How to Increase Vacation Rental Bookings: The “Expect to Book” Mentality

This is the second part of a three part series focusing on strategies and tactics that can help vacation rental managers and hosts increase their conversion rate among guests who are non-committal, comparing properties or “just browsing”. Each part of the series will introduce a new strategy or tactic and show you how it could play out for a vacation rental property manager in a simplified scenario. If you have missed part one (“Following Up Questions with Questions”), it is recommended, though not required, that you give it a read.

 

IN THEORY

Inbound inquiries in the vacation rental industry come at varying levels of decisiveness. It’s easy for property managers to book the reservation for guests who have already made up their mind, but it’s often difficult to convince those that have yet to decide to book. While a property manager needs to approach each of the preceding situations differently, their mindset should be the same regardless. They should “expect to book”!

When property managers expect the potential guest will book their vacation with them it’s apparent in their guest communications. Suddenly the wording is more helpful, positive and confident instead of pushy or uncertain, which makes a huge difference for guests.

Obviously there will be some potential guests who decide to travel elsewhere or stay with another local accommodation, but the best property managers don’t let this get to them or affect their mentality that the next potential guest will book with them.

 

IN PRACTICE

Poor Wording: “Hello, I remember a couple of weeks ago we spoke about your family trip to Utah in July and I was wondering if you and your partner had made a decision about what kind of accommodation you would be staying in. By the off chance you haven’t made a decision yet, we would appreciate it if you would take a look at our property.”

Improved Wording: “Hello, it’s good to speak with you again! Our team is busy gearing up for a busy summer season and we are so excited to be opening up our property to so many families. I know that you said you were looking for a week in mid-July and I wanted to get your final selection of a date before we’re completely booked. Do you have an exact date that will work best for your family?”

To put this mentality into practice for your vacation rental or property management company start by writing down five positively framed sentences that you can use in your guest communications. This blog post was inspired by and based off of Bill Guertin’s article “The Secret, Subtle Language of Winning Sales Calls”.

Also be sure to check out part one and three (which was previewed in this blog post) of this series to determine potential strategies and tactics that you can use to build around the “expect to book” mentality.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dylan DeClerck is the VP of sales and marketing at Pablow, a travel insurance technology provider and broker that works with vacation rental property managers to offer vacation rental travel insurance to their guests hassle-free and in a matter of minutes. The company is based in Iowa and provides travel insurance to more than 25,000 vacation rental properties in the United States. Dylan is also the executive director of a non-profit that teaches athletics to at-risk youth.

How to Increase Vacation Rental Bookings: Following Questions with Questions

This is the first part of a three part series focusing on strategies and tactics that can help vacation rental managers and hosts increase their conversion rate among guests who are non-committal, comparing properties or “just browsing”. Each part of the series will introduce a new strategy or tactic and show you how it could play out for a vacation rental property manager in a simplified scenario.

 

IN THEORY

Whether a potential guest reaches out via email, website message or phone call it’s extremely important that the reservationist is fully prepared to quickly answer their questions about the vacation rental property. Every hour an inquiry goes unanswered the chances the guest will book the property decrease! Because of this property managers should monitor their messages, know potential questions guests might ask, and save responses in a FAQ document to improve future response times.

In addition, while answering the guest’s questions it’s important that the reservationist follows up with their own open-ended questions to determine if the guest is really worth their time. Potential guests are qualified when they have the right budget in mind, are truly interested in the vacation rental or area, and are in need of an accommodation similar to what is offered. Additionally it’s good to ask a few questions about the potential guest and their upcoming trip as a way to build rapport.

If the potential guest is truly on the fence there will be a point where they stop responding to emails or they say something on the phone that indicates they are not ready to commit. At this conjuncture it’s the company’s job to listen to their concern or objection, clarify their point to ensure understanding, empathize with their concern, give a genuine response and then ask if the response was appropriate.

 

IN PRACTICE

Guest: “Hello, I had a chance to check out your property online and would like to determine if I could rent out just a portion of the space for a three-day weekend?”

Manager: “Hello Guest, thanks for reaching out! Right now we only allow guests to rent out the whole property as the room units are all connected to the main living space. Is there a reason that you might only need a portion of the space for your trip?”

Guest: “I’m traveling to the area for work with another colleague, so we only really need two rooms.”

Manager: “I see the dates you’re traveling. Do you plan to attend the local film association conference in just a few weeks? My partner and I love to watch independent films and thought of attending ourselves!”

Guest: “Yes it is! Glad to hear that you’re also interested in independent films. I’ll be releasing my first feature film at the festival. Unfortunately I think I’ll keep looking for another place in the area given your accommodation just seems too big for us.”

