Does Your Property Have IT?
By Ana M. Kinkaid
Published: 04/16/07 Topics: Comments: 0
In the 1920's when someone asked if an individual had "IT", they were using the code that Hollywood invented to describe sex appeal. Today, IT refers not to a lovely lady, but to the most wonderful invention of our time - Information Technology.
Go down any street in even a small town and you will see MP3 players, iPods and, of course, cell phones. Cable television has become the norm for enjoying television with hundreds and hundreds channels available. And then there is the internet, that astounding technology that lets us retrieve information in seconds. It is the internet that most often lets guests from around the world find and make a reservation at your property. Once there, it connects them to family and friends as well as business colleagues faster than a phone. These are truly amazing times we live in.
Also amazing is the growth rate of vacation rentals as a segment of the hospitality industry - an astounding 15% annual. As a result, hotels are losing business to the roomier, more family-oriented and often less expensive vacation rentals or VRs. One way hotels are attempting to reclaim their sliding position in the industry is to offer extensive IT services to the traveler. Currently the hotel industry plans to spend $5.5 billion (yes, that's billion) dollars on capital improvement in 2007-2008. And most of those improvements are technology-based.
Fortunately, you don't have to spend billions. That's one of the advantages of being smaller than a 1,000 room hotel. (Image what their housekeeping bill must be!) But it is important in this day and age (it is the 21st century, after all) to review your property and ask if you would have more bookings if you often IT services to your guests. These might include:
IPOD DOCKING STATIONS - Used to play music recorded on the IPod out loud.
FLAT SCREEN/HDTV TELEVISIONS - Most of the new DVDs are recorded for display on a flat screen/HDTV format. Also you don't need to have a bulky storage cabinet for this newer style TV.
HIGH-SPEED WIRELESS INTERNET - Guests are now bringing their laptop computers with them and they want to stay connected.
CABLE TELEVISION - With cable, you can limit the need for a DVD player and DVD movies.
DVD PLAYER - If you can't get cable in your area, be sure to consider a DVD player. Video players are not considered cutting edge and more and most newer movies are being released in DVD format.
If you decide to add IT to your property, be sure to adjust the amount of your deposit. Also consider additional insurance to cover damage or theft. And be sure (this very important) to update your marketing material to tell everyone viewing your web site that you offer these very modern amenities. That way you will be 'wired' into increased profits and truly become a 'hot' vacation rental.
THE NAME OF THE GAME: Keywords on Your Web Site
Your website will only be effective IF people can find it on the Internet. One way to insure that potential guests locate your web site is to be aware of "search engine optimization". What, I can hear you saying, is "search engine optimization"?
Now, I didn't understand what that term meant either when I first heard it. So over a cup of coffee I asked a good friend, who designs web sites, explained it all to me.
"Search Engine Optimization" he told me was all about "keywords."
"OK"; I said, "what are keywords "Keywords he explained are the words that we enter in the search field when we are looking up some topic on the Internet.
For example, if I wanted to rent your home for the fourth of July, but didn't know the term "vacation rental";, I might enter rent home for summer holiday in the search field. Once I hit the search button, the search engines of the Internet begin looking through millions of site for those words. If you included them somewhere in your text, the Internet will bring your vacation rental site up. If they are not there, the search engines will fly past your site and look elsewhere. And someone else gets the reservation!
I suddenly understood that keywords were really, really important if a web site was to be successful.
How do you find your "keywords"? It is a two-step process.
First, look at the leading vacation rental sites with properties similar to yours. Print off copies of their text. After you have ten or so copies, sit down and read through them. Pay attention to which words seem to reappear time after time in all of the descriptive text. Now go back and mark the words most frequently used. One word that will reappear again and again is, of course "vacation rental". Other words might be "alternative"; "roomy" "kitchen", "hot tub". Make a list of these words. Make a second list of the words that you feel describe your rental property that don't appear on the sites you've reviewed.
Second, go back to the Internet and enter "free keyword search." (There are programs that charge money to conduct a search, but you can use them later, if you like). One free site is: inventory.overture.com. This is a very simple site, but it will give you a feeling for how this works. If, for example you enter the word "travel"; and then the word "vacation rental";, you will see that the word "travel"; on the sites Overture monitored was hit 1,355,679 times while the word "vacation rental"; was hit only 83,341 times. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see how important it is to include the word "travel"; in the material you are writing for your vacation rental web site.
It can be fun and surprising to look the words up. Often there is a word or phrase listed that you might not have thought of. The goal, of course, is to form a list of words that you will include in your written descriptions that will result in drawing the greatest number of visitors to your site. The more visitors to your site, the more booking you will have. And that IS the name of the game, isn't it?
BOOK MARK: Designing People
Designing Web Sites That Sell by Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis. Peachpit Press, 2002.
This useful book is a rare example of a practical text written by two designers who understand the marketing components of e-commerce. Step by step Bowman and Willis show you how to establish a visual style that fits your property. Their exercises will help you think like the guests visiting your site.
They will creatively walk you through the five principles of good commerce design: brand identity, personalization, speed, usability, and consistency. The result is a web site that produces the results you want: more reservations.
Before you spend your time and money to build a web site, read this book. An effective web site needs to be more than merely attractive. It needs to change site visitors into paying guests. It needs to be designed to sell people on your property.
Author: Ana M. Kinkaid, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0070 – 04/16/07
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