March 8, 2016

The 3 Best Alternatives to HomeAway and VRBO

Ingrid Genest is a travel blogger specializing in alternative lodging trends, marketing, and advertising including Vacation Rentals, Inns, B & B's, private rooms, and sublets.

With the recent acquisition of HomeAway by travel giant Expedia, which also includes flagship sister sites VRBO and VacationRentals.com, comes a slew of changes that has vacation rental advertisers seriously questioning value. Here is a glimpse at just a few of the problems at HomeAway leaving owners and property managers scratching their heads for viable alternatives:

- Expensive pay-for-positioning packages that do not convert to increased inquiries and bookings
 
- The heavy-handed push toward a "one-size-fits-all" booking and quotable rates model (think hotel)

- Mandatory traveler booking fees offering no particular benefit for Owners or their Guests

- Ever changing search algorithms forcing advertisers to play by HomeAway's rules, or risk having their listings pushed to the bottom of the pile

For advertisers looking to differentiate the way in which they market and advertise their vacation rentals, or those who have already begun the process of moving from HomeAway altogether, consider these 3 alternatives:

Airbnb
http://www.airbnb.com/
List Your Space: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/new 

Founded in August of 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone or tablet.

Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries. And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.

Connecting Rentals Worldwide
http://www.connectingrentals.com/
List Your Property: https://www.connectingrentals.com/registration

While relatively new to the online vacation rental marketplace, the company is no stranger to the vacation rental industry, and promises to deliver big. Formed by members of Connecting Rentals, Inc., a leading vacation rental agency in Bethel, Maine since 1991, Connecting Rentals Worldwide was developed by expert programmers in conjunction with rental professionals to deliver a secure, affordable, user friendly, full-featured listing alternative.

Connecting Rentals Worldwide offers affordable listing packages at a fraction of the cost of other listing sites. Packages range from just $19 for 3 months to $49 annually.

Flipkey / TripAdvisor
http://www.flipkey.com/
List Your Home: https://rentals.tripadvisor.com/register?m=20365

FlipKey is the exclusive provider of vacation rentals on TripAdvisor - the largest travel community in the world with more than 35 million unique monthly visitors. With TripAdvisor's multiple lodging types, you can attract travelers who may have never considered a vacation rental.

Guest reviews give travelers more comfort in booking, which leads to better inquiries, higher booking rates, and more guests. FlipKey enables you to easily collect and manage guest reviews. These reviews can be seamlessly integrated onto your own website through a variety of tools.

FlipKey provides verification services for both professional property managers and individual homeowners. This verification process gives travelers more confidence when booking a property.

February 29, 2016

The Right Way to Avoid Homeaway & VRBO's Service Fee

Ingrid Genest is a travel blogger specializing in alternative lodging trends, marketing, and advertising including Vacation Rentals, Inns, B & B's, private rooms, and sublets.

The introduction of the HomeAway / VRBO service fee has caused sudden concern for both property owners and travelers alike. The service fee is a fee charged by HomeAway or VRBO to the traveler and is calculated on a sliding scale of 4% to 9% of the rental amount, excluding the deposit or taxes. Owners are appalled and even offended by the addition of this fee, which inflates the nightly price charged to their guests for a promise of services that HomeAway cannot deliver.

To help buffer the service fee backlash, HomeAway introduced the "Book with Confidence Guarantee" (found here), which owners argue is a scare tactic to justify acceptance of the service fee by travelers, but that includes items that are impossible for HomeAway to guarantee, specifically: 

1.) "Premium customer service that is available 24/7 to help you if you have issues or questions regarding your stay"

The argument: A HomeAway customer service representative cannot offer solutions to the vast majority of issues or questions regarding a travelers stay, because they have never physically set foot in the property and know nothing about the home.

 2.) "Rebooking assistance to help you find another vacation rental should your booking be cancelled by an owner or manager at the last minute, for example moving a Traveler to a comparable property."  

The argument: In many locations, especially major resort destinations during peak rental periods, moving a traveler to a comparable property is simply not possible, even for locals in the business, and especially for a customer service representative at midnight.

How should travelers avoid this unnecessary fee? Remember, when renting a vacation property, the owner, not HomeAway, is your best friend when it comes to ensuring the quality of your stay. Respect their livelihood and please don't try to avoid the fee by doing this:

The Wrong Way to Avoid the HomeAway / VRBO Service Fee:
Ask the Owner to Absorb the Fee
Don't ask the owner to deduct the fee from the total cost of their rental. Why should owners absorb the service fee? Some owners already pay upwards of $1500 annually to list a property on HomeAway or VRBO. If they are on a Pay Per Booking model, fees for the owner already start at 8% per booking. Add in the cost of taxes and credit card fees, and that leaves little to no room to absorb additional fees. Again, nobody finds the service fee more offensive than vacation rental owners.

Instead, consider this:

The Right Way to Avoid the HomeAway / VRBO Service Fee:
Be a Savvy Traveler and Educate Yourself
Instead of asking owners to absorb the cost of the fee, travelers can easily find many vacation rental owners on other listing sites, like Vacation Home Rentals (vacationhomerentals.com) and Home Escape (homeescape.com), which do not charge fees. Savvy travelers already know the best price comes from booking direct, whether it's a hotel, airline or vacation rental. Travelers can research properties on the major listing site of their choice, and then perform Google keyword searches (i.e. Avalanche Ranch Montana) to find owners through Facebook or book direct through their property website.