The vacation rental industry is changing, almost daily, as you are well aware. Home Away, Wyndham, Marriot, Trip Advisor and other large companies are moving us to places we have never been before. It can be a very challenging environment to work in. The good news is that these companies all bring awareness to our industry that there hasn’t been here before. PhoCus Wright, which is a travel research company, recently published a report, PhoCusWright’s U.S. Vacation Rentals 2009-2014: A Market Reinvented. It is a very expensive report, but brings some very valuable information to us. It was said that only 10-15% of travelers knew or considered vacation rentals. Well in this report, 20% of the travelers surveyed stayed in a vacation rental in the past two years. An additional 27% considered a vacation rental, but ultimately chose another option. Why? Well, part of it is the misconceptions of our industry, that vacation rentals are only suitable for longer trips and larger groups, as well as vacation rentals not having the “amenities” that hotels offer. Today, this is not necessarily the case.
So the good news is that more and more folks are looking at vacation rentals, but the bad news is that still, only 20% of travelers are actually choosing our industry to meet their vacation needs. How did it get from the 10% that it was 5+ years ago, to the 20%? And how do we get it from 20% to 30% and more? Most of us will agree that the national economy hasn’t improved that much. Unemployment is going back up, and so many people are still out of work. So why is it that our business is so much better? I would suggest that the marketing awareness created by these large companies, as well as the internet providing more and more innovation, is finding the average consumer, and we need to take advantage of it. So some thoughts on how you can get on board:
Mobile is getting more and more attention these days. You need so much more than just a URL today. This door to the internet has to be wide open. Can guests get EASILY to your website, via mobile phones, smart phones or tablets? If they are not, you are losing business.
More and more reservations are being made from the website. People want to see your inventory, look at availability, and at a minimum, tentatively book a reservation. Is your website easy to use and navigate?
Obviously we believe that your software system is the key to managing information, and information is crucial.
A)Does your software provide you tools to automatically respond to the emails coming from these lead based portals/channel partners? If not, you are losing business, and your staff is spending too much time with the response.
B)Every guest or potential guest that communication with your company MUST get into your database. Who are they, what is important to them? Do you have a method of documenting that communication for future follow up?
D)What tools are you using for marketing to current, previous and potential guests? It can’t be haphazard. It must be organized, and documented. You can use coupons, automated email tools, concierge, unique tenant access sites for your prospects and guests, and much more.
There is much more you can do to make a difference to manage and control your information. Do not let it control you. Use technology to manage information, and you will be in a stronger and more commanding position to control your destiny. That technology can be your website, your channel partners, and of course, you need an property management software system that can be a true partner with you and help you manage and grow your business.
By Mike Mueller