Tag: vacation rental


Tales from the other side: A VR Industry Professional’s Take on Book Direct Day

Bri Pope, TruPlace

 

I’m going to preface this post by saying something that might surprise my friends in the Vacation Rental industry.

I don’t vacation.

Shocking, I know.  Here’s the thing – I was raised by “weekend warriors”. My family’s idea of a vacation was a spur of the moment weekend getaway, planned on little more than a wing and a prayer. When I arrived at TruPlace, I quickly learned that most people (most normal people) actually do plan their vacations. Even after absorbing knowledge and insight imparted to me by some of the best mentors in the Vacation Rental Industry, I still never considered myself part of the equation. Rather, I considered myself simply an observer of the guest experience.

When it came time to plan my honeymoon in Asheville, NC (my first vacation in 10 years!) my time had finally come. Today, in honor of #BookDirect Day, the grassroots movement initiated by Amy Hinote at VRM Intel to educate guests about the advantages of bypassing third-party when booking their vacations, I address you not as a vendor in the vacation rental industry, but alas as a guest. Here’s what I found.

Strong Branding

Before I started planning my vacation, I knew I wanted to #BookDirect, but I found myself unconsciously perusing Airbnbs in Asheville. Why? Because of the ease of interaction with the brand. I maintain that the only way to retrain guests to book direct through you is to build a strong brand and be downright obsessive about it. During the booking process, I was inundated with amazing social media targeting, direct marketing, PPC campaigns, and fantastic websites that enabled me to effectively identify what we needed for our vacation.

Invest in Visuals

Your visual marketing is the tie that binds a guest’s trust and expectations. If there’s a disconnect between the two, you will struggle to promote any type of direct booking. Property pages with compelling photography, floor plans tours, and virtual tours arm your guests with information that gives them the confidence to book direct.

Be the Mayor of Your Town

I had never been to Asheville and the layout of the town was unfamiliar to me. We wanted to be within walking proximity to attractions, but also close to the highway so we could get to the various activities we planned.  A rental manager was able to help me quickly identify which properties best matched our needs. Being able to discuss this with someone helped me feel confident in where we were staying, strengthened my trust in the brand, and reassured me that it was the right decision to book through their website.

They’ll Remember You After the Vacation

Asheville is amazing. We had a blast, but more importantly, our experience from beginning to end with the property management company we chose was top notch. Throughout our experience, we felt as if someone was in our corner if we needed anything. That personal touch and attention to detail are what we will remember about the brand (read: property manager) we chose, which will make it much more likely that we’ll choose them again the next time we come to town. In a word, we were delighted.

At the end of the day, we’re all just striving for positive interactions. On Book Direct Day, take stock of where you fit into that equation. Let the need for information and ease of use drive your initiatives. If you can create that experience, they’ll remember your brand, your website, your people and your properties.

 

Bri Pope is the Director of Client Engagement with TruPlace. Specializing in Vacation Rental sales and advocacy, she ensures the client’s visual solutions are aligned with their diverse, unique brands. In her spare time, she enjoys listening to music way too loudly, hiking, and the occasional Netflix binge. Contact her at briannepope@truplace.com

A Guest’s Perfect Travel Companion: Floor Plan Tours with Professional Photos

TruPlace Floor Plan with Professional Image
Visit our gallery to see examples.

Planning a vacation is stressful and often falls squarely on the shoulders of one person arranging everything for a group. Massive OTAs and countless direct booking sites provide a paralyzing number of choices for where to stay. And even when those choices are narrowed down by filters, the nature of each vacation rental’s uniqueness makes it tough to know if a property will truly meet each guest’s needs and expectations. Once a property is booked, there’s then the pre-arrival planning and coordination, followed by overseeing vacation to-dos and timelines during the stay. The cycle of overwhelm starts all over again after checkout.

There must be a better way, right? Vacations should be relaxing, fun, and simple! What if every traveler in charge of booking, planning, and running their group’s trip had a digital travel companion that could help remove stress from the process? With TruPlace’s Signature Floor Plan Tours with professional photos, they do!

Pre-booking: Search > Find > Book

The average guest is rich in choices and poor in time when it comes to finding the right place to stay on vacation. They spend less than a minute on a single booking site but ultimately view at least nineteen properties before choosing one. A good travel companion like a Floor Plan Tour with professional photos makes this process much easier. It helps guests:

  • Narrow down properties to consider faster
  • Remain on your site longer to visualize themselves in a home through its photos and layout
  • Trust a property manager as one who is willing to invest in quality photography and helpful tools and, therefore, more likely to be one invested in the entire guest experience
  • Gain reassurance that a property will work for all the guests in their group

In fact, these technological virtual assistants are great companions to reservation agents, too, saving them an average of eight minutes per pre-booking call.

Pre-Arrival: Plan

Travel planning doesn’t end with the booking confirmation email. Once an accommodation has been booked, the primary travel planner for a group must spend several additional hours arranging transportation, planning meals and grocery shopping, booking excursions, coordinating fellow travelers and their schedules, planning in-home activities and outlining packing lists. One activity booking company once tallied this at 30 hours of work!

