VRS176 – April Vacation Rental Mash Up with Matt Landau

Matt Landau from the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog (VRMB.com) and the Inner Circle, joins me in one of our occasional rambles on various vacation rental topics. We talk about collaboration and learning in the industry, best books on business, forums and Facebook groups, Airbnb experiences and why branding for independent owners may not be as worthless as was claimed at the VRMA event in Amsterdam.

Of course we also discuss the Vacation Rental Success Summit and how the advent of smaller independent conferences is good for our industry.

Links to all we discussed in this episode:

The Hosting Journey

Customer Service Revolution by John di Julius

Youtility by Jay Baer

The One Thing by Gary Keller

The Compass and the Nail

Vacation Rental Marketing Blog

Vacation Rental Success Summit

VRS175 – PR for Vacation Rentals with Jessica Gillingham

Have you ever wondered how to get your vacation rental mentioned in a media article, or thought you may have a story that would be interesting enough to feature in a travel blog?

Some years ago when I was running our UK based company, Clearwater Holidays, we wanted to get the message out about our cottage area here in Ontario. It was tough. Few people were aware that this beautiful region of lakes and rivers existed, and that is was so close to Toronto. Yes, they knew about Niagara Falls and the CN Tower, but our mission was to get them to drive a couple of hours north and experience the magic of cottage country.

So, we hired a PR company. Over a 6-month period, they delivered a stream of press releases to their media contacts and we began to see the results.

There was a visit from a well-known travel writer to our River House that resulted in a double page spread in the Sunday Times describing the area, and talking about ending their day ‘jumping into the cool water of the river and then relaxing in the hot tub, under millions of stars in the clearest sky imaginable’.

We had multiple mentions in local newspapers up and down the country, and were featured in several glossy magazines. We hosted half a dozen journalists in our cottages, and although it was often several months before an article appeared, when it did, the immediacy of the public response was incredible.

In short, it was one of the best investments in marketing we made in our time as a travel company.

But what if you just have one property and want to connect with media and travel writers yourself? Well of course, we have the answer.

Today’s guest is a public relations professional who specialises in vacation rentals, and who tells us how to connect with the travel media, using traditional methods as well as social media outlets.

Jessica Gillingham honed her PR skills in the travel industry and has recently launched Abode-PR, a company specialising in promoting and marketing vacation rentals. She will be presenting at the Vacation Rental Success Summit in Toronto in May, and in this episode she shares some of her tips and PR secrets.

We talk about:

  • The change in the PR approach in the past decade
  • How to contact a journalist – and how not to
  • The best social media platforms for connecting with the travel press
  • Why you need a ‘hook’
  • Why the press release is still alive and kicking
  • What journalists write about – and hint…it’s not about your property
  • How to create a media kit on your website
  • The importance of having hi-res images to share
  • How to capture the attention of a busy travel writer
  • Where to find media lists

Links mentioned in this episode:

Abode-PR  – Jessica’s PR Company

VRS174 – The Digital Welcome Book with Henry Bennett of YourWelcome

Our industry is growing exponentially, and with it comes a wealth of apps, new platforms for advertising, physical gadgets and resources. It can be tough to sort through all of these and find the right one that suits your property and your needs.

Our new series of product reviews aims to cut through the marketing hype and bring you an introduction to the founders or developers as well as independent testimony from real users.


The YourWelcome Tablet

The most common lament voiced by owners is hands-down, “Why don’t they read the welcome book”. You’ve probably had that call or text from a guest asking how the microwave works, or to tell you they have accidentally disengaged the satellite TV, and wondered why they didn’t just read the information you left them.

Today’s guest had just that experience when he was renting out his London home, and decided to create a better way of sharing essential home details, as well as giving an opportunity to monetise the product too.

The YourWelcome tablet offers a digital platform to share video instructions, text notes, personal messages to individual guests. It claims to:

“save time, increase revenue, and deliver a great hospitality experience to every guest that stays with you.”

Henry Bennett and his business partner, Paul Loram, kicked off the business a mere 6 months ago and have achieved huge results with thousands of tablets in use worldwide. Featured in Engadget and The Sunday Times, YourWelcome is getting great press, and deservedly so.

Also in this episode is a contribution from our friend Gary Miller who has been using YourWelcome in his property for a while, and has found it a great addition not only to his guests’ experience, but to his own organisation. He uses it to play a pre-recorded personal welcome message to each of his guests as well as to demonstrate some aspects of his property by video. How cool is that!

In this episode you will hear:

  • What sparked the idea for Henry and how it reduced query calls from guests
  • How the video element meets the needs of the millennial demographic
  • The way built-in analytics help to reduce information overload
  • What comes in the box
  • How to sell services from within the platform
  • How guests can check in via the tablet why this works for remarketing purposes
  • How the tablet can be used for newsletter sign-ups

The YourWelcome team have generously offered VRS listeners a 10% discount on a year’s subscription

Go to YourWelcome and claim your discount using code: YW10-034

Sunday Times Article

Engadget Article

VRS173 – The Airbnb Perspective With Andrea Diamond

I’m embarrassed that it was only two years ago I was questioning the relevance of Airbnb, and being remarkably short-sighted on the movement of a platform that has since come to dominate the vacation rental space.

