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2020 Hindsight of 2020 - Lodging Newsletter December 31, 2020

By Wm, May
Published: 12/31/20 Topics: Covid-19 Virus, Do It Yourself Rentals, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals, Venture Capital, Yield Management Comments: 0

2020 Hindsight

Did you think 2020 would never end? Did it feel like it would last more than the usual 12 months? Or was it so wonderful for you, that you really wanted to extend the year longer?

Nah, let's admit surely no one can feel that way. But we can all agree that 2021 will be the first year in history that looking back will truly allow for 2020 hindsight.

For two decades, everything in Vacation Rentals and specialty lodging has grown and changed constantly and at an ever-increasing pace. Then Covid sped up changes even faster. Even owner income went up almost everywhere.

I am proud as punch to give credit to all our wonderful team members who rose to the occasion last year and are charging forward in this one. There are more people here than meet the eye.

Many work onsite cleaning and maintaining houses, providing guest and owner services. The onsite management partners and others all outpaced the competition.

Behind the scenes, accountants, software engineers, the reservation team, graphic artists and photographers, client representatives and even our board members - every person has pulled double duty this year. So, hugs and kisses.

And now, attached are our predictions for the new year.

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They say that predictions are a fool's errand. But, for our lodging industry at least, we are going to foolishly take a stab at what to expect.

Vacation Rentals - We predict that the industry, which has grown steadily for decades, will continue to generate healthy returns for second home owners, especially for those who use our services. Nothing has slowed it down, including 9-11, the 2008 recession and not even Covid.

Covid - We predict that even more families will discover that vacation rentals offer a great respite to work-at-home, study-at-home and be-together-at-home. They can socially distance at the beach, in the mountains, at the lake, and on the ski slopes.

Drive To - We predict that even more guests will realize they can easily to drive to our locations, without jumping on a tiny narrow aluminum tube - also called an airplane. This year, folks may start flying more, but drive-to destinations will continue to prosper.

Rent By Owner - We predict that even more do-it-yourself rental owners will hire us when their amateur cleaners mess up or fail to show up, and when piddling maintenance needs require long drives, or when they realize they are making half as much money at twice as much work compared to what we can do for them.

Complexes - We predict that Condo Associations, Inns and Resorts will join us as they see how our marketing and sales services can make running their properties easier and more profitable.

Dynamic Rates - We predict that the science of Yield Management will continue to become so intricate that property owners will continue flock us, as they realize how much their technology-challenged managers are losing for them.

Venture Capital - We predict that investors in those over-leveraged, corporate vacation rental management companies will stop dumping money into their unprofitable business. Wise property owners will jump ship and into our program for stability and income.

Corporate Downfall - We predict that the corporate, out-of-town vacation rental companies will stop their come-on practice of promising profits to owners that they have failed to deliver.

Regulations - We predict that xenophobic governments officials, who were determined to kill the Golden Goose of tourism, will admit that vacation rentals are the cleanest, safest, quietest industry their cities and counties could ever hope for and can offset the devastating effects that Covid has wrought.

Partnerships - We predict that only service companies made up of partners, like ours, will continue to the kind of commitment to quality that every home needs and deserves

Rock Stars - We predict that Penny, Jackie, Salman, Trina, Evelyn, Brandon, Ozair, Kate, Barbara, Kylee, Fahim, Samael, Stephen, Jerry, Hisham, Simon, Jan, Chris, Nichole, Nichole and Nichol and all our team members will continue the commitment, dedication and expertise that make us so proud.

Invitation - We predict that property owners, who want maximum income with minimum fuss, will jump ship and join us soon. 2020 hindsight shows them that now is the time.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0807 – 12/31/20
Sponsor: Vortex Organization – We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rental Management companies, in an industry that has been a webby net of technology combined with good old fashioned property, guest and owner services. – VortexManagers.com

Covid Changed Nothing - Lodging Newsletter November 30, 2020

By Wm, May
Published: 11/30/20 Topics: Covid-19 Virus, Lodging Newsletter, Sports, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Let us not be irreverent.

Surely, Covid changed things, but it has seldom changed them wholly and unequivocally, no matter how abrupt that may sound.

During wars, life continues.

After a hurricane, the population digs out.

During the flu pandemic of 1919, folks wore masks for a time, many died, and the rest carried on - as rude as that sounds.

Some parts of life always have been, are now, and always will be, difficult. Luckily, some never change.

Now is a good time to make a list, so we do not forget when the next life-altering event takes place.

Attached are just a few.

