Vacations, at their essence, are experiences. Your guests come to you in search of fun and excitement. When they return home, what they will remember most is how they felt and the things they did with their friends and family. To succeed as vacation rental managers, you must create complete experiences, full of activities, personal service, and great value. Guests expect more, so you must give them more.
This, however, is easier said than done. Activity providers remain separate, guests’ expectations are higher than ever, and everyone is offering discounted rates. Giving your guests everything they want isn’t easy. To do so, you must value experiences first and foremost.
In this article, we’ll examine how successful vacation rental companies are adopting an experience-first mentality. We’ll then determine how you can take immediate actions to embrace what matters most—your guests’ experiences.
What the Big Dogs Are Doing
The big dogs in the travel and hospitality industry have realized that experiences come first. In this integrated digital world, consumers are accustomed to purchasing complete vacations with the touch of a button. Over the past year, both Expedia and Airbnb have invested a great deal in creating complete guest experiences.
When you visit Expedia.com, “Bundle Deals” and “Things to Do” are both featured prominently in the main navigation bar. Bundle Deals, which had previously included just flights and hotels, now also include special offers that highlight activities, such as free tickets to the local waterpark. Within Bundle Deals, there are clear links to area activities as well as opportunities to add specific activities to your package.
On Expedia’s homepage, there’s also a section titled, “Today’s Popular Destinations.” When you choose a destination, you’re directed to a travel guide page that doesn’t even mention accommodations or flights. It simply highlights the area’s attractions and provides guests with great information for planning their vacation.
This is clearly intentional. Expedia understands that when guests are booking accommodations and flights, they aren’t just thinking about those two items. Instead, they’re thinking about all the things they are going to do on their vacation. By allowing guests to imagine experiences, Expedia is tapping into their emotions, which can build tremendous loyalty when done effectively.
Airbnb, one of the most disruptive companies of the past ten years, now features experiences, not rentals, at the top of their homepage. Their tagline is, “Book unique homes and experience a city like a local.” Also, under the “Places” tab, they’ve created personally curated guides to cool places all over the world. Some of these guides even highlight famous actors, such as Ashton Kutcher’s go-to spot for family fun. When you book on Airbnb, you understand you’re getting a distinct experience. Guests who book with Airbnb are very loyal, and much of this is because booking with Airbnb gives them something different from a traditional hotel or vacation rental.
Be the Local Expert
I know what you’re thinking: This is overwhelming! Both Expedia and Airbnb have huge budgets and endless resources. How am I supposed to compete? The truth is, however, as local property managers, you have the advantage. You know your destination better than these big brands, and your connections with local businesses and activity providers are authentic and personal. Use your local knowledge to help your guests create memorable experiences.
Display Vivid Content
One easy place to encourage experiences is on your website. When guests are planning a trip to Destin, Florida, for example, they’re dreaming about dolphin cruises and snorkeling in the crystal-clear water. If they see images of dolphins or people snorkeling with sea turtles on your website, they will immediately imagine themselves on vacation.
Images are just the beginning. Writing unique content on your website that highlights area activities and events not only broadens your ability to attract search engine traffic, it also builds trust and loyalty. Display your local expertise and provide your guests with information that only a local would know.
Even though activities make up a significant portion of the travel industry, very few vacation rental managers have fully integrated activities into their businesses. Every destination is known for specific activities. Identify your area’s top activities, and tie your business to them closely. Offer guests discounted passes to popular activities and provide recommendations for local shops and restaurants to visit. Better yet, partner with companies such as Xplorie, a business that connects property managers with activity providers. Working with Xplorie allows you to offer free activities to your guests. There are tons of ways to give your guests better experiences.
Provide Superior Guest Service
Superior guest service builds loyalty. Today, many companies get so tied up in trying to drive bookings that they overlook the importance of personalized guest services. Invest in good housekeeping, be proactive in responding to guests’ needs, and most important, show your guests that you care. When you go above and beyond to ensure that your guests are taken care of, they will remember you and book with you again and again.
Quality Experiences Last Forever
Taking an experience-first mentality has many lasting benefits. It will help you define your brand and allow you to connect with your guests emotionally. You will also give your guests more value and establish lasting relationships. Vacations are experiences. If you create them, your guests will come.
Bluetent believes that all vacation rental managers, no matter the size of their business, should have the tools to succeed in the modern digital landscape. In 2017, Rezfusion, Bluetent’s proprietary platform, will process over $300 million in direct online bookings. Bluetent’s products and services reach travelers, inspire guests, and attract owners.