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.


VRM 600g

Newsletter – Just enter your email address to get free updates on achieving Rental Mastery.
You also get our free eBook revealing my secret method for achieving amazing conversion rates.

Email Address 



Where should you be putting your efforts into getting bookings for your vacation rental?

Wouldn’t it be nice to predict which online travel agencies (OTAs) are becoming more successful in your area, so you can concentrate on them?  Is Airbnb growing faster than, or vice versa? Or is Tripadvisor emerging a winner? Where should you be putting your efforts to help your vacation rental succeed?

It is really hard to get reliable data that tells you how the online travel agencies are performing locally for your customers. The current trend is also hard to understand.

It is true to a large degree that you can predict the future by looking in the rear view mirror.  What has been the past trend? What will happen if it continues?

Fortunately Google gives you a way to get a good overall impression about the trend with OTAs in your country, to help you make better decisions for your vacation rental.

Google Trends reporting tool
Google Trends  ( gives you a good report on what people are searching Google for over time, and how different  searches compare with each other. You can see the results worldwide, by country and over time.

This article shows you what those trends are for the major OTAs.  You can see what is happening globally, in the USA, Australia and the UK.  You can also run your own report for any other country in a few seconds.

1 GLOBAL trends for the main OTAs
This graph below shows the relative volumes of searches worldwide, for Tripadvisor, Airbnb, Booking, Expedia and VRBO over the past 5 years.
It shows:

  • Tripadvisor (blue) gradually declining
  • Airbnb (red) rapidly growing from a small base to be a higher proportion than Tripadvisor or Expedia (green), and flattening off in the past year. The flattening off is consistent with observations reported by Skift
  • Booking (yellow, proxy for dominating globally and steadily increasing
  • Expedia is declining slightly over time, and VRBO (purple) is relatively small on the global stage.

Global 1500

[click to continue…]


The gift voucher

Do you offer a gift voucher on your website?

It is a very useful way of increasing your own direct bookings.  I have several families who every year gift a stay at my Sea Zen vacation rental to their children.

It is a win for everybody.  The parents have an easy highly valued gift to give their children, usually at Christmas time, but also for birthdays.  The children appreciate the gift and love their stay at my vacation rental.  I have another direct booking with no commission to a third party.

It is also a handy gift for a couple getting married, usually given by workmates clubbing together to make a nice gift, practical, that will be appreciated.

How it works

My website has a button saying Gift Voucher, which takes a reader to a page that explains that you can buy a gift voucher, with an example of the voucher itself.  They are invited to contact me to purchase a voucher. [click to continue…]


How do you get the best professional photographs? Is it hit and miss – or is there a sure fire way of getting top photographs?

Mark Fergus, a professional who also runs his own B&B is perfectly placed to answer.  Mark has taken high end photos for scores of holiday rentals. His work is fabulous, there are links where you can see it at the end.

He answers 14 questions I put to him, and at the end gives advice to owners who are about to have photographs taken.  If this is you, or you are considering having new photos taken, this is a must read.

Q How long have you been taking photographs of holiday rentals professionally?
A: The first holiday rental shoot I did was for a farm retreat in 2007, and since then I’ve returned many times to update the shots for the delightful owners. Prior to that I had photographed interiors and construction projects, primarily for builders and architects.

Q What kind of brief do you get from owners for an assignment before starting?
A: Often it will be very basic. Something like, “I need some better shots for my website”. However, I encourage clients to think as if they are the potential guest. What would they want to see when they themselves book accommodation. Start by looking at the online listings of some respected local equivalent VR’s.
Q what kind of preparation should the owner do beforehand, and during the shoot?
A: Have the exterior tidy and ready. The grass should be cut and paths and decks swept or blown clean. Move any bins out of view. Make sure outdoor furniture and BBQ’s are clean and prepared rather than under a winter cover or looking neglected. Set outdoor tables as if they’re being used, even if it’s just a teapot, cups and magazine. [click to continue…]


The cleaner I fired

A few years back, I had to make a difficult decision  when I fired a good cleaner.

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

So why would I fire her?

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

It’s a cleaning business

I learned from a wise vacation rental manager 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 efective 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

The basics:

1 Able to clean every surface in a house efficiently
2 Good eye for detail and presentation to an agreed standard
3 Organised and able to read a guest schedule online
4 Have backup support for unexpected illness and holidays


No surprises so far, but here are the extra differentiators:

5 Understands the rental business

This is the key differentiator. Guests may want a last minute early check in or late check out. Can the cleaner cope with a last minute booking? The owner will need swift communication and a quick yes/ no decision from the cleaner.

6 Helps with logistics

A good cleaner helps organise the linen/ laundering; the rubbish bins; the feedback forms; keeping an eye on water, gas, firewood (this is a big deal in wilderness locations like two of my rentals); collecting lost property; ordering and stocking consumables.

7 Proactive at spotting maintenance problems

Everything can fail. A good cleaner anticipates failures and works with the owner for timely maintenance.

