Tina Villis

#BOOKDIRECT – What’s this all about?

The #BookDirect campaign started Tuesday February 7 2018
– so  what is this all about?

The #bookdirect Movement aims to show travellers booking online that hefty booking fees are avoidable if they book through the owner or property manager’s website. February 7 was Guest Education Day, with the objective to let guests know that it pays to book smart, book local and book direct. There are many advantages to bypassing third party channels like Airbnb, Stayz, Expedia, Booking.com, HomeAway, Trip Advisor and Flipkey. These Online Travel Agencies (or OTAs) are almost entirely removed from the hosting experience. They do not own or manage any properties; they won’t meet you at the property when a possum is running amok in your suitcase. Their business model is limited to connecting travellers with hosts. My aim for this post is to continue spreading the word to the general public; I am concerned that the majority of travellers may be unaware of the fact that when they book through these sites they are paying a higher rate for a lessened accommodation experience!

SO WHY BOOK DIRECT?

  • You save by booking direct – OTAs add hundreds of dollars to your booking total; often as a percentage so the longer the booking, the greater the fee.
  • When you book direct you have direct contact with the manager or owner. Managers and owners have intimate knowledge of the property and destination – you can find out more about the property and location; if you have special needs (say family or a pet), your host can work with you directly before you commit to booking.
  • The best price isn’t on the OTAs, and OTAs can’t negotiate.
  • Many of the best holiday rentals are not listed on the major sites.
  • During non-peak periods managers and owners can offer special deals for you to consider.

Much of the push for #bookdirect has come for VRM Intel in the US, where the trend to remove interaction between owners and guests has already taken hold; OTAs and third party booking sites have made recent changes to their business models that have been detrimental to both guests and accommodation providers (including managers, owners and hosts). Guests who insist on having a more direct relationship with their accommodation providers are reinforcing an important baseline for the industry – one built on open communication between hosts and guests.

#bookdirect #bookdirectmovement #australianluxurystays #propertymanagers #homeowners #airbnbhosts #savehundredsofdollars #saveonaccommodationbookings #avoidbookingfees

Tina Villis

6 SUGGESTIONS TO INCLUDE IN A HOLIDAY RENTAL WELCOME PACK

Following on from last week’s post and my comments relating to lack of information available to us, when we stayed at a holiday house managed by a real estate company recently. So I decided to list some essential content to include for guests prior to or on arrival.

One thing to bear in mind is to include every point that a guest would require who is brand new to the area and the property. Leaving comprehensive instructions is the best way to avoid panicked phone calls from guests. Sending an electronic copy of the Welcome booklet prior to arrival is a good idea. A Welcome booklet is an attractively presented, well-structured and friendly manual that makes your make guests stay as comfortable as possible.

Here are the 6 top sections to include:

1. WELCOME INFORMATION
Commence with a few words welcoming the guests to the property, a phone number so that you (owner/manager) can be contacted easily, the property address and some numbers for emergency services which can be accessed in a hurry.

2. ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE INFORMATION
Details such as arrival and departure times, meet and greet procedures, access to keys or a key safe, car and street parking, security alarms, intercom procedures etc., will all assist in a smooth transition for both arrivals and departures.

3. ABOUT THE ACCOMMODATION
This section is the perfect place to include instructions for using amenities like Wi-Fi, television, sound system, barbeque, swimming pool, spa, appliances, etc. as well as setting out House Rules clearly. House Rules stipulate instructions on what is expected of the guests during their stay, including noise levels, party restrictions, non-smoking, security, laundry and linen guidelines, rubbish disposal and collection, reporting breakages, pet rules, water and septic systems if applicable, and any bi-laws or community etiquette.

4. PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Details of where to find ATMs, pharmacies, medical and hospital services, super- markets, shopping centres, car rentals. A section needs to be dedicated to the attractions and activities the location has to offer plus a list of local cafés and restaurants, bars, hotels with phone numbers and website links to help guests find them easier and make reservations if needed.

5. INVENTORY
Let your guests know what is provided – anything from a ‘starter pack’, linen supplies, a hair dryer, laundry detergent, dish washer tablets, tea, coffee, paper products, salt & pepper, etc. plus any perishable items they are free to use such as herbs & spices.

6. EMERGENCIES
Instructions in case of emergencies can prevent guests panicking – include what to do in the advent of a fire, location of fire extinguisher, fire blanket, first aid kit and evacuation plan. In case of a power failure the location of the meter and fuse box can be useful, and instructions for specific seasonal weather conditions, for example a pending cyclone, can allay fears.
This is a minimum list of contents – use this information to provide to all your guests making their stay as hassle-free as possible. This will save you many headaches including your precious time, in trying to rectify any issues. With comprehensive instructions these situations may not havae occurred.

