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Bill Gates Fault - Lodging Newsletter July 31, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 07/31/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Its Bill Gates Fault

I am sure we can blame the current situation on Microsoft founder, Bill Gates. And, no, I don't mean his recent personal situation. Ahem.

The blame is for making the world far too complex, none of which could have happened without the invention of computers, in general, and personal computers, in particular. Before that people had to write things by hand or punch ideas on slow, archaic typewriters. People, being lazy, kept things short.

But we humans have always been happy to enslave our neighbors in one way or another. Now we do it by haranguing others with ideas for how things should work and how everyone else should live their lives. And we do it with veeeeeeeeeeery long documents, all the better to hide our true goals.

And get their humans to whine and snivel and beg for more meetings and hearings, so they can spout their bigoted ideas in hopes that throwing something (anything) on the wall will stick.

Officials then turn around and hold never-ending hearings and meetings, that allow the "Not In My Backyard" (NIMBY's) folks to spout off their selfish ideas.

"I don’t want anyone here who doesn’t live like me."
"I want rules for everyone else that don’t apply to me"

Weary officials succumb by writing ever more complex rules, regulations and requirements. That is what is happening to vacation rentals.

Bill Gates at Microsoft, Steve Jobs at Apple and even Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn, credited with inventing the Internet and its communication protocols we use today, must take the blame.

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The Declaration of Independence has 1,320 words. Really good words, too, with ideas that have held up now for 240 years and counting. If they had been able to slice, dice, edit and expand with a handy word processor, surely it would have been hundreds of pages long. But it would not be any more accurate and would be far less understandable.

At 4,543 words, the U.S. Constitution is longer, but still shorter than your average vacation rental ordinance. But maybe 4,543 is too much for officials to remember, which may explain why so many have forgotten about all the rights of Americans codified by that 222 years ago.

In the past few years, cities and counties have been on a rampage to strip away rights from real estate owners. Last summer, commissioners in Pacific County, Washington State, home of ever popular Long Beach, decided to cut vacation rentals and take away jobs in one of the poorest counties in the state.

One owner was recently denied a vacation rental permit because his septic pipes are too low in the ground? It's okay to live there. It's okay to rent the home long-term. But it’s a convenient way for the county to stop vacation rentals, by treating the goose different than the gander. That, my friends, is called "bureaucracy".

Fifteen years ago, Chelan County, Washington, did an extensive review of how vacation rentals operate there. Understanding that rentals had become a preferred lodging option for travelers, and being smart enough to not chop off good jobs with bad politics, commissioners voted unanimously to allow vacation rentals.

Philip K. Howard's book "The Death of Common Sense" explains that the citizenry's ability to adhere to laws is inversely proportional to their length. That means, when you make the law, rule, or regulation too long, nobody knows what the law really is.

And yet, well-meaning and poorly educated officials, after being beaten around the ears by the ever-present NIMBY bigots, still persist in drafting ever more complex regulations. (With the help of their fast and furious personal computers.)

Chelan County just passed a new vacation rental ordinance that has 42 pages and 16,000 ugly bigoted words. A mish-mash of non-linear, disjointed and utterly unworkable dictates. The NIMBYs biggest goal? To convert vacation rentals into "Affordable Housing", which only works by ignoring reality.

  • People buy second homes to use them personally.
  • They rent them out when not there, but
  • Owners won’t rent them to full-time tenants,
  • Because that would mean no personal use.

The City of Ocean Shores has prohibited vacation rentals in most zones for 25 years. But no second home owners rent their homes as affordable housing. No one. Nada. Zip. Because (duh) doing so would mean no use by the owner.

So to you NIMBY's and Officials, if you want to convert someone's home into affordable housing, to you we say, "You first".

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0823 – 07/31/21
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

Are we lucky - Lodging Newsletter June 30, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 06/30/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Are We Lucky

Are we just lucky?

By now you have all heard that vacation rentals and other specialty lodging boomed after the initial effects of Covid ironed out a bit. In fact, the income to our client owners jumped dramatically last summer and the trend has continued.

The travel industry is calling it "Travel Revenge", meaning consumers feel they were cheated out of enjoyment and are determined to get their revenge by traveling now and traveling more. There has been much conjecture about why demand surged:

Fly-to destinations were off limits, but most of our drive-to destinations were open for guests.

After spending no travel budget, people had money in the bank to blow.

Guests were frightened to stay in hotels and properties with shared amenities.

Visitors were able to social distance in a home with just their families and feel safe.

They did not have to interface with or, even, meet rental staff.

Vacation Rentals have always required greater cleaning and sanitation.

Guests could work from home and study from home, but using your home.

