick and easy it is somehow less trustworthy or valid. There seems to be an idea that we’re missing out on the more difficult but ultimately, more rewarding experience somewhere else. Will people opt to buy things without searching competitors, checking prices or even reading reviews? This trial is going to put this to the test.

There are currently third-party ‘Book Now’ plug-ins available but this will the first time that Twitter and Facebook have provided this service themselves. Having the established and dependable platforms of Facebook and Twitter will increase the trust from end users. If there is the option to buy there and then, it will remove that step between advertising your properties and people having to visit your site to book. This, and the current lack of mobile optimized sites means that this feature could see a surge in last minute mobile bookings for vacation rentals. The initial trials will see if Facebook and Twitter can get its users to make the leap from socialising to considering social media as a viable place to make purchases.

Despite this potential new development, you will need to remember that social media is not primarily a sales tool. It is a great way to advertise and get your business out there, but people do not go on social media for the hard sell. It is still for people, rather than business. You will need to post a mix of content and advertising. It is also a visual medium; people engage with photo and video more than text. Consider your timing too, Monday morning has a different feel to Friday afternoon. Long, wordy sales pitches are unlikely to be well received on a monday morning so keeping things light will be more likely to attract sales through this feature.

As a vacation rental manager this would be a great opportunity to use bright, appealing images of your properties to your advantage. A well timed post about a beach near your property on a rainy morning could be the catalyst that makes someone on social media book spontaneously. The key will be letting your business speak for itself. Using the tools to show why you are passionate about what you do and letting users decide for themselves has always been the best strategy for social media. This button shouldn’t change how successful businesses operate on social media, it should just reinforce that the links between social media and business are getting stronger.

If the ‘Buy Now’ feature does take off within the travel industry, It remains likely that the change would be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. However, it serves to show that social media practises are changing, and business needs to change with them. By keeping up with this industry you can make sure you are the first to reach a lot of people in an individual and effective way.

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By: Jonathan Fletcher

Behind waterfalls; on a beach; or in the middle of a football pitch. You can pretty much get married where ever you like these days. Adventurous couples are now looking to vacation rentals for an individual and special place to tie the knot. With the trend for non-traditional locations for weddings continuing, why not see if your property could host the special moments of peoples’ lives? There are people out there searching for memorable locations that simply cannot find them. By making a few changes to your page or listing, you could add a whole new side to your business.

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You may have the perfect location and setting but unfortunately, for weddings that may not be enough. It seems that the level of planning and organisation required is about level with that of a space launch, or a medium-sized military campaign. With the normal stress and complications of a wedding, people might consider your property but are forced, in the end, to go for a more established choice. Compete by showing that your business can offer something new and fulfill the normal requirements for a wedding party. We have compiled a list of ideas to help make your property go from a nice idea to a genuine option.

Get it Approved
Every area will be different when it comes to the permissions you need to host a wedding. For example, in the U.K your location will have to be licensed by the local authority before you are allowed to hold ceremonies. Check the local law and then you can advertise your property. Some people see an amazing location and then have to sort out this paperwork after deciding. Nothing stifles romance quite like local council bureaucracy. Taking away this headache and marketing your property as ‘Wedding Ready’ in your description is a great start. It may be that you can’t get the appropriate license, or that your property is just not suited to the actual ceremony. If this is the case then why not concentrate on the reception or offering guest accommodation?

Let People Know in the Photos
Show people how they can expect your property to look on their big day. It may be hard to imagine to a snow-backed ceremony or a beachside wedding for some couples, so get some photos taken. Decorate with flowers, set out chairs and tables. Your pictures will be more effective if people can immediately associate your property with marriages.

Links to Local Businesses
People can be tempted to opt for established venues due to their knowledge and connections with suppliers in the area, or what services they offer themselves. Think about what your guests will need and include some links to florists, catering and drinks companies. If you can take away some of the local research and work required for the guests it will increase the chances of them being assured enough to book your property.

Price
Weddings are an expensive business. Not only can you be competitive with your pricing but your guests have the option to choose their caterers and suppliers. Hotels and country clubs will often provide these so you can mention how your guests have the freedom to choose. You have a great opportunity to showcase how you can help provide a unforgettable and personal experience that is also more affordable.

Be Available
Flowers. Cakes. Drinks. Food. There will be things arriving at all times throughout the days leading up to the wedding. If you can, provide space for these things and be on hand to let these deliveries in if your guests are not there. You may find that your hosting duties may be more taxing than usual but knowing that you are available to help with any emergencies will be a big bonus for nervy couples.

