The dramatic rise in popularity of vacation rentals has been in greater part thanks to AirBnB, a company that has largely popularized short-rentals around the world. While suffering a severe and acute backlash in sporadic cities that have seen demand for housing increase due to landlords’ desires for short-term profits from vacation-goers over long-term tenants, the company has stayed the course, friction or not, growing by leaps and bounds.
However, the story of AirBnB chronicles the greater inclination of travelers from around the world to opt for short-term villas, vacation rentals and condos over traditional hotel suites. And why not? For the most part, these offer a significant step up to the traditional hotel experience that includes more space and more amenities, for an often-better price considering the increased number of guests that they can usually accommodate.
It’s clear that vacation rentals are here to stay, offering tremendous year-over-year growth as landlords and home owners come to the realization that furnished and serviced properties located in sought-after vacation destinations can often produce 5 to 10 times the rental income over unfurnished properties rented to long-term tenants. It’s apparent that there’s an enormous amount of profit to be made in this industry when it’s done the right way.
Still, while there are some viable options when it comes to marketing a standard vacation rental online, it’s the luxury market that can often seem somewhat difficult to penetrate. Most people don’t turn to sites like AirBnB for a luxury villa or high-end home. That might be why it recently gobbled up Luxury Retreats, a company that specializes in extremely posh vacation homes around the planet, for a reported $200 million.
That acquisition was important for a number of reasons. It’s clear that AirBnB isn’t in the luxury market. While luxury rentals do occur on its platform, it’s few and far between when compared to a site like Luxury Retreats. However, it’s clear that the market is well-established for high-end rentals. In a recent conversation with Niko Contardi, co-founder of eliteLYFE, one of the major players in the luxury villa rentals marketplace, I posed the question about how they market luxury vacation homes online.
Contardi, whose company specializes in ultra-high-end rentals in the $2,000-per-night-and-up range, offered some keen insight into marketing homes in the luxury segment. The biggest problem that most people face is that luxury homes don’t operate according to the same rules as “regular” vacation rentals. For those rentals, AirBnB is a clear and very viable option. So are sites like VRBO, HomeAway and others. Yet, luxury rentals don’t quite operate the same way.
The fact is that there are certain, very specific, ways to market a luxury vacation rental that might often differ from a standard rental. For those that are in-the-know, the luxury accommodations market is a behemoth, with large-ticket expenditures that often result in significant ancillary income streams. Those that are spending big dollars to rent a luxurious villa are also splurging on things like exotic cars, private jets and superyachts, just to name a few.
However, any way that you slice it, the greatest concern for those that are renting in the luxury market, is service. That might be why we’ve seen the proliferation of sites like Luxury Retreats, eliteLYFE and Oasis, just to name a few. Considering that it takes a lot to satisfy the world’s most discerning travelers, companies that have developed proven platforms and services that include things like pre-arrival planning, concierge services, butlers, private chefs and daily housekeeping services, amidst other things, prosper in this space
For those that try to go it alone, there’s a long road ahead. Prepping, furnishing and outfitting a luxury vacation rental for any competitive destination takes a significant amount of work. Once that’s done, you have to market and service that rental. Who will check the guests in? What about maintenance if something goes wrong? Housekeeping? Will there be concierge services or pre-arrival planning? Clearly, this is a significant demand of your time if you were to do it on your own. Yet, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to do.
As the industry has grown, big-named hotel brands and resorts have also taken notice. Subsequently, they’ve taken the plunge into building resort-style properties in sought-after destinations, charming workers from nearby five-star resorts to come man their ultra-luxurious resort-style homes in places like Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic, building websites and brands with an unmatched service level that caters to the one-percenters in the world.
Clearly, it is possible to go it on your own. If you have the time and the energy to deal with the nearly insurmountable amount of work and headache that this often takes, you could make a proverbial killing in the market. Many of the people that do build their own sites and brands around their home also leverage companies like Contardi’s eliteLYFE or Joe Poulin’s Luxury Retreats to help drum up additional business. These companies are actively marketing homes in the best areas, drawing in the right crowd through relevant ad spends or social media awareness.
How To Market Your Luxury Vacation Rental Online
If you’re wondering how you’re going to get the word out on your luxury vacation rental or villa, there are some steps you need to take to ensure a world-class experience for your guests. This isn’t some rent-it-and-forget-it process. In the luxury sector, you need to ensure that you address all the finite and meticulous details of renting a home and provide an experience that guests will remember you by.
Hotel chains like the Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton and the St. Regis (hotel chains that also provide posh luxury villa rentals in certain select destinations) didn’t become renowned overnight. They’ve been delivering an unmatched luxury service for ages. Similarly, if you want to succeed with marketing your luxury vacation rental online, you have provide that five-star experience to your guests and do it repeatedly, time and again, month after month and year after year.