Customers who had never rented a vacation rental (Newbies) did so.

The entire industry has jumped up in size, almost overnight.

No one else cites this next motivation - but I think many people decided to "Live for today, because tomorrow may never come". Society has decided to enjoy life now, to spend time with family now and, yes, to travel now. No one wants to worry so much about the future because - well, who knew (and who knows) the future.

With the stellar numbers our staff have been producing for clients, was it just luck? This months' newsletter answers that question resoundingly.

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The quote "Hope is not a plan" is attributed to many people, but our plan it is what enabled us to produce stellar results during Covid, while others plunged. We didn’t just hope to be ready for the unexpected, we had a plan ready to launch for anything and that plan has never waivered:

Hire committed, compassionate, hyperactive people.

Make partners of all responsible staff.

Commit to continuous training, education, growth.

Be leaders in our industry, study more than everyone else.

Pay people well and treat them with respect.

Another quote, "A rising tide lifts all boats" is attributed to President John F. Kennedy. In lodging, that means everyone in our industry should be doing well at this time. Supply has grown, but demand has outstripped supply quicker than ever before.

The feeling of euphoria that every lodging owner feels may be misplaced. They are just going along for the ride. But just securing many bookings does not mean your property has generated maximum profit. If your manager is not using every possible technique to help your property, you are losing out.

The next quote is "All good things must come to an end" is a proverb dating back to Chaucer in about 1374. For lodging that may mean several things:

The jump in lodging could end overnight, but probably not.

The arrival of newbies just means the market is bigger.

And is likely to stay bigger than it was.

But maybe not as big as currently.

Owners can celebrate their recent gains, but sock away some of their windfall profits and, most importantly, use a management company that pushes to adopt every proven technique and tool that comes along to help properties succeed.

We think and plan months and, even, years in advance. That is what made us ready for the unknown (Covid) and which makes us ready to serve our clients well into the future. We are investing more in technology, advertising, staff training, yield management and creative communications. Even the giant out of town managers can’t match our competence and speed.

Is your manager doing all of those things? Are they studying every possible idea that will keep your property on top? Do they live and breathe this industry, like we do? Or are they just taking a cut of rents without investing it back into themselves to help you do better.

John Wooden is the winningest basketball coach in college history. Some say, the best coach of any sport in any time. He has been my hero for as long as I can remember and he said. "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."

That is what we did and will continue to do. Come on Covid, take your best shot. We double dare you.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0822 – 06/30/21
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

Maintenance v Repairs - Lodging Newsletter May 31, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 05/31/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Maintenance V Repairs

The vacation rental industry is really a fun business to be in. It really is.

Of course, it is also a lot of work. A lotta lotta work. First, we need desirable vacation homes to rent out. They come in all sizes and shapes. There is a market for most any kind of property.

Rustic cabin in the woods? Yes, people love to get away.

Modern condo in the city? Yes, a place to center urban sightseeing.

Chalets in the mountains? Yes, where ski bums lay their sleepy heads each night.

Bungalows by the sea? Yes, so visitors can get to the beach easily.

A tiny home just about anywhere? Yes, but who would have predicted that?

Since our first operation opened in 1964, bit by bit, more and more of the public suddenly realize the advantages of staying in a nice multi-room place, complete with kitchen, bedrooms, bath and living areas. And, it's even better if the home has a great location, TV and internet. Or better still if there is a pool, a hot tub or other amenities.

But even though it’s a fun industry, and even though 99% of our job leaves smiles on the faces of guests and owners alike, the remaining 1% of our job is dealing with an unavoidable conclusion.

Properties need maintenance unavoidably.

No matter how careful guests are, damages happen.

So this month, your handy newsletter discusses the where, why, how to deal with maintenance and how it differs from repairs.

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There is good news. The incidence of guest damages at vacation rentals is very low. But the need for maintenance (not related to guest use) is persistent and necessary.

Maintenance - In our personal homes it is very easy to forget, or maybe not notice, water heaters fail, TV's lose life, and sofas become saggy, appliances quit, and blinds don't last forever. Neither do carpets. Linen's become see-through. Towels become scratchy. Plumbing needs plumbing. Electrical circuit breakers need replacement. It is a long list.

So here is a list of things owner should expect to replace, update or repair regularly:

Linens - Keep in good condition to avoid negative guest reviews.

Towels- Last longer than you might think, but not forever.

Blinds & Drapes - Keep them fixed. Keep them clean.

Water Heaters - They give no warning when they fail. But are easy and cheap to replace.

HVAC - Change the filters. Get regular inspections.

Electrical Panel - If your house is older than you are, expect breakers to break.

