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.

A survey by the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog last year found that 1 in 2 rental owners relies on listing sites as their sole form of marketing.

Listing sites help attract bookings, but if you don’t have your own vacation rental website it’s increasingly clear that you’re leaving business on the table for your competitors to snatch up.

Travelers want local information

Price, location and past experience with an establishment are still key decision-making factors for both business and leisure travelers, but when traveling on their own time people want to know what they can do once they arrive.

“Activities specific to my interests” ranked second only to price when leisure travelers were asked to rank the most important features the look for; also making the top six was access to a variety of activities.

Having a local experience is a major draw for the vacation rental agency, so why not take advantage of it?

  • Define a niche market (a group of people with a specific interest) that’s appropriate for your property, and provide the information they will need to see that your rental is the perfect location for their next trip.
    Create a local guide that doesn’t just highlight local attractions but which puts you in the role of tour guide: Your best recommendations, favorite spots, activities to do year-round—even places to avoid. People value local insights: it’s one of the reasons why travelers rely on friends, family and review sites to learn the highs and lows that a destination has to offer.
  • Link to other local information like travel organizations, review sites, news and local blogs. Online search is the #1 source for travel information (#3 for business travelers), but why make your guests keep looking? Gathering relevant information in one spot on your website makes it easy for people to do their own research—and has the added bonus of giving you some solid content for search engines to take note of.

Beyond what you provide online, travelers want information offline, too. Echoing a UK survey that found many travelers still like published guidebooks, “The 2013 Traveler” found that once they’ve arrived and are deciding what to do, brochures and books in the room or house are key to decision making—followed closely by a destination website or app.

Mobile matters—a lot

A bearded man with a backpack using his phone at the edge of a railway station
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo / Unsplash

If you follow marketing trends, or are a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably heard the noise around mobile websites getting louder. Computers are still the most common way for people to access information online—but only by a hair.

Travelers are use their tablets and smartphones constantly: at home and at work for research and planning, on the road for in-the-moment directions, advice and recommendations.

What Google’s latest survey confirms is that your guests aren’t using one or the other: they use devices interchangeably—and sometimes, a bad mobile experience actually stands in the way of follow-through.

How? Google’s 2012 survey identified the top problems with mobile travel websites:

  1. The websites are hard to see/read/navigate on a mobile device
  2. It takes too long to book on a mobile device/the pages load too slow
  3. Too cumbersome
  4. I don’t trust the security on mobile devices
  5. The mobile version of the site did not allow me to book

It’s getting easier to create a mobile website; some providers (like MyVR!) do it automatically. However you bring your mobile presence into existence, here are seven things your mobile site should have.

Does feedback you receive from your guests match general trends, or are they telling you something different? Share your observations in the comments section below.