Trip Advisor Vacation Rental Annual Survey

trip_advisor 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.

kitchen_kevinmarsh465382501 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.

seabreeze_hottubview 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.

Sean O'Donovan

Great to see that you are doing surveys like this. The results are heartwarming for someone who has invested in a vacation rental property and is focused on driving occupancy numbers up. Gratifying to see that our property meets many of the popular criteria and that we are doing most all of the things that the survey suggests. Here’s hoping the results are as applicable in Canada as they are in the US !

Heather Bayer

Hi Sean

From the look of your website you are definitely doing the things the survey suggests. The property looks terrific and is in such a beautiful area I expect you have a lot of guests through the year. Congratulations on doing such a great job.

Phil

Thanks for summarising the survey Heather.

The vacation rental market still has huge growth potential as holidaymakers realise the benefits over a hotel.

I strongly agree that photos & reviews are key influencers. It’s proven that people don’t read, they scan and photos can get the emotions going within seconds of visiting a website – the scenery, log fires, luxury bathrooms and well stocked kitchens etc. can be very persuasive.

I expect that independent (verified) reviews are also becoming more important in the decision making process. Don’t be tempted to ‘fake them’ as they are transparent and can do more harm than good.

Enjoying the frequent blogs – keep it up!

Phil’s last blog post..Holiday letting tips – a guests perspective

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