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Monthly Archives: October 2012

There’s something about live music that strikes a music lover’s soul. No matter what your taste may be, listening to your favorite musician or your favorite song live has the power to affect people on an emotional level. Just being in the same room as the musician and watching the music being created without auto-tune or editing is unlike any experience you can get at home.

Now imagine having that experience in a town that is known for its musical talents. Being around people who appreciate that music as much as you do takes it to another level. Strangers can become friends by the end of the night when you share a passion for the same music. And if the first venue you try isn’t for you, then there are plenty more down the street in music-invested towns.

What if your passion is for a particular style? Whether you’re a die-hard country cowboy or a jazz aficionado, we have good news for you: Across the U.S. are a myriad of towns that will fill your need to hear country, jazz, indie-rock or whatever genre suits your fancy. We took the liberty of compiling America’s top music destinations, along with rentals in close proximity to popular venues. Take a sneak peak at some of those properties below!


1. Philadelphia
Philly’s local music scene has exploded over the past years, most notably starting in the 80’s. From classical to R&B and Hip Hop, Philly has vibrant and diverse music tastes. Some well-known Philly musicians? Try Will Smith, Lisa Lopes of TLC, Chiddy Bang, and The Roots.

2. Nashville
Named by Rolling Stone as having the country’s “Best Music Scene”, Nashville is a must-visit. From the venues, to bars, to record and clothing stores, Nashville has it all for music lovers. Sleep, eat, shop, and listen in true rocker style.

3. Austin
Aside from having a great entertainment scene, Austin is home to many of the best music festivals. South by Southwest, Urban Music Festival,  and Fun, Fun, Funfest are just a few of them. And with nearly 200 venues to choose from, you might have a hard time finding places without musicians.

4. New York
New York’s music scene, much like the city itself, is a “melting pot” of music genres and styles. It also is the birthplace of salsa, hip hop, and disco. The city hosts numerous festivals, has hundreds of venues, and has some of the best musical theatre in the country. With this many options, it might be awhile before you get to sort through it all.

FlipKey CEO TJ Mahony and COO Jeremy Gall recently returned from speaking at this year’s Vacation Rental Managers’ Association’s Annual Conference in Phoenix. In case you missed their sessions or are hoping for more background, a copy of each’s presentation is below.

Defining (and Redefining) Your Guest Experience, presented by Jeremy Gall

As Google notes in its e-book, Zero Moment of Truth, the average consumer researches a product on more than five sites before making a purchasing decision. With so many options and so little time to make an impression, it is increasingly important to differentiate your company’s service. This talk discusses how defining your company’s guest experience can achieve that goal.

The Conversion Experience: Getting Your Foot in the Door and Your Customers Through It, presented by TJ Mahony

Research by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs shows that it costs five to six times as much to acquire a first-time customer as it does to keep a current one. Starting with an overview of what makes conversion so important, this session shows how rental managers can improve conversion rates throughout the guest shopping process to lower their CPAs while raising their return on marketing and operational investment.

We’re completing our TripAdvisor reviews from the conference, and thanks to those who stopped by our “ReCharge” booth. We look forward to seeing you for the next round!

At this week’s gathering of vacation rental managers at the Annual VRMA conference in Phoeniz, AZ, FlipKey COO Jeremy Gall discussed Google’s “Zero Moment of Truth” and how to win it in the context of optimizing a vacation rental guest’s experience throughout the entire booking process. You can learn more about his presentation here.

In the meantime, we’ve been learning more about ZMOT’s concept to “Manage With Bids, Not With Budget.” Essentially, it calls for suppliers to “open your budget” by figuring out your profit point and so you can “uncap your budget.”

This concept recalls how we often advise clients to consider their ROI when evaluating their monthly BookingSense pay-per-lead budget. In response, many clients have chosen to remove their budget limit altogether; with it, we’ve seen that these clients are also removing the limit on how many interested travelers can contact them and can then be converted to “heads in beds.”

We’re happy to run a quick analysis to help you determine you “profit point” to see if this kind of budgeting will benefit your business. For now, a bit more information from ZMOT:


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When we think of the Fall season, we think football, Thanksgiving, and, you guessed it, Halloween. For many, Halloween isn’t just spooky, it’s an exciting and fun holiday! Putting the finishing touches on a costume is always the best part of the celebrating the day known as “All Hallows Eve.” And for the kids, the biggest reward is coming home with a full bag of candy.