Individuality
By choosing a vacation rental for their wedding, people have a great chance to personalise their day. They can use any catering they like, choose any entertainment, and decorate the place as they wish. A wedding should be about the couple getting married and using a vacation rental is a great way to create a memorable and individual experience.

Bar Mitzvahs to Graduations
And the good news is, it doesn’t have to just be weddings. There are plenty of special occasions that you can market your property for. You don’t have to limit your appeal.

 

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By: Jonathan Fletcher

Business or pleasure? Why do we have to choose?

Technological advances and changing attitudes to business are helping people discover that effective work is not just limited to the office anymore. In response, people are looking to alternatives from hotels and traditional accommodation for their work trips. Many portals, including Booking.com have a specific search option for business travellers now. Vacation rental properties are increasingly seen as a cheaper and more comfortable alternative to hotels for business travel. CNN has reported that 10% of business travellers have stayed in a vacation rental whilst on the road. And this number is set to increase. So how can you promote your properties to people travelling for business?

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It’s not just location and price that is driving this shift. One of the recurring factors in this increase is that people are searching for places to stay with more warmth and personality than your average business hotel. The corporate landscape can seem a little bleak at times so people are searching for places to stay that are more than just pragmatic and comfortable. No matter how beautiful your property is though, people coming for work need to know exactly what they can expect. So to start receiving bookings you will need to outline exactly what you offer. No-one will book with you unless they know that all their requirements for their trip will be met. Wifi connection, a work space and transport links will be key. Also, travelling for work doesn’t mean that your other requirements are less important. Emphasize the comfort and relaxation your property offers.

Check out our 5 tips on appealing to this market:

Staying Connected
According to www.travelleadersgroup.com 95% of their surveyed business travellers name WIFI as an ´absoulte necessity’ for their accomodation. Make sure your connection is fast and stable, your phone line working and you provide all the details, such as passwords, in your guest handbook.

Comfort and Space
If you decide to market your property to business travellers you will have to set aside a designated work space. It should have a large desk, with plenty of space and plug sockets in an uncluttered area. Make sure this area is clear in the pictures so anyone looking at your property will know that they will have the space to get things done. The same applies to any other space you may have. So if you have an area that would be great for meetings or receiving clients, highlight it. People will only consider your property if they can quickly and easily see that they will be able to properly do their job there.

Commute
Give specific times for getting into the center, to the airport and the station for various modes of transport. People with important meetings in unfamiliar cities will need to know the time they need to set aside for getting around. Mention all the transport links your property is close to and provide a few numbers for good, local taxi firms.

After Work
The traditional modus operandi for business travel is to book reputable hotels near the airport or the business district. Neither area is particularly known for its culture when it comes to after work life. Highlight the food culture near your property and the places to see in the evenings. Having a work/life balance doesn’t stop when travelling so your usual hosting skills and local knowledge will be just as well received.

Inspiration
Finally, it has been accepted wisdom for a long time that business accommodation should be comfortable and functional but there has been little emphasis on making it remarkable. An interesting environment will not hamper productivity. Emphasize being able to experience the city life. Business travel is about learning new things and broadening horizons so accommodation can reflect this. People may find that a more unique experience will help them concentrate and inspire creativity.

It may take a long time for larger businesses to start opting for vacation rentals when it comes to travel but this is certainly a growing industry. Younger people that personally advocate vacation rentals are now getting into professional positions where they can influence and set company travel policy, meaning there is likely to be a sharp upturn in people able to book alternative accomodation for business travel. We are certainly in the early stages but being one of the first to provide a high quality and professional service means you will surely be a part of this growth.

Have you looked into the business travel market for your properties? Share your experiences in the comments below.

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By: Jonathan Fletcher

What the Amsterdam re-brand can teach you about marketing your property. 

Why is it that New York retains this aura of excitement? Why is it not Denver: The City that Never Sleeps, or Toulouse: The Big Apple? Certain cities manage to evoke images just with their names. When you hear New York, the image of Bright Lights; Big City is unavoidable. Cities brand themselves and this can be hard to escape.

Now think of Amsterdam. Vice-riddled waterways and pot-blasted stag nights are probably not far away, right? A city’s trademark or brand can be hard to shift once it is established. Despite having a rich and varied culture, these impressions can often be the most persuasive.

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Consider how this could affect your rental property. Is a stereotypical image affecting your bookings and what can be done about it? People may be avoiding your city, and your vacation rentals because of a pre-determined image of your area that may no longer be accurate. Imagine how many people have dismissed a trip to Amsterdam because of an impression that was created 20-30 years ago.