Manager: “So you’re saying your primary concerns are the size and comparative cost of the accommodation?”

Guest: “Yes.”

Manager: “I understand that because we can host larger groups the cost of our property seems a bit more than other smaller accommodations, however because of our location right across from the festival you’ll save money on transportation and we can lower the cleaning fee if you will only be staying in two of the three private rooms. Does that sound fair?”

Be sure to check out part two and three of this series to determine potential strategies and tactics that can help you close a sale similar to the one above and book more guests.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dylan DeClerck is the VP of sales and marketing at Pablow, a travel insurance technology provider and broker that works with vacation rental property managers to offer vacation rental travel insurance to their guests hassle-free and in a matter of minutes. The company is based in Iowa and provides travel insurance to more than 25,000 vacation rental properties in the United States. Dylan is also the executive director of a non-profit that teaches athletics to at-risk youth.

The Best Time to Visit all 50 States

 

Pablow Infographic

 

*In the event that a state had more than one best time of year to visit, I chose to map the month that best fit with surrounding state patterns. To read more you can find the article we referenced for this data here. *

Have you ever wondered where else your potential guests are looking for vacation properties besides your area? We set out to determine the best time for tourists to book a vacation rental accommodation in every state.

To determine the best time of year for tourism in each state we considered multiple factors including temperature, number of tourists and popular seasonal destinations as we collaborated with property managers across the nation. With all of this information we produced a color-coded map, indicating the best month out of the year to visit each state.

Notice the lack of popularity among winter months! Besides Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana the winter months are not well represented on our map. In Nevada, the holiday season is popular, but the best time to visit is actually as the holiday crowds begin dwindling. Colorado is popular during winter months because of its booming ski/snowboard industry. Louisiana’s peak month is when the streets are packed during Mardi Gras celebrations every February.

September is the best time of year for tourism in 13 states, making it the most popular month for travelers. This trend is largely borne from the mild weather and popularity of sports during that time of year. Not only is the temperature not as hot as the summer months, but also the weather hasn’t yet made the full transition to fall making it the perfect time to enjoy a football or baseball game.

The best time to visit most Midwestern states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio) is either immediately before or after July. With extremely hot and humid summers in comparison to the rest of the year, it makes sense that tourism falls as the heat rises.

Take Minnesota for example, while the temperature rarely surpasses 95°, the state’s dew point during the hottest days of summer causes sticky, thick air that prevents people from enjoying the outdoors. At its highest, Minnesota’s summer dew point reaches 80% making 90° feel like 110°. As a native Minnesotan, I would have to pick August as our best month for tourism. With summer temperatures tapering, it’s perfect weather to enjoy a day out on the boat or a long summer night sitting by the bonfire.

Do you agree with what we determined was the best month to visit your state? Tell us what you think!

 

How to Make Your Company More Enjoyable

“We have three innate psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When those needs are satisfied, we’re motivated, productive, and happy.”
― Daniel H. PinkDrive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

danpink-drive

Daniel Pink pictured alongside his best selling book Drive.

As Pink explains in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, there are a few innate psychological needs that must be filled to generate satisfactory and enjoyable work.  However, once those psychological needs are filled, what separates the most enjoyable companies from those that only provide above average levels of satisfaction and happiness?  This blog post will explore and try to answer the question: “How do I make my company more enjoyable for everyone?”

“A Day Without Laughter is a Day Wasted”

At Pablow, doing things in a way that is enjoyable is one of our key tenants that motivate our actions.  Even if we are on a roller coaster ride as a start up in the insurance industry, we recognize that the journey should still remain fun.

Why do we value being happy, laughing a lot, and enjoying our work?  Enjoyable work, happiness and laughter all provide significant physical, mental and social benefits.

Laughter alone helps you feel good by releasing endorphins that fight stress and provide an almost immediate benefit.  It also helps relax you muscles for up to 45 minutes at a time, with exception of your mouth muscles, which can actually hurt if you laugh too hard.  Been there and have almost cried from laughing too hard!  Laughter improves your resistance to disease by increasing infection-fighting antibodies and immune cells and by decreasing stress hormones.  It can protect your heart by improving blood flow and blood vessel functioning.  Laughter helps dissolve disagreements between people if it’s shared and both parties agree to put their problems behind them.  It surprisingly has also been shown to help adults with short-term memory.

Put simply … you can’t afford to not have people laugh at work.  If you value your employees and their happiness, then you need to make the commitment to integrate humor and enjoyable situations into your company culture.

