Home For Owners/Managers Tips for Property Managers

Guest Reviews_white paper

White Paper Study, January 2013

FlipKey Research analyzes user trends, online data, case studies and manager input for property managers and industry professionals. In this study, we look at the importance of guest reviews and online reputation for the booking process.

Notably:

  • 74% of TripAdvisor users state that they write reviews because they want to share a good experience with other travelers
  • 53% of respondents say they will not book a property without reading a review of it

More findings can be found in the full white paper: Everyone Should Be Entitled to Your Guest’s Opinion: How Guest Reviews Can Double Your Business

A new study conducted by PhoCusWright on behalf of TripAdvisor reinforces the importance of reviews in the online booking process. Notably, the study found that 53% of respondents will not book a property that doesn’t have reviews on the site. Other findings include:

  • 87% of respondents agree that reviews help them “feel more confident” in their decisions;
  • 74% write reviews because they want to share a good experience with other travelers;
  • Only 5% looks for negatives when reading reviews; and
  • 84% agree that appropriate management response to a bad review improves their impression of the property

FlipKey Director of International Accounts Koryn Okey will be presenting these findings at this week’s Holiday Rental Professionals Seminar in Barcelona.

Visit this infographic for full survey results.

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!

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.

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

In July 2012, we asked Peter Scott, President of BlueTent Marketing, to provide background on an area of his expertise: tracking online conversions. The report he provided is below:

Following Your Lead: Measuring Conversion to Inform Your Marketing Spend

At BlueTent, we understand that busy clients are overwhelmed by finding new leads while keeping up with their current volume of inquiries, especially during peak season. Our aim is to simplify the process by providing an intelligent look at each manager’s business – one that highlights what’s working and what isn’t.

A key metric is conversion – how many leads convert into bookings? What is the source of those leads? How many times does a customer return to make another transaction — that is, what is the lifetime value of that lead and how does it compare to the comprehensive cost of generating a new customer? By answering these questions, we are able to pinpoint which marketing channels are most helpful and to provide guidance for putting those channels to use.

To accomplish this, BlueTent interprets data from our clients and their websites using the help of external tools like Google Analytics and Navis Narrowcast. In one case, our team analyzed five months of phone and web traffic for one of our rental management clients. At the end of May 2012 the company had collected $160,000 in revenue from one of its primary distribution partners, FlipKey.

In this case, profit was closely tied to conversion: our analysis determined that 56% of the FlipKey leads converted, as we say, “heads into beds.” The leads converted at such a high rate that the cost to acquire each was minimal. What’s more, we anticipate that a number of these leads will become repeat guests. So then, not only does this client’s impressive conversion rate contribute to growth in their customer base, it also indicates significant return on their marketing investment.
To ensure that our clients get the most for their marketing dollars, we encourage them to closely monitor each distribution channel. If you’re ready to take a deeper dive, BlueTent offers solutions to identify and execute dynamic internet marketing that helps you communicate more effectively, streamline your functionality and increase sales.

Contact Peter Scott at +1.970.704.3240 or peter@bluetent.com for more information.

This research initially appeared in FlipKey’s Quarterly Front Desk Report, August 2012

Tips for Guests

One great thing about going on vacation is that you don’t have to pay the energy bill – everything’s included! Which, unfortunately, makes it all too easy to waste resources.

When you’re away from home, it sometimes feels like certain things “don’t count,” so you might scarf down extra handfuls of potato chips, leave the lights on, or take longer showers than usual. But the truth is that your choices have just as much of an impact on the environment on vacation as they do at home. You do have control over your use of energy and resources, especially if you rent a vacation home.

Here are some tips to make your relaxing vacation easy on the planet as well…

Use windows, curtains, and blinds strategically. During hot weather, if you open windows during the cooler nights and mornings, and close them as soon as the outside temperature warms up, you can avoid the need to run the air conditioner all day long. Likewise, you can use the curtains and blinds to regulate indoor temperature: filtering out the sun during the day will naturally keep the inside air cool.

Use the dishwasher. If you wait until the dishwasher is full to run it, you’ll use much less water (and energy to heat the water) than if you washed a few dishes here and there. Besides, it will leave more time for lounging and playing while on vacation. Open the dishwasher door to air dry the dishes afterward. In a rental without a dishwasher, you can save up a pile of dishes and do them all at once, using a bucket of warm, soapy water to avoid running the water too much.

Make yourself at home. Chances are, you don’t leave all the lights on, blast the air conditioning or heat all day and night, and take extra long, hot showers when you’re in your own home. Just having a comfortable, personal experience in a rental home with character can make you take full responsibility for the environment while on vacation. So choose a place that you know you’ll love and care for, rather than one that’s akin to an anonymous hotel room.

Tips for Owners

Everyone is going green these days, and your vacation rental business should be no exception. Vacationers will be increasingly looking for places to stay that are in lign with their Earth-friendly values. Besides, making your property more energy efficient is just good business sense.

Here are some tips on cutting down on your property’s environmental impact—and the bills—while enhancing your guests’ vacation experience…

Buy into renewable energy. If your electric company gives you the choice of paying a few extra cents for wind or solar energy, consider it seriously. Not only will you feel better about your environmental impact; you will also be able to highlight your responsible energy choices in your listing. As a result, you may actually attract environmentally conscious guests who will keep energy usage to a minimum.

Switch to CFL light bulbs and energy efficient appliances. Compact fluorescent light bulbs require much less energy than incandescent bulbs – and they last a lot longer too, reducing your maintenance duties. For refrigerators, dishwashers, microwaves, and other appliances, investing in newer models with the Energy Star label will help renters reduce their energy usage.

Install low-flow showerheads and toilets. Good low-flow showerheads won’t take away from the comfort and luxury of your guests’ experience; they will lower your water and energy bills. Two-button, low-flow toilets are not common yet, so you may want to place a small sign in the bathroom showing guests which button is which.

Put in high quality windows, curtains, and blinds. These window dressings serve as great insulators and temperature regulators in any weather, reducing the need to blast the air conditioning and heat. You should also make sure that the bottom of the door is draft-free.

Stock the cabinets with green cleaning products and supplies. There’s no need to expose your renters and the planet to harmful fumes and chemicals just so they can clean up after themselves. Look into natural, safer products (see GoodGuide and Green Depot), and provide guests with reusable supplies like microfiber cleaning cloths and a clothesline and clothespins.

Joanna Eng is a New York-based writer and editor who covers travel, green living, food, careers, entrepreneurship, and more. Her travel experiences have ranged from hostel hopping in Mexico to staying with distant relatives in China to renting a beach apartment in New Jersey.

Geronimo!Is it possible to fill your booking calendar and contribute to your favorite charity at the same time? Have you ever asked yourself how you could take a vacation and make a difference in society?

These are the questions that Mike Last and Michael McFadden have started to answer with Geronimo.com, a website that asks vacation rental owners and property managers to contribute “one spare week” to charity. I caught up with Michael the other day and had the chance to discuss Geronimo, how the service works, and where it’s going.

FlipKey: Let’s start with the basics – what is Geronimo and how does it work?

Michael McFadden: Geronimo is a service that allows vacation rental owners and property managers to donate a portion of a rental income to the non-profit of their choice without dealing with the hassle of non-profit bureaucracy. Essentially, you list a property at a discounted rate (we recommend a 20% discount) for a set period of time on Geronimo.com. The owners can get half of the rental income, and the other half is for the net donation.