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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Do you have a newsletter email list that you can use in a crisis? It is a valuable asset.

This was brought home to me this month as the Australian bushfires made the news and guests cancelled, or just stopped booking.  This has happened  across regions far from the areas affected by the fires.  Owners are trapped by the wave of negative publicity. If that is you, what can you do to get your bookings back to normal?

If you have an active newsletter to your list of past guests, you can use it as an asset in the crisis.  You can contact past guests, reassure them that you are unaffected by the crisis, and tell them you would appreciate their support.

This happened to me, twice!  The first time was after a bushfire ripped through our little town of wye River in December 2015, destroying 108 houses.  We lost a house, but another, our beloved Sea Zen survived.  The problem was the relentless negative publicity and people stayed away, even when the town reopened for business, there was no business.

Our newsletter saved us.  We had been sending monthly newsletters to guests for years, including just before the fire, so we were top of mind with a large group of 500 loyal past guests..  In the 24 hours after the fire, I had 94 texts and emails from past guests saying they hoped we were OK, and sending their good wishes.
The hard part came in those weeks afterwards, when past guests didn’t know how they could help, or even if it was safe to come and stay. Some cancelled and bookings dried up.

The solution was to use our newsletter email list to tell our past guests that we were open for business and they could help us simply by booking holidays with us as normal.
It worked.  We were back to normal 85% occupancy within weeks.  The newsletter saved us from a very bad season.
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Nine months later landslides from rain on the damaged soil closed the area again.  It was a rerun of crisis and solution.  Again there was negative press, again a pause in bookings and again I used the newsletter to reassure loyal guests it was OK to return and we appreciated their support.  Again our bookings went back to normal.  Other owners in the area were not so lucky, and it took them many months to recover.  We also did regional lobbying, but that is another story.

If you don’t have an active newsletter, you can still use your database of past guests to tell them you are still open.

If you don’t have an active newsletter, maybe it is time to start.  As I found it can help you in a crisis, it also can help you get far more owner bookings and increase your occupancy.
I recommend a newsletter to all short term rental owners.

To your success in short term rentals.

Rex
PS there are three chapters of actionable advice about newsletters in my book Vacation Rental Mastery

SOME POPULAR PREVIOUS ARTICLES

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This week a friend said she hadn’t listed on booking.com because she was worried they would control her prices.  Is she right?

Well, yes and no.

For years Booking has had a price parity clause in their contract with owners that said the owner had to offer Booking a price as low as anywhere else, that is, to control your price.  However, this practice has come under increasing pressure globally for breaching anti competitive laws.  For example, France has outlawed such practice totally and in most of the EU, you can have any price on external websites, but not lower prices on your own website.
That is also the case in Australia, but you can have lower prices on your website for loyalty schemes and where the prospective guest calls direct.

In practice, hotels with hundreds of rooms are easily scrutinised for keeping to the parity rule.
However many hundreds of sole owner short term rental owners who are confused about price parity anyway are harder to scrutinise.  A smaller owner is likely to set any price they want and if challenged, reasonably say they are confused by the unconscionably complex 11,400 word agreement.   Any crackdown on an individual owner would attract publicity and public outrage at the oppression of a small owner by a giant dominant player, and would possibly trigger a review of anticompetitive behaviour by authorities.

In practical terms, you can do what you like with pricing.

Should my friend list with Booking?  Yes.  They are growing constantly due to their market dominance and bring in valuable extra bookings. In a previous article I discuss how you can optimise your listing with Booking.

If in the most unlikely event they give you grief on price, simply delist, you’ve lost nothing.

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Calendars are at the heart of short term rental operations. Get them right, all goes smoothly.  Get them wrong, it can cause grief.  This article compares the main online travel agency calendars and 5 tips to avoid grief.

Airbnb
Calendars are one area where Airbnb is clunky.  The back end used by owners/ hosts is in monthly rectangular blocks, with availability and rate visible for each day.  You can amend individual days easily, but it is harder to change blocks of dates. Minimum stays are also hard to change.