One great story about how humor and laughter were embraced in the company culture comes from Delta Air Lines.  A couple of years ago a frequent flyer complained to the CEO that a flight attendant was joking around in her safety briefing, which the flyer considered a very serious procedure.  Instead of apologizing, the CEO told the frequent flyer that he was sorry to see him leave the airline, because humor was a key part of their company culture and thus he stood behind his flight attendant’s right to laugh and help others laugh.  Today Delta Air Lines has further embraced this humor by incorporating it into their pre-flight safety videos that both deliver an important message and have some fun in how they present it – I’d definitely recommend taking a look.

delta-airlines-80s-in-flight-safety-video-2

Delta safety videos went as far to include 80’s icon and TV star, Alf!

But What Can I Do?

So a happy, laughing, satisfied, productive and motivated workplace is great, but what can most small to medium sized companies in the vacation rental or tech industries do to embrace these values?

The first and easiest step is to begin to laugh at yourself, and model the kind of behavior that you want everyone else to embrace.  You can also find friends, hire employees, and build professional relationships within your community with people that you enjoy being around.

Teams can be more enjoyable if you push everyone to be spontaneous and encouraging of humor.  This can be as complex as surprising the team with tickets to a comedy show next Friday evening or as simple as telling jokes as you leave the office and sharing funny videos with the rest of your team.  As funny as jokes can be, make sure to keep them positive and not a roast of anyone in particular, as that could have just the opposite effect desired.

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Don’t conform to typical networking rules – ask daring and novel questions that encourage interesting conversation and funny stories.

At networking events or job interviews ask people what they enjoy doing instead of about their job and encourage them to tell you a funny story, but you should also be prepared with a funny story of your own to share with them.

Laughter is Contagious

Regardless of how you make your organization more enjoyable for your staff, laughter and happiness is contagious.  Try just one of the tactics mentioned above and let us know how it works for your organization.  We’re interested to learn how it goes!

How to Force Millennial Employees to Adapt to Your Company

With 53.5 million Millennials now at work in the United States, companies are used to figuring a way to force this generation into their old and outdated business expectations. However, it’s the companies that go out of their way to radically adapt their businesses to the expectations of Millennial employees that will succeed in the next decade. This is especially important to keep in mind now that we know that by 2020 more than half of the entire United States work force will be Millennials.

health-and-safety-handbooks

Step 1: Get Rid of Your Assumptions

The first step of adapting your company to meet the expectations and desires of Millennial employees is to get rid of your immediate assumptions about the generation.

Instead of considering the workplace’s youngest generation lazy, selfish, uninvolved, and inexperienced, employers need to reframe their assumptions and view of the generation to see their strengths. Millennials are passionate, charitable, interested in learning, and ready for more responsibilities and experience.

Additionally, companies that push away technology from their employees should consider how Millennials embrace technology for professional purposes helping them be more productive.

 

Step 2: Consider Millennials’ Natural Motivations

Employers often consider what motivates their employees once they’ve already been hired, but companies that are ahead of their competitors will design the company culture and job positions with Millennials’ motivations in mind.

Although it’s different for everyone, Millennials as a generational cohort tend to value growth opportunities, challenging projects, the ability to help others, natural career progression, and a work/life balance.

In fact, it would not be odd to hear a young employee say, “I want to be recognized for doing a good job”, “Engage me in a passion of mine” or “I enjoy the flexibility and freedom of the position.”

0917happyemployees

Step 3: Meet or Beat Expectations

Once you’ve prepared yourself and your company for the way Millennials work best, it’s on the management team to meet or even beat the expectations of their employees.

Imagine the disappointment one might have if they were told during the interview process that the company was looking for people who wanted to use their creativity to solve challenging problems, but each new idea they presented was passed over in favor of the tried and true. This has happened to me before and after a short period of time, both my employer and myself agreed that we were not a great fit for each other.

 

Step 4: Continue to Develop with Feedback

Millennial employees view feedback and input as a two-way street. They will gladly accept feedback and input if it is presented in a positive way, because they want to gain new skills and constantly improve.  At the same time, they expect their bosses and employer to take the feedback and ideas they provide and consider or even implement them for the betterment of the company.

The way companies adapt to Millennial workers continues to change, but if companies continue to accept feedback and adjust their expectations they are sure to be successful.

millennial-employees-have-different-wants-and-desires-than-workers-of-other-generations_1190_40142923_0_14127076_500

The Newest Vacation Rental Necessity

Introduction

Have you heard of post-sale travel insurance?  The new concept is quickly becoming a vacation rental necessity for vacation rental retailers, property managers, and software providers.  In the next three minutes I guarantee that you’ll understand post-sale travel insurance and some of the ways it can help your vacation rental company meet your goals, obtain more profit, and build better relationships with your guests.  In addition, we’ll explore a few of the more popular reasons why guests purchase post-sale travel insurance.