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No matter the weather, no matter the time of year, or the time of day, in the wonderful park that sits across the street from our offices, if the field lights are on, those crazy soccer players are out there running in circles. Maybe, there are even more of them now.

Growing up we did not have soccer. Football, basketball and baseball were king. If anyone had called soccer "Foooooooooootball", we would have been very confused. I find it humorous that their game involved kicking the ball with the foot, while ours had almost nothing to do with feet. Somehow in the United States, "sports football" became soccer here and it took decades to become popular.

Covid forced many to stay home and watch television. The majority of Americans love their TV and spend an average of 21 hours a week glued to the telly. Now, none of us can avoid admitting that we were watching TV and, yes we further must admit we really love our screen drug of choice. Unless, of course, we compare it to computer screens, at which we spend twice the time on average.

The idea that everyone in the country or the world agree on everything ignores history. Never happened. Never will, I fear. Politicians still scream about who is the most right and the most wrong.

Protestors will continue to bring grievances, justified, very justified, or not. Their desire to be heard mirrors other times over centuries when groups felt compelled to forward causes, sometimes regardless the needs of other people. This time they have been ignoring the disaster of global sickness.

Away from websites, radio, television and newspapers, more momentous events are taking place that show how nothing has changed. People are so in love that they find ways to get married. As, now, so can men and men, women and women. That changed before the virus.

Parishioners still attend church to find the guidance that they have always required. Jews need the Sabbath. Muslims need daily prayers. Hindus pray in their homes. Atheists and agnostics feel none of those leanings and embrace their unchanged opinions.

Students still yearn to learn, even though the classroom is now in their homes, the teachers appear on screens, instead of in front of blackboards, and recess means running around your own yard, instead of the school yard.

People who were rude, remain that way. Those who were addicted to working, never missed a beat. Those who worship money, attended that church religiously. Some figured out how to prosper during times that were financially devastating for others.

But best of all, people who were kind, remain kind. Sometimes their kindness became more visible. Humble people quietly stepped forward and served the universe - retail clerks, transit workers, caregivers, medical staff and, even, those unfairly maligned who work at rest home facilities.

Unfortunately, people have died and in larger numbers, and far more frequently than is fair. Many others suffered grievously at the hands of a devious, invisible devil, which causes death and destruction when its only goal is to live and grow.

Those kinds of germs have not changed. They have been around forever and will be around again in the future. We were better prepared this time than last, and will be even better prepared next time.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0806 – 11/30/20
Sponsor: Vortex Organization – We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rental Management companies, in an industry that has been a webby net of technology combined with good old fashioned property, guest and owner services. – VortexManagers.com

Price Right - Lodging Newsletter May 31, 2020

By Wm, May
Published: 05/31/20 Topics: Covid-19 Virus, Dynamic Raes, Lodging Newsletter, Yield Management Comments: 0

Do these letters always sound like we are bragging?

Sorry, we are constantly innovating and redefining how to do far better management than anyone else. So, yes, I guess we want to crow about it every now and then.

As mentioned last month, we have been working for many hundreds of hours for over a year on version 3.0 of our Yield Management Software called "Strategic, Studied, Dynamic and Distributed" (S2D2).

Some of those giant carpet bagging national companies that try to manage vacation rentals from far away like to think they have good yield management - but they have a major hole in their knowledge. They are not local and don't have wide regional data.

But we do because we have been managing on a "Local, Personal and Global" basis. That means we advertise on every possible advertising website, far more than those giant companies.

We also operate local and regional websites to glean far more information, all of which results in the perfect rates. Super high in high season, modest in shoulder seasons, and lower in slow times.

Every property owner loves the idea of high rates. But getting the highest "possible" rate in every season adds greatly to the best net income for owners.

Yield management is far more complicated than can be imagined. So this letter is going to give you a glimpse to the hundreds of factors that go into the algorithm our data scientists use.

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Everyone has noticed how rates vary on airlines and big hotels. Plus, how the rate for a date in the future may go up and down before the date arrives.

I must admit, I liked it better when it was always $250 to fly to Hawaii on a plane where the entire back section was empty, so I could fold up the arm rests and lay down over four seats, take a nap, and wake up in paradise.

Unfortunately, the airlines were going broke until they began manipulating rates to encourage people to book early, or late and to fill every seat. Until Covid, every seat on every plane has been filled for decades.

Best of all, consumers have subconsciously accepted the idea that rates fluctuate. In fact, many seem to enjoy the game of searching for best rates. They willingly move to less desirable dates (such as midweek), which helps the property fill those dates.

