Top Questions from the Industry Trends Webinar

In our 2019 Vacation Rental Trends webinar, we discussed top trends property managers can expect this year. We covered topics like virtual tours, voice search, increasing expectations, marketing, safety, and more. Below are our top user-submitted questions from the live webinar event answered by our panel of industry experts - Peter Scott of Bluetent, Jake Stewart of HomeAway Software, Jeremiah Gall of Breezeway, and Susan Blizzard of Blizzard Internet Marketing

Miss the webinar? Click here to watch the video recording or here to download the full report.

Virtual Tours

Q: Virtual tours right now are not allowed on Homeaway. When will that happen?

A: Last November, HomeAway launched a new virtual tour experience for travelers. It’s an exciting new feature that showcases virtual tours and integrates with a number of providers. Check out the press release here. -  Jake, HomeAway Software

Q: Homeaway doesn't currently support Matterport tours. Is that changing soon?

A: HomeAway is continuing to work with virtual tour vendors to build a wide range of integrations. HomeAway does not currently support Matterport tours, but is dedicated to establishing connections with as many virtual tour vendors as possible to ensure this experience is widely available regardless of what solution Property Managers use. - Jake, HomeAway Software

Q: We have four very different seasons and experiences at our mountain cabins. Should we have virtual tours for each season?

A: I would recommend capturing a virtual tour during the peak season for your cabin; it’s probably not necessary to capture one for each season. The tours are largely useful to illustrate the interior of a home, which presumably won’t change much based on the season. You can always have different exterior photos to demonstrate the unique experience during each season. - Jake, HomeAway Software

Q: When will virtual tours be available on mobile?

A: HomeAway’s virtual tour experience is not yet compatible with mobile devices. Mobile is of course an increasingly popular way for travelers to shop and book their lodging, so I expect that adding a mobile component to the virtual tour experience will be part of the roadmap in the future. - Jake, HomeAway Software

Q: May I have a list of the virtual tour applications?

A: A few professional services companies are TruPlace, Matterport, CartoBlue, and InsideMaps. Some do-it-yourself tools are LookAround, iStaging, and Google Tour Creator. However, this is by no means a comprehensive list and I’d encourage you to do research to find the right match for your business. - Jake, HomeAway Software

Q: Voice, virtual tours - isn't the future this paints a bit lacking in social interactions? Will this not just drive globalisation further ahead?

A: Globalization is indeed an increasing factor in the vacation rental market, especially as vacation homes are syndicated on large travel aggregators like Expedia and Booking.com. However, the human connection and the local expertise Property Managers can bring to guests is still irreplaceable and can be a way for PMs to differentiate themselves. - Jake, HomeAway Software

Q: Which tool do you suggest for do-it-yourself tours?

A: The do-it-yourself tools mentioned during the webinar are LookAround, iStaging, and Google Tour Creator. InsideMaps also sells some inexpensive hardware that can be used to capture tours using your smartphone. However, there are other tools available and I’d encourage you to do research to find the right match for your business. - Jake, HomeAway Software

Voice

Q: I have the concern that those smart speakers will just go "missing" probably after guests' stays unfortunately. Anything we can do?

A: With the https://www.amazon.com/alexahospitality Amazon for Hospitality program that RedAwning participates in, the devices are not only created with privacy concerns in mind, they can be de-activated and useless if they are moved off property, and there is a notice on them that tells guests that is the case. - Susan Blizzard, Blizzard Internet Marketing/RedAwning Group

Q: With all the fear of information being listened to isn’t the smart speaker is a lawsuit waiting to happen?

A: With the Amazon for Hospitality program https://www.amazon.com/alexahospitality that both Marriott and RedAwning participate in, the devices are programmed to not allow listening in. The more that these devices become mainstream in Marriott hotels, for example, the more comfortable people will be with them. The proof is there with regard to cell phones and webcams on laptops. Both devices could be used to listen in to your conversation, yet, both devices have become mainstream. - Susan Blizzard, Blizzard Internet Marketing/RedAwningGroup

Q: Privacy has an increasing focus. Voice and privacy - how the two can advance together?