#australianluxurystays #welcomebooklet #shorttermrentalaccommodation #holidayaccommodation #southaustralia #fleurieupeninsula #welcomebookcontents #luxuryaccommodation #bookdirect

admin

#BOOKDIRECT

We here at Australian Luxury Stays value the exposure provided by our third-party Online Travel Agency partners, but the seasoned traveller will know the benefit of coming directly to book!

Aside from saving potentially hundreds of dollars, direct booking allows the guest to interact with the team actually familiar with the property and locale – we’re charming people with a vested interest in providing our guests with the best possible experience!

#bookdirect !

#bookdirect

Tina Villis

HOLIDAY RENTALS MANAGED BY REAL ESTATE COMPANIES

MY RECENT EXPERIENCE

I stayed over Christmas and New Year at a property down on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia with my family – luxury accommodation with fabulous sea views. The property was advertised as Holiday Accommodation and managed by a Real Estate company. As the owner of a portfolio of short term and holiday accommodation for over 15 years I believe I have the background to make comment.

This is what I found:

  • There was no BBQ – a must for a holiday at the beach.
  • The house was not clean – on the surface it looked fine but moving some furniture to accommodate guests on Christmas Day revealed some gremlins! Cutlery & glasses needed to be washed prior to use.
  • No hair dryer.
  • Wi-Fi was available but could not be used as the password had obviously been changed.
  • Instructions for the property were hand written on three small white cards.

Some helpful hints for real estate companies managing holiday/short term accommodation – how to remedy a similar situation in the future:

  1. Providing a BBQ is essential – entertaining guests around a BBQ is part of Australian
  2. A hair dryer is a must (you do get one supplied staying in a hotel).
  3. Functioning Wi-fi is mandatory. Guests check access to Wi-Fi before they check to see if there is running water!
  4. Cleanliness is one of the biggest pain points and is one of principal reasons that lead to guest complaints. Lack of cleanliness can ruin a guest’s stay before it begins and for managers it can ruin their business reputation. Working closely with your cleaners to ensure the highest standards goes hand in hand with pleasing your guests and maintaining business credibility.
  5. Provide a Welcome Book of comprehensive instructions is essential, anticipating any problems or issues before they arise. It needs to be tailored to suit the individual property, including arrival and departure information, rubbish disposal, instructions for using amenities like Wi-Fi, television, sound system, BBQ, swimming pool etc., as well house as rules regarding things like smoking, guest behaviour, parties, breakages, parking, security, pets – to name but a few.

I am an advocate for the holiday/short term rental industry and therefore encourage all management companies and owner/operators to provide the ‘best’ for their guest’s stay… and roll out that bbq!

 

Tina Villis

7 STRATEGIES TO GROW YOUR SHORT TERM ACCOMMODATION RENTAL BUSINESS IN 2018

I am an avid podcast listener particularly in relation to the Short Term Accommodation Rental Industry with the majority of the content coming from the US. I spent sometime over the festive break to work on my growth strategies for Australian Luxury Stays for this year and sharing the ideas with you will make me more accountable to follow through.

Being in the Short Term Accommodation business becomes more challenging every year with increased competition, rising guest expectations, the need to keep abreast of technology and the rate of disruption is not going to go away.

1.   CONTENT IS KING

Create more content – this is one thing the OTAs (online travel agencies such as Airbnb, Stayz, HomeAway, Trip Advisor etc.) cannot do. This provides us with a uniqueness by focussing on content. Guest usually focus on location before making abooking so why not attract them to your website with your content which will encourage them to make a booking directly with you.

So I am up and running creating content adding blogs to my website, www.australianluxurystays.com.au, creating a Youtube channel, pushing content through LinkedIn, sharing on Facebook groups, and utilising Instagram more. Content can be really about anything but needs to be relevant and current, well optimised to drive traffic back to your website.

 

2.   INCREASE SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVITY

Choose a site a become really active on it. Depending on the target audience you are trying to attract, you may prefer Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so on. As I am trying to target property owners, investors, mortgage brokers, real estate agents, to name but a few, I am choosing LinkedIn as my preference as I am looking for high end properties to grow the Australian Luxury Stays portfolio.

