Posts Tagged ‘benefit’

Vacation Rentals – Friend or Foe? What do you think?

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

#On My Mind – Vacation Rentals – Friend or Foe?  What do you think?
By Jay Karen, PAII CEO
Anyone paying attention to the travel industry these days knows about the rise and success of the vacation rental as a popular lodging option.  Sites like VRBO, HomeAway, FlipKey and others have skyrockted in popularity.  Many cities around the world are concerned with the increased use of houses, apartments, and condos as vacation rentals, possibly altering the culture of buildings and neighborhoods.  Everyone in our industry knows that HomeAway bought last year, so it brought the vacation rental question into the forefront for our industry.  But how are innkeepers supposed to see the vacation rental market?  Friend or foe?  Of course, it’s not so black and white.

Activities undertaken by the vacation rental industry and its major players may end up benefiting the B&B industry.  For two years now, HomeAway has run commercials during the Super Bowl promoting the hotel alternative.  Since B&Bs compete with hotels (and we do, for those who say we don’t compete with hotels), I like this advertising.  It gets people thinking about alternatives to what can be the “cookie-cutter” experience.  HomeAway received a big infusion of capital from Google Ventures not long ago, and they recently filed to become a publicly-traded company.  The escalating scale and scope of this company will hopefully mean more propaganda to get travelers moving in the direction away from hotels.

Popular vacation rental web sites also provide another distribution channel for innkeepers to market their rooms, cottages, or cabins.  Not all rental opportunities on these web sites are condos and entire houses – some property owners rent rooms as well.  Many innkeepers have months during which occupancy drops to single digits.  Vacation rental web sites may be a great place to experiment with renting the entire B&B out to groups for days or weeks at a time.  I know several innkeepers who are having great success renting rooms on sites like HomeAway.  Think about it this way – there could be some kind of corporate sales training or other group-type function happening near you, and people booking blocks of rooms may not be thinking “B&B” when doing their homework.  But I’ll bet many are looking at vacation rental web sites.

One thing in particular I like about the HomeAway purchase of is the possible cross-pollination of opportunities.  Maybe HomeAway will find a way to market B&Bs to their vacation rental customers.  Maybe there are technology or marketing ideas that are highly successful in the vacation rental world that will find their way to the B&B world.

But, I do have concerns about the rise of vacation rentals.  When I think about the Gen X and Gen Y traveler – heck, maybe all travelers – and their likes and dislikes, I cannot help but be concerned about vacation rentals.  More and more, travelers seem to want it “their way” and they want it to be fast and easy – everything from the search process to the booking process to the on-site experience.  Some of the top reasons people don’t stay at B&Bs are the real or perceived notions that they will be forced into social engagement with strangers (that includes the innkeepers), that they will have to deal with policies and procedures that make the experience difficult (and which exist to make the lives of innkeepers easier), and that they just don’t know what they’re going to get when they arrive.  Will it be quiet or noisy?  Will the food be good or bad?  Will the innkeepers be absent, perfectly present or intrusive?  Who knows, right?

With vacation rentals, people oftentimes get the benefit of having a nicely decorated and clean experience that rivals just about any typical hotel experience.  When I say nicely decorated, I mean that many are outfitted like upscale homes.  Most have kitchens or kitchenettes – some might even be stocked with rations.  Vacation rentals can feel like “home away from home,” which been the calling card of the B&B industry.  Most have free WiFi.  There is likely no concern from travelers that they will have to encounter anyone but the people they are traveling with, so no fears of socially-forced/socially-awkward possibilities.  They can come and go as they please without worrying about bothering other guests or the innkeepers (I’m in someone’s home, so I better be on my best behavior).  And, they can be found in just about any town or city where B&Bs can be found.

Of course, we know that the best of breed in the vacation rental market cannot compete with the best of breed in the B&B market.  A well-run B&B by a caring innkeeper, who has figured out the right recipe for taking care of all kinds of guests and their wishes provides something that no vacation rental can – the warmth of hospitality.  That’s not my concern, because I know that travelers who get the “B&B bug” after staying at one good B&B will come back and come back often.  What I am concerned about is being bypassed completely by travelers have never stayed at a B&B, who get the” vacation rental bug” after a good experience, and who harbor the prejudicial stereotypes that the average traveler harbors about B&Bs.  Why risk staying at a B&B, where the experience could go either way?  Why not stay at a vacation rental where there is a good chance the experience will likely be what you expect?

Maybe this is another reason why we need the Better Way to Stay campaign more than ever.  Maybe the hotel market is not what we should be worried about.  Friend or foe?  If you’re not using what that industry has to offer innkeepers, then they’re only a foe.  If you are using what they have to offer, then they could be more friend than foe.  What do you think?


