Dear Vacation Rental Heroes,

In my 15 years of vacation rental work I’ve never experienced a moment that has required so much of a community to act so quickly. I know that the amount of required change will affect each vacation rental professional differently. But none of us are immune to increased anxiety and stress. These are truly historic times. And the image above from VRMB illustrator Katie Chandler really spoke to me.

The bad news is that travel will take a major temporary hit. The good news is that vacation rentals are poised to prosper long-term thanks to our privacy, small scale, and control (compared to traditional hotels).

Back in 2016, I predicted that vacation rentals would topple hotels in 2020. I definitely did not expect it to happen this way, but I do believe this will be the inflection point due to new sanitation expectations from the traveling public. People will never stop taking vacation and our product is about to become infinitely more attractive.

Your MMM’s over the course of the next few weeks will continue and they will be characteristically action-oriented and fun. This is a crisis, but it doesn’t mean we cannot smile. For starters, enjoy this Italian man wearing a giant circle prop to keep virus at bay 🙂

THE GOOD NEWS: INDEPENDENCE

Everything that VRMB has ever written, shared, or presented on stage has to do with independence. It is time-tested. Sometimes independence in branding: presenting yourself authentically so people remember, refer, and come back to you. Sometimes independence as marketing diversification: not being too dependent on any one given listing site, person, region, or demographic. And sometimes independence in self-care: treating yourself and your body well so that you can treat guests that way too.

If you have ever attended one of my presentations, you know I end with the following message: the more independent your business is, the more you sustain industry blows and market corrections. If you have been practicing independence over time, you sustain shocks far better than businesses who have not. While the short-term outlook may be rough, I can assure you that when it subsides, all your hard work over the years will pay off. This is what we’ve been working towards!!

Here’s a link to VRMB’s “Listing Site Independnce” Self-Grader

CANCELLATIONS? TRY THIS…

If guests cancel for the coming weeks and months, depending on how the situation evolves in your region, you can…

  • Offer guests re-book for later in the year (or same dates 2021)
  • Be confident holding your ground: so long as the booking was not made through a listing site (more on this below) you and your contractual agreement get the final say. If on the fence, you have the obligation to put you and your family’s own well-being first.

Email all bookings for 2020 preemptively allowing the guests to cancel if they choose (this proactive stance — instead of waiting for the inevitable — earns respect, credibility and goodwill). Thanks Rick Oster for this one.

MARKETING DURING DOWNTIME

Might as well make the most of the lull. Some VRMB subscribers are using the quarantine to revamp their website. Others taking new photos, doing deep cleans. Some just a hefty dosage of therapeutic gardening. Here are three project ideas we’re featuring this week:

  • Get Ya Newsletter Freak On: For a lot of managers this has been left on the back burner. There is no better way to stay in touch than a monthly or quarterly update. And there is no better time than now. Make your newsletters funny, interesting, informative, heartfelt.
  • Riches in Niches: New traveler demographics WILL EMERGE out of this mayhem. Here are some we’ve discussed on the Inner Circle: those looking to vacay-quarantine or social distance themselves for weeks/months, idyllic “work from home” retreats, young/single travelers who are more intrepid and looking to take advantage of deals when they arise. Get a head start on these groups: they are your future guests.

“Groupon”-Style Deal for Future Bookings: Offer all your past guests the chance to purchase $1000 of future credit at your vacation rentals for $500 (or whatever ratio you choose). Tapping good reputation earned over time can generate cashflow in low months.

RECALIBRATE YOUR GOALS

It’s a good time to re-assess your numbers. They certainly aren’t what they were even 1 month ago. Recalibrate your goals in order to have a gauge how much gas you have in your tank. Decide exactly how much money you need to break even on your business for the next 6-12 months. If it’s realistic, or if you’ll beat it, great! If you don’t have a chance of reaching it, consider…

THE DEEP PAUSE

Some managers will be using the next few months to do the Deep Pause. Also known as “Family Mode,” my definition of a Deep Pause is a temporary halt of most/all business operations in order to reduce overhead expenses (ie. survive) WHILE preserving the brand of the business for a powerful launch strategy when re-opening. Whether one week, month, quarter, or year, the key is to induce relief from stress and take some forced down time.

Seasonal business models are NOT new (just ask the waiters at Joe’s Stone Crab who earn so much money in 5 months that they can afford to travel the world for the rest of the year). But “going seasonal” does require some tough decisions (with regards to staff) and a powerful and organized re-launch strategy. We will be going over this in the coming weeks MMMs: new subscribers can add themselves free of charge here.

NEWS

+ Listen to Durk and Heather Bayer talk about cleaning during Coronavirus on this podcast. You’ll want to be prepared and ready to promote yourself as a sanitary alternative to hotels very soon. So knowing the technical requirements is key.

+ In case you thought Airbnb had your back, they don’t. Amy Hinote thinks this will mark the moment that we all realized that we were living in a world of complacency — so enamored with the OTAs driving revenue and bookings for us that we forgot that they really don’t understand this business and they have little to no regard for their suppliers.

+ Oh and Cloudbeds just raised $82M for their vacation rental (and hospitality) management software. Interesting time to take in this cash! Terry Whyte thinks they are a sleeper PMS lots of vacation rental managers should know about.

I will leave everyone with one final thought…

Tough times present new opportunities and seizing on opportunities requires instinct, agility, and leadership from the ground up. This is something I have always felt vacation rental professionals have in spades. I am sure I’ll be hearing from many of you over the coming weeks with brilliant glimmers of light.

Shine on!

Sign up to receive newsletter updates from Matt at www.vrmb.com/mmm

Matt Landau

VRMB

matt@vrmb.com 

(443) 653-1648

Over the past decade, VRMB has helped more than 1,000 vacation rental owners and managers build sustainable businesses that rely on their own core strengths. Thank you, Matt, for being an excellent resource for ALL of us in the Vacation Rental industry.

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