What Is Post-Sale Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance is a common way to protect guests from the risks of travel, and most professionals in the vacation rental industry understand how it works.  Post-sale travel insurance, on the other hand, is new and different from any other travel insurance products.  The primary differentiator is that it can be sold after the booking and final payment date all the way up until 24 hours before the start of the guest’s trip, which benefits both guests and hosts.

post-sale-image

What Can Travel Insurance Do For Your Vacation Rental Company?

Post-sale travel insurance offers vacation rental companies an additional revenue stream without having to invest any resources, which means that all of the money generated is pure profit.  One software provider estimated that travel insurance could increase their profit per booking by up to 35% and that property managers could increase their profit per booking by 7%.

increase-profits-35

Guests love a seamless online purchase process, so finding a travel insurance website that fits your brand and is easy for guests to use is the key to earning additional revenue.  Some companies will even help you create a customized travel insurance website free of charge and in a matter of minutes.

Post-sale travel insurance is incredibly popular with property managers, because it allows them to protect the long term relationships with their guests.  Any travel insurance that prevents guests from purchasing insurance after the final deposit date inherently limits which guests it will cover. What you want is a policy that can be offered to guests up until just before the start of their trip.

Insurance companies are often known as heavily regulated and difficult to work with.  However, post-sale travel insurance is just the opposite since it eliminates the need for insurance licensing and signing a contract.

What Can Travel Insurance Do For Your Guests?

Many guests find that post-sale travel insurance provides them with peace of mind when traveling, a rare occurrence for most guests.  Furthermore many guests are used to staying in hotels where cancellation conditions are very generous, in comparison to the strict cancellation conditions of vacation rentals.

worry-less

Post-sale travel insurance claims happen most frequently due to guest injury or illness.  Purchasing post-sale travel insurance helps guests protect against accident and medical expenses during their trip, and also protects against emergency medical evacuation.  Even if guests have a pre-existing condition, they can purchase a valid policy if it is bought within 20 days after their trip deposit is made.

Post-sale travel insurance is also extremely valuable in case of injury, illness, job loss, or a myriad of other covered reasons that might cause a guest to cancel all or a portion of their vacation rental reservation and/or trip.  By purchasing travel insurance the guest immediately transfers all of  these cancellation risks to the insurance company.

How To Get Post-Sale Travel Insurance

The best place to begin offering post-sale travel insurance is through www.pablow.com, which will allow you to create a customized travel insurance wpablow-splashebsite in just a matter of minutes without the licensing and contracts as mentioned above.  The website they provide is completely free and their affiliate fees are competitive with the rest of the industry.  Post-sale travel insurance can be yours in no time!

The Biggest Battle Facing the Vacation Rental Industry Today

INTRODUCTION

There are thousands of battles occurring in counties all across the United States between those in favor and those opposed to short-term vacation rentals.  At the center of the intense debate between both sides are short-term vacation rental regulations and enforcement of those regulations.

Those who support the vacation rental industry and advocate for fewer regulations and enforcement mechanisms primarily consist of vacation rental guests, property management, and rental companies.  On the opposite side of the argument are those who are opposing the vacation rental industry and are advocating for stronger regulations and enforcement mechanisms.  Those opposing the vacation rental industry typically include the hotel industry, vacation rental neighbors, and local government officials.

 

THOSE SUPPORTING THE VACATION RENTAL INDUSTRY

Ironically the vacation rental industry depends on guests for revenue, but they are the least passionate about the ongoing battle surrounding the vacation rental industry.  Realistically it’s because guests have the least to lose in the situation.  If vacation rentals are outlawed across the country then the guests that used to use short term vacation rentals for their travel accommodations will simply find another place to stay, which most likely means a hotel.

Comprising vacation rental property management are property managers and property owners.  Property management is in favor of fewer regulations and enforcement mechanisms because every change to their process and additional staff person required to ensure compliance with regulations costs the company money.  Lifestyle Properties’ general manager Katy Armes in Newberg, OR explains “There’s not enough beds in the county to accommodate the tourism influx. Short of new hotel construction, [increasing local accommodations] will likely come about through more residences being converted to vacation rentals.”¹  Similarly in Sonoma, CA vacation rentals make up about one fourth of all travel accommodations.²  Other reasons property management state in favor of vacation rentals include that the industry brings additional guests to the area, it creates additional revenue for residents, and it provides competition in a non-competitive industry.