Better Way to Stay

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Better Way to Stay Blog
Guest Blog: Advice and observations from

from by Kerry Harding

Kerry Harding from has offered her insight and marketing muses to the Better Way To Stay campaign to help innkeepers throughout the U.S. and Canada. is based in London, England.

How did you find out about the Better Way to Stay Campaign? is dedicated to bed and breakfasts — and we’re always delighted when we come across another website promoting the B&B experience. The Better Way to Stay campaign is the first of its kind. Too many travelers — in our opinion — aren’t aware what a great experience staying at a bed and breakfast or inn can be, especially compared to a hotel at the same price.

How do you think the Better Way to Stay Campaign can help B&B owners?
Marketing can be overwhelming for B&B owners and the Better Way to Stay Campaign will help them raise awareness of what they offer and why it’s so special. In short, the campaign will bring together bed and breakfast owners with leaders in the marketing industry so they can benefit from their years of experience. We think it will start a bed and breakfast trend amongst the younger generation of travellers who rely on the Internet for searching and booking holidays, as well as helping innkeepers to broaden their market and customer base.

Read More: more

Emerging Trends in Travel by Karen Escalera

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

We go to great lengths to identify emerging trends so that we can always be one step ahead, and so our clients can benefit from constant changes in the marketplace. Over the next week or so, we’ll be rolling out our predictions for travel PR trends in 2011.

1. Measurement, measurement
PR will be further pressed to provide ROI to employers and clients. Reporting will not just include coverage, engagement, quality of relationships, influencers and opinion makers reached, brand awareness and the success of key messaging, but also, influence on sales revenues. With more and more analytical tools coming to market, firms will need to demonstrate stronger results for clients.

2. Ideation
There’s been an explosion of new travel product and with it comes more competition. It has become more important than ever to communicate the uniqueness of a product, setting it apart from the pack. Traditionally, PR has been viewed as publicity, primarily a promotional conduit for communications and building relationships with the media. What will be realized is that the right PR firms can be a creative powerhouse for the generation of ideas for new products, features and services that can add value to the consumer experience, generate press coverage and revenue.

3. Confluence of marketing disciplines
A trend to watch for the near term is the growth of unified services to help deliver on ROI. Ultimately, businesses need to meet their business objectives and some don’t particularly care whether it’s with the help of PR, advertising, or digital marketing, as the lines are blurring between disciplines. Final decisions come down to results and budget, and there’s a perceived value element in bundled services. It’s becoming increasingly important to have all the tools in the marketing arsenal – a fully integrated package that’s readily available for clients. Expect to see more of these disciplines coming together via mergers, acquisitions or formal alliances that provide total integration.

4. Print media is rebounding
While audiences will still turn to social channels where they can discuss with their peers, it’s important to remember that social media is still only one slice of the media mix. 2010 proved to be the year magazine publishers took hold of the reins by integrating print and digital ad sales counterparts. As a result, magazine sales are up for the first time since 2007: magazine ad sales revenue was up 3.1% in 2010, a turnaround from an 18% decrease in 2009. For affluents in particular, while they are digitally savvy, they still expect a luxury brand’s presence in print because it’s still regarded a credible source. Savvy PR and marketing pros will recognize that there are buoyant and effective growth markets to be found in print, i.e. niche, community and industry media.

5. New corporate PR position – Director of Content
Just as editorial directors across the country have been told to see themselves as content providers, so too should PR professionals. Corporate PR Directors, already wordsmiths, manage strategic messaging and they collaborate with marketing. So who better to create, manage and deploy content across a portfolio of channels – print, digital (website content, enewsletters), and social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.). Perhaps this new Director of Content will report to the Chief Content Officer (formerly the Chief Marketing Officer)?
6. Travel industry will wake up to the importance of images, video
Too many hotels just don’t seem to get it –their websites are typically second generation sites that have graduated from brochures to e-commerce platforms (i.e. reservations), and have not yet embraced social media, quality images and video that engage and help reinforce brand attributes. 2011 needs to be the year of the “a-ha moment” as to the value of engaging content, and a willingness to commit a large portion of the marketing budget to it. Hotels are in the experience and memories business; they must create an initial experience that provokes the “I love it!” response.
Likewise, PR strategists will spend more time developing the visual aspect of news and take advantage of today’s video consumption boom. It attracts attention, entertains, informs, increases visitor engagement and motivates consumers to sample or buy product. Moreover, YouTube ranks first in Google’s search results.

7. Service content rises in prominence
As consumers increasingly turn for guidance and how-to’s online, opportunities are increasing for companies and executives to get added exposure through service-oriented articles providing education and thought leadership. At the other end of the spectrum, with social sharing of news, whatever grabs attention and is controversial will stand out from the crowd and more likely to be shared on Twitter and Facebook. Also, expect more research data from PR firms, made possible by the ease of online surveys.

