Owners There is no doubt that the market in vacation rentals is growing as it becomes more of a mainstream method of vacationing and not that quirky thing that the neighbours do. This has been helped by the publicity generated by celebrity renters, of whom the US President is one. Constant coverage of the Obama vacation rental in Hawaii – and his choice of this type of vacation for maximum privacy purposes – has created a buzz around the topic on both print and online social media that is hard to match for marketing purposes. So, it wasn’t a great surprise to see the results of the Trip Advisor Vacation Rentals Annual Survey. Here’s a summary of what this had to say: Summer is the popular season OK – that’s not a surprise, but the growth in respondents saying they plan to rent a home is very satisfying with 52% planning to do so. The survey cites beachfront villas as the most popular rental type which is reasonable since most family vacationers are used to taking the kids to the beach – or at least somewhere with water activity. Selling the benefits of a property without a beach means capitalizing on the unique aspect of it and targeting to your niche market whether it’s with other types of water – swimming pool, river, lake etc., or nearby water parks. Space and a kitchen wins out over price I’m talking with Chef and TV Host, Christian Pritchard next week about what owners should do to create a kitchen fit for foodies, so the survey result that more travelers cited access to a full kitchen as their most enjoyable part of a rental, over the price benefits, means this should be a valuable interview. Growth in the repeat market The value of repeat guests is a given. We all know how great it is to have the same people come back year after year so it was gratifying to see an increase in those who always or often stay in the same rental. It may be worth exploring what you do to reward loyalty of this nature – perhaps a discount or offering vouchers of some kind. Earlier booking The stats on booking times was interesting with 56% booking more than three months in advance. After a few years of a trend to last minute reservations, a move back to more organized planning is gratifying and indicates the growth of maturity in the market. However as with any other mode of vacation, the deal seekers are still out there with a large proportion of those asked (80%) saying they would book last minute if there was a great deal to be had. The lap of luxury Private beaches win out in the luxury features with 51% citing this as their favourite pick of benefits. Maid service; a hot tub and a personal chef were other luxuries renters would choose. Milestone Events With 36% of travellers saying they have celebrated an event such as a wedding, birthday, anniversary or reunion in a vacation rental it’s worthwhile considering marketing to this group. Think about how you could promote your property to people considering planning events. Smaller homes can be marketed as romantic getaways for anniversaries & engagements very successfully. Bans and Ordinances This will become a major topic in 2011 with some of the biggest US cities imposing bans on short term occupancy, and many smaller resort towns limiting vacation rentals or creating barriers to entry. 92% of responders said cities should not impose limits on vacation rental stays. Travellers may be the ones to influence decision makers particularly in tourist destinations where the influx of vacation rental guests impacts the economy. Photos & Reviews are Key Influencers No surprise that the biggest influence on buying decisions is the photos but it’s worth reiterating. It still blows me away to see bad photos on vacation rental listings, from unmade beds to cluttered kitchens. If there is one thing you do this year that could make a huge difference in your conversion rate, it could be changing the photos on your listing. Reviews are growing in importance in the decision making process (27%) and owners who provide a quality product with exceptional service shouldn’t be scared of live reviews. Potential guests don’t trust testimonials on a web site any more – they are savvy enough to realize these can be hand-picked and no owner is going to post a negative one. Potential for Growth Just under a quarter of the respondents had never thought of staying in a vacation home so there is a lot of room for growth in this market. The key seems to be in guest education – telling them what the benefits are, over staying in a hotel or resort, and focusing on the differences in amenities such as private pools or waterfront, and fully equipped and larger kitchens. Of course the financial aspect is also a key driver and including something on your listing that compares the cost of a week in your property to a hotel, could be a tipping point. This is a burgeoning market and for the professionally motivated owner who is passionate about delivering the best in facilities and service, this is a great time to take stock and plan for a great year.