The city of Amsterdam is a good example because it is a city actively trying to alter the perception that people have of it. Their I Amsterdam campaign sets out how the city is looking to the future and how it is trying to become widely known for more than just sex, drugs and clogs. The features that first made it popular and distinctive are now causing problems as the city tries to attract international commerce and a new wave of tourists.

This process takes time but, slowly, it is possible to turn around the main connotations people have. As this happens it is worth considering how your business and its output fits in with this. There are things you can do to move forward with these changes and grow alongside the city.

We have used Amsterdam as an example and compiled five ideas to help you to stay current in a dynamic enviroment.

Fine Line Between Love and Hate

For everyone that loves something about a city, there will be others that hate it. Think about the main image of your area and if your property fits into this. If not, why not try to reach people that would actively avoid this part of a vacation rental? For Amsterdam, this means places a little further out from the main buzz of nightlife are able to market their properties to show a different side of the the city. This allows them to reach people that may have originally considered the city too loud or wild.

Research Your Area

Perhaps your property has always been a little removed from the main centerpiece of a city? Away from the center, not near the best shopping district. Now is the time to see what parts of your area might be appealing to people that are only just considering your destination. Amsterdam is trying to focus on art and business so these are great places to start. Check out the links to galleries and business centers and your property may become a lot more appealing to the new generation of visitors.

Where is Your City Headed?

The information on targets for cities and areas is widely available. The Smithsonian provided a spider graph, produced by the city of Amsterdam, to show their targets for what they want their city to be known for. Out are canals and the Redlight District. The future for Amsterdam lies in the artistic side of the city and as a place for international business. Check the tourism department for your area and see if there are changes happening that you can become a part of.

Think About What You Want for Your Property

 There is no substitute for genuine knowledge and enthusiasm. If you are passionate about an element of your location that people may not know about, include it in your page. People will always engage with genuine passion. You can be part of the change that you would like to see happen in your city.

Address Concerns

If you are looking to expand your market towards people that may usually avoid your area, it is useful to imagine their concerns. Families and business travellers will be concerned with noise and safety. Use your personal experience to accurately describe the experience of staying in your property.

It is a slow process but if you don’t keep up with how your city or area is changing itself you may find that you have been left behind.
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By: Jonathan Fletcher

Stay connected; Stay organised.

From emails and social media to a good old-fashioned phone call, there are so many ways to communicate now. As a Vacation Rental manager people are going to expect you to be connected and on top of things at all times. Managing your business from your office with Kigo is one thing, but maintaining this when you have to travel can be so much more difficult. Your phone will often be the first tool you look to, for more than just communication.

 
Thankfully, gone are the days when a mobile phone resembled a grey house brick with a big rubber breadstick of an aerial sat atop it. They are sleek and portable, and what’s more, they can do so much more for your business than just make calls. Check our list of the best apps for you to download that will help you manage your vacation rentals from wherever you are.

 

Old and new phone

 

Evernote
Keep track of all your tasks and ideas with the best note taking app available. Set reminders, use the voice recording feature and save images straight from the web. Evernote will save everything to the cloud so you can access from anywhere you are connected. Say goodbye to notes taped on the fridge.
DropBox
Save and share all your files in one easy-access cloud drive. With up to 2 GB of space available on the free version there really is nothing to lose with this app. Dropbox works across numerous devices so you will never be caught out when you need an important document or file.

Things
The clearest Task Management tool available at the moment. Organise the things you need to take care of in an elegant and easy to use program. Input your To-Do list and Things will notify you when they are due to be completed. It can be used for small everyday jobs like watering the plants to bigger projects like planning your next property.

Contacts+
Between guests and employees, meeting numerous people is unavoidable. They all have different things to say and all use different devices and services to reach you. This app lets you connect to people over whatever service you choose. Every contact you have will be linked to their phone number, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and more. So you will be able to greet guests, stay in touch and choose the right response for any occasion.

Hemingway
Having to describe your listings, update your social media and write your site’s blog. There is a surprising amount of writing involved in running vacation rentals. Use Hemingway to make everything you write clear and readable. This app highlights long and difficult sentences and even rates the overall readability.

Pocket
As well as producing your own content, you need to stay up date with what others in the industry are saying. Pocket allows you to store these things for later across all your devices. So if you see an interesting article but don’t have time to read it, you can store it in Pocket then come back to it when you have the time.

These will help you keep your day to day business in order. Use the resources available to make your job easier and see if Kigo can help you with the bigger parts of managing and expanding your operation.

 

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By: Jonathan Fletcher