 

3.   MAKE VIDEOS and MORE VIDEOS

I am determined to make 2018 the year of starting to do videos. I hesitated due to fear – what will I look like on camera, what will I sound like. Apparently I will have to put all this aside and just do it, no more excuses as it supposedly works.

A good place to start is with something that you are familiar with, so I plan to do a short video of each property we have on our website and an introduction video introducing myself as the owner of Australian Luxury Stays. Other suggestions can be ‘how to videos’, interviewing owner’s with their stories and tips for choosing the best property management company for short term accommodation.

 

4.   MAKE NETWORKING AN OBSESSION

I am to committing to a least two networking meetups per week in 2018. Yes, you can do it via social media however ‘face to face’ is so much better, so take every opportunity to do this. I plan to a coffee with other short term Property Manager’s and individual Accommodation Operators as it is amazing what you can learn by sharing knowledge particularly on how to tackle the growing challenge of regulations.

I already attend local business breakfasts on a regular basis but I will endeavour to join more associations. Attending industry workshops and at least one conference this year is also high on my agenda. The cost to attend can be claimed as a business expense and the value can be measured by the growth in your business after the event.

 

5.   PUSH EMAIL MARKETING

Receiving more emails in my inbox almost puts me into overwhelm! Automation of emails seems to be the trend however this is difficult to do without losing a personal touch. Emailing the owners on a regular basis with an interesting article just keeps them in touch with you and similarly emailing past guests with just a brief on a new property keeps you on their radar. Encouraging guests to come back and book directly with you rather that through the OTAs is a financial saving to them. Email marketing is definitely on my radar for 2018.

 

6.   MEASURE TRAFFIC TO YOUR WEBSITE

Google Analytics is an amazing tool and it is free. It registers the traffic to your website, how your content is really doing, measures page views and provides simple statistics which can assist in the management of your website. My key focus will be on the listing pages, where prospective owners visit to find out information about joining Australian Luxury Stays.  To date it has not been a priority however to grow my portfolio of properties it needs to be monitored, reviewed and adjusted accordingly.

 

7.   USE VIRTUAL STAFF

Running a small short term accommodation business is labour intensive with the owner on many occasions left to do many tasks even after staff leave for the day. I realise that at times I am not the best person to do the job and my time could be better spent on work in my areas of expertise and interest. Outsourcing is going to be on my agenda this year as my time and staff time can be better spent on the tasks that are best done in the office and use outsourcing services such as Fiverr where tasks are performed in a fraction of the time, response is within 24 hours and is very cost effective.

So there it is for this year – I could add more to the list but I think I would put everyone including myself into overwhelm. I hope some of these strategies will help you compile your list for 2018.

 

Tina Villis

Five tips for Success in the Short Term Rental Accommodation Industry #5

Tip 5. MARKETING AND CUSTOMER SERVICE

Achieving success in this industry is far more than jumping on the latest bandwagon and listing in a ‘scattergun’ fashion. Smart owners know exactly what their return is on marketing trends. There is much more to marketing than creating a listing. However, no amount of marketing and advertising can beat the success of word of mouth endorsements. You want your guests to be raving fans – they are walking bill boards for your business.

Listing your property on the various third party booking sites has positives and negatives. You do get more exposure, however it come at a cost either to the owner or the guest. Your website is your very own marketing tool so make sure it is a true reflection of your business. It should be easy to navigate and responsive, so intending customers do not get put off and jump to one of your competitors!

The best web listings and sites have only the best photographs. The old saying ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ is never truer. Fabulous quality photographs taken by a professional photographer tell the story and paint the picture and should be so good that words are not necessary. Bedrooms showing bare mattresses, uneven and crumpled linen on beds, kitchens with dishes and empty beer bottles, outdoor images with junk lying around are not acceptable. Once you are on the internet whether on another site or your own, your property is exposed to the rest of the world.

Keep your branding for your business consistent, that is the same colours, the same fonts, consistent logo imaging. Your signature branding needs to flow through not only your website, but your business card, templates, email signatures, brochures, any advertising, sign boards and so forth.

When managing a short term accommodation business there are two types of customers – guests and property owners. It takes time to build a relationship with a property owner who have entrusted their property to your management. They are often concerned that everything will move forward as planned and may become ultra-sensitive and worry over trivial matters (at the time they do not think they are trivial matters of course). Communication is essential in these early stages & regular updates on their property, guest feedback and reviews are high priority. They also need to feel comfortable to pick up the phone and talk to you. There is so much more meaning in a conversation rather than a black and white email. Understanding their individual requirements is essential, for example, if they would like to use their property from time to time, or would prefer a more regular income and so may like the idea of a longer term guest. Over time, strong trusting relationships are built and through that connection, these owners are great ambassadors for your business and are a great referral resource.