So, are you a little Halloween-obsessed? Love the idea of getting into costume or taking the family to collect candy around the block? For those of you who pick this holiday over a more cozy Thanksgiving, we here at FlipKey suggest you take your plans up a notch — why not stay at an actual haunted house or city? From Savannah, Georgia to Oaxaca, Mexico, we have plenty of rentals to choose from. Just take a look at our ten best Halloween Hot Spots:

1. OK Street Jailhouse
This former jail was built back in 1904 and stayed active until 1915. According the listing, management will not enter the premises until you leave – assuring complete privacy. As the only inmate allowed, don’t get too scared of the large John Wayne statue looming somewhere in the background…

2. Haunted Savannah Cottage
Savannah, Georgia is considered by many to be one of the most haunted cities in America. Filled with stories of pirates and violent battles, this city is full of spirits and Laura’s cottage is no exception – it’s even part of the district’s walking ghost tour! Luckily for guests, the cottage’s ghost is considered “friendly.”

3. The Witch’s Condo
If you’re looking for a Halloween vacation, Salem is one of your best bets for a scary getaway. Besides the well-known witch trials, Salem is filled with haunted houses and spooky museums. This condo is right in the middle of it all and incredibly convenient for taking short walks around the city at night.

4. The Haywood House
This second Savannah rental was home to an ice merchant known as Alfred Haywood, who later became Mayor of Savannah. Now a beautifully restored apartment, this rental sits on top of the Colonial Park Cemetery. If you like being scared, perhaps a ghost tour and then a walk through the cemetery would add a little excitement during the Halloween season.

5. Transylvanian Villa
This luxury Romanian villa comes with everything from a fireplace to a terrace to a barbecue grill. But, only a few miles away lies the home of Count Dracula himself. If you dare, take a visit, walk home through the dark forest, and sleep with one eye open…

Thanks to all who joined us for last week’s webinar “ZMOT & Defining Your Guest Experience,” presented by FlipKey COO Jeremy Gall. Below, please find a copy of Jeremy’s presentation deck.

As always, we’re happy to answer your questions about FlipKey and TripAdvisor: +1.617.849.7010; pmaccounts@flipkey.com.

Click here to access: ZMOT and Defining Your Guest Experience, Presented by J. Gall, Fall 2012.

With less than a month to go before America heads to the polls, we keep thinking about the candidates hitting the road. After all, for those of us here at FlipKey, visiting over 25 towns across the country in a month sounds like a dream job – but who can afford it? Over the past four months, President Obama’s campaign travel expenses have totaled a cool $3 million, which may have factored into his decision to skip this year’s summer vacation. Meanwhile, challenger Mitt Romney has shown that the first step to becoming president is traveling like one: the former governor has poured close to $10 million into travel for himself and his staff. Looking at these price tags, we decided to go to work and find out exactly what it takes to travel like a president…

Presidential Campaign Travel Comparison
Want the Presidential Travel Comparison on your site? Copy and paste the HTML below:

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Since introducing our research on Hawaii Travel Trends, we’ve gotten a ton of great feedback about planning a vacation to the islands. We also found some other useful infographics that can help you determine where and when to go when you want to visit the Pacific Paradise. These travel tips come straight from our friends at Go Visit Hawaii and Hawaiian Beach Rentals – both experts in getting into the Aloha spirit.

Matt Landau recently published a new book, Matt’s Definitive Handbook On Email Marketing, which will be available FREE through Oct. 5th

by Matt Landau

You’ll hear arguments for privacy or spaciousness or value. But as you may know from my blog, I believe the #1 reason travelers choose vacation rentals over traditional hotels is personality.

Long gone are the days when our parents loaded into air-conditioned tour buses and holed up in all-inclusive resorts. Nowadays, travel has gone boutique. And there’s no better indicator of everyone’s preferences evolving towards “the authentic” than the growth of the vacation rental industry, which serves those who want to immerse, meet locals, and explore destinations on their own, without the help of a name-tagged tour guide (or his paddle or his megaphone).

