There was a bigger turnout for this year’s annual forums than ever. The theme this year was Surviving & Thriving in the Midst of Profound Changes in the Vacation Rental Industry. Many attendees expressed concern about the changes being made by the Big Box rental sites. They were also concerned about the state of the lodging tax.
Here are the topics we covered during the forums. During the coming months, we will be expanding on these subjects, so be looking for blog posts and podcasts.
Many homeowners are expressing angst about the direction that Homeaway/VRBO are going in, specifically their decision to move from a marketing platform to a booking platform like AirBnb and TripAdvisor. By requiring all financial transactions to be conducted through their site, they no longer give homeowners and vacationers the opportunity to freely communicate with one another – by phone or privately via email – prior to booking. In addition, they are charging vacationers a 4-12% booking fee.
What We Are Doing
With more than an 11% increase in listings in the past year, we realize the need to increase our advertising, including with search engines, social media, and possibly radio ads. We’re even recording some exciting Chronicle-like shows that are getting enormous exposure! We’re also increasing our budget for Facebook ads (our number 1 traffic generator) as well as our activity with Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.
Participate in Social Media
We discussed specific ways to promote your listing via Facebook and YouTube We have posted hundreds of articles on our vacationer blog and homeowner blog. By liking, sharing, and commenting on any of these articles, you are helping to increase our visibility as well as our ranking in Google.
What Homeowners Can Do
It’s more important than ever to create a listing that will stand out among your competition. And it’s crucial in this impersonal – and, yes, skeptical – world that you promote trust and create a positive impression of you and your home. We gave some examples of how you can distinguish your listing with pictures and guest reviews, as well as ways to personalize it.
For homeowners who need extra assistance, we offer marketing tools and personalized services, including photography, video, social media, pricing analyses, and on-site consultations.
Managing Your Rental Business
As homeowners, we need to make our renters feel like guests in our home rather than simply paying tenants. This starts with good communication prior to booking and throughout their stay. Homeowners who have many repeat renters go above and beyond to make their guests feel comfortable. We discussed the most common complaints and how homeowners can prevent a negative review.
Update on Lodging Tax Status
State Senator Julian Cyr, who represents the Cape and Islands, told us recently that it looks like the lodging tax bill might not be taken up by the legislature until they work on the FY19 budget. The nearly 12% tax (5.7% to the state and up to 6% to the individual towns) would apply to all short-term rentals. We have been reassured by several legislators that it would not be retroactive, so any bookings you confirm prior to the enactment of the tax would not be impacted. During the forums, we talked about our continuing efforts to advocate on behalf of Cape and Islands homeowners as well as our ideas for mitigation.