Yield Management does not seem logical on its face. The algorithm does not need to know when the high season or holidays occur, because it looks forward to watch rates and occupancy to predict and set our rates when demand and occupancy is high. Likewise, it ratchets down rates when the market has too many nights available and when competitors are dropping rates.

But, of course, weekends are always more popular, more booked and consequently rates are higher. Same with holidays. The high seasons have the same kind of profile and the science pushes those rates through the roof.

National, regional, and local economic trends are considered. Comparable units ("comp sets") are continuously monitored. Inns, Resorts, and Hotel future booking statistics are computed. Amenities, resorts (if any), and neighborhoods contribute, sometimes more and sometimes less.

If there are small holes in the schedule, rates may be adjusted down to get them sold. But if there are openings when the market is tight, rates go up - sometimes dramatically. Bigger openings may be higher because they offer a wider range, or cheaper if the opening is too large.

When Covid arrived so unexpectedly, S2D2 told us rates were crashing. In areas where rentals continued, we won what bookings were to be had. Suddenly, S2D2 told us "Hey something is going on," just as we noticed guests returning. Then it said, "It's time to bump up rates." And then, "Bump them up again".

Not all markets have returned to normal, but in some markets rates have up to doubled and occupancy is higher than ever before. We noticed the corporate managers missed the trend. Their clients lost thousands of dollars, while we grabbed the market.

New vacation rental owners often ask "What will the rate be?" But today, no person sets the rate. In fact, the market sets the rate. Over millennia, in high school, middle school or earlier, we learned price has always been based solely on "Supply and Demand".

The Yield Management idea, which is so closely tied to intricate supply and demand fluctuations, is so obvious and now, with our help, it is being employed to help every vacation rental client we have make more money.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0771 – 05/31/20
Sponsor: Vortex Organization – We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rental Management companies, in an industry that has been a webby net of technology combined with good old fashioned property, guest and owner services. – VortexManagers.com

Hope is Not a Plan - Lodging Newsletter April 30, 2020

By Wm, May
Published: 04/30/20 Topics: Covid-19 Virus, Housekeeping, Lodging Newsletter, Yield Management Comments: 0

Several years ago the musical group Grateful Dead wrote "What a Long Strange Trip it Has Been." Little did anyone know how strange it might be.

Lodging suffered the effect of the 9/11 tragedy and the 2008 real estate depression. Now the Covid-19 pandemic is another new labyrinth to navigate.

For years, lodging management has kept getting more intricate, demanding time for previously unnecessary tasks like text messages from guests wanting early check-ins who don't have the courtesy to telephone. Emails 24/7 expecting instant response. Time to review every guest online.

Now every guests wants assurances, before booking that homes are fully sanitized and disinfected.

Of course we have been doing "Happy Hospitality Housekeeping" since our first office opened in 1964. It's nothing new. We spend hundreds of hours talking with people who are scared, rightfully so. Add counselor to our list of titles.

A wise man once said, "Hope is not a plan, but without a plan, there is little hope." Luckily our long standing contingencies and experience has allowed us to run far ahead of the competition during Covid-19.

We can not expect property owners to understand the hours and stress that the Covid pandemic has inflicted on lodging, but we can hope they appreciate our staff who have worked double time to take care of their properties and the plan to make them money as the craziness lessens.

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Bad News - In March guests started cancelling everything, online travel agencies were over-riding cancellation policies, and governments were telling people not to go on vacation. The time to speak with every guest, to cancel bookings, and to do bookkeeping doubled the work.

Optimistic - We did not dare hope for a rebound but chose to accelerate spending on advertising, staffing, software services, website hosting, and many other costs. The phrase "All In" applies.

Good News - Plans can't predict the future, but they can predict readiness. As the onslaught of new bookings has arrived, we are again working double time to get back all the bookings that were lost.

New Rules - Advertising on hundreds of websites with differing rules required our software engineers to labor long, often overnight, to adapt functions, and to avoid guest confusion. For example, we can now put in bumper dates between bookings to allow for extra cleaning time.

In the Trenches - Every staff member is overwhelmed with related work. Housekeepers and maintenance pros are working their tails off. If homeowners have not tipped before, now is the time.

S2D2 - Our pricing algorithms (and the scientists who ride herd) received confusing signals in predicting future rates and occupancy. Competitors were plummeting prices trying to sell to guests who were not going to visit under any circumstance.