Some guests will seek interacting personally with you, from the initial enquiry, to the ‘meet and greet’, to their departure. Appreciating the different needs of guests and treating them as individuals goes a long way toward having the guests repeat their business with you. Guest love customer service that is responsive and personable.

Responding to guest enquiries is the cornerstone to beating the competition in an overcrowded market. People will remember you and your property if you are quick to respond. If there is a delayed response, guests will have already moved on to another site or listing. Respond to emails within 24 hours, and that means answering enquiries daily. If there are vacancies, rather than email, pick up the phone and you will be surprised how this will increase your booking rates. When the response to an enquiry comes back instantly, it creates a positive perception within guests’ minds, particularly if it is friendly and personal reply rather than canned or generic.

Despite your website, third party booking sites, marketing and promotion material, advertising and social media, it is important to remember that owners and guests are still the greatest ambassadors for your business.

The end of the five tips in the series for creating success in the Short Term Rental Accommodation.

admin

Accommodating Refined Experiences

Allrealty Pty Ltd is a property management & real estate company operating out of Adelaide, South Australia. Specialising in furnished accommodation, we also operate short-term luxury accommodation management under the banner of Australian Luxury Stays.

Founded, owned & operated by Tina Villis, Allrealty & Australian Luxury Stays manage property across South Australia & around Darwin in the Northern Territory.

Questions about how Allrealty can turn your property into a revenue stream? Contact us today for a friendly discussion.

Tina Villis

Five tips for Success in the Short Term Rental Accommodation Industry #4

TIP 4. KEEP PACE OF INDUSTRY TRENDS

You cannot afford to be stuck the present and be solely focused on the day-to-day. It’s crucial to keep one eye focused on the future, including upcoming movements in the industry. If you are not anticipating the next big thing, you are destined to fall behind. Successful business owners study trends and anticipate what’s coming around the bend. As accommodation rental owners, you need to stay ahead of trends and ride the wave – maximising returns and the sustainability of your business.

There are a plethora of ways to maintain current in the industry: by joining relevant associations, forming local groups, forums on social media, researching on line and reading magazines and books, listening to podcasts and webinars, attending conferences and networking are all excellent ways to learn more about the industry you are in and the trends from overseas which we usually follow.

Some associations and groups worth considering are:

  • Bed & Breakfast Association
  •  Farm Stay
  • Holiday Rental Industry Association
  • Tourism Associations
  • Business Networking Groups
  • Local Chamber of Commerce
  • Networking groups with local owners

Our industry is consumed by the huge world-wide online booking agencies and that is all they are, purely bookings only. They are not accommodation managers, and their primary goal is to make bookings and take a commission. Yes, they serve a useful purpose, however the ideal is to have guests making enquiries direct to you or through your own website.

Airbnb is creeping into all parts of the world and the public often refer to our businesses as ‘Airbnb’. One of the main concerns is the public believe that anybody, anywhere can rent out a room. This has hidden risks involved as some homeowners do not understand the need for appropriate insurance cover, are not aware of safety and security issues, and have little understanding on how to vet their guests appropriately. Unfortunately, this affects the credibility of our industry.

There have been court cases in the Eastern states in relation to properties illegally being offered for accommodation (sub-letting) through Airbnb and high court cases involving local councils and governments on the use of high rise apartment buildings being allowed to holiday let. There are moves in some localities where owners are being asked to register with council for approval to run an accommodation business as it is deemed a commercial operation. It would be advisable for all short-term rental operators to accept and endorse the Holiday Rental Industry National Code of Conduct with House Rules to help maintain standards and to sustain self-regulation.

The current consumer market is choosing fully furnished and self-contained accommodation as an increasingly popular alternative to hotel accommodation. Space, comfort, facilities, amenities, cost and the chance to soak up the ambience of the locality are the main reasons for choosing this type of accommodation. The hotel industry has become concerned with this trend and are involved in the investigations into the short term accommodation industry in most states of Australia, pushing for regulation of our sector.

Holiday rental businesses have not been historically known to work closely together, however if this industry continues to come under attack around the world it is imperative that operators work more closely together and unite against regulatory and community adversity. The more universal version is that short term rental professionals the world over need to find each other as a support network both for our individual well-being and the well-being of the greater whole.