Today, It’s About Authentic Experiences

Vacation rentals themselves – which is to say, the actual properties – contribute in large part to the authenticity of a vacation. Travelers can bring back groceries from the local tienda to make lunch in their rental’s kitchen. They can invite over locals for drinks on the balcony. They can chat with neighbors in a foreign language. They can wash their own clothes without $20 fees. And, at the end of a long night, they can tell taxi drivers they’d just like to go “home.”

Clearly, the vacation rental itself is a building block of authentic travel. But there is perhaps one factor that’s even more important in helping construct a “local” experience, and that is you, the host.

The Owner Identity

The relationship between host and traveler is built on a foundation of inherent trust. I trust that you will stay in my rental and not burn it to the ground and you trust that my vacation rental IS what I say it IS. But the best vacation rental owners take it a step further.

The best vacation rental owners in the world offer their guests not the luxury of their property, but the luxury of being connected. – Me

These great owners don’t just tell you what restaurant to eat at – they tell you what time to eat there and what dish to order. They don’t just suggest a tour for the afternoon – they call up their friend who gives the tour himself as if you were family. This is the value of the owner identity: part concierge, part friend, part insider expert. If your name comes up more than just a few times in your guest reviews, you have created an owner identity that has added value to someone’s vacation.

But ask yourself this question: assuming you have some/all of these attributes, are you marketing them properly? Most owners don’t do justice to the personalized service they offer. This is oftentimes a service that will sway guests from staying at a hotel, to trying something more unique.

3 Ways To Share Your Identity With Guests

Here is how you take advantage of perhaps the most important variable in vacation rental travel: the owner identity…

1. Get professional pictures
If you’re going to be the face of your rental – the one answering phones, making bookings, and responding if something goes wrong – having a smart looking profile picture is essential. And no, I’m not talking about the cropped photo of you with some mystery person’s arm over your shoulder at cousin Mimi’s wedding. Hire a local photographer to take some glamor shots of you at your property. You owe it to yourself. And your rental. Example: Check out these photos of Hans and Miranda in their Cortijo El Guarda Rural Retreat in Spain.

2. Start a blog
There’s no better way to convey a sense of expertise or hospitality or authenticity than a blog. The best owners use their blog to fill guests in on everything from activities to insider tips around town. If you’ve ever gone somewhere new and had a friend/relative/host that showed took you to all the best places so that you could maximize your vacation time, you know the beauty and value and comfort of being in someone else’s capable hands. A blog is the manifestation of these virtues all rolled into one! Example: Check out this Roatan vacations blog as it is not only SEO optimized, but also informative and seriously authoritative in proving this owner knows what he/she is talking about. [Note: in full disclosure, I just helped this owner with work on his website.]

3. Tell a story
Chances are, your guests have asked you a million times, “So, how did you end up here?” Why? Because people like stories. Travelers love to go home and tell friends about “their awesome host Matt, an American who ended up in Panama,” because it adds character to the reference. So the more you can leverage that personal story to your advantage, the better. Most listing sites like FlipKey have a portion of the page dedicated to owner profiles: it’s no secret that properties with personalities get more bookings. Example: Scroll down to the Owner’s Profile of this villa rental Petra in Tuscany to learn why she’s such a compelling hostess.

Let’s face it guys: 90% of vacation rentals are not as nice as the nearest ultra-luxury hotel. We know this David ain’t no Goliath. But by playing up your identity and by highlighting the true luxury you offer guests as host extraordinaire, comparing your rental with the world’s most renowned hospitality institutions suddenly doesn’t seem so far off.

Matt is the author of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and also the founder of VRLeap.com, where vacation rental owners and managers can find great services and tools at largely discounted prices.

Last week, FlipKey CEO TJ Mahony presented at the Annual RezFest Conference for property managers held in Las Vegas, NV. His topic? Conversion, and how nurturing it can drive bookings. Below are slides from his talk, and we’re happy to answer any questions about them: pmaccounts@flipkey.com.

Turning the Call into Action – FlipKey RezFest – 2012

Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America, has it all for those who enjoy vacations near the slopes. Here at FlipKey, we figured out skiers really like to travel to this winter wonderland in big groups; more than 1/3 of all reservations were made for parties of eight or more. Planning a wedding? Doing a family reunion? Or just getting away with friends for a week? Lake Tahoe is your best bet. And since planning time averages just 4-6 weeks, we highly suggest you take a look at some of our research below…