Version 3.0 - Coincidentally the latest version of our "Studied, Strategic, Dynamic, and Distribute" (S2D2) rate tools came on line in April, allowing us to react quickly to the market. Rates are moving up and down even faster than ever. No one knows what the future will yield, but our science can get owners more than their "fair share."

Late Bookings - The national trend for "Drive-To" destinations does have a downside and that is guests are not booking far ahead. Decades ago as visitors departed from their rental, they booked the following year to return. The 2008 recession shortened pre-booking, but Covid has made it skyrocket. Most guests want to go next week or the week after.

Competition - Online Travel Agents are laying off thousands of employees; 3,000 alone at Airbnb! Major management companies have fired up to 90% of their staff. One company with 2,500 homes shut down completely. Too bad for their clients they did not have a plan.

Negotiators - Now that business is picking up, every guest asks more questions and then almost everyone tries to get a discount. Americans have become like other societies where every purchase is negotiable.

Predictions - Summer is starting to fill in, but no one can predict income for the entire year and not even for the summer. We have a plan and are working on it every day. So far so good.

Amateurs - People who think about being a self-managed "Rent by Owner" never know the insane amount of labor, hours, and expertise necessary to succeed. HomeAway says it only takes 541 hours per year per house to "Do it Yourself".. Jeez.

Many RBO's have thrown in the towel or are selling their homes. We get calls for help everyday and all because we planned ahead. That is what good managers do.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0750 – 04/30/20
Sponsor: Vortex Organization – We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rental Management companies, in an industry that has been a webby net of technology combined with good old fashioned property, guest and owner services. – VortexManagers.com

Can we laugh yet? - Lodging Newsletter March 31, 2020

By Wm, May
Published: 03/31/20 Topics: Covid-19 Virus, Lodging Newsletter Comments: 1

No, it is not over. No, we cannot predict when it will be over. No, we don't really know if it will be over.

But in fact, we do. This too shall pass. It is terrible and tragic, but it is also telling. That humanity rises to the occasion. Acts of kindness erupt. Humans settle in, put up, and get through it.

That is not much comfort until things begin to recover, but we must keep it in mind. This is not the end of the world, it's not the end of the economy and it's not the even the end of life as we know it.

Not long ago, on the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Iwo Jima, CBS television ran a promotional ad that said:

"Your grandfathers were ordered to Iwo Jima

You've been ordered to your couch.

Surely you can do this."

You can now save the entire human race by doing nothing. Don't screw it up. But remember, if you run out of toilet paper, life is rough.

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STEREOTYPE: Every good disaster movie starts with governments ignoring scientists.

A GOOD DAY: You work in a bank when 2 guys come in wearing masks and you are relieved they are only there to rob you.

SPOUSE: Found a young lady sitting on my couch yesterday. Apparently she is my wife. Seems nice.

FOOD: Went to a new restaurant called "The Kitchen." No clue how this place stays in business.

CHILDREN: Although there is no school, I still wake my kids at 6AM. Revenge is sweet.

COMEDIAN: My day job assigned me to work from home. No problem, I didn't like any of those people anyway.

PHONE: On a conference call someone's dog started barking, then everyone's dog started barking, so the host had to hit global mute. Best conference call ever.

HOME: My dad and I are sharing the kitchen table to work. He is an aerospace engineer designing a new wing prototype. I am drawing a duck.

HYGIENE: I washed my hands so much, that my exam notes from 1975 reappeared on my palm.

INDUSTRY: When told that consumers were hoarding toilet paper due to the Covid-19 virus, the chairman of Charmin said, "I do not see the problem."

FAMILY: Having my children at home has helped me tolerate the isolation. My wine cellar has helped me tolerate my children.

HUMANS: There are two types of people in the world. Those who stock up on toilet paper and those who stock up on beer. Come on now, you know who you are.

HOARDING: If you need 100 rolls of toilet paper to survive a 14-day quarantine, you probably needed to see a doctor way before this virus thing.

SHOPPING: They said that a mask and gloves were enough to go to the supermarket. They lied, everyone else has clothes on.

TOUCH: If you keep a glass of wine in each hand, you will not be able to touch your face.

DOGS: My dog said, "Oh My god, you're here all day. This is the best. I can love you, see you, be with you and follow you! I love you being here so much!" My cat said: "What the hell are you still doing here?"

SMART: The science community has figured out that the spread of Coronavirus is based solely on two things. 1. How dense the population is. 2. How dense the population is.

If you don't find any of these jokes funny, we apologize. Too soon?

