Anyone who’s ever run a vacation rental business (or ANY business) knows that low overheads mean more profit. And while most of us have a vague desire to ‘save the environment’ we aren’t really sure how to go about it. So how exactly does it help if you go online?
You own a property (or several) in tourist hotspots and you want to rent them out for the summer.
You buy expensive advertising in travel and lifestyle magazines or a tiny bit of newspaper space. And perhaps mail a brochure to prospective renters, most of whom will throw it out with the trash.
When you get a reservation, you mail a contract (with cancellation policy) and wait till the guest mails it back with a check. Sometimes you worry about payment if the check doesn’t arrive on time. At the end of the stay, you mail yet another check refunding the damage deposit and, being a conscientious host, a polite ‘Thank You’ note.
The downside – Time and money down the drain and a lot fewer trees on the planet. The upside – Your business keeps the Postal Service guys busy.
Twenty years on, the country’s in the midst of an economic recession. Everyone’s getting used to layoffs and salary cuts as jobs become scarce and taking a holiday is a luxury for many. Your company is feeling the pinch and the paper-heavy approach is adding to your overheads.
So how do you deal with that?
You do what every other business owner does to cut escalating costs – build a website showcasing your holiday home offerings. And this is what you stand to gain:
In the Internet age, printouts are wasteful and obsolete, an indulgence that most businesses can well do without. Online copies of your data aren’t just more secure, they also keep you better connected with your clientele. Plus, you save on expensive delivery options. Win-win situation, anyone?
This is your rental calendar that updates itself the moment you get a booking. Some of these handy built-in calendars also have a scheduling for housekeeping staff. Google Calendar works just fine if you don’t want to pay for a customized web application. No mess, no confusion and, most importantly, no risk of double bookings.
This won’t come as a surprise, but having a website for property management is a big money saver. A few listing sites do charge you some but most offer free services like VacationCluster.com. Discover the power of the Internet as a marketing tool by promoting your business on social media and networking sites.
As you probably know by now, book-keeping is a tough job to keep up with. It is important to have quick access to your financial records, since they’re closely connected with the taxes you pay. Most of your book-keeping these days can be done via spreadsheet software and safely stored online. Dropbox and Google Drive come to mind if you’re looking for tools to manage this chore for you. Besides, you can always back up your data on your computer hard drive if need be.
Online banking has greatly simplified the vacation rental industry. Just login to your secure online account to check your latest statement, instead of waiting for it to arrive in the mail where it can be easily intercepted or lost. Online services make it even easier – you get reservation details, bills, payment reminders and receipts with detailed information that you can easily store and recover when needed.
Twenty years ago, when the Internet was yet to become part of our lives, hotel guest books were treasured resources that you guarded with your life. Well, nearly. Online client testimonials and reviews have made guest books obsolete because they are more reliable and not easily manipulated. Which makes them believable to your potential guests who will certainly check them out before signing up.
In the era of the nanosecond, asking customers to write a check would probably be the quickest way to drive them elsewhere. Most people would roll their eyes if you don’t take credit cards, PayPal or e-checks. Wire transfers are convenient too, but they also happen to be the preferred modus operandi of scam artists posing as vacation rental owners. Besides, online booking and payment ensures that you don’t bite your nails waiting for a check delayed or lost in the mail.
Most novice home owners don’t realize that cancellation policies don’t have to be mailed to the customer. You can simply put it online because the law says that by paying for something, you unconditionally agree to the terms and conditions of that purchase. If your vacation rentals business has an online presence, you can upload a customized cancellation policy or choose from several convenient templates. Ask around and you’ll see that most of the competition has moved over to electronic signatures. And legally, these are as legitimate as their paper counterparts you’ve been mailing to your customers since 1978.
The world is moving towards Eco-friendly practices that help to streamline businesses and make them more efficient. This leaves you with two options:
Running a sluggish behind-the-times business that cuts a deep carbon footprint
Managing a sustainable one that maximizes profits and minimizes overheads.
The choice is yours.