Tina Villis

IS AIRBNB ALL IT IS CRACKED UP TO BE?

Christmas in July

For those of us in Southern Australia, July is generally the coldest month of winter, leading us to celebrate ‘Christmas in July’. These festivities emulate the atmosphere of the northern hemisphere winter. So that means hearty food like roasts, and warm drinks in front of fireplace. In that spirit we’d like to explore a ‘hot topic’, something that everyone is talking about world-wide, worth as much as $42billion, is captured in one word: AIRBNB.

Diamond Christmas Crackers
Airbnb; all it’s cracked up to be?

As many of you may have booked and stayed in a property advertised through Aribnb as a guest, or are thinking of using Airbnb to rent your property and become a host, I thought it was timely to discuss some of the opportunities and obstacles, as we ponder the question – is Airbnb all it is cracked up to be?

The word Airbnb is on everyone’s lips. Similar to Uber, Airbnb is part of the sharing economy, with the brand operating as a framework for those who actually possess the product. Airbnb simply facilitates contact between hosts and guests, although even this is changing. The undeniable truth however is how from the company’s humble beginnings it has continued to rampage across the holiday rental market, forcing the old hands to reconsider their operational models. It has spread so quickly that “Airbnb” has become a verb; people are saying “let’s Airbnb it!” When I talk to people about Australian Luxury Stays and explain that we provide short term holiday rental accommodation, they respond by saying “oh, you are Airbnb?”

Airbnb is still growing at a jaw-dropping rate at 100% year on year growth in Australia, leaving other major Online Travel Agencies like HomeAway well behind.

So what caveats should a potential AIRBNB HOST be considering?

  • The biggest issue is the limited ability to screen guests or in some cases, to even talk to them before they book. Yes, you can check guest reviews if there are any, or resort to searching social media for their footprint, but this is an unsatisfactory checking mechanism.
  • The massive growth of Airbnb equates to a saturated holiday rental market, which means that competition is rampant and occupancy rates lower.
  • Letting strangers into your home might not mesh with everyone; even if it sounds good on paper, the reality of the experience can be confronting.
  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst; a simple search reveals an abundance of Airbnb horror stories, however, these extremes aside, hosts must prepare for the inevitable over-crowding, cleanliness issues, unadvised parties and noise complaints from neighbours.
  • If you are reliant on an OTA such as Airbnb for your visibility, you are tied to their fate; you will want to keep an eye on relevant legislation and remain prepared for the wind to change.

 In turn what should an AIRBNB GUEST be considering?

  • There is always a danger online that what you see you might not get on arrival. A mild example might be a photo of a barbecue pictured in the listing not being present in reality. It doesn’t hurt to confirm with host.
  • Learn about your host before booking, and engage with them once you have. Courteous, effective communication should be your host’s first step to welcoming you for your stay.
  • Refund policies vary from listing to listing; for cancelling at short notice, you may be out of pocket even with extenuating circumstances.
  • There may be issues with an inexperienced host who has not considered safety precautions, for example, potential trips and slips, or the property lacking a fire extinguisher or fire blanket… or enough toilet paper for a full house.

The big thing to remember for both hosts and guests are the commissions charged by OTAs – as much as
5% to the host and 13% to the guest. 

The long term goal is the growth and encouragement of the #bookdirect movement, but of course not everyone has the facility and must rely on third-party listing sites. This will save you money whether a host or guest. As a host, your own website may be seriously worth considering. Guests of course are encouraged to do the research! Booking direct can make for significant savings, but also potentially a better accommodation experience as you interact with your prospective host.

At Australian Luxury Stays screening guests is one of our most important tasks; we encourage phone communication so there is the smoothest possible experience for both the guest and the owner, but we like to ensure that our guests are as comfortable as possible as well!

Meanwhile, the Airbnb band wagon is certainly trundling along despite the pitfalls. With over 100 million stays in 2017, it may be worth further investigating to decide if Airbnb is really all it is cracked up to be – for you.

If you are a property owner considering an Airbnb listing for potential income, we are happy to discuss this opportunity with you. Contact Australian Luxury Stays today!

Wishing you a Happy Christmas in July.

Warm Regards

AUSTRALIAN LUXURY STAYS TEAM

Tina Villis

Move over, Motels – the Accommodation Share Economy is Rolling Through

I recently read an amusing article in the SA Weekend by Australian Columnist Susie O’Brien, titled “Why my kids would prefer I’d book an Airbnb”. The content really got me reminiscing about my experiences staying in motels with my parents, when the only alternative option to accommodation in hotel, was the motel. Situated usually in locations on the outskirts of a town suitable for passing traffic, including holiday makers on the way to their holiday destination or the overnight stay for the business rep coming into town for the monthly visit.

I smiled and sniggered as I read Susie’s article remembering a one-night stay on the west coast of South Australia, on my way to Perth with my father many years ago.  My dear Dad helped me drive over to Perth to commence a 12-month Midwifery course in my second hand 1960’s Hillman Hunter.