Step #1 — Create A Refined Traveler Experience
Discerning travelers that rent luxury villas or vacation rentals demand a refined experience. This means ensuring that the interior and exterior spaces are to a five-star standard. What’s a five-star standard? First, guests demand something relatively new. Don’t try to market an older property that seems dated or hasn’t been renovated, and expect the guests to be happy. People that enjoy luxury travel will notice the small details. Scuffs on the walls or used-and-abused furniture, and things of that nature, just won’t fly.
Simply put, imagine yourself renting this home. How would you feel after a long flight, coming in to see something that might not have been accurately depicted in photos or videos of the space? Take the time to dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s. Develop high-end interiors and exteriors with beautiful furnishings and ensure that the property is renovated and up to date. Opt for the best cable package and the highest-speed internet service. People take notice.
Step #2 — Create A High-Quality Guest’s Manual For Your Property
The second step? Ensure that you have a so-called user’s guide for your property. You might know how to use the 3 remotes that control your media and entertainment center, but you can’t expect others to know how to do that. Take photos of the remotes and highlight the buttons that control what. Outline everything in a step-by-step fashion. Let them know about things like the internet access code, the days that trash is picked up and so on.
You also want to let your guests know about the area and nearby activities, attractions and so on. What are your favorite restaurants nearby? What are some local tips that most travelers aren’t aware of? It’s the little touches that really resonate with people. As much as you think they don’t pay attention to those things, guests do take notice. Be sure to capitalize on this by building a detailed guest’s manual for your property.
Step #3 — Take High-End Photos And Drone Videos
Hiring a photographer should be your priority once everything else is in order. Not only do you need quality photos, but you also need videos as well. An interior walk-through will help give people an accurate sense of the space, much more so that standard photos on their own. People have learned not to trust photos by themselves, so you’ll need to have some kind of walkthrough that will depict how the space looks aside from those nicely Photoshopped pictures of the best angles.
If you can, add some drone videos to the mix. Hire a drone operator to capture the exterior surrounding area of the home, lifting up to convey a better sense of the area and everything around it. This speaks volumes and is much more effective than Google’s Street View. Spending money here is important. Don’t try to cut corners and do this on the cheap as you’ll most certainly get what you pay for here.
Step #4 — Ensure Everything Is In Proper Working Order
Does everything in the home work? Do you have a checklist for inventory? Have you gone through and tried the washer and dryer or the iron? Can you connect to the wifi? Not only do you need to check this before you have your first guests come through, but you need to create a checklist for turning over the property after each rental. You can’t simply set it and forget it. Every luxury hotel brand runs through a maintenance checklist after each guest departs.
Check the air conditioning to ensure that it’s working. What about the ceiling fans? How about all the windows and doors? Have you tried the heat or the fireplace in a while? Does the dishwasher work properly? How about the sound system or the Apple TV? All of these details matter when marketing a luxury vacation rental. You have to sweat the small stuff if you’re going to succeed at any degree.
Step #5 — Define A Service Level To Include Daily Housekeeping, Maintenance, Support And Concierge
Find the best of the best. If you don’t hire a company like Luxury Retreats or eliteLYFE to manage your rental, you need to define a service level. Who’s going to take care of the daily housekeeping? What about maintenance? Who will guest call in the middle of the night if the power goest out? Will they call you? What about concierge services? What happens when guests want to book a restaurant or an excursion nearby. Who will help them?
These are all things that are important in the luxury villa and vacation rentals space. You need to define a service level. How are you going to service these clients? Will you provide access to a personal chef? What about a butler? How much will these cost and will you offer these as a staple or will you offer them as upgrades? There are a tremendous amount of items for consideration here when marketing your luxury vacation rental online.
Step #6 — Build A Dedicated Website With Real-Time Availability
Clearly, you need a website. You should also consider starting a blog as part of that site. You will also need real-time availability of your space. People don’t want to have to guess. And, when you create your website, it needs to be high-end. Hire a professional to do this and don’t try to do it on your own. This is also where those photos and videos will come in handy. Accurately depict and describe your space, and take them time to detail all the pricing and any extra fees there might be.
Of course, you’ll also need to ensure that you do things like register for Transient Occupancy Taxes (TOT) and charge any TOT to the guests that might be checking in. Be sure to pay the TOT to the relevant authorities and tell guess what that TOT rate is on your site. Go into detail about all the service levels that you’re offering and the price points that you’re offering them at. Don’t leave anything up in the air.
Step #7 — Market Your Property Online Through Various Channels
The next step? Likely the hardest part of your journey in marketing a luxury vacation rental online, is actually marketing it online. This is where you need to put on your digital marketing hat. Are you going to use social media? Maybe you’ll turn to one of the Instagram influencers or possibly run ads on Facebook. Maybe you’ll turn to Google and engage in some PPC marketing through Adwords or something else.
Maybe you’ll create a YouTube video and leverage YouTube video ads as one of your desired channels for online marketing. Or, maybe, just maybe, you’ll contact any number of the luxury villa rental companies that can help you along in getting the proverbial word out. Focus on reviews and the customer’s experience and word will spread. And always remember what Warren Buffet once said that, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”