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Vacation Rentals: Something Knew

By Ana M. Kinkaid
Published: 05/07/07 Topics: Comments: -

Vacation Rentals are the newest member of the hospitality industry and it's important for guests to know what makes vacation rentals so unique. Unless we articulate clearly what makes a vacation rental (or VR) so special, we will be confused with other lodging formats in the industry. Here are some of the ways that vacation rentals offer an attractive alternative to traditional lodging.

Lots of Space – One of the biggest differences between a VR and almost all other forms of lodging is the space available to guests. Hotels offer a room. VRs offer a complete living space. Instead of a room with a bed, TV, dresser and attached bath, you get a full living area. That means a kitchen, garden, living room, dining room as well as a bedroom(s) and bath are available for your use.

More Private Space – VRs also offer total privacy. In hotel you can’t walk across the lobby in your pajamas. At a B&B you can’t have breakfast by yourself, enjoying a peaceful morning moment.

Reduced Food Cost – Hotels offer food through their restaurants. The cost of hotel meals includes insurance, labor, décore, replacement and profit. If your guest is cooking their own meals in their VR, they are saving a lot of money as these costs aren’t included in what they spend.

They have only the cost of ingredients to cover. Also in a VR, the guest can eat what they want, not just what is on the menu. Besides being expensive, hotel food is often high in calories. (Think back on how often people gain weight on vacation. Reason: rich hotel food). RVs enable the guest to continue enjoying their regular food habits and save vacation dollars. Does it get any better than that?

Open Schedule – Hotels are historically based on the model of great estate houses, not a relaxed home. B&Bs are based on the model of an urban boarding house. Both of these formats worked on a schedule because staffing was involved. Breakfast is served from X to Y because there has to be time for the staff to rewash the dishes and prep for lunch. RVs force their guests into no such regiment.

The same is true of housekeeping. Housekeeping needs to be able to enter the room during a certain time period in order to “turn the room.” In a VR the guest can sleep as long as they want to because they are the ones who are going to fluff the comforter or not.

No Additional Entertainment Costs – I will never forget the bill I got once when my then young daughter flipped from one pay for view movie to another as if she was at home watching TV! At a VR that problem doesn’t occur. The guest can bring their own movies or rent them at a local outlet.

Speaking of small children, the guest does not have to deal with the porn channel at a VR. Also the hot tub is free and uncrowded!

Increased Safety – Hotels have large parking lots. At a VR you are in a neighborhood setting which is probably patrolled regularly by the police. Also you are the only person who has the punch code or entrance card for the residence. It would share you if you knew just how many people have the code/card to your standard hotel room.

Authentic Community Experience – Hotels do not represent what a community really is. Staying in a hotel in Houston, for example, is not the same as strolling in a neighborhood, shopping in local stores or making purchases at the farmers’ market. The hottest trend in the hospitality industry right now is authentic regional experiences.

No sector of the market provides that better for the guest than VRs. More Realistic Life Pattern – We all have our way of doing things. VRs enable guests to have the greatest chance of transferring their established patterns over to their vacation. If a guest loves a warm brandy at 11PM in their bathrobe, then they can have it. In a hotel, room service may be closed and the bar requires getting dressed. B&Bs rarely have a liquor license.

Long Term Planning – Hotels are extremely rate conscience as costs (labor, insurance, etc) can vary greatly. As a result, hotels are often hesitant to quote rates out a year. If a guest is planning a vacation a year out, this can be difficult. VRs have no difficult booking that far out.

Financial Savings – Foot per square foot, VRs are offer one of the best values to vacationers. There is no fee for using the hot tub or viewing DVDs. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are when you want them and each meal can be your favorite food.

Be sure to tell your guests how special vacation rentals are AND why they are different than any other form of lodging. Once your guests understand what a vacation rental is really all about, they will return to enjoy them again and again. And they will tell their friends!

