When was the last time you planned a holiday? Was it in a vacation rental? Can you remember how you chose it – what made you say, “Wow – we’ve got to have that”?
Think about it. Did you write a list of criteria your destination and accommodation had to have, or did you just get entranced by a listing and go for it?
I ask these questions because it’s that time of year again as our family starts planning for our annual winter vacation. I love doing this as it brings me back into guest mode which is always a good transfer after a busy summer focusing on being a property owner seeing rental guests in and out of my own properties. Having the guest experience is one of the best ways of appreciating how our own clients see the vacation rental process and every year I learn something new from the owners we approach.
It’s also interesting to analayse how we make that choice because what we are all doing here is what our prospective guests do all the time, and if we can unravel their thought processes it could help us create guest-magnet listings.
We had a wonderful stay at Pura Vida in Eleuthera earlier this year and fell in love with the Bahamas, particularly the Out Islands, but when we started the search for 2014, we widened the search to cover more Caribbean Islands. We were looking for:
Good reviews This has become more important over the years and I think it is for many people now. We spend hours poring over reviews – not the glowing ones that are clearly posted by the owners on their own web sites, but the ‘warts and all’ live reviews that cannot be altered by the owners (on sites like, Home Away, VRBO and Flipkey). A low review is not necessarily a turn-off; if there are one or two of these amongst a majority of positive comments it does give it more credibility particularly if the owner responded well to the negative feedback. Reviews often give more information that the listing does so are a useful addition.
I love to see a review that mentions the owners go out of their way to make their guests stay the best it can be
The owners have really thought of all things that one could potentially need: from the very informative welcome folder to what is required on a day at the beach or lounging by the pool such as cooler bags and Sigg drink bottles. There is a great selection of toys/books for the kids too.”
The owners and local caretakers are very helpful and accessible. They even provide you with tips on getting fresh seafood, restaurants and local grocery stores – not to mention things to see and do.
Amenities When we start our search we pool our must-have criteria then filter out all those that don’t make the cut.
High speed internet is a must as January is the start of our booking season and I need to be in touch with the office.
We had to have three bedrooms and two bathrooms; a great kitchen as we all love to cook, and have attractive outdoor seating areas.
This year we added swimming pool to our must-haves which we knew would limit our choice within the budget, but since Mike’s wife Andrea will be largely pregnant in January we wanted her to have a pool.
We were able to dissuade Phil over including satellite TV since it only subjects us all to endless re-runs of Top Gear when the weather is bad.
Activities This is a big one for us. A vacation rental offers accommodation only and when we are heading to a previously unvisited destination it’s very important to have some idea of the types of activities that are available in the vicinity of the property. Seeing some of these mentioned on a listing is another plus and will be more likely to get us to the enquiry level.
Photographs Perhaps I should have put this one first because great photos will always do it for me. They will cause us to increase our budget, change our itinerary to fit in with availability, and even to change our location entirely. This is what happened this year with our selection of Thevine House in Great Exuma – that and those reviews above which are some of the many that captured our attention. We got the ‘Wow’ experience and really stopped looking elsewhere from that point on. The owner of Thevine House has really got it right with the photos she is using – here are just a couple that stopped us in our tracks.
Great House – Great Owner – We were Hooked! Our decision wasn’t made straight away – it’s too easy to be fooled by wonderful photos and good reviews. The next step was to make an enquiry and see how the owner responded, and on this occasion we were so happy not to be disappointed. Nathalie Olivier is the owner of Thevine House – a beautiful property she and her husband built on Great Exuma…..more of that to follow. Nathalies immediate response was that the time we had requested was available and it would be a pleasure to her if we came to stay in her place. We were hooked.
The next step was to complete the rental agreement and pay the deposit which we did, and she immediately sent us all the information we needed to plan our stay.
My next post will cover the booking process and the comprehensive planning help that Nathalies information has given us.
I should say that we have also entered into an exchange of services with Nathalie which is something I recommend owners consider at times. Evelyn Gallardo mentioned something similar in the Vacation Rental Success podcast interview we did back in July. She had offered video specialist Lou Bortone, a week’s stay in her property in exchange for the creation of a couple of great videos together with some mentoring on setting up her own YouTube Channel which is wildly successful for marketing Evelyn’s properties.
In exchange for a couple of additional days tacked onto our vacation Mike will be producing a video for Thevine House. If you’ve seen any of Mike’s videos, you’ll be aware he is a great videographer. Check out these examples:
I will be reviewing all Nathalies listings and suggesting changes and additions to the text as well as preparing a marketing report which will probably suggest a blog and a new website – which we are also assisting with.
All in all, it’s a great deal all round and we can’t wait. Watch out for several more articles in Thevine House series as we build up to our stay and beyond. As ever, being a guest is a pleasure and being able to document the process is a lot of fun too.