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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So you want to get more direct bookings for your vacation rental.  You want to pay less online travel agency commissions. You also want to be able to answer any questions direct.

You only need to do two things:

1 Delight your guests – so they want to come back, and also tell their friends

2 Have a website where they can easily find you direct when they search for your VR name

 

It sounds so simple, and it is, but some shocking research that I’ve done (below) shows very few owners are doing it!

Delighting guests

Delighting your guests is hard work, but you can do it.  If you do it well, they will want to come back.

But you need to make it easy for them to contact you directly, so your name should be simple and memorable.  When they search for you on the internet they need to be able to find you easily.

 

 A free web presence for you – Google Local Business

The best way to be easily found on the internet is to have a listing on Google Local Business.  It is not quite your own website, but almost as good.  It also gives you a listing on Google Maps.

Guests can always easily find you on Google local Business, just by searching for your VR name.  It is easy to set up, and takes about 15 minutes and it’s free!  You don’t have to have your own website, you can just have your telephone number, and guests will find you.

You can also create your own simple website with your contact details.    There are lots of simple ways to get a website, like WordPress.com, or pay a developer.  Google Local Business will also link to your website for free.

Are your competitors listing on Google Local Business?

Surprisingly, in many locations, very few owners can be found because they are not yet listing on Google Local Business, or their own website.

I decided to check this for a big holiday destination near me – the township of Lorne Victoria that has many hundreds of vacation rentals and a huge summer visitor population of around 20,000 people.

How many owners are listed on google Local Business, and how many had their own website?

I searched on Airbnb for a weekend four months ahead, and chose the top 5 VRs listed and 5 from further down (those ranked 16-20).  A mixed sample of 10 vacation rentals.  I then searched on Google to see how many of those I could find on Local Business and how many I could find with their own website.

 

Shocking results!

Very few could be found.

Only 30% (3 of 10) were on local business, and most of these had no telephone number

Only 10% (1 of 10) had their own website

This means almost none would get their own direct bookings.

Now I could have taken a much bigger sample, but I expect the results would be similar. You could do the same exercise for your own local area.

The bad news is that few VR owners can be found directly on the internet by their delighted guests.

The good news is, if you make that small effort, then you will be found on Google maps, and you will get more direct bookings than your competitors.

What else can you do to get direct bookings?

You can send a newsletter to past guests.  Another topic for another day.

Take Action!

In the meantime, if you haven’t already listed on Google Local business, I suggest you do so today.  Here is my previous article explaining how.

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Google has been quietly running some experiments for Hotels that will probably have a big effect on all vacation rental owners.

Google has been playing around with flights and hotels in the travel space for some time. The current idea is travellers can look up flights and then look up hotels – no big deal.

The big deal is that google has a Hotels search portal that travellers can use to look up hotels, but includes other accommodation too.  It allows travellers to look at the hotels and other accommodation in an area, compare them and … BOOK DIRECT!

Skift says in a recent article that Google Hotels has huge implications, with unsettling pressure on online travel agencies.

Google is treading a fine line here.  It wants the ads (mainly from online travel agencies) and revenue that come up with a normal search for accommodation.  It also wants the flights travel link to hotels and accommodation.  It may one day offer advertising to allow end accommodation providers to advertise direct.  In the meantime it is running experiments and keeping its options open.  It is worth keeping an eye open and ensure you are listed ready – more on that below.

You can see the Hotels search portal at  www.google.com/travel/hotels.   It goes to this  innocent looking page:  [click to continue…]

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A previous article discussed the importance of keeping control of access to your rental.  You should control how and when your guests get access to keys for your rental.

But what are the options for getting the keys?  There are 7 different ways listed below.

There are two broad situations.  The easy one is when your guest has direct access to the front door from the street.  The second situation is where the guest has to pass through some common area like a building lobby.

Another test is whether the guest identification is verified before entry.

Let’s take the 7 options separately, and look at the pros and cons of each.

Entry to door direct from the street

1 Lockbox

The simplest way to get the keys is via a lock box near the front door.  Probably the most popular method.  You set a combination, the guest gets the combination direct from you some time before arrival, usually by email.  The guest keys in the code and gets the keys.  In low risk locations (like when you live nearby), the code may stay the same. In higher risk locations, the cleaner sets a unique code each time.  A handy way to set the code is to the last 4 digits of the guest’s mobile number, easy for the guest to remember.  I used this method effectively for may years in my Richmond city rental and my cleaner loved setting the code!

Pros – Inexpensive to install. Simple. Easy for the guest.  Host can arrange different codes.

Cons – As the guest meets no one, there is no verification that the guest is who they claim to be or the number of people entering. In most locations, this is rarely a problem.

The cleaner has to be organised to change the code and the host organised to convey the code to the cleaner.  Also the same keys are used all the time, which in theory could be copied.

If the guest takes the keys home by mistake, they need to be returned quickly.

 

2 Electronic lock

The door is fitted with an electronic lock and the host provides the guest with a unique code.  The code can be changed by electronic message and software, or the host can choose from many preset codes, controlled by software.  The host sends the code to the guest.

Pros – Easy to set a new code.  No keys. The code expires after the guest leaves, low security risk.

Cons – As for 1 above there is no guest identity verification.

Can be expensive to purchase and install.

Relies on the technology working smoothly.

More software for the host to learn.

 

Where entry is via some common area

This situation is more common in urban areas, apartment buildings, and condominiums.  [click to continue…]

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Today I had what seemed a helpful message from an online travel agency that I list with.

“Let us know where guests can pick-up the keys

Quickly tell us where guests can pick-up the keys so you don’t have to worry about explaining it each time a new guest stays.”

Sounds good, easy for the guest and you, BUT … I say no!

The “but” is that this particular OTA (Booking.com) masks your guest’s email address and censors messages. Keeping the key details in your control gives you leverage to withhold the key details until you get your guest’s full personal email address.  No keys until you get the full address!

Why should you want the full email address?

There are two vital reasons.

1 Your loyalty program

You should keep the option open to be able to email past guests for any reason any time.  The OTAs remove emails after a while, and you have literally no way to contact past guests by email. Once guests stay you can get their permission to go onto your newsletter and if you have the guest personal email you now have a fabulous way of keeping in touch, sending offers and marketing to your own guests.  Remember, it is so much cheaper to get a repeat guest than to acquire a new one.

2 Transparent emails without censorship

With your guest’s direct email, you can send attachments and telephone numbers direct to your guest, knowing they will get them in their entirety.  Guests can also send you any details and they will all come through untouched.

It is well known that OTA robots may censor messages removing attachments and any other information.  Last week, my OTA guest tried to send me his telephone number via the OTA messaging service, but the robots stripped it out, twice, and he had no way of knowing.  [click to continue…]

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Are your guests are leaving problems behind? 

For example, leaving the heating on, or unwashed dishes, or losing the key?  Or do they leave  their chargers behind or are they late leaving?

For remote hosts, some of these can be very expensive, particularly leaving heating on in a ski village.

You need to manage your guests’ exits.

Most guests want to do the right thing, so it is just a matter of telling them – right?  Weeell, it is not so easy, and you need to get the balance reasonable.

The crazy checklist

Some hosts treat their guests as unpaid cleaners, with a long checklist of tasks. You may have seen such a crazy checklist – strip the beds, sweep the floors, empty the firebox, wheel the bins to the street, turn off the pumps, and on and on.   In today’s competitive market, such a list is totally unreasonable, it invites poor reviews and definitely kills any prospect of having your guests return.

The vital few instructions

On the other hand [click to continue…]

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