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Yearly Archives: 2012

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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…

Ahh, Disney. The castles, the characters, the rides. Who could resist this wonderful paradise with the slogan “Where Dreams Come True?” Here at FlipKey, we figured out, NO ONE can. Our research shows that requests and rental prices are pretty consistent year-round. Meaning, it’s always a good time for a Disney vacation. And with 50% of inquiries coming from groups of 4-6 people, Disney is a clear favorite among families. So, Griswolds: pack up your bags, take out those mouse ears, and get ready to cross off “Disney Family Vacation” from your bucket list. After all, who wants to miss out on the magic?

The first word that comes to mind when someone says the Caribbean is paradise. So it should be no surprise that with over 7,000 islands it can be tricky to pick the perfect destination for your getaway. Fortunately, FlipKey’s Travel Trends data gives you the information you need to make the most out of your tropical escape: The top 5 spots to visit in the Caribbean are:

  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Rincon, Puerto Rico
  • Negril, Jamaica
  • Saint Thomas, US Virgin Islands
  • Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

 

Once you have picked your spot, you should think about when to take your holiday in the sun. Since prices spike to around $400 a night in March and April, you should avoid traveling to the Caribbean during these months if you are on a tight budget. Prices are lower around Valentine’s Day, allowing you to take your special someone on a romantic retreat.

As the weather cools down we know that you ski bunnies have nothing on the mind but snow. Chances are, depending on where you live, you’re aching for the mountains out west that are already starting to collect snow for another amazing season. So it was no surprise to us at FlipKey that when we analyzed our traveler data for Colorado we found that 4 out of 5 top travel spots in Colorado are the ski towns Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail and Steamboat Springs.

If you’re planning a trip to the Rockies for the top ski weeks of the year, Spring Break and Christmas Break, then make sure you give yourself 10-12 weeks to book your vacation rental due to high demand. But don’t forget about Colorado’s summer slopes! You will find below average rental prices during the off-season, from May through November. There are plenty of activities to partake in even after the slopes are closed. 15.1% of our travelers head to Estes Park to check out the hot springs and Rocky Mountain National Park nearby. Plus, you only have to plan your trip 5-7 weeks in advance and will find a more peaceful getaway.

Today we are featuring Katie Boyer, who studied public relations, journalism, and Spanish at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA and now works with Go Overseas in the Bay Area. Follow Katie on Twitter and 

As our world becomes more connected, more travelers are interested in long-term, meaningful travel opportunities. Teaching abroad is one of the best ways to live like a local in a new town. Whether you’re volunteering, earning a stipend, or teaching as a career, there are plenty of options for those looking to teach internationally. You can teach through a recruiting company, through a school, tutor privately, homeschool, or teach in after-school groups.

English is a popular subject to teach abroad for many reasons. First of all, many foreign governments, especially in Asia, push their citizens to learn English for economic reasons. Secondly, many programs allow anyone who is native speaker to teach English. Teaching English is definitely the most common way to teach abroad but it isn’t the only subject you can teach.

While English is the easiest subject for native-speakers to master, teaching a subject you have an expertise in will increase your impact on the students. For example, if a chemistry teacher from California wants to teach chemistry in Europe, their experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm for chemistry will transfer to their lessons.

What skills do you have that you could teach others in another country?

  • Teach math and science
  • Teach world history
  • Teach and coach sports
  • Teach art
  • Teach primary school

There are plenty of organizations that offer programs around the world that need teachers in a variety of subjects. Some popular organizations include:

1. United Planet

United Planet has teaching programs around the world. You can join a “teaching quest” as a volunteer and teach in primary school or even to older kids. Subjects that need volunteer teachers include Mathematics, Biology, Economics, French, Physics, Geography, History, English, Book keeping and Accounting, Science, French, IT and Social Studies. Popular “teaching quests” take place in Nepal and Tanzania.

2. Global Volunteers

Global Volunteers is a great organization for volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. Their programs allow you to go beyond teaching basic English and math and also focus on vocational subjects like catering, nutrition and household management.

3. ISV

International Student Volunteers (ISV) lets volunteers choose between teaching English, Math, Geography, Sciences or Health Education to local youth in the Dominican Republic, Australia, and New Zealand.

4. Global Routes

Global Routes offers a variety of teaching options in Kenya and Ecuador among other locations. Volunteer teachers with global routes can teach English, math, science, social studies, or environmental education.

5. Trek to Teach

This adventurous volunteer program allows you to teach whatever subject has the most need at the time. From teaching math and science to geography, Trek to Teach offers all types of programs. Their program in Nepal is great for travelers with all different skills and backgrounds.

Teaching is a great way to immerse yourself in the local community while traveling. Whatever skills you have, there is sure to be a teaching program right for you! So get out there and share your expertise with students around the world.

We have been conducting in-depth research of travel data collected on FlipKey, and it’s time to start unveiling the results. In an effort to extend the summer, we bring you travel trends from the Aloha State: Hawaii vacation rentals offer great value for groups of all sizes, but we discovered that Hawaii truly sparkles as a top spot for romantic rendezvous. 45% of all travelers planning Hawaii vacations travel in groups of two, and the short romantic getaway is a surprisingly popular option for islands that are a few thousand miles from… everything.

Hawaii Travel Trends Sept 12
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