Plumbing - Clean your faucet heads to learn why they are running slow. Cheap fix.

Windows - Cracks in glass can appear when weather fluctuates significantly.

Appliances - No stove, refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher or anything else lasts forever.

Electronics - TV's radios, phones and internet modems don't last forever, either.

Screens - Easy to replace and they keep your house clean, too.

Toilets - Why can't they make a handle that doesn't wear out every few years?

Keeping every little thing working well is simply essential. Do it yourself or have your manager take care of every little thing. But do take care of it. Inexpensive preventative maintenance can avoid the cost of expensive booking cancellations and negative online reviews.

Damages - It truly is good news, that guests are mostly careful and considerate and willful damages are very few. No matter the reason, guests are responsible for any damages they cause. Years ago managers charged guests a refundable "Damage Deposit", much like that used when a tenant leases a house or apartment long term.

Unfortunately, now days, every guest pays by credit or debit card. In recent years, Visa and MasterCard's policies have often refused to accept damage charges to a credit card, even if the cost is taken from a pre-paid damage deposit.

For that reason, professional managers switched to charging guests a smaller non-refundable fee for "Accidental Damage Protection." That method is then used to pay for damages up to a pre-determined amount, actually larger than what damage deposits previously covered.

Some costs may not be covered and the manager will pursue collection from the guest. Some advertising websites offer coverage, although that has proven to be unpredictable.

Responsibility - It is tempting to blame guests for anything that goes wrong while they are staying. But the difference between maintenance and damages must be determined before doing so. Guests are not responsible for inoperable appliances, faulty locks, or aging linens. But otherwise, if they break it, they need to pay for it.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0820 – 05/31/21
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

Russian Roulette - Lodging Newsletter April 30, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 04/30/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Russian Roulette

It was in the national news a few weeks back, maybe you read about it.

The deck of a home, on the Malibu coastline of California, overloaded with people, collapsed and sent a dozen or more occupants, crashing onto the rocks below. Emergency crews rushed to the scene, people were sent to the hospital, police reports were taken, and the media warned of overloading decks. But that was not the entire story.

Later reports revealed that the owner had rented the home for the weekend for a maximum of 6 people. When neighbors complained of too many people, the owner, living far away, telephoned the guests, "Pleading with them to leave."

For over 3 hours, she recorded the phone calls, eventually calling the police, but too late. A dozen people were hurt, some severely. She is lucky no one died, but there will undoubtedly be a lawsuit.

It seems the owner fell victim to the trap laid by AirBnB, VRBO and other websites, promising how easy managing your own home is. These websites promise owners can "Get Rich Quick" by simply listing online, finding a cheap housekeeper, and raking in the money.

The websites hide that the average home requires 500 hours a year of owner time, demands 24/7/365 monitoring, late night phone calls, and constant worries about experiences like the deck owner's.

When dealing with the public, no one can guarantee that every customer will behave. Troublesome customers are rare, but smart managers know how to train guests, before they arrive, on how to follow rules. Professional managers also know how to control guests during occupancy. Should a guest violate the rules, they know how to legally get rid of them in minutes. And the right manager will produce more income than they cost.

Amateur owners reflect poorly on the vacation rental industry, like the deck house owner who was trying to "beat a system" by failing to hire a reliable manager. These amateur owners put their homes and guests at greater risk.

This month's newsletter explains how owners can make maximum income with minimum fuss. Flip the page to read all about it.

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In recent years, cities, counties and even home owner associations, have ramped up to regulate or prohibit vacation rentals, and all for a mathematically insignificant number of issues that nosey neighbors try to push on officials.

Bad Medicine: Governments hold hearings, listen to days of testimony, and dream up bandaid rules that seldom quiet critics, while stripping away rights that American property owners hold dear. Officials fail to grasp that, when issues do arise, they are almost exclusively caused by out-of-town, rent-by-owners who don't have the experience, skills, tools or proximity to responsibly manage their homes.

Hiring a kid down the street or a freelance housekeeper to "Keep an eye on the place" fails, because they lack management skills. They disappear when difficult work arises, like managing guest behavior.

Know the Ropes: Professional managers control the marketing and booking process, enabling them to qualify guests, put rules in writing, require signed contracts, and setup homes properly to educate and warn guests how to behave. This eliminates problems before they start.

The steps of establishing legally binding listings, contracts, rules and other documents are almost always skipped by rent-by-owners. Those same owners never even think about it and never commit to providing services 24/7/365, but that is the foundation of lodging management.

Full Service or A-La-Carte: The cost of hiring a manager will be easily offset by the additional income the manager will produce by securing higher occupancy and higher rates.