If you want to change many months or an entire year of pricing, then there are some traps for the unwary.  You need to change the base rates first, then the few date ranges with special dates like events and holidays next.  If you then change your mind and change the standard rate, chances are you will over-ride the special dates.  This can mean low rates at your peak times, which will be quickly snapped up by bargain hunters. If you have instant booking switched on, you have a dilemma.  Do you let the booking stand and lose a lot of money or do you cancel and maybe lose your superhost status?

Booking.com
Booking is the best of the bunch.  Its backend has a horizontal table of dates with the availability, rates and min stay in rows underneath.  It also has a tool for bulk changes to these values.  In a few minutes, you can check visually the entire year for mistakes in pricing.
In November 2019, Booking rolled out a new colour coded calendar display, making visual checking even easier.
Booking also integrates very well with most channel managers.

Homeaway/ vrbo/ Stayz
Homeaway has a similar backend setup to Airbnb, that is rectangular monthly blocks.  Blocked out dates are done in chunks of dates, and rates, minimum stays and availability can be very difficult to change in comparison with Booking. It also has less integration with channel managers.

Our rating for ease of use and effectiveness:
Airbnb             3/5
Booking.com  5/5
Homeaway     3/5

Five tips for getting your calendars right
1 Prepare a master reference document that records the public holidays and peak periods for pricing for the current and next year, and your pricing rates for the different OTAs. Also the minimum stays at different times of year. You record your decisions in one place, and avoid confusing ad hoc changes.
2 Change your forward pricing in the right sequence  – first the standard or minimum rate, then the exceptions, and peak rates.  Always take care if you are changing the standard rate that you haven’t overwritten peak rates.
3 Always check pricing for your peak periods after changing a lot of prices – avoid those bargain hunters who find your mistakes and book at crazy low prices in peak periods.  Those mistakes can lose you a lot of money – or your superhost of ranking status for cancellations.
4 Periodically check your minimum stays, and avoid unbookable gaps between bookings.  For example you may have a 3 day gap between bookings, but with a 4 day minimum, the calendar will correctly not let a guest book those dates, so change it to a 3 day minimum.
5 If possible automatically synchronise your calendars via iCal or a channel manager.  Discussed in a previous article

Let me know if you have any other tips

Article written Dec 2019

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The online travel agencies (OTAs) are responding to industry demand for ‘Co-hosting’ for short term rental property owners. In the past this was hard, but the OTAs have made it easier.

What is Co-hosting?

The owner has set up their OTA account, but for some reason wants another party like a property manager to manage their account, while keeping ultimate control.

This can happen for a number of reasons.  It may be that the owner becomes time poor and finds the managing of users too demanding, so hands the management to a property manager. Alternatively the owner may see their role as setting up the rental and prefers to avoid the day to day management of guests. Or the owner may want to delegate some tasks to a manager like greeting and cleaning. Or the owner wants to delegate some tasks to family or a friend.

In my case, I’m experimenting with using a management company for cleaning and also giving them total guest control, so I can travel more.  I went down the rabbit burrow of co-hosting for the main OTAs – Airbnb, Booking and Homeaway.  This is what I found (Nov 2019). [click to continue…]

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Short term rental owners often think they are locked in to the online travel agencies (OTAs)  like Airbnb for all their bookings.  They feel trapped, exploited and powerless.  Is that you?

What owners should realise that it is quite possible to get 50% or more bookings from your own direct booking sources.  This can save you around 15% in commission charges on those direct bookings.  More importantly it gives you extra bookings and it also gives you control.  Today’s article is a good case study from an owner who took direct bookings from 10% to 65%, and how she did it.

CASE STUDY
A few years ago, Pattianne from Mollymook in NSW Australia had a beautiful beachfront property with a somewhat forgettable name “140 Mitchell Mollymook”. It is a high end property averaging $900 per night, a lot more in the peak season.  She had a beautiful website and most bookings were through the Stayz OTA. She rarely sent news to past guests.  Increasing competition was slowing bookings. [click to continue…]

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