I’ve just read ‘The Airbnb Story’ by Leigh Gallagher and enjoyed it immensely, learning about how Brian Chesky et al, got the company off the ground, more by luck than design. It was never expected to be the behemoth it’s become, and the story of investors who shied away from dropping their money into the ‘crazy idea’ has similarities to those publishers who rejected the original JK Rowling manuscript.

Airbnb are the platinum sponsors of the Vacation Rental Success Summit this year

In today’s episode, I talk to Andrea Diamond, who leads Airbnb regional operations in Central & Eastern Canada.

We also announce the final keynote speaker for VRSS17…so listen to the end!

We discussed:

  • Andrea’s journey from being a host in Tel Aviv to regional manager for Airbnb Canada
  • Why rural rentals are not a great change in the Airbnb model
  • The importance of the host/guest relationship and how the platform encourages it
  • Why reviews are so important to the success of a host
  • Instant booking and why she wishes it was called something else
  • The Trips concept and how they enhance the guest experience

The Airbnb Story

Andrea’s LinkedIn Profile

Who is the VRSS17 Mystery Speaker?


We are just a few weeks away from the Vacation Rental Success Summit (May 6-7) and on this weeks episode of the Vacation Rental Success Podcast we will be releasing the details of the last and final keynote speaker.

If you have not seen our amazing line up of speakers yet, you can view the agenda here <<

To make things a little fun we would like for you to male your guesses in the comments below as to who that speaker might be.

As a prize we will award the first correct guess with 2 free tickets to VRSS17 or VRSS18.

The speaker announcement will made made during Wednesdays episode that will go live at 9am EST.

Good luck with your guesses.

This competition is now closed and you can find out who our mystery guest is on Episode 173 of the Vacation Rental Success Podcast. Sadly no one guessed the correct answer.


VRS172 – 10 Reasons I Will Not Be Inquiring About Your Vacation Rental Property

Do you ever wonder if your listing is attracting people to inquire about your property? Perhaps you see the stats that show how many have looked at it…but you didn’t get the inquiries or bookings that would make that number seem realistic.

Could it be something in your listing that is moving them onto the next place?

I started thinking about this recently when looking for places to stay on some upcoming trips, and got curious about my own thought patterns as I browsed the hundreds (and in some cases, thousands) of potential homes.

This episode explores the mistakes owners make with their listings, and how a little adjustment could bring more visitors to your own site, or at least connecting with you. And often, that’s all you need to get the conversion process rolling.

I uncovered ten reasons I won’t be inquiring about a property. They include unattractive feature photos that don’t grab attention; boring headlines; grainy and badly lit photos; uncomfortable looking beds and dull kitchens, and defensive responses to negative reviews.

Every one of these can be fixed.

In this episode I talk about:

• Why the Orlando villas with an exterior photo of the garage are a turn-off
• What you should remove from your headline
• The importance of professional photos
• How your guests perceive comfort
• Blah blah text and the way to resolve it
• Why I want to know about you and why you love the property
• The one complaint guaranteed to cause a click to the next listing
• Speed of response and calendar updates make a difference
• Why being defensive has repercussions
• Updating calendars and speed of response

YourWelcome – A Digital Vacation Rental Welcome Book

We have talked at length, both in blog posts and on the podcast, about the importance of welcoming your guests to your property and how that first impression is invaluable to the outcome of a happy guest.

One of our most popular blog posts (The Vacation Rental Welcome Book) covers the in’s and out of preparing the best possible physical ‘book’ or binder to give your guests all the information they could need about the property or the area. The biggest draw back of this method is the possibility of damage and also the inability to do immediate updates without having to disturb the guests or traveling to your property.

In this amazing age of cloud computing some very smart people over at ‘YourWelcome‘ have developed the first tablet designed specifically for providing the perfect welcome book in a digital format with remote updating capability.

Check out the video above from Gary Miller (Vacation Rental Formula Community Manager) and see what you think.

You can also find some great articles here:

– YourWelcome – The Bespoke Tablet that Lets Airbnb & Short Term Let Hosts Offer Guests A More Personalised Service

Learnairbnb.com – Airbnb Tablets Help Improve Your Guest Experience

As a reader of CottageBlogger we have also been able to secure you a 10% discount off your subscription to the YourWelcome service.



Please comment below and let us know your thoughts about using a digital welcome book.

VRS171 – Taking Great Vacation Rental Photos with Amy Greener

Getting great photos of your property is undeniably the best start to a successful vacation rental listing. You can have all the bells and whistles in terms of amenities, but if the photos don’t inspire your guests to book, you’ve lost their interest before they even get to the bit about all the flat screen TVs and stainless steel appliances.

