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A Long Hard Winter

By William May
Published: 05/06/06 Topics: Comments: 0

Even if you don't operate in a ski resort area, it has been a long winter. VROA continues to handle inquiries and assistance for rental owners all over the US and even some other countries. Before we gloat over progress its time to wail over other matters.

Some of you have noticed the newsletters have gone off line for some time. We do apologize for that but the growth of the group has been pretty heady for a small band of volunteers. Sometime had to give and getting out a tips oriented newsletter was one of them. I'd cry Uncle right about now except for the opportunity that lays before all of us for industry growth and profit.

Whats more - we have decided to recruit a full time Executive Director for the group to take over the newsletter, inspection program and our other numerous activities.

We'll be re-starting up the home of the week award too but most important is that we have request out now for completing of the (VROA.com)VROA.com consumer site. Actually it has always been an important goals but also one that secondary to the goal of serving members. Yes, everyone wants more sales leads and maybe the .com site will do that especially for owners who complete the inspection program. And the (VROA.org)VROA.org site will be revised as well.

For the Director job, we have actually done some interviewing already and will take time to find just the right person. They have to be talented of course but also ambidextrous because they'll wear a lot of hats. We'd have the job filled by now but we're so busy doing the job we don't have time to hire our replacements. That is a classic example of the vicious circle.

In the meantime, thanks for supporting the association. We'll have more to give soon. By working together we all get further ahead.

A few news snippets for you of course:

The City of Sedona Arizona has recently decided to start enforcing an old code on the books that limits rentals to no shorter than 30 days in tenure. This, of course, pretty much puts a death knell over the vacation rental industry there.

Long time readers will not be surprised by such an action from most any jurisdiction. If there has been an overriding theme to the VROA newsletters it has been to alert owners and managers to the threat that regulations or prohibitions mean to the industry.

A warning to the wise - if you haven't organized your local or state group to work together - to fight governmental intrusions and other important matters - you need to start today. The folks in Sedona and elsewhere are now behind the eight ball because the enemy has been working diligently while they slept. I hope they can overcome this heavy handed land grab but it will now be more difficult than if they had organized long ago.

Our list of Vacation Rental websites now numbers well over 400 and figuring out which ones are productive continues to be difficult. I almost wish someone out there would put a prohibition on new sites. A word to the new comers and those who will start up soon - enough already.

All your sites do is further dilute the marketplace making it even more difficult for guests to find quality rentals. And most of the new sites don't seem to attract a lot of listings unless they give them away. Even then their count is far lower than must be worth the effort.

Time has now passed on the acquisition by the World Vacation Rentals Group (WVRgroup.com)WVRgroup.com of a number of leading rental websites such as (CyberRentals.com)CyberRentals.com, (GreatRentals.com)GreatRentals.com (A1Vacations.com)A1Vacations.com. My first reaction is that some of the sites are looking better than they used to. But we're also hearing the kind of complaints common to merged or acquired businesses and that is the lack of feedback and follow through. Have they simply bitten off more than they can chew anytime soon?

The company purportedly raised a good deal of cash to make the acquisitions. But was it all spent on buying food and not on digesting the meal? Plus it looks like they are dead set on raising listing prices a dangerous ploy.

Disclosure - - For those of you unfamiliar with my checkered background, at one time I was a business broker, also referred to by the hoety totety as a Private market Merger and Acquisition person. I could go on forever about that strange occupation but I learned a lot about deal making. Perhaps the biggest observation is that not all good conglomeration ideas prove to be valid business concepts.

There are really only two ways to convince customers (Owners and Managers) that an acquisition make sense. Because it produces better products or because it provides them cheaper. WVR seems to be trying at both but I also know money managers require quick results and raising rates is a give away that the buyers may sacrifice long term customer benefits by thumping customers with added costs.

In fact, over the years a review of American business in particular shows that companies merge and then they divest and then they try another conglomeration. WVR's idea of combining all those good listings into one business probably sounded like they could just add all the listings together for a much bigger sum total. Unfortunately the only reason most owners or managers use multiple sites fades away when a single operator is supposed to find more revenue for us.

The search engines such as Yahoo continue to innovate. Boy that's a great sounding word but sometimes its is necessary ask if the changes are really of any benefit. At a recent conference the Yahoo travel group made a presentation about several new products. The first is the ability of users to group the searches they have found into sub-groups that appear prominently on their web pages. All that sounded very good but then Yahoo built in the ability for these users to make their comments public and more problematic, to feature those perhaps more prominently on search results than the paid advertisers listings.

Sure there will be a lot of complimentary postings. But anyone who deals with consumers knows there are some crooks, crazies and freaks out there who will post any kind of selfish thing they can to coerce advertisers into getting what they want. And even that wouldn't bee to bad if yahoo would take responsibility for reviewing and adjudicating disputes that may come up with postings.

Of course one of the things that ,makes websites money is the ability to create content without the kind of personal labor that other kinds of businesses are saddled with. For example, you phone company makes far more money when you use the service and don't have to call customer support. The minute you call and take time from a busy technique the measly $25 or so per month you're paying for service becomes not profitable for them.

Websites, on the other hand, are usually impossible to get on the phone and are experts at email with big delays and little follow up. That means if you have a problem with a slanderous posting it'll be a cold day in purgatory before it gets attention, if it ever does.

I think Yahoo is way off base here. When asked tough questions at the conference they had virtually no answers. Looks like they're creating a product to benefit consumers at the expense of advertisers.

Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0066 – 05/06/06

Comments: 0

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