Advocates

If not, now is the time to learn how you can achieve Rental Mastery:

  • Use psychology to convert more bookings
  • Turn guests into advocates
  • Know the vital few things you should do to achieve the best results
  • Be fully booked 90% of the time

I share with you how I took a brand new rental to 80% occupancy in 3 months.

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The Airbnb host thought she had it right for guest entertainment.  A massive TV, expensive surround sound system, Blu-ray player, Apple TV and fast internet.  A $3000 investment.  All the manuals were in a very pretty folder.

All a guest would want right?  No, actually a serious FAIL!   A guest nightmare, because it was missing the key ingredient – simple tips on how to use it all easily.

That was my experience this week in a charming Airbnb in central Hobart, Australia.  The host was pulling out all stops to make her new rental delight her guests, or so she thought with the top of the range entertainment system, and even a Netflix account.

The problem for me the guest was how to work the damn thing?  Different brands, different remotes, and a sequence you had to get right. The long operating manuals would not help.

It took half an hour of trial and error to get the sound working, and another half an hour of trial and error to get the Netflix (mostly) working.  An interesting challenge for a techy like me, but is that really the way guests want to spend their holiday break?  Some guests will give up and never see the benefits the host intended.

The less is more solution

After running short term rentals for twenty years, I have learned the hard way that less is more, and that TV system is an excellent example.  For that, a simple page of TV instructions is essential.

A simple tips and instructions page helps the guest get going in a minute and they can truly enjoy that $3000 investment.  [click to continue…]

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A double booking is the vacation rental owner’s worst nightmare.

It usually comes as a confused call from a guest trying to check in when you already have guests staying. Oh no! It usually means hours negotiating a change and arranging alternative accommodation AND probably a bad review AND maybe loss of Airbnb superhost status!  Lots of stress.

The obvious solution is some channel manager software to synchronise all your calendars at once, but in recent years most solutions have been too expensive, typically A$100 per month, beyond the budget of small VR owners of just one or two properties.  Also some of the channel managers have been unable to synchronise with some of the Online Travel Agencies like Airbnb.

That is all ending as a number of vendors are emerging with low cost solutions.  Also the OTAs are realising that it is in their interest to make it easy for any number of channel managers to synchronise their software.  The easier it is for owners to synchronise with them, the more owners will sign up to their platform.  We are in the middle of a mini revolution.

This is also a perfect time to take the next step in getting more direct bookings.

Not only are there affordable channel managers emerging, they also have online calendars and online booking software that can be bolted onto the VR owner’s own website.  View the diagram at the end of this article to see how it works.

As mentioned in last week’s post, affordability, the holy grail of channel managers for VR owners, is now within reach.

A suitable Channel Manager – Update247

I stumbled on Update247  at an affordable price a few months ago, and only got around looking into it recently.  It came with glowing recommendations from Dianne, a very savvy vacation rental owner in Melbourne who has been using it effectively for over 5 years.

Update 247 is an affordable A$35/mth, much less than many competitors.  It comes complete with a calendar and booking engine (Booking247) that you can link to from your website to take direct bookings online.  My colleague Barry from London also uses it and the price is a lot lower there (10 pounds/mth) as they start to penetrate the UK market.  Update247 also has a low price guarantee, which makes it useful for any new location. [click to continue…]

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I was on a roll.  In the second half of 2018, my Sea Zen vacation rental calendars were blocked out months ahead , largely from repeat guests and direct bookings. This was in a tough environment where my competitors were running at around 25% occupancy.

I was succeeding in a tough environment – this  was the perfect scenario for a VR owner.

So with some nervous confidence, I switched off my Online Travel Agency listings to see if I could run my VR rental solely with my own bookings.  I reported in my weekly newsletter.

The hard results

After a few months, my direct bookings slowed and it was harder to fill the calendar. Bookings slowed further.   My occupancy dropped from 95% to around 60% in November.  Ooops!

It seems that I had been getting ‘leakage’ direct to my website from searchers who found my listing on Airbnb, etc and who then found my own website and booked direct with me there.  This leakage dried up when my listings were switched off.

Back to the OTAs

In mid December, with some humility, I switched my OTA listings back on.  Some OTA bookings and more leakage to my own direct bookings.  I was back in business.

Occupancy bounced back to 90% and stayed there.

I have some good plans for increasing direct bookings and later in 2019, I’ll try the experiment again.  Stay tuned.

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In the meantime, I set out on a search to find the holy grail – an inexpensive channel manager to synchronise calendars while you sleep, and a cheap robust website builder. That search was a lot more successful.   More on that next time.

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Are you leaving money on the table because the little things are wrong?

We have all seen one vacation rental property thriving while a similar property is struggling.

The coffee capsule story

This was highlighted to me this week when a cleaner told me that a property she cleaned never needed more coffee capsules for the coffee machine.   On checking closer, she found the owner had provided a reserve of capsules which were a different size than the machine itself.  For the last year, guests had been trying to make coffee and were unable to.  The owner had unknowingly been frustrating his guests.

What else had been going wrong at the property? Chances are, all sorts of little things.  Chances are there are lots of little niggles and the guests leave frustrated.  Chances are they won’t come back and they won’t recommend the house to their friends.

I asked if it was frequently booked and of course the answer was no.

I asked if the owner had a guest questionnaire and of course the answer was no.

This is a repeating pattern right across our industry.  The problems could have been solved with some simple feedback.  But it’s complicated.

The psychology of feedback

Most of us shy away from conflict.  When something goes wrong, it takes a certain amount of diplomacy to say there has been a problem in a way that is constructive.  If you are a guest on holiday in relax mode, the last thing you want is an argument.  You [click to continue…]

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So your vacation rental listings are perfect, right?  But what if you are missing something?

It is amazing what a fresh set of eyes brings to an existing listing.  It pays to periodically check your listings, and the start of the year is a good time.  You can do it yourself, and you might get a colleague to do another pass for you.

I encourage all my readers to check out their own listings now.
You never know what you might find.  If you have a few critical omissions, you may be losing 10-20% from your bottom line.

This hit me vividly when I looked over a friend’s new Airbnb listing that was prepared for him by professionals.  There were a lot of little things that popped out as I looked it over.  I found 7 things that could be improved.

How alert are you to  improvements? The 5 minute check.
You might want to check out the same listing and see how alert you are to improvements. Without looking at my improvement list below, how many items can you find to improve?  It is a 2BR apartment in a great location in the heart of downtown Melbourne, freshly renovated and beautifully presented. The target market is out of town visitors looking to discover Melbourne.   The Airbnb site is shown HERE.

It should take you about 5 minutes max to do your own check of it.  Make your own list before peeking at my list.  Do it now if you can.  This is what the listing looks like. [click to continue…]

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