Performance Tips

The Key to a Post-Quarantine Boom: Less Restrictive Cancellation Policies

 

With parts of the country opening up piece by piece, travelers are hitting the road in search of adventures outside their homes. But they’re not being reckless: safety, trust, and flexibility remain top priorities as families and friends try to navigate the still-uncertain landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Property managers are of course in a similar position. But according to early data, there is one specific adjustment property managers can make immediately in order to attract more attention from potential guests: ease cancellation policies.

 

Historically, property managers have balked at relaxing policies hoping to protect themselves against loss of revenue from cancellations. Studies have shown, however, that the increase of bookings significantly outweigh the slight uptick in cancellations. That seems especially true during the current pandemic, when there’s so much uncertainty from one week to the next: flexible policies have proven to be the number-one key for business to return.

 

VacayHome Connect recently tested this approach with its suppliers on Booking.com and implemented flexible cancellation policies for properties that had been on stricter strategy. Here are a few notable takeaways:

 

  • The number of bookings increased by 184%, while the number of cancellations only increased by 12% year over year
  • Guests started booking further out and the booking window increased by 21%
  • Booking pace has been the highest since the 2019 summer season

 

Similar trends were confirmed by several of VacayHome Connect’s other channel partners, including Expedia and Airbnb. So despite the unpredictability of a global pandemic, this much is clear: travelers are ready to book vacation rentals, and they’re even more enthusiastic when they see a flexible cancellation policy. Property managers who adjust accordingly could reap the benefits in the months to come.

Packages

 

Over the past years Expedia has worked diligently to become the most well-known, most powerful marketing machine site for travel packages. They offer a full suite of bundle options (flight/accommodation, flight/car, hotel/car, and flight/accommodation/car). Their consistency of pricing, global coverage and ease of use makes Expedia the favorite site for package travelers. 

Vacation Rental Managers who do not take advantage of the power that Expedia package products offer, may lose out on a significant amount of unrealized revenue. This becomes especially important for properties located in destinations that rely on air transport and/or international travelers. In certain markets, if you do not participate in package marketing, your properties may not even be seen by travelers. How impactful is the power of Expedia’s packages? These packages account for a substantial share of revenue in New York (52%), Oahu (29%) and Las Vegas (24%). A recent study conducted by Expedia revealed that package buyers booked on average, one month earlier than standalone (not bundled in a package) reservations. Standalone bookings are also 260% more likely to cancel their reservation than package consumers.

“Package bookings offer many benefits, to property managers and travelers, and to get the most value from packages, PMs should know their top origins markets, both domestically and abroad,” says Melissa Maher, SVP of Marketing & Industry Engagement. She added that hotels should offer “origin-specific” deals and promotions, monitor exchange rates in their top source markets, as well as knowing the key booking and travel periods for different international markets.

 

Interested in increasing your production by offering special package rates? VacayHome Connect’s Client Success Managers will guide you on optimizing your offerings on Expedia and attract more vacation package travelers.

Virtual Tours

 

As the saying goes: you never have a second chance to make a great first impression. While photos can convey the look of your properties, virtual tours provide the guest an immersive experience of what it’s like to walk through your property.

Virtual tours have been the standard in the real estate and traditional hospitality industry for years. Now they are slowly making their way into the vacation rental sector thanks to improved technology and increased affordability. If you’re not familiar with virtual tours, think of them as a 360-degree, immersive view of your properties. Unlike videos, virtual tours let the guest navigate through your homes at their own pace and explore every corner of the vacation property. Guests get a much better understanding of the home’s features, amenities, layout, and other details that help them with the booking decision. New features like 3-D mapping along with the use of augmented and mixed reality make virtual tours an indispensable tool for marketing your homes to your guests.

Google recently commissioned an independent study of the effectiveness of virtual tours and this study found that virtual tours help double the business interest. People who view a listing with a virtual tour are twice as likely to be interested in booking a reservation at that property. 18-34 year-olds in particular, are 130% more likely to book a property offering a virtual tour.

This study also found that among people surveyed, 67% wanted more businesses to offer virtual tours, 26% were indifferent and 7% felt more virtual tours were unnecessary. This means that on average, two thirds of people actively appreciate virtual tours when they land on company websites.

Until recently those virtual tours could only be used on your own website. This limited the exposure of showcasing the allure of your properties to only your own customer base. However our OTA partners have realized that the support for featuring virtual tours to their guests is essential to the conversion process and the demand is growing greater. Many of them are either beta testing, or have already rolled out the full support for featuring virtual tours.

Many Property Management Systems (PMS) haven’t upgraded to offer the distribution of virtual tours to third party partners via the API connection yet. However, we are actively working with our partners to improve the distribution of virtual tours via automated connection. Until a connection is established, we support our clients by loading the virtual tours directly into the partner channel. If you have virtual tours for your properties and would like to distribute them via our partner channels, please contact your Client Success Manager or email clientsuccess@vacayhomeconnect.com.

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VacayHome Connect