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"Question mark" on flickr by the Italian voice (CC BY 2.0)When it comes to guest surveys, the old “K.I.S.S.” motto works best—”Keep It Simple” and you just might get a few insightful comments in response. Make it complicated and, like this 20 question survey deconstructed by Rafat Ali of Skift, you’ll risk irritating anybody who stops to consider responding.

Sandy Bayes, owner of Sandy’s Cabin in Flagstaff, AZ, opened her vacation rental last March and has been surveying her guests since Day One.

“Especially as a new owner, I’ve tried to think of the places I’ve stayed and consider what would have been nicer,” she explained. “But you can’t think of everything, and everybody is different. It’s been a real learning experience for me.” Continue Reading…

Air New Zealand Hobbit Plane on flickr, by Simon Clancy (CC BY 2.0)Having your city or neighborhood featured in a movie, TV series or book can bring a sense of pride—even some residual acclaim—to the people who live there.

A new report from Skift confirms that status can also draw tourists, bringing a direct boost to the local travel industry.

Whether it’s the spectacular backdrops or a connection to their favorite stories, people are drawn to follow in the footsteps of their favorite characters. New Zealand has developed a booming business around first the “Lord of the Rings” franchise and now “The Hobbit”, as evidenced by painted airplanes and the recently-launched “Book of New Zealand”.

But your efforts don’t need to be quite so epic. In their report, “The Rise of Destination Marketing Through Movies and TV”, Skift cites a number of examples from the past few decades–including some you might not expect. Continue Reading…

"Travel Swag Bag Contents SXSWi" by Sheila Scarborough on flickr (CC BY 2.0)As a group, the preferences of travelers don’t change much from year to year. But they way they do their research and bookings—and the opportunities you have to connect with them—does.

Following up on a survey conducted last year, Google recently released “The 2013 Traveler“, a report that doesn’t offer shocking revelations but emphasizes that if you’ve held off on taking control of your vacation rental marketing, now is the time to do it. Continue Reading…

"Belles Feuilles - home near Trocadéro" on flickr, by ParisSharing (CC BY 2.0)Whether you’ve hired a professional photographer—one of our top tips!—or prefer to take your own photos, staging your property can have a positive impact on your booking results.

Staging your vacation rental for photos is like staging it for the arrival of your guests: You want your home to make a great first impression.

The description you write and photos you use sell your vacation rental for you. If a traveler isn’t drawn in, you’ll never know—you won’t hear from them.

Some photographers will do some arranging, while others will stage your home for a fee. If you do the prep work yourself, what can you do to set the stage for images that earn inquiries? Here are five DIY tips. Continue Reading…

"Travel bag" on flickr, by Monterey Public Library (CC BY 2.0)There’s no question that online marketing matters when promoting your vacation rental; Google’s report, “The Traveler’s Road to Decision,” found that the vast majority of business and leisure travelers plan their trips online using search engines, websites, online agencies and other channels to get information and make reservations.

However, it seems that many travelers still prefer a good printed guidebook.

According to the “World Travel Market 2013 Industry Report,” more than half of UK travelers (59%) referenced a printed guidebook during their travels this summer.

Personal recommendations and other online resources still rank high. However, in the middle of the move to digital, it’s a good reminder not to forget the folks who prefer paper. Continue Reading…

You diligently post to your vacation rental’s Facebook Page on a regular basis, and you know many of your Page’s fans are seeing your posts. So why don’t they do anything?

Facebook Page fans can “like” posts, share them with their friends, or add comments with their own opinions. Getting people to do one of those things is ultimately the goal of every Facebook post: It builds connections, helps keep your vacation rental “top of mind”, and helps ensure these interested folks will continue to see what you post (because only a fraction of your fans will).

However, getting your fans respond is part of the art of using Facebook to promote your property. There is no magic way to succeed – but it’s not as much guesswork as you may think, either. Continue Reading…

"Summer time (Algarve)" by Tiago Fernandes (CC BY 2.0)If you enjoyed a brisk business this summer, you’re not alone; a recent report from HomeAway shows a vast majority of owners (86 percent) enjoyed vacation rental bookings that were the same or better than last summer.

Highlighted in HomeAway Vacation Rental Report: Owner Edition, these numbers reflect the niche that vacation rental properties are carving in the travel industry.

Among owners who see summer as peak season, occupancy rates averaged 77 percent – higher than the 70 percent average occupancy rate reported by U.S. hotels (a slight increase over last year). Continue Reading…

"Links by clips" by Keith Ramsey (CC BY-SA 2.0)If you’ve researched how to market your vacation rental online, you’ll be familiar with search-engine optimization (SEO) — the process of influencing the many factors that can impact where your website will show up in search results.

Some of this must happen on your actual website, something called on-page SEO. But SEO also considers how other websites connect to your page, called off-page SEO. One important part of off-page SEO is called link building.

What is link building?

Link building is the progression of having more websites to link back to your page.

“The web was built on links. Links drive traffic and they boost rankings. They are how we tell a story,” Julie Joyce explained on Search Engine Watch. “They are how we point people to things we want them to see and how we navigate through the endlessness of the Internet.”

Getting more websites to point back to your site matters; each link helps signal what your page is about and whether or not it’s credible.

Search engines use complex algorithms to decide which web pages are relevant to which topics. The more credible websites that point back to your property’s website, the higher the potential for your website to rank higher in relevant search results and the more likely that potential guests will visit your site over a competitors. Continue Reading…

People travel because they want to experience life, and a significant number of people travel to celebrate it: more than 7 in 10 leisure travelers have gone on vacation to celebrate a milestone like an anniversary, birthday or wedding.

What are your vacation rental guests celebrating during their stay, and what are you doing to make their visit memorable? The MMGY Global /Harrison Group 2012 Portrait of American Travelers found that more than nine in 10 travelers agree, “The memories I get from my vacations make the trip worth it.”

Welcome baskets are thoughtful gifts that take a bit of effort to coordinate but make a great first impression. Plus, they can be customized to suit the occasion.

Helping your guests celebrate these milestones doesn’t have to be so hands on, however. In fact, you may be able to do some activities once and practically forget about them while others will take just a few minutes when it’s appropriate.

"After the Party", by Derek Lee on flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Continue Reading…

"Start Here" by Robert Kilman on flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)You’ve decided that turning your second home into a vacation rental is the right move for you.

Now what?

Getting your first reservation on the calendar is an exciting time, but — as you probably figured out while you were deciding to rent your property — there are things you need to do before you can throw your doors open.

Continue Reading…