Floor plan tours with professional photos help the planner reclaim some time by clearly showing what is and isn’t in a property, along with key areas of interest. For example, a detailed floor plan with pictures of bedrooms helps with room selection and sleeping arrangements — prior to arrival (thus, avoiding the problem of whoever arrives first picks the best bedroom!). The location of stairs can help parents of a toddler identify how many baby gates they might need. Professionally taken photos show all the kitchen amenities available for the family chef to use for meals, and exterior layouts with photos of parking note how many vehicles guests can bring.

In Stay: Love

Nearly two-thirds of customers say their standards for good experiences are higher than ever, and half say companies aren’t meeting their expectations. This is a quick way to a subpar review. Instead, a good travel companion like a floor plan tour and quality photos show prospective guests if a property will meet their high standards before they book, so they arrive to a vacation rental with the right expectations. (This gives property managers the opportunity to surprise, delight, and exceed those expectations!)

Post-Stay: Share > Rebook

Easier travel planning and properly set expectations make for happy guests, and happy guests are more likely to book again — if not the exact same property, from the property manager who delivered a positive experience. Once a guest has experienced the benefit of a floor plan tour in their planning, they’ll appreciate (and expect) this feature when searching for the property that meets their needs on their next visit. This can have a significant business impact: retaining an existing guest costs one-fifth as much as it does to attract a new one. But winning new guests can be made easier as well. Happy guests are also more likely to write positive reviews and refer their friends — nine in 10 of whom trust their reviews over ads.

That doesn’t mean a good travel companion’s job is over. Texas Tech University found 83% of consumers are willing to refer others after a positive experience, but only 29% actually do. TruPlace’s floor plan tours lend a hand and make it easy to share a favorite property from a social and direct share button embedded into the tour view.

92% of travelers say that they trust reviews of their friends over commercial advertising. (vroomres)

To learn more about our Signature Floor Plan Tours, professional photography services, or other visual marketing tools, visit us at www.truplace.com.


4 Surprising Ways Hybrid Floor Plan Tours Streamline Operations

When TruPlace set out 16 years ago to create a floor plan tool, our focus was on guest use and marketing. It didn’t take long for our vacation rental manager clients to share with us additional ways they were using our signature product in their internal operations. These added benefits have since become a valued part of our product development in today’s vacation rental climate of ever-shrinking margins where every operational minute count. We made sure our new Hybrid Floor Plan Tour took this to heart. The resulting combination of our signature 2D floor plans and professional photos with strategically placed 3D spins delivers instant returns not just in better booking conversions but in time and cost savings for back-of-the-house teams.

And as any experienced vacation rental manager will tell you, better operations lead to happier guests, which in turn generate more five-star reviews and repeat bookings over the long term. Homeowners, too, value efficient and effective operations when deciding to contract or renew with a property manager. Here are four surprising ways our new tour will help streamline your operations for immediate and long-term benefits.

Shorter Call Times for Reservations

Vacation rental managers who have been using our Hybrid Floor Plan Tours or even our signature floor plans may not be as surprised by this one. Reservationists spend an average of eight minutes per pre-booking call answering questions about a property and its surroundings. Hybrid Floor Plan Tours help significantly cut down or eliminate this time by giving guests answers to their common layout questions, things like “Which bedrooms are on which floors?” and other information they need to have the confidence to book. This saves your reservationists’ valuable call time to focus on conversions and other guest service needs.

Quicker Response and Reduced Property Visits for Maintenance and Repairs

We have heard from countless property managers how their maintenance teams use floor plan tours to help triage issues without a separate trip to a property. Technicians and other staff use floor plans and images to pinpoint where problems are occurring or to identify parts or equipment they’ll need to bring to the property. The addition of 3D spins in our new Hybrid Floor Plan Tours lets staff investigate in even greater detail in the areas repair needs are reported most, like living rooms and kitchens.

Faster Orientation and Quick Reference Guides for Housekeeping and Inspecting

Similarly, we’ve heard from many clients about how their housekeeping teams use floor plan tours as training tools and property standards references for cleanliness, inventory, and staging. This is made even more detailed and thorough with 360o images in the most critical property spaces. Orientation is quick and easy for new cleaners and new properties, as is identifying specific replacement items when guests call for extras or backups.

Easier Insurance Claim Submissions

We hope no homeowner or property manager has to submit an insurance claim, but when they do, our Hybrid Floor Plan Tours make the process faster and less painful. Floor plans with image tags serve as a ready-made catalog for insurance adjusters of a property’s pre-claim state. Coincidentally, our strategically located 360o spins provide even more detailed coverage of areas likely to have more expensive claims, such as decks with pools or hot tubs.

 

What are other surprising ways your teams have used Hybrid Floor Plan Tours? Let us know in the comments below!