Companies like ours provide services a-la-carte and full service. Owners can pick and choose, so long as they setup their property to be safe and secure. Services are not free, but all pay off for owners.

Managers are not all created equal. A client switched to us recently because, when he called his current management company to report too many people at his home, the big corporate out-of-town management firm said, "Hey what do you expect me to do about it?"

"I know no one can guarantee every guest will behave," said the client, "but I expect management firms to know what they can do, how to do it, and then to do it."

Do-It-Yourself: The dream of doing things yourself runs deep. Those who would never do their own tax returns, never repair their own cars, or never fix their own plumbing, will try to manage one of their most expensive assets - their vacation home - even though they have absolutely no experience.

It is difficult to find a doctor, attorney, accountant who would consider managing their own rental home. They have done the math and find that hiring a professional manager is much cheaper than distracting from their own billable time. With us they make maximum income with minimum fuss.

Self-managing fills a need in some people to believe (incorrectly) that they are in absolute control, to be their own boss, and to own their own business. But with lack of training, sufficient staff members, and quick access to the property, do-it-yourself management is Russian Roulette. Just ask the owner of the Malibu deck home.

So if your home needs higher income, attentive management, and lower risk, call us today.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0813 – 04/30/21
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

Be Picky - Lodging Newsletter March 31, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 03/31/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Be Picky

Vacation rentals have been around forever. Did you know that many delegates to the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787 rented private homes during the meetings? Of course, they weren't called "Vacation Rentals", but they do mostly fit today's definition.

Why would the founding fathers prefer staying in private accommodations instead of a hotel? Believe it or not, there were no such things then as we know them today. But there were inns that had rooms and usually served food, too.

Maybe the delegates liked the idea of coming and going without being seen? Without disturbing anyone. Or maybe they liked the privacy while debating what were certainly earth-shaking questions.

Our first office open in 1964 and the world of vacation rentals has changed greatly, frequently and, sometimes, unexpectedly. The events of 9/11, the 2008 real estate depression, and now this dang thang called COVID have wrenched the industry, forcing managers to adjust and adapt. Not all have.

Although most of us were not around, or at least were not working (!), we know that past vacation rental management customer service pretty much included "Here's the keys, good luck." But those days are long gone.

Today, vacation rental professionals must provide 24/7/365 service, instant guest assistance, and careful property management. The internet changed the world and, very greatly, the world of vacation rentals.

Now guests can find, compare, quote, and rent homes all over the world. Photos, 3D tours, floor plans, online booking and reviews enable for careful shopping. Guests demand all of that and owners, who want to make maximum income with minimum fuss, deserve that.

But some property owners fail to get all they deserve because they choose managers for one reason instead of insisting on them all. Today's newsletter is a short-list of questions to ask possible managers. Don't settle for less.

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Local vacation rental managers, often fail to embrace every method available to serve property owner clients. Mammoth out-of-town managers focus on one aspect and ignore others. Each type of manager will promote one aspect of renting or another.

On the other hand, our goal is to provide every service every home, every owner and every guest deserves. That is a big order and no one is perfect, but as the old cliché goes, "It you ain't trying, you ain't doing."

Some questions to ask of a prospective vacation rental manager are obvious: How long have you been in business? What education do you have? What are your frees.? But indirect questions will reveal whether the manager can deliver what they say - or not.

PROFITABLE - Is your business profitable? (If not, they won't invest in technology and staffing.) We are and have remained so during ups and downs, while others borrowed millions and fired staff to stay in business.

TENURE - How many years have staff leaders been doing rentals? (Nothing trains managers like years in the field.) Partners here have invested decades studying and advancing their craft. We have seen everything and figured how to handle it all. No surprises for property owners.

YIELD - Do they employ Dynamic Rates? (If not, you get lower rates and, surprisingly, fewer bookings - all of which take money out of your pocket.)

ADVERTISING - Where will the property be advertised? (If they say just a few websites like AirBnB and VRBO, your property will get less visibility, fewer inquiries and fewer bookings.) We post listings on hundreds of websites, including every major media you can name.

HOURS: Are they open every day of the year and with instant 24/7/365 support? (If not, one slipped gear results in cancelled bookings, refunds and losses for owners.) We provide instant service because guests, owners and homes deserve it.

TECHNOLOGY: Which software do they use? (The wrong tech slows bookings and prohibits pricing strategy, taking money away from managing your home.). We created all our own software to stay 3 steps ahead of the competition.

PERFECT: Does they provide perfect management in all cases? (This is a trick question.) Properties are like snowflakes - no two are alike. No one can guarantee your home will be hassle free, but we can promise to provide maximum income with minimum fuss to you. It is our job to do the work and your job to profit.