POINT OF ORDER (Project Management)

Feel Like you have too much to do? You aren't alone. That concern is one we hear from owners many times a week. One answer we suggest is that they consider using "Project Management" to organize the tasks in front of them. Project Management is an established technique used by businesses to complete a project in a creative and organized manner.

One excellent text on the subject is Rich Mintzer's THE EVERYTHING PROJECT MANAGEMENT BOOK. Check it out and make your day a lot easier.

ON BOARD: Picture Perfect
(VROA answers members’ questions….)

Question: “How do I take the best picture for my web site?

Answer: Just as important as the words you use on your web site, are the pictures you display. Here are ten pointers professional photographers say are vital to remember when taking images for the Internet.

1. Adjust your personal ‘focus’ as to why you are taking pictures. There is a vast difference between a snapshot and capturing an effective image that results in an increase in reservations. Ask yourself EXACTLY what is the selling feature of the room you are photographing. Don’t do the obvious. All bedrooms have beds. Ask yourself, “What is special about this room?” Photograph that!

2. After you have ‘focused’ on the selected selling point of the room, use a wide angle lense to show as much of the rest of the room as you can. This puts your feature element in context. Be careful not to over extend the wide angle or the stove will appear huge and flowers very distant.

3. Start by making sure that the area to be photographed is immaculate, not just clean. Photos can be merciless – they show everything. Many vacation rental owners start their photo shoots off right by having their unit professionally cleaned from top to bottom. In the long run it’s worth the money.

4. Next ‘stage’ your vacation rental for pictures. ‘Staging’ is a term used by real estate agents to describe placing props or small items around a house to give potential buyers the ‘feel’ of the home. The result is an increased bonding to the property. Small accents often make a difference such as candles, magazines, flowers, a table set for dinner. A great book on how to it is Barb Schwartz’s Home Staging. Wiley, 2006.

5. Owners often forget that the camera must have light to show detail and make the room appear inviting. Pull the curtains back and let the light in. You are not selling a vintage storeroom or a darkened cave. Open and welcoming are the feelings you want to prompt.

6. If you have few skills with a camera, strongly consider hiring a professional who is skilled in architectural photography. Marketing is strongly linked to sales. If you are ill at ease with a camera, your web site is not the arena to practice in. Pictures are very often the first impression an individual has of your property. A photo that doesn’t ‘sell’ your property stops the whole chain reaction that leads to revenue before it has ever started.

7. We live in a digital age. And there’s a reason why – digital cameras are great. Today they are reasonably priced and easy to use, so try one out if you don’t have one already. Shoot at 300dpi (dots per inch) for print material and 72dpi for the web.

8. Shoot at the highest resolution possible and largest format. You will be thankful later.

9. Use a tripod. Tripods make three things easy. One, they steady your picture. Two, they allow you time to evaluate what you are seeing through the view finder without the worry of trying to hold the camera steady. Three, if you see something in the view finder that you want to remove or change in the room, the tripod ‘holds’ your framed picture right where it is while you go adjust it.

10. Be sure to ‘bracket’ or make multiple exposures of each room. Save your working photos in tiff format and your final photos in jpeg. If you need to rework a photo, always select from the tiff file as the quality will be highest. Jpeg files tend to decline in quality the more your manipulate them.

Be sure to send us your questions and VROA will answer them.

TOP PROPERTY: Vista Grande Ranch, Washington State

Located in North Central Washington in the beautiful Methow Valley, the Vista Grange Ranch certainly earns its name. This 650 acre ranches invites guests to enjoy over 4,300 square feet of relaxing inside space and 1,800 square feet of wrap around cedar outside deck. And the views are fantastic! We just had to select this outstanding property as the VROA Top Property of the week.

Visit their web site (vgranch.com)vgranch.com to see a property that would delight any guest - and a website designed to highlight the vacation rental as well.

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Author: Ana M. Kinkaid, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0071 – 05/07/07