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Monthly Archives: October 2008

We are excited to announce that FlipKey will be a featured speaker at this year’s VRMA Annual Conference & Showcase next week in Phoenix, AZ.

Each year the VRMA Conference and Showcase seeks to unite those involved in the vacation rental industry by providing cutting-edge information to its attendees, as well as the opportunity to network and share ideas. The Conference draws light to the evolving industry and has proven to be a valuable resource for those actively participating in the industry.

To see some pictures of last year’s show click here.

At this year’s VRMA Conference and Showcase, TJ Mahony, CEO of FlipKey.com will offer insight on “How Guest Reviews Can Boost Business,” and  “Social Strategies to Convert Prospects & Motivate Owners,” ultimately sharing experiences and highlighting new services and strategies that are available in the market.

Throughout the five-day conference, there are a number of interesting topics scheduled for discussion including:

All Things Not Google

Travel Insurance for The Vacation Rental Industry

Vacation Rental Managers Media Preparation Workshop

Reservation Phone Calls: Best Practices That Build Revenue

Google Advertising for Vacation Rental Managers

And More! We hope to see you there.

A few months ago my friends and I were planning a trip to Las Vegas. Being in the Vacation Rental industry, I decided to float a crazy idea out there about where we should stay – in a vacation rental! The reaction from the group was consistent and discouraging, “Renting a house in Vegas? Not staying on The Strip? Blasphemy!”. I had inadvertently touched a nerve that exemplifies one of the industry’s major challenges – how do we educate people to understand that vacation rentals are a preferable option to hotels?

Armed with a bevy of insider facts and figures I diligently went to work at swaying the group. I found a few great housing options and explained the benefits.

 Carl’s Vegas Picture

My home for the weekend

 

Cost

Eight of us were going on the trip. For five nights we were looking at four hotel rooms at about $200/night on The Strip. Total cost = $4000.

The house I found was about $1500 for five nights. It contained ten separate beds across 6 bedrooms. Total cost = $1500.

Food & Beverage

My chosen house had a full kitchen and a 6-foot long grill out back. A quick trip to Costco on the first day and we’d be eating an assortment of breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and late night snacks at the house. Compared to the Strip’s exorbitant food prices and $7+ drinks, this was another significant area for savings.

Socialization

The reason we were going to Vegas in the first place was a reunion of sorts. We all went to college in Virginia together and have become scattered across the country over the last 10 years. Thus, it’s rare that we all get together and this trip was an opportunity for us to catch up. The rental house offered ample space for relaxation and entertainment. It included a beautiful pool, hot tub, pool table, poker table, big screen tv, and a patio with a gorgeous gazebo out back.

Location

This was the final barrier to entry for everybody (self included). The house was about three miles off The Strip. However, we decided that the rest of the benefits outweighed the location, and we took the plunge. Having just returned from the trip, I can now safely say that the location was not as big of an issue as we thought. We rented a van for about $300, and it was only about an 8-minute drive to The Strip. When the occasional taxi was needed it was a reasonable $20 trip. The van even paid for itself with all the airport pickups and drop-offs that would have otherwise required taxis.

Ultimately, we ended up spending more time at the house than anywhere else and everybody felt it was their best trip to Vegas ever. Vegas can be a grind of long hours with minimal sleep, but the vacation house offers a much-needed respite from the indulgences of The Strip.

While heading to the airport on our last day, my friend said it best: “You know, in a year I’m not going to remember the hundred bucks I won or lost at the blackjack table. But I will never forget how much fun we had at that house.”

It’s no secret that the Travel Industry performance trends closely with economic factors at a local, national and international level. Poor economic conditions lead to lower consumer confidence, which leads to decreased spending. Personal travel – being a luxury – is one of the more obvious places to trim fat from a budget. It’s during uncertain economic times that taking on a travel insurance policy becomes an increasingly wise investment.CSA

At Rezfest last month CSA spoke about Travel insurance issues specific to the Vacation rental industry, and explained how Rental Insurance can benefit not only guests, but property managers and rental owners as well. We’ve touched on the value of travel insurance from a consumer perspective in an earlier post, but one service of particular importance is the reimbursement of reservation costs in the event of a cancellation. The option to cancel a future trip is immensely valuable, as it allows a traveler to hedge against economic uncertainty.

For homeowners and property managers, Travel insurance provides several benefits. In general, Travelers who purchase insurance policies do so during the reservation process. Because of the added security and upfront cost, these vacationers are substantially less likely to cancel a reservation. For managers specifically, Travel Insurance can represent an additional revenue stream, as many travel insurance companies (CSA included) will offer performance incentives to managers who encourage renters to purchase insurance.

How can property managers incorporate vacation rental insurance into their reservation process? Ultimately this depends on local markets, and how reservations are booked, but CSA offers the following general advice:

  • Know how your competitors pricing and booking process, and apply this knowledge to your business
  • Always encourage upfront payment for bookings
  • Build insurance into the cost of your rentals or into optional components of an invoice
  • Use touch points such as a final payment reminder to encourage the purchase of a policy
  • For reservations made through the web, add travel insurance options to the booking process.

