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   It goes to this  innocent looking page:  [click to continue…]


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…]


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 ( 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…]


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…]


A smart logo can give your guests the impression your vacation rental is a professional operation, not just some amateur rental.  Well run professional operations can charge more.

Your logo can also be part of that all important first impression.  Guests see your logo, hear the soft music playing, the welcome card, the welcome hamper and bottle of wine.  It all sets the scene for an enjoyable stay.  I often greet my guests soon after they arrive and they often melt, saying how wonderful the place is.  The logo on the door and the logo on the welcome folder are just another few of those nice touches setting up those first impressions.


Getting your own logo is easy and can be fun, but first a word of warning on timing.  A logo is a nice extra, but should only be explored after you have done all the hard work setting up and bedding in your operation.  Early on it can be a distraction from the main game which should be about crafting a great experience for your guests and all that involves, from purchase, decoration, marketing and slick processes.  Do the logo at the end, when everything is set up and running.

Getting a logo can be quick and easy.

Gone are the days of paying some fancy designer thousands for a logo.  Thanks to the distributed world of the internet, you can tap into hundreds of thousands of designers around the globe, and it can be cheap and easy.  You can select a designer from a site like Upwork, but is probably the easiest.

99designs – how it works

I used 99designs way back in 2012 after I had finished setting up my Sea Zen rental.  The process is much the same now as it was then.  You set up a brief and designers from all around the world will offer you designs in a competition.  You pay a fixed fee for the design you like best. Timing is up to you, it can take a few days or a few weeks.  I found the experience efficient and enjoyable.


The current base fee for a logo using 99designs is US$300 (A$400).  You can pay more to provide more incentive to designers. [click to continue…]