Getting back to the night’s stay at the Ceduna Motel, having a shower in the early hours of the next morning to get going onto the next leg of our trip, I remember to my dismay not being able to get a lather up to wash my hair even though I used half a bottle of shampoo – no chance as it was salt water!

The typical style of motel has not changed since those days – usually a row of numbered rooms, with the front door opening onto your car park creating ease of access. Inside you will find a bed covered with a patterned bed bedspread attempting to match the décor of the room, the art work, usually the one piece that has hung there for years with no connection to the ambience of the rest of the room. A bar fridge with a few long-life milk capsules (difficult to open, spilling more in the saucer than in the cup!) Then you have the glasses covered in individual paper bags portraying hygienic practices, a few cheap brand coffee sachets with options of granules or powder. You may also be fortunate enough to find a decorative animal wrapped towel on the end of your bed, with individually wrapped bath soaps strategically placed and the paper sash on the toilet seat to suggest it has been hygienically cleaned and ready to go. The TV (colour these days) is placed on a teak modular unit which has the fridge located underneath and the kettle, cup, spoons (also wrapped in a utensil paper bag if you are lucky) along with the sachets of tea, coffee and sugar on a tray in close proximity.

Unfortunately for the motel industry, guest expectations have changed and as motels become more outdated they will eventually become a relic of the past. In the last few years we have seen disruption in the accommodation world where people are offering their spare room or whole of house for short term accommodation. This industry has captured the Airbnb-inspired phenomenon of providing luxury in-house stays for holiday makers or travelling professionals. We are seeing property owners ‘doing their own thing’ often with little understanding of the business and companies popping up at every turn to provide professional expertise on ‘how to do it’, offering services such as photography, furnishing and styling, pricing management and fee maximisation, guest ‘meet & greets’, housekeeping and linen services, providing financial reporting and visibility for guest bookings and reviews.

Guests are rightfully no longer content with a bed with the option to have a cup of coffee and take a shower; they are now expecting at least:

  • complimentary fast Wi-Fi – almost more important than running water!
  • cleanliness and comfort standards on par with hotels
  • a coffee maker with variety of flavoured options
  • luxury bedding, plenty of towels & bathroom toiletries
  • Smart TVs
  • Foxtel, Netflix
  • New age sound systems
  • a welcome basket of ‘goodies’ on arrival
  • access to a mini bar
  • 24-hour check-in and late checkout

Maybe the current younger generations will reminisce in time and think about their experiences staying in accommodation as it is today, as I did looking back to motel accommodation of the past. Maybe their reaction will also be one of a giggle and a smile thinking ‘my, how things have changed!’  One thing is true – change is a given and very much driven by our needs and wants. Welcome to the new era in short term accommodation – it has been around for many years, but it is only in the last few years that the concept has captured the core of the general public. The next trend may well be underway quietly somewhere…

I agree with Susie O’Brien and see this transition as a nostalgic experience and leave you to ponder, was the past better than the present?

Tina Villis

HOW TO #BOOKDIRECT AND AVOID THE FEES

The word is out about Online Travel Agencies – Airbnb, HomeAway, Stayz, Trip Advisor to name but a few OTAs – all charge fees to the consumer. These fees can be significant, anything from 3% to as much as 20%, often equating to hundreds of dollars on top of the nightly rate. So how can travellers and holiday makers bypass the fees and book directly with the owner or property manager?

So here are 5 ways to avoid paying fees when you book your next holiday:

  1. SEARCH GOOGLE LOCAL

    Scroll past the paid listings (they say Ad in small letters) and go to the local listings under the map. Click on the search map and up will pop a range of listings for you to choose from based on location. This can be an excellent way to discover local accommodation.

  2. TRY GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH

    If you find the perfect property on one of the OTA sites, try copying the image into Google Image Search; this may reveal the original source of the property.

  3. USE TOURIST AND VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRES

    These centres provide a portfolio of short term and holiday listings, are funded by the local councils therefore the guests can be assured that rental companies and owners are legitimate, licensed and reputable.

  4. SEARCH DESCRIPTION CLUES

    Look for clues in the description on the big sites, check the photo captions and the reviews for any information that can lead you to the direct booking source.

  5. LASTLY – SEARCH ON FACEBOOK

    Most owners and rental managers have Facebook pages. You will then be able to communicate directly with the owner or manager, saving you both time and money. They also have intimate knowledge of their properties and the local area – use this direct connection to your advantage!

 

The final twist in the #bookdirect saga. Most of the finest homes are not even listed on the big websites. I encourage every holiday maker or traveller to find ways to book direct. Aside from saving money, you will have an all-round better experience. More and more of the big sites are preventing contact with the guest prior to making a booking. This lack of ability to communicate directly can be a precursor to a bad experience for both the guest and the owner or property manager.

#bookdirect #bypassbookingfees #australianluxurystays

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

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!