8. Public relations continues to rise in value
The adage “out of sight, out of mind” applies now more than ever. After the recent Great Recession, it’s imperative that brands and companies be visible by announcing that “we’re still here for you” (and haven’t gone out of business like so many others). Moreover, the PR pros of today are working outside of the traditional PR box, and have become quite skilled in creating their own video and digital content for clients. They have become socially interactive in online communities and are speaking directly to mass audiences in their language.

9. Storytelling drives engagement
Facts are great, but a story is better. PR is in the storytelling business. The storytelling approach is the most powerful driver of engagement in social media, where the media, consumers and influencers alike are connecting, interacting and sharing content. Moreover, good stories give your consumers an excuse to spend, create an affinity with the product, and help consumers feel more educated about your product.

10. Freelance media back on PR’s radar screen
With the steady downturn in the number and circulation of print media, freelance writers have watched their markets dwindle. As a result, they’re branching out, expanding their outlets by becoming authors, bloggers, providing content for mobile apps, varieties of new ‘lifestyle’ travel guides (e.g. Louis Vuitton guides, Gucci’s Little Black Book), and for hotel/destination websites, which are increasingly providing more travel and local information for browsers. With this in mind, PR Pros who are looking for new approaches and places to get their clients visibility will be turning to freelancers.

Summer Tourism Ideas

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010


Summer Tourism Ideas

Many tourism locales see the summer months as high season. Prices rise, at times the service is a bit less, and many tourism attractions, hotels, restaurants or transportation systems know that the summer’s receipts will determine the success or failure of the entire year. Furthermore, many locales take the position that once spring has passed, marketing may be a waste of time, as summer vacation plans have already been made. Certainly some areas of the world are heavily dependent on the summer traffic patterns. For example, many beach communities (especially those located in cooler climates) may receive up to 90% of their gross revenues from summer sales. Even non-beach resort locations see the summer as a time of great opportunity. For example, urban areas may view the summer as a time when local residents flee to cooler climates, but may also benefit from visitors seeking a cultural experience (especially with their children) at a time when big city life may be a bit less scary. This summer may also be a challenging one for many locales. The economy is still shaky in many parts of the world, and some people may simply put off a summer vacation or skip this year’s vacation. To help you prepare for summer and turn the year into a great season here are a several ideas;
Tout Being Affordable. No matter where you are realize that people will be looking for bargains this summer. Push everything from summer coupon books to places where one can spend a bit less. Be careful not to push too hard, as that can drive down prices to the point that local tourism agencies cannot afford to stay in business. The trick is to give value mixed with good service. In fact in a down economy service becomes an all-important aspect. Our guests, many of whom are struggling to afford a vacation, do not want to feel that they are anything but honored guests.

Teach all front line people to smile! Closely related to good service is a sense of caring and an open friendly attitude. This is the year to remind all front line people that no job is ever guaranteed. We have to earn our jobs with each guest. All too often the tourism experience has been anything but joyous. There is no better advertising or marketing campaign than a friendly smile.

Do not be afraid of visitors from another country. Follow currency exchange rates, for example, if the euro is expensive against the dollar than Europeans tend to flock to the USA. If however, there is a rise in the value of the dollar, Americans may return to Europe. Remember foreign travelers tend to spend a lot more money in a locale than does the local population. The trick is to make their travel as easy as possible. Offer easy locations in which they can exchange money, print multi-lingual maps and guides and encourage restaurants to have menus in more than one language.

Do not be afraid to promote the long weekend. Not everyone may be able to afford in both time and money a two -four week vacation. These people may be looking for weekend get-aways that start on Friday and end on Monday evening. The other alternative is to have creative midweek special. A may prefer to sell its rooms at 50% or the rack rate than not at all. If the economy is shaky, then focus on attracting people from nearby states.

-Be creative in offering not only stress-free summer vacations but also de-stressing vacations. The current economic situation has placed a great deal of stress on lots of people. Think through how you can facilitate hotel check-in and out, help people to locate locations around the community, and not get lost. One of the reasons that people are often stressed out after a vacation is that travel is no longer fun; be it in a car, airplane, boat or railroad car. Develop ways to make your transportation terminals feel more “homey” and less stress inducing. Do not forget to watch gas prices. While gas prices traditionally rise in the summer months, watch for trends and if they become too expensive use this expense as a creative marketing device.

Market even in the summer months. Not everyone has made summer plans, and there are always those people who are seeking a last minute get-away. Remember that creative marketing this summer may provide you with a list of potential new customers for next summer. Remember that good service is the best form of marketing. Seek the time when media prices are lowest and then blitz selected markets that may become new niche marketing zones.
Create a summer marketing web campaign. The web is a great took especially for last minute travelers. Consider such things as:
– Special summer itineraries
– Special summer web specials
– Divide your attractions by style, location and price
– Directions from any place to any point in your locale
– Lists of what is near-by each attraction, from hotels to restaurants to clean rest rooms

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