This series “TripAdvisor Issues” has been examining the problems vacation rental managers are facing with their listings on TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals/FlipKey (TAVR), rate parity, policy issues, and questions relating to TripAdvisor’s direction regarding professionally managed vacation rentals.
Part 1: TripAdvisor Issues: What’s going on with TripAdvisor?
Part 2: TripAdvisor Issues: More support issues, rate parity, discriminatory policies, and the negative impact for vacation rental managers
Part 3: Where is TripAdvisor heading with vacation rentals, and how do they stack up against the competition?
Click here to get a pdf of the entire series of articles.
TripAdvisor Responds to Complaints from Vacation Rental Managers
Today, in response to recent articles spotlighting the issues property managers are experiencing, TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals GM Tracey Zhen sent the following:
At TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, we’re constantly working to improve our business and provide the best possible marketplace for property managers, homeowners and travellers. This year has been a very important period of transition for our business, with significant changes aimed at providing a better experience for all of our customers, of which property managers are a vitally important group.
The most important of these changes was our move to a single platform. This shift in our technology – the biggest we’ve ever made – didn’t come without challenges. Our teams worked tirelessly to meet these challenges and help our customers who were impacted by them. We know it was rocky and we’re sorry about the issues the migration caused some of our customers. We completed the transition several months ago and we’re happy to be back to business as usual.
While property managers always have and will remain a fundamental part of what we do, another key change this year and last has been our increased focus on homeowners as demand to list independent properties continues to rise sharply in the vacation rental market. Property managers – which have sometimes thousands of properties and require account managers, custom technical integrations and more – have different requirements to independent homeowners. We’ve set our rates to match these requirements, and these rates are very much in line with industry standards.
Our business has seen tremendous change and growth over the last year, and with that came an increased workload for our account management teams. We’re continuing to make hires to align to our growth rates and service levels.
In our extensive growth over the last year, we’ve continued to enjoy positive and fruitful relationships with the industry. We strive to give our property managers great experiences, but like any business, we don’t always get it right. When we make mistakes, we do everything we can to fix them quickly. We’re aware of the isolated incidents mentioned in your post, but these are a small proportion of our client base. We also receive feedback from satisfied clients on a regular basis, for instance:
“FlipKey consistently produces quality guest leads and referrals for us. FlipKey’s technology is cutting edge, the Owner login and functionality is helpful and easy to use and the live support team extremely professional and responsive. Flipkey’s online presence augments our own marketing efforts and our businesses work together symbiotically and effectively. FlipKey is and will remain our number one vacation rental marketing partner!” – Coastal Vacation Resorts at Oak Island
However, what Zhen refers to as “isolated incidents” have turned into a widespread initiative among vacation rental providers.
Vacation Rental Managers Unite to Address Concerns with TripAdvisor CEO
In the past week, over 90 vacation rental managers representing approximately 15,000 vacation properties in the U.S. and in Europe have united to bring their issues to the attention of TripAdvisor executives. And they are reaching out to other property managers to join in their efforts.
The newly formed group has drafted a letter addressed TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer which states (in part):
We are writing on behalf of professional vacation rental managers (undersigned below) to express our concerns with issues we have experienced with Flip Key/TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals Division. You may not be aware of some of these items so we feel it is important to bring them to your attention since TAVR is an important division of TripAdvisor.
Many of us have been satisfied TAVR customers for years and have received acceptable service and functionality within the system. Over the last 18 months the service, support, communication and functionality have deteriorated dramatically due in part to significant staff turnover, while the technical issues have created inaccurate pricing, inaccurate calendars, outdated photos, incorrect location details, inaccurate content that cause consumers to believe we are deceiving them…
We hope this feedback will be useful and productive to you and your senior leadership, and that this feedback will lead to necessary changes in focus, communication, and transparency regarding senior management within TAVR, specifically Mr. Dermot Halpin the President of the Vacation Rental Division, and Ms. Tracey Zhen the General Manager of the Vacation Rental Division.
We all value TripAdvisor as being one of the world’s leading travel websites. We appreciate the quality guest traffic, the leads the site brings from our listings and the opportunity the site provides for our guests to leave independent third party reviews of their experiences in our properties.
The letter outlines issues experienced by the group or vacation rental professionals, including:
Inaccurate listings and inability to correct issues
API feeds is not functioning
Expired listings and deactivated listings appear live on the site
Listings not being removed after the TAVR advertising contract expires
Guest reviews are not all showing up within the TAVR Admin but are showing up live, making it impossible for a manager to respond to a review when this is the case.
Inability to manually suppress reviews on our own websites,
Technical support issues
Poor customer account management and communications
Lack of commission parity for professionally managed properties vs. owner managed properties
The TripAdvisor Philosophy is Inconsistent with its policies for vacation rental listings.
According to the group, “Our intention is to offer feedback on the VR division of TripAdvisor with hopes to make TripAdvisor executives aware that there is a serious problem that many managers are talking about with the hope that ‘mismanagement and technical issues’ will be addressed and customer communications and response time can improve.
The draft of the letter closes:
We realize TripAdvisor is a large company with many areas of focus and the vacation rental segment may not be high on the priority list. We, on the other hand, are in the business of managing and marketing our homeowners’ properties to ensure success to our clients and the best guest experience possible. There are many other distribution options to choose from, which many of us utilize with great success. However it would be unfortunate for the vacation rental industry as a whole if TripAdvisor fails to recognize and resolve these issues for the good of TripAdvisor, the consumers, and the advertisers.
By Amy Hinote