8 Helps in emergencies


So does the perfect cleaner exist? Yes, let me introduce you to:

Saint Lizzie – the perfect cleaner

I literally bumped into Lizzie about 10 years ago as she came from my neighbour’s house. Could she clean Alto – my city property – for me? ‘Of course darling.’ I was to learn that this mature lady with sparkling eyes would sprinkle her sentences with ‘darling’ – and nothing fazed her.

She and her partner Ange handled the basic cleaning effortlessly. (items 1-4 ticked off).

But it was the ongoing stream of suggestions that elevated her to sainthood status. I guess I encouraged her along the way.

The telephone conversations kept coming. “Darling, if tomorrow’s guests want to leave their bags while we are cleaning, they can have a coffee and I’ll call them when we are done.”
Over time, this progressed further. “Darling, I’ve called the guests and they are going to leave their bags with us while we clean” (Item 5, Understands the business, tick)

Logistics were next. “Darling, I’ve found a cheaper laundry, just round the corner, and she’s very good, should we change to her?”
“Darling, I’ve spoken to the guests and Ange will pop around tomorrow and put the bins out. How about we just do that in future?”
“Darling, the bins were overflowing, so we took a few bags home”. (item 6, Logistics, tick)

There are calls about maintenance: “Darling, the bedroom carpet is getting a bit grubby, there is a good steam cleaning man – should I tell him to go ahead?”
“The gate latch is playing up darling, would you like my man to fix it next Tuesday after the guests leave?” (item 7 Maintenance, tick)

But is when things go wrong, she thrives.
“Oh darling, just sharing, you wouldn’t believe it but the guests locked themselves inside! No matter, I just popped around and sorted them out..”
“Just letting you know darling, Ange posted back the scarf the guests left behind..”
“Oh darling, the guests needed a different bed setup than what you had on the list, so they had a coffee while we did a quick change. I hope you don’t mind, but we bought them a nice bottle of wine. ..”
As we all know, our worst nightmare is a double booking.
“Darling, I think there has been a muddle and guests have arrived who weren’t on the list. They are happy if I can book them into that nice Quest place. You might like to give them a call, and let me know if I should go ahead” (item 8, Helps in emergencies, tick)

Of course it is a two way street. Our job as owners is to make is as easy as possible for our cleaners to do their job and to empower them to make decisions on the spot.
If Lizzie asked for anything, she got it. I tell her how much I appreciate what she and Ange do for me. At Christmas, they got a huge hamper from us and Gold class movie tickets.
When she has an medical operation, I call, and drop by to say hello.

When you find a Lizzie, you hang on to them like the gold that they are, and give them anything they want.

Your cleaner is your partner

I’ve seen owners who think that it is clever to chisel their cleaners on price, and keep doing it as their cleaners leave and new ones take their place. It is a dumb strategy. Your cleaner is a partner, and a cornerstone of your business.

It is particularly important in Australia, where cleaners are paid fairly, at a going rate of $30 and more per hour, cleaning is a big part of overheads. (I currently pay $80 per hour for a very high standard clean in an area where cleaners are scarce!)   In countries where cleaners cost under $10 per hour, it may be a different story.

So , why did I fire the good cleaner?

She thought that a clean surface was what cleaners did. She didn’t bother with our checklist, I personally had to check on services and I refunded big money to guests who found the BBQ uncleaned, and some doggy doo under the outside table. She helped with some logistics, but not consistently.  But worst of all when I needed to speak to her about an urgent guest issue, she rarely answered the phone, except later that day when her ‘cleaning’ was done.

She also dumped hot ashes on the garden and the adjacent shed burned down – it was insured, so not the end of the earth, but this was minor compared to not understanding the rental business.

And compared to Lizzie, and Jim (another gem), she didn’t measure up.

I’d done my homework and our new cleaner IS another Lizzie, great thanks Lesley.

Growing your cleaner

You may find your cleaner is good, but not yet the perfect cleaner. Have you empowered them to do the extra, knowing they will be rewarded for it?  Or are you holding them back?
If you have no good alternative you may have to accept who you have. But what is important is to know that great cleaners DO exist, and when you see one, grab them and shower them with attention. They will help you take your rental to the next level.

Have you found the perfect cleaner?

How does your cleaner measure up on the 8 point checklist?

Please share with us in the comments below your story of a cleaner who goes the extra mile.

[This is an updated version of a very popular 2014 article.]

[click to continue…]


There’s a great name game going on and it’s serious.

This is the great name game:

  • On the one hand, you want to establish your rental name as a brand for loyalty.
  • On the other hand, the mega listing companies want to obliterate your name and reinforce their own brand.

Why your vacation rental needs a distinctive name.

It is how you establish credibility.  You can put it on multiple listing sites, and it will be seen by enquirers in those multiple places.

It is how you can be easily found when you have your own website.  It is the name past loyal guests will remember and search for. It is the name friends of past guests will look for when referred by your guests, and it is the name your own friends and family will look for.

It is the phrase smart renters will search for in Google to book with you direct on your website, so they get a better price and you save on commissions.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a website just now; they are getting simpler, easier, and cheaper. The main thing is to reinforce your brand everywhere until you do have your own website.

They want you lost!

The big listing sites want to own your listing as a confusing commodity so you are lost and enquirers can’t find you elsewhere. They do not want you to establish your brand. [click to continue…]