If you’re interested in learning more about vacation rental insurance, purchasing a policy or signing up as a vacation rental insurance affiliate, vacationrentalinsurance.com has some great resources to get you started.

The following is an excerpt from a recent Instant Software client newsletter.  To read the full article ISI click here.

——————- ISI Insider Newsletter—————–

ISI Clients are Increasing Booking Conversions with New Integrated Guest Review Service Powered by FlipKey

Instant Software and FlipKey launched an integrated seamless guest review service during RezFest 2008. In less than three weeks since launching, 35 property management companies have successfully begun integrating guest reviews through ISILink. Over 4000 reviews have already posted on 1500 properties with an average rating of 4.32 out of 5. Getting started with guest reviews is quick and easy…and it’s also FREE.

WHY COMPANIES ARE USING FLIPKEY / ISI GUEST REVIEWS

Research shows that recommendations from prior guests have a dramatic effect on booking conversions. According to Compete, Inc., 78% of vacationers say they are significantly more likely to book a vacation home if they can read reviews from past guests. TripAdvisor notes that hotel websites have doubled their conversion rates after incorporating guest reviews into their websites. Why? Because they remove the uncertainty and unpredictability often associated with a potential accommodation.

Not only will guest reviews likely increase your booking conversions, but through FlipKey, you will also increase your marketing distribution. In 2009, TripAdvisor will begin promoting vacation rentals that feature FlipKey reviews, giving you the opportunity to promote your properties to more than 24 million visitors per month.

MANAGE YOUR REPUTATION – NO REVIEW IS A BAD REVIEW

Some property management companies have expressed concern about potentially negative ratings. However, 81% of guest reviews are positive to very positive with an average rating for ISI clients of 4.32 out of 5. In fact, only 4% of guest reviews are negative and these minor cases are critical in establishing the credibility of all your positive reviews. Research has shown products featuring at least a few critical reviews convert better than products featuring only positive reviews.

To read more click here.

In the past few weeks there has been growing discourse over the proposed bi-laws of VRMA and the future direction of the organization.

 Save VRMA

FlipKey has invested heavily in the promotion of the vacation rental industry and supports multiple organizations (VRMA, Discover Vacation Homes, CFVRMA, etc.) to further the collective interests of our industry.

To that effect, we felt it was prudent to make our readers aware of Alex Risser’s (President, Outer Beaches Realty) Save VRMA campaign.   Although this is not an endorsement of any particular party, we do feel it’s important our readers are aware of the emerging issues that are being addressed at this years annual VRMA Board Meeting.

This information is taken from www.savevrma.com where you can find additional information on the current issues, what Alex is proposing and your options as a VRMA member.

If you are a VRMA member you should have received meeting notes from last years annual board meeting, Restated By Laws of VRMA and a proxy vote form.  Please consult these materials to understand all aspects of this year’s voting issues, topics and positions.

————Taken from SaveVRMA.com————–

We, the undersigned, collectively urge Vacation Rental Managers Association members to give their general proxy to VRMA Board Member Alex Risser so that he will have the voting power to bring about some urgently needed changes in VRMA’s management and direction.

We believe that VRMA is our best hope of addressing urgent technology, political and economic trends that are threatening our industry.

We have reluctantly concluded that VRMA’s current management, while having done a good job coordinating conferences for our members, has done too little in expanding VRMA’s membership and participation in issues that are too large for any individual member, including:

  • National promotion of vacation rental homes to hotel customers;
  • Educating renters to differentiate managed from self-managed rental homes;
  • Community restrictions on vacation rentals;
  • The lack of a central industry website to compete with rent-by-owner sites;
  • Legislative initiatives that would make flood insurance more expensive or unavailable.

A few weeks ago, several members of the FlipKey team attended the 4th annual RezFest, a 2-day conference for Instant Software users, in lovely Snowmass Village, Colorado. Hundreds of property managers from across the country attended.

 RezFest Logo

The event, held at The Silvertree Hotel & Snowmass Conference Center was centered on informative class sessions, which provided property managers the opportunity to hear about the latest trends in the vacation rental industry, learn about Instant Software’s latest offerings, and those of their partners. A special thanks to the Instant Software team for their dedication to making the event a great success — you did a fantastic job!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the FlipKey booth and learned more about our service.  In many cases started managers activated their FlipKey account and began collecting guest reviews during the conference!  It was great to meet plenty of new folks and re-connect with all of the property managers who are already using FlipKey.  We look forward to continuing to work with you.

Please enjoy some of our favorite shots from the weekend.  Note: We’ve spared several people, mostly ourselves, by not including photos from the evening festivities.  We’ll see many of you at Annual VRMA in Phoenix in a few weeks!

 Independence Pass
Beautiful views along Independence Pass

 Team FlipKey Indepedance Pass
Team FlipKey at 12,095 Feet

 Barb from Lahaina

Bryan helps Barb from Lahaina Island Accommodations activate her integrated FlipKey Account

 Koryn RezFest
Koryn spreads the good word about FlipKey

 Jenny Carlson, Alpine Lodging

Bryan speaks with Jenny from Alpine Lodging

Koryn at FlipKey BoothKoryn working at the FlipKey booth