One thing you must admit about the vacation rental industry is that it's never short of finding ingenious ways to thrive. In recent months, I’ve been interviewing many property managers and observed how they had to rethink their strategies to recover from the fallout. Regardless of location or property type, those who have been successful at it have one thing in common: they all innovated in their marketing approach and targeted new guest segments.
Today, I want to share with you three inspiring stories. They're about property managers from different parts of the world. Against all odds, each of them has been able to find opportunities in these times of low demand. More of these stories will be available on the Secret Sauce podcast with season three starting this week.
I hope their learnings help you think differently about your business, too.
Comó – Nashville, TN, USA
Travers Xanthos is the founder of Comó in Nashville, Tennessee. In early spring, he saw his bookings drop from $120,000 to $8,000 within four days. To recover some of his lost revenue and cover expenses, he decided to target audiences that he'd never considered before.
Even before strict lockdowns were imposed, Travers created medreliefhousing.com. His aim was to provide housing for visiting doctors, nurses and medical staff. While this plan was forward-thinking, it was not enough to keep him from losing money.
Travers set a goal for himself: every single day he would find one renter for one of his properties. He started using Facebook Marketplace and other rental platforms, where he found his 'saving grace' opportunity. He discovered that construction workers were still looking for housing, as construction projects had continued to operate during the lockdowns. He and his team began handing out flyers at construction job sites and offering referral bonuses for current construction workers to get the word out. This paid off immensely and these new clients allowed him to fill the gap that quickly brought him to breakeven.
Travers managed to balance his bookings between medical staff, construction workers and other mid-term guests across his portfolio of properties. He dedicated his time to understanding construction worker's schedules, and adapting to their needs. He realized that many workers were frustrated with staying in small extended stay hotels, so he installed bunk beds in his properties so they could fit more workers and marketed his properties to highlight additional value adding amenities, such as a washer and dryers, full kitchens and fast/free WiFi. Using this strategy, he was able to stay afloat during the lockdown.
Expanding to this pocket of clients has been so successful for him that he plans to not only utilize this business plan in the future during the slow season, but also to expand into other locations that are not typically high profit short-term rental markets.
Cinque Terre Riviera Property Management – Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre is a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera. It's a scenic destination popular among American and Australian travelers in particular. It's also a great place for vacation rentals, because the terrain is not suitable for building big hotels.
Miriana Rovaron is the co-founder of Cinque Terre Riviera property management. According to her, Cinque Terre isn't known for attracting Italian travelers. The area doesn't have the wide, long beaches they look for, so Italians choose islands like Sardinia instead. The quaint seaside towns are a much bigger draw for travelers outside of the EU.
With this in mind, Miriana's approach to crisis management was to target American expats who live in Italy and all around Europe.
This summer, she hosted guests from military groups like the navy and army, employees of the United Nations and expats working at other international organizations who live in Italy and other European countries.
This change-over from clients from the U.S. and Australia to clients from Italy and the greater European countries created a big opportunity for Cinque Terre Riviera to capture new and future repeat customers.
Americans and Australians usually book their travel way in advance, therefore limiting the availability for Europeans and Italians to book trips. The border restrictions gave these markets an opportunity to discover the area and further expanded Cinque Terre Riviera’s potential customer base in the future.
Miriana says, "Despite COVID and previsions of having lots of Italians, foreign countries still provided a huge slice of our market this summer. The number of Italians grew, but mostly in mid-August. So, I dare say still for this season 60% of guests from foreign countries and 40% from Italy."
Valcambre – Seville, Spain
The picturesque Seville area of Andalusia, Spain is known worldwide for its culture, beautiful monuments, traditions and artistic heritage. For this reason, three brothers, Carlos, Isaias and Nacho Rodriguez, gathered back there in 2016 to create a property management company, Valcambre, to cater vacation rentals to travelers around the world.
Border closures and lockdowns basically halted their business, stranded travelers and forced them to cancel their plans to Spain. With one of the strictest lockdowns around the world, Spain left Valcambre with a lot of empty vacation rentals over the three-month period.
As restrictions lessened and travelers became more mobile, the brothers Rodriguez, figured they best become more creative in finding renters. Aside from mid-term rentals, they realized that the coming opening of the new Amazon logistics center, right outside the city center, would provide more than 1,000 permanent jobs and, thus, people looking for housing. Valcambre proactively sought out the Amazon human resources department to offer their services.
In addition to that, they also worked with film companies who often run their shoots, such as Casa de Papel in Seville, to house their actors, actresses and team. They like to say Alvaro Morte from Casa de Papel stayed at one of their properties. Valcambre also did the same with local theater house, Maestranza, housing their musicians and artists.
More stories on the Secret Sauce
Surviving through a pandemic was a new experience that all these property managers had to face. Indeed, it is a whole new world and way of living that they had to adjust to. In order to survive and stay resilient through this, these property managers show how creative and resourceful they are. Finding that gold nugget in the seemingly dark cave is something to not only be proud of, but to celebrate.
These are but a few stories out of hundreds out there. More stories and expert knowledge can be found in Rental United’s newly released season three of The Secret Sauce Podcast.
In this podcast, Vanessa de Souza Lage of Rentals United has the opportunity to interview property managers around the world and speak to them about their built-up expertise accumulated from years of experience and know-how. From them you will hear how they persevered through the global pandemic, what their strategies are now, their outlook for the future and many more insights. A new interview is launched every week with property managers of all sizes giving out their Secret Sauce.
About Vanessa de Souza Lage
Vanessa is an entrepreneur and marketing director. She co-founded the leading short-term rental channel manager, Rentals United and is the founder of VRTech, a series of events for the vacation rental tech start-up scene to further innovation in the industry. Vanessa is a regular speaker at worldwide events, she’s the originator of the #tieonstage movement raising awareness that there are not enough women on stage at industry events, and has just launched the Trip Circus - a global conference for the convergence of hotels and short-term rentals happening in Barcelona Poble Espanyol 3rd & 4th of June 2021. She’s been named by Short Term Rentalz one of ‘top 10 people to watch in the short-term rental industry in 2020'.
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