Stay posted for TIP 5. MARKETING AND CUSTOMER SERVICE

 

Tina Villis

Five tips for Success in the Short Term Rental Accommodation Industry #3

Tip 3. KNOW YOUR PRODUCT

Regardless of the number of properties you manage, it is essential that you know your product – the properties – intimately. Before this process begins assessment of the property for suitability for accommodation is the first step.

Questions to ask:

  • Is the location a marketable location, for example, beach, city, suburban, regional
  • Is the property type suitable, for example, cottage, villa, apartment, townhouse
  • Are there one, two, three bedrooms or more
  • How many bathrooms
  • Parking availability
  • Is the property fully furnished and self-contained
  • Maximum number of guests
  • Are there any stairs
  • Wheelchair friendly
  • Number of outdoor areas
  • Is there a pool or gym
  • Is the owner an owner/occupier or investor

When this information is gathered and after a visit to the property and meeting the owner, only then is it possible to decide whether the property is suitable for short term accommodation. Not every property ticks all the boxes – it may not be to a quality standard or the location may not be suitable.

Another important criteria in your assessment, is to understand the mindset of the owner. It is important that they are not too attached to the property, allowing you to manage the property – they need to have 5-star mentality, and they need to trust you and your vision. Owners who cannot ‘let go’ tend to micro manage and it makes a working relationship frustrating and time consuming on both sides.

If the decision is made to move forward, it is important to then appraise the property. This serves two immediate purposes – if a prospective guest has questions about the property, you are able to answer with full knowledge. This assists in building a relationship with the guest and they are more likely to book. Secondly, if issues occur when a guest is staying, say an electrical fault, you are able to use their assistance to trouble shoot, possibly saving you a lengthy trip to reset a tripped circuit breaker.

In addition to appraising the property it is also important to provide an inventory, that is, all the contents within the property including all furnishings and everything down to the number of knives and forks. It is a good idea to take photographs, especially of drawers and cupboards. This assists when an inventory audit is conducted and helps housekeeping staff check to see where items are normally kept – this is especially useful as guests tend to move items around.

For owners and managers of a property, knowing the product both internally and externally is essential. Each property will have important details that must be known – from the type of heating and cooling, accessibility, facilities provided (for example, tennis court, swimming pool, gym, games room, business centre, conference facilities), child friendly, pet friendly, security, type of water, smoke alarms, security alarm systems, utility meter locations, to the disposal of rubbish. This is far from an exhaustive list!

For this reason, documenting all the features of a property is essential. Kept on file for reference for ease of access. If you are the owner/manager of more than one property it is difficult to recall every property feature so it is important to have documented evidence to refer to. It also serves as a resource for the documentation prepared for guests, and can be used to guide service contractors and maintenance staff to the correct location.

It is a core essential to know as much about the property as possible. That knowledge gives confidence to the guest if things go wrong – as inevitably they do.

Watch this space for TIP 4. KEEP PACE OF INDUSTRY TRENDS

 

Tina Villis

Five tips for Success in the Short Term Rental Accommodation Industry #2

Tip 2. ADAPTING TO CHANGE

The success of your business hinges on your ability to provide a niche in the market-driven accommodation industry. You need to know what the accommodation market is a searching for and if you identify a deficit you may need to change your approach. In the last 5 years there has been a real shift in the market regarding the wants and needs of travellers. Relocation personnel are coming from interstate and overseas to meet the demand for specialised skill sets required for various industries, and this means there has been a shift in the need for alternative accommodation options.

For this to occur your business needs to be able to adapt to change from what it always has been to what it needs to be. The ability to adapt to the market is a real strength to the success of your business. If you fail to move with the times the competition will be so strong that the business you started no longer fits the needs of the market. The ability to adapt to a changing market is not easy, however it can be both challenging and rewarding.

Some strategies may include:

  • Offering short and medium stays – from a few nights to a several weeks or months
  • Considering long term options, say a 6 –12 month lease
  • Increasing your portfolio of properties. This may mean purchasing additional properties or managing other owners’ properties
  • Linking up with other accommodation operators
  • Offering holistic management services in your local area
  • Consider a booking-only management service

To offer flexible services to meet market demand is a move to establish your business in a niche market. A world where communication to anywhere is at the push of a button and travel allows us to commute from one side of the globe to the other in a relative short space of time drastically changes the face of the accommodation industry. These are exciting times and we need to take up the challenge, make changes and be market leaders whether we are regional, city-based, national or worldwide.

Stay posted for Tip 3. KNOW YOUR PRODUCT