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0749 – 03/31/20
Sponsor: Vortex Organization – We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rental Management companies, in an industry that has been a webby net of technology combined with good old fashioned property, guest and owner services. – VortexManagers.com

Sky Not Falling - Lodging Newsletter February 28th 2020

By Wm, May
Published: 02/28/20 Topics: Covid-19 Virus, Lodging Newsletter Comments: 0

You are probably receiving many emails urging everyone to follow safe procedures to slow down the COVID-19 virus. We agree of course, but someone also needs to talk about the bright future that will follow a virus named after a beer brand.

Of course I know it's not the beer, but it helps to fight the panic by calling it a beer bug.

This is not to make sport of the folks who are suffering and dying from this creepy thing. But for most people who get infected, the symptoms are going to feel like having had far too many Budweiser's.

It is said that many people will not get the virus and yet their lives have been turned upside down. Restaurant and retail workers are out of work. Public events have been postponed for months or cancelled altogether.

Some reactions to this problem are unnecessary. Hoarders don't need a years worth of toilet paper. Creepy speculators don't need to buy cases of hand sanitizer and try to foist it on others at huge markups.

There are even people in the travel world, such as Online Travel Agents (think AirBnB) who have unilaterally changed their own terms and are now allowing any guest to cancel for any reason. This helps guests but devastates hosts who have been counting on the income by holding dates for up to a year. It also cuts hours for housekeepers, maintenance staff, reservationists, and more.

We don't want to be selfish but we do want to make informed decisions. Every negative has a positive. It's difficult to believe that now, but time will tell that it holds true.

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In Seattle we were thrust into the national news. Please tell your friends the sky is not falling and we have experience. Undesirable of course, but we learned one big lesson, this too shall pass.

We oldsters remember the day, the minute, and exactly where we stood when it was announced that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas. Time stood still. We all thought we could never go on. It was our first taste of the sky falling, but we did grow older and in time the fear did pass.

On March 27, 1980 Mount Saint Helens blew its top just 98 miles south of downtown Seattle. Even from here a giant plum of smoke roared 70,000 feet into the air over our heads as if from a Faustian furnace. Ash covered Seattle and the Northwest. Cars were stranded due to ash, airplanes dare not fly. Schools were closed and people panicked. It seemed as if the sky was literally falling. But, that too did pass.

The terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001 stopped everyone in their tracks, We fretted that more hijackings would crash perhaps into our fair city. Consumers hoarded food and supplies. Our hearts bled for the victims, families, and first responders. People fled the city to hide out in the country. People panicked and for good reason thinking the sky was falling. Slowly but surely this too did pass.

Our parents generation were stunned by 9/11, but they were a bit less stunned that my generation or younger. They had lived through World War II and had seen worse, far worse.

My father in-law was a night-fighter pilot off an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific tasked with shooting down Kamikaze planes where he could often see the faces of the Japanese pilots as they died. He did not allow himself to believe he would came back alive. That generation never knew if they or their lifestyle would survive. And yet, over time memories faded, fear diluted, and this indeed did pass.

The 2008 recession dominated the world financially, stole life savings, threw people out of work, evicted home owners, caused bankruptcies, and scared everyone for years. Life savings were lost through no fault of savers. The lodging industry was brought to its knees and participants felt the sky was falling. It did not. Slowly, very slowly this too did pass.

And now today we are deep into yet another crisis that seems as daunting as past panics because its outcome and its tenure are unknown. The enemy is unseen and impersonal. Everyone wants answers which have not arrived.

For now, the path is to follow the basic hand-washing, social distancing, and other rules that will slow the virus giving the medical establishment time to react and adapt.

The vacation rental industry has a little something to offer. We offer people private vacation rental homes to get away, to really relax, to spend time in the country away from the city. Where they can walk the beach, hike the mountains and watch nature, which is paying no attention to a virus whatsoever. Traveling by car guests avoid crowds. And for all of this we have our incredible staff who still clean and sanitize homes to the Nth degree.

If these comments seem a bit too selfish, or too early, keep in mind that truly the sky is not falling. The sooner we fit the new situation into our world, the better. After all, this too shall pass.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0748 – 02/28/20
Sponsor: Vortex Organization – We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rental Management companies, in an industry that has been a webby net of technology combined with good old fashioned property, guest and owner services. – VortexManagers.com

DETAILS: We work to keep this information up to date, but details do change from time to time based on circumstances, often on short notice, and sometimes beyond our control. To verify any answer or other information you may need, please call or email us anytime. Allow a reasonable amount of time for response. Only legitimate inquiries will be answered.