My guest on Episode 171 knows more than most how important that is. Amy Greener is an owner of five properties, and manages another six on behalf of other owners, in the Smoky Mountains area around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. She is also a professional vacation rental photographer.

It’s a highly competitive market so I wanted to find out how Amy differentiates her small company and attracts guests to book her properties, while managing her successful photographic business as well.

I had an ulterior motive in my questions to Amy as I’m nearing the end of the refurbishment of Kingfisher Cottage and, as soon as the furniture is in place, will be doing a photo shoot of my own. Although I’m getting better at taking pictures….here’s a couple I really like from a recent shoot….I know I can do so much better at staging, setting up the shot, and editing.

Amy talked me through a range of tips and ideas to improve my skills and explained a few ways of making this whole process more systemized and effective.

We talked about:

  • Her journey from a single property to being a property manager
  • How learning from mistakes along the way has generated a more streamlined company
  • The approach she takes to competition and being different & running lean
  • The best time of day to take photographs
  • How it’s OK to use your iPhone
  • Why you should overshoot and get at least 3 angles of each room
  • The importance of removing distractions before taking the photo
  • How best to take a bathroom picture
  • When to do close-ups
  • Why less is more in most photo staging
  • Taking time for attention to detail and the little things that can get missed
  • Shooting from the belt and not looking down
  • Amy’s tips for anyone wanting to start up a vacation rental business


Blue Mist Cabins

Amy Greener Photography

VRS170 – Practical Vacation Rental Investment with Michael Hamilton

My guest today took his interest and knowledge of real estate investment and has turned it into a vacation rental business. With three properties currently listed on Airbnb & VRBO Michael Hamilton was about to fly off to North Carolina to close on the fourth, when I was able to talk to him from his San Diego home.

Michael emailed me at the end of last year asking for some feedback on his listing text after he’d studied my ebook, Hypnotic Language for Vacation Rental Listings and Emails. I was interested in his choice of properties and by the way he was achieving such great results as evidenced by the Airbnb reviews.

He shares his strategies for purchasing new properties which includes his passion for surfing and the outdoors, balancing that against the economic factors of selecting a location.

This is a fascinating glimpse into the world of a practical vacation rental investor – one who has minimal emotional participation in the rental potential of a property, but rather sees it as a working entity.

In this interview Michael talks about:

  • How his love of surfing drew him to the North Carolina coastal area
  • The importance of growth indicators to location choice
  • The Airbnb impact on bookings
  • Creating transparency in listings
  • What the About Us page does to increase interest
  • Why he prefers a systems dependent business for managing multiple properties
  • His 3 tips for anyone starting a similar business

Links mentioned in this episode:

Vacation Rental Success Summit

Fortune Builders

Bigger Pockets

Chill Beach and Surf Bungalow

Magical Bungalow OBX

Chill Beach and Surf Pad – San Diego

The E-Myth Real Estate Investor

Enjoyed this episode? Be sure to listen to Part 2 > VRS178

VRS169 – Don’t Wear Flip Flops in the Jungle & Other Things Your Vacation Rental Guests Need to Know

What could be better than exchanging a cold and snowy Ontario for 10 days in sunny Belize? Or Eleuthera, or Exuma, or Costa Rica, or Maui?

For the past 7 years, we’ve taken a break in winter to enjoy the sunny south, and stayed in a different vacation rental every time. It’s been great, not just for the obvious warmth and tropical benefits, but to get that learning experience that comes from being a guest.

I know I’ve harped on about this before, and will do so again and again. So, no apologies for revisiting this topic, because the only way you’ll create the perfect guest experience is to be a guest yourself.

And not in your own place.

So, here I am back home reflecting on my vacation and thinking about how the reality matched up with what we were promised. What comes to mind is the information provided before we went, what was there at each place when we arrived, and how the owners shared their knowledge during our stay.

I would say I’m pretty independent as far as travel planning is concerned. I can Google along with everyone else, but I still welcome information that comes from owners who have so much more knowledge of the local area.

Owners or managers are the information sources that guests need to ensure a great stay. Withholding that information can make the difference between frustration and irritation and a well-executed and enjoyable vacation.

As a rental agency here in Canada we produce a comprehensive guide for International visitors. This covers things like LCBO/Beer stores (cannot buy booze in a supermarket); rules of the road – four-way junctions, turning right on a red light, stopping for school buses. We also help out our guests from the city who are planning on visiting our country areas, because they will find big differences in the way of living.

So what do you do to prepare your guests for their stay? How much do you share? How far do you go to help them plan?

In this episode I’m exploring what guests want in the way of information before they leave on vacation, while they are there, and what you might think of providing.

I talk about:

• Why you should not expect your guests to be independent planners
• The 7 essential pieces of information to help your guests plan their vacation
• The importance of customs and immigration information
• Why I don’t want to read your guest book
• How you can prevent guests getting into trouble
• How your local knowledge can deliver 5 star reviews
• 3 simple ways to deliver information to your guests ( and get them on your web site)