The strongest advocates for short term vacation rentals and companies providing the strongest opposition to new regulations are the vacation rental companies, whose largest players include Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and Booking.com.  These companies profit mightily from short term vacation rentals, which provides quite the motivation to make it as easy and profitable as possible for homeowners to become vacation rental hosts.  Airbnb, the most well-known company in the industry, in the face of heavy regulations in Miami says that it wants to work with the city to develop “clear, fair rules.”³  In general the largest companies are fighting heavier regulations to ensure survival of the industry and sharing economy they depend on.

 

THOSE OPPOSING THE VACATION RENTAL INDUSTRY

The hotel industry serves as the biggest barrier to the continued success of the vacation rental industry.  As the vacation rental industry has grown, hotels have seen their competitors increase and occupancy rates decrease, though the growth in the vacation rental market is not proportional to the small decrease in hotel demand.³  Given the decrease in demand for hotel accommodations, hotels have to reduce their rates to ensure occupancy, which reduces their profitability.

Some neighbors of vacation rental homes are understandably upset with vacation rentals because of their experiences.  Henan Cardeno, a passionate opponent of vacation rental homes contends that short term vacation rentals are “changing the character and the nature of our neighborhoods.”³  Alicia Wuscher, a Palm Island resident, says the short term rental next to her home is notorious for throwing parties that shake her home.4  Susan Strong told the Desert Sun that she had to endure five years of loud music, yelling, and laughing because of a short term vacation next door that was not judicious in who could rent it out.4  While it appears as though some neighbors have a negative view of vacation rentals, according to a 2017 David Binder Research poll of 500 Miami residents, more than half said they had a favorable opinion of Airbnb and just 1 in 10 respondents said they had an unfavorable opinion.³  So up to this point reactions are still mixed among the general public.

Local government officials are usually opposed to vacation rentals, which make their job of regulation more difficult than ever before.  As a result of their frustration, those in favor of the vacation rental industry would contend they have received heavy regulations and ridiculous fines.

 

REGULATIONS AND ENFORCEMENT

Since the regulations are largely passed and enforced on the local level, there is a great variety in what the regulations look like.  In San Francisco, the city where Airbnb was founded, short-term vacation rental owners are limited to renting in certain areas and must register their homes for $50.³  In Palm Springs the local government is proposing a limit on the number of times a home can be rented each year, which discourages short-term weekend rentals.  Palm Springs officials also are considering raising permit fees to $900 per year and limiting vacation rental owners to just a single vacation rental.4  On the corporate side of the industry, Airbnb recently agreed for the first time to enforce legal limits on the number of nights a vacation rental can be rented each year in London and Amsterdam.5  This compromise with regulators could be a foreshadowing of what is yet to come in the United States.

To ensure that regulations are followed, Miami penalizes illegal vacation rentals by charging both the owner and the rental company $20,000.  These fines are much higher than most other counties across the United States, but Miami regulators suggest that they could even raise the fines further.  To this point they’ve already passed out $4 million in fines.³  In Palm Springs, with the new proposal in place operating a home without a permit and failing to report the rental agreement could result in a $7,500 fine and homeowners would be limited to one vacation rental.4  Other enforcement mechanisms besides fines are still being explored, as fines do not appear to be effectively deterring many vacation rental owners from operating outside of the law.

 

RESOLUTION

Instead of proposing a resolution in this battle, given that each county and city are imposing their own regulations, it’s probably better to consider a couple of questions moving forward.

Are short term vacation rentals on their way out?  Are all vacation rentals doomed to fail?  If the vacation rental business continues to grow, will our hotel industry collapse?  What will the future of tourism and travel accommodations look like?  Is there a way the industry and its opponents can come to a compromise?  Can the vacation rental and hotel industries coexist in the sharing economy?

What are your thoughts on this very contentious issue?  We’d love to hear them and have a discussion!

 

SOURCES

¹ http://pamplinmedia.com/nbg/142-news/334281-214131-vacation-rental-industry-experiences-modest-growth

² http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/6343358-181/sharp-rise-in-sonoma-county?artslide=0

³ http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article117332773.html – Miami stuff

http://www.desertsun.com/story/money/business/tourism/2016/11/30/palm-springs-set-tighten-vacation-rental-rules-prompts-industry-pushback/94628142/

 http://www.wsj.com/articles/airbnb-agrees-to-enforce-amsterdam-limit-on-rentals-1480580233