International travel is on the rise and awareness of vacation rentals is improving, making overseas inquiries increasingly likely for your vacation rental property.
What can you do to help accommodate foreign guests and ensure they have a good stay?
International Travel Growing In The U.S.
International travel grew 4% last year globally, and the U.S. is angling to get a bigger slice of that market. “In the first half of 2012 alone, international visitors spent an estimated $82.2 billion… an increase of 11 percent when compared to the same period last year,” according to the U.S. Commerce Department.
Earlier this year, President Obama announced the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness, an effort that aims to double the travel and tourism business by 2021.
Where will these travelers come from? Over the next five years, visitors from other parts of North America (i.e. Canada and Mexico) will account for 42% of those visits, while people from Asia — and specifically China — as well as Western Europe and South America will comprise most of the remaining 58%.
There are a number of things you should consider as a vacation rental owner hoping to attract more international renters, including how you can make sure they have a good stay and how you can protect yourself from scams.
Small Steps Can Clarify Expectations
The biggest thing that can derail any stay, whether renters are from the same state or Europe, is failing to meet their expectations. After all, one person’s paradise can seem a nightmare to someone else.
Good communication can become even more complex when guests are used to standard living conditions that are vastly different to your own, or when they don’t speak English well — if at all.
Making the most of the tools you already have, and considering often-overlooked essentials, can help you make a solid connection that will lead to smooth sailing.
Have a website. You’ll see this advice often at MyVR (we’re a little biased!) but there are still many vacation rental owners who say they’re busy enough without a website and don’t see the need, or they think it’s too complicated. Even if you don’t rely on a website to generate new inquiries, creating one can be a great resource for people who’ve already decided to rent from you, cutting down on individual inquiries and miscommunication.
Use lots of professional photos. A photo can be worth 1,000 words in any language! Including photos of your property and every room gives renters a clear idea of what you have to offer, and may provide answers to questions that you can’t anticipate.
Provide useful, descriptive information. Adding good content to your website doesn’t just help you communicate with prospects and renters — it’s also increasingly easy to translate using free online tools like Google Translate. Travel standards and expectations can vary significantly from one country to the next, so the more descriptive information you provide the less you leave to chance. (If you’re not sure what kind of content to provide, get some inspiration from articles like this one: Questions To Ask About A Vacation Rental.)
Find a local bilingual troubleshooter. Have you noticed that a lot of your renters come from a particular country? Are travelers from particular ethnic groups drawn to your region? In addition to providing content for a particular group of people on your website, both you and non-English-speaking guests may find it very helpful to have someone on-hand who speaks the language.
Ask a lot of questions. What’s the purpose of their visit? What are their expectations? Is there anything in particular they might need? Not only does asking questions help you provide better customer service and plan ahead, it can also help you identify fraudsters.
Protecting Yourself From Borderless Scammers
Many international travelers won’t speak English as a first language, so it’s important to remember that emails with incorrect grammar and typos — often a red flag — could be legitimate inquiries.
Further, while many international travelers use credit cards, bank transfers are also common in many countries. Be vigilant when using bank transfers, but stay away from wire services like MoneyGram and Western Union.
Many scams target renters. What do you, an owner, need to be wary of?
One type of scam involves overpayment in one form or another, where you are asked to return the difference. Because of this, be wary of anybody who tries to overpay; only accept exact payment. Further, let potential renters know that you will only confirm their rental once their payment has cleared.
Another common scam involves phishing, where scammers try to access your email account. If someone is able to gain access to your email account, they can cause any amount of trouble for both your rental business and your life in general. Read more on common vacation rental scams to protect yourself and your business.