A: This is a great question. I think history has proven that when convenience is high enough, and privacy can be protected, it outweighs privacy concerns. An example of this is the camera on all laptops, cell phones, as well as social media in general. - Susan Blizzard, Blizzard Internet Marketing /RedAwningGroup

Q: For the voice trend - how does this help the 80% of the population that are visual learners?

A: Many of voice searches are done by speaking into a phone and the results are displayed visually. Similarly, screens are becoming available for voice devices. Amazon has introduced 2 new devices called Echo Show and Echo Spot that come with touchscreens to view information. The Amazon for Hospitality Program that RedAwning participates in includes devices that do not have touchscreens, but that may change in the future. - Susan Blizzard, Blizzard Internet Marketing/RedAwningGroup

Marketing

Q: What are some examples of tech used for the email automation piece?

A: The Bluetent Email Team is passionate about working with our clients to create automated, highly targeted, meaningful email campaigns that drive conversions. We leverage a software integrated API, that allows us to send emails based on real-time reservation data to drive more repeat guests and increase value by selling add-ons like early check-in, late check-out, additional days and other packages to upcoming guests. Abandoned cart email campaigns are also a high converting email automation strategy. Emails are sent to potential guests after they abandon your booking process to encourage them to take that final step and book with a promo/deal or even automatically suggest another rental if they one they were interested in has already filled up! There is a big difference between just sending email and sending strategic emails that drive conversions and email automation that leverages intelligent reservation data let’s us do that! - Peter Scott, Bluetent

Q: We write descriptions and great content but people don't read it...they write questions that have been answered. Very frustrating. Do you suggest short or long information?

A: We suggest long information because of the great SEO benefit of having search engines display your website as a possible answer to a traveler’s question. The trick is that the information is structured in a way that is easy to read. Bullet points, bold titles, and scannable chunks of information are very effective. For example, format your pages so that a traveler can skim or search the page and see their actual question and then quickly read the answer. That said, expect to get the same questions over and over again anyway. Sadly, many people would rather ask than take any time to read! - Susan Blizzard, Blizzard Internet Marketing/RedAwningGroup

Q: What does SEO stand for?

A: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results like Google. SEO is critical to staying relevant online- i.e; when travelers are searching your destination you want to be on that search results page! As organic search accounts for as much of 70% of all website visits it is very important to have a professional and consistent SEO strategy. Proper search engine optimization means better rankings, more brand visibility, and more direct bookings! - Peter Scott, Bluetent
A: If your website has Google Analytics tracking on it (and we hope that it does!) take a look at the amount of traffic and ecommerce revenue that you receive from the organic channel. As described above, this is the SEO traffic that your website is receiving. As opposed to people who type in your URL directly, or traffic that you have paid for through ads, this organic traffic that your website receives is free. SEO professionals use many techniques to increase this traffic. The bookings your website can produce after a good SEO professional has optimized it is well worth the price! - Susan Blizzard, Blizzard Internet Marketing/RedAwningGroup

Q: Are the HomeAway/VRBO websites secure (using SSL technology)?

Yes, absolutely! HomeAway has large teams dedicated to ensuring that our websites are secure for visitors to browse, shop, and reserve vacation rentals. - Jake, HomeAway Software

Customer Service

Q: Do you know or recommend any 24/7 customer service to use for our company?

A: RedAwning has these services, as do NAVIS, Track, RealVoice and others. - Susan Blizzard, Blizzard Internet Marketing/RedAwningGroup

Q: We have no cell service and Internet is not reliable. Is there any other remote way to communicate with guests? (check in/check out, garbage day, storm alerts, etc.)

A: Third party call services can help with this. RedAwning has these services, as do NAVIS, Track, RealVoice and others. - Susan Blizzard, Blizzard Internet Marketing/RedAwningGroup

Other

Q: What about the trend that cities/counties are shutting down/prohibiting short term rentals? This just now happened again in one of our areas, which drastically impacted our business. No rentals allowed for less than 30-night stays.

A: There is help available! The Vacation Rental Managers Association has a wealth of information available here: https://advocacy.vrma.org - Susan Blizzard, Blizzard Internet Marketing/RedAwningGroup
check