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.