As we start the year, it is a good time to be aware of a looming threat to your vacation rental business, and for you to know you can future proof your business.

It may not occur to vacation rental owners that the large benign rental marketing websites like Homeaway and Airbnb that deliver us a steady stream of bookings today have a dark side. They can just as easily squeeze us and leave us high and dry without a business.

What if the big websites we use like Homeaway and Airbnb were to drop us to the bottom and jack up the fees needed to get to the top? It is already happening in places and it will happen more.  It could cripple us.

But there is good news, the small folks can thrive, as I will tell you later in this article.

First, let’s understand how the landscape of vacation rentals is changing.

The changing holiday rental landscape – the big picture.

About 5 years ago with some amateur tinkering, my little Treetops rental site was able to dominate my local keywords on Google. My little website ranked 1 or 2 for years for ‘accommodation wye river’. With a little ingenuity I was also able to get a lot of bookings from Google Adwords.  It was payday for informed opportunists like me playing on Google.

No longer

Now the larger websites are sweeping away opportunists like me from the Google results. They dominate our entire industry.

As Google changes the rules about content, making it more complex, the larger websites are investing to rank higher. They invest heavily in Google adwords advertising. They invest heavily in search.  They have whole SEO teams, content writing teams, social media teams, paid search teams. Top consultants help them solve the latest problems. Homeaway has 1900 employees, Tripadvisor has 2400 employees., Airbnb has 1300 employees, all with plenty of [click to continue…]


I had to make a difficult decision recently when I fired a good cleaner.

She cleaned my rental till it sparkled and it was always set up beautifully.

So why did I fire her?

Simply put, she didn’t really understand the rental business. More of that later.

It’s a cleaning business

I learned many years ago that the vacation rental business is a cleaning business first and a hospitality business second.

Cleaning is the foundation.  No matter how good your marketing, no matter how attractive your rental, unless it is presented to a top standard, on time, it will fail.

Cleaning is particularly important if your rental is located a long way from where you live. Not only does the cleaner need to be organised and clean well, but they need to keep things running when things go wrong. And things do go wrong. The cleaner role often extends further into the role of a housekeeper and even a manager.

Over the years, I’ve put together a checklist of what makes a good cleaner.

My 8 point perfect cleaner checklist

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Sometimes as Vacation Rental owners, we blindly repeat the same little tragedy without realising it.

This is vividly illustrated by real experiences, as I found recently – three times – on a short holiday away.  I use them to explain the psychology underlying our behaviour around feedback.

Three – failed – feedback stories

In October we took 10 days off visiting a favourite place – Robe in South Australia, just half a day away. This time we stayed in Holiday/ Vacation Rentals, as we do whenever we can, this time two different houses and a motel on different hops along the way.

At each place we stumbled on an irritating problem, each different, each destined to be repeated for future guests over and over, due to the psychology of strangers.

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Have you made yourself free?

In August I had a horrible experience.

With no prior warning, a friend my age who runs a holiday rental business had a massive heart attack and died.

It was a terrible loss of a fantastic person, but it got worse. He had done the entire booking and back office part of his business and his wife had done a lot of the polish that resulted in delighted guests. But she knew nothing about what happened behind the scenes.

Happily, after some very serious scrambling, his wife made some quick support arrangements for someone to help while she started to put her life back together.

It made me realise that my business was much the same. Although I had good processes, they were not pulled together in a single document that anyone could pick up and run with. Also my wife and business partner had not been thoroughly trained in the work I did.

I was in exactly the same position as my friend, with the same business exposure. The same double whammy if I were to fall sick.

Time for action.

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To succeed with a target customer niche, you need to specialise and serve those customers really well.

This hit home to me recently when I analysed the different customers who were coming to my 3 quite different properties.

About 75% of bookings from one house Treetops were coming from just one segment.

In our case it is dog owners who want to come on holiday and live close to nature with their loved family companion dog.  This a huge part of our rental income.

It wasn’t just accident, we made it happen.

In this article I reveal how we grew dog owners from 30% to 75% of our customer base.

I also explain why it works well for two of my properties but not a third.

Size of the pet owner market.


About 40% of USA households own dogs and the market in Australia is similar. The emotional tie is also very strong – 91% of pet owners report feeling ‘very close’ to their pet.

But there is a big gap in the market.

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