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SCORE CARD: It is our goal to provide all the services and programs of those giant vacation rentals, but with all the benefits of being locally owned and operated. We call it locally managed, globally advertised and technically superior. (Any manager without all of those is losing money for clients.)

If you would like to compare our services to other managers, please ask for our "How to Score Vacation Rental Managers". A long worksheet that will show how much we do for you and how little the other guys do. The form is free.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0812 – 03/31/21
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

Why Tip? - Lodging Newsletter February 28, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 02/28/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

A new vacation rental landlord was appalled to find that the management firm put >u>"Housekeeper Tip Envelopes" into homes. She incorrectly concluded that the housekeepers were not paid sufficiently.

Seems she has no idea how to be in the hospitality industry. Certainly housekeepers appreciate tips, but tips are not really there for the money.

  • Tips show appreciation.
  • Tips show recognition of the hard work.
  • Tips show respect for undesirable work.
  • Tips are the price you pay to avoid the job.
  • Tips show you are a kind person.

Maybe if she scrubbed floors, unclogged toilets, and pushed a vacuum until her hands grew callouses, and did it for years on end, just maybe she would begin to feel what it's like to be disrespected.

During the Covid crisis, it has been reported that customers are tipping restaurant servers, delivery drivers, and other service people, less than ever before. Of course, some consumers have less money available to leave tips, but for everyone else - shame on us.

Millions have lost jobs. Some have taken positions at lower wages. Some have been forced into part-time work. So now is the time to show more respect for people, not less.

Without much forethought our family has been trying to tip higher than usual nowadays. But this ungrateful client gave us a brand new idea. Not only is it time to tip everyone well, maybe it's time to start a movement - it's time to double tip everyone.

Tonight we stopped for fast-food take-out and tipped $20 on a $25 order, plus a big heartfelt THANK YOU to people willing to work in a steamy hot restaurant kitchen so we could have an easy meal.

The wonderful young clerk said, "Oh, that’s too much." To which we had to say, "Oh no, that’s just right." And the best part of tipping double is that you will get more out of it than the recipient. Generosity always benefits the giver.

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Do we brag too much in these newsletter? Or maybe we promote too little, because it is our duty to help clients make a good decision when choosing to become vacation rental landlords.

There are signficant differences in how to run a vacation rental, how to hire a thoroughly competent managers, how to deal with guests, what to think about all the advertising websites and their usurious fees. And even bigger issues confront someone cavalierly deciding to become a "Do It Yourself" owner.

Why would anyone want to DIY vacation rental management? There are those who need a hobby. Some feel it would be a joy to "talk" with guests. Some love the idea of sharing a home they are so proud of.

Those reasons are fine, of course, but the hidden factor in lodging managemement is that guests don't care about what owners want. It's not about the owner, it's about the guest.

Any owner can feel some success because, with today's online websites, most anyone, for most any kind of property can secure some bookings. But getting some bookings and getting all bookings at the highest possible rates is just not possible for most owners.

As the old saying goes, "Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then."

So the question is how much are owners losing by going Do it Yourself?

Without the kind of completely comprehensive marketing, advertising, distribution, cross selling, hospitality grade cleaning, quick maintenance, and reservation experts like ours, most owners are earning half what they should be earning. And working twice as hard.

A HomeAway.com study revealed that owners spend an average of 9.2 hours per week dealing with rental issues. And some of those are in the middle of the night.

Self managing may give owners a sense of control, but unfortunately many such owners are overly selfish and fail at the good hospitality test. Some think they are "cutting out the middle man" (manager's fee), but most are actually cutting their income and increasing their work greatly.

By speaking with hundreds of guests on the phone each week, we hear them scream complaints about dealing with owners directly. They talk about owners who are non-responsive, not clean enough, rude and demanding. Not everyone is cut out to be in the hospitality industry.

If you don’t love people, even when they are difficult, you can't succeed fully in this business.

During Covid we have received calls from DIY owners everyday whose housekeepers failed to show up to clean. These owners lived hundreds or thousands of miles from their rental homes. They thought all they needed was someone to come over immediately to clean their homes,

They begged, "Hey can you help me out just this one time?"

We helped where we could, but our time and allegiance must be to home owners who value the stabilty, reliablity and quality of what we do and realize the value of having a trusted management firm ready to handle every little thing.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0811 – 02/28/21
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

Not What It Seems - Lodging Newsletter January 31, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 01/31/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

If you are one of our lovely and gratefully appreciated property owner clients, you may not need to read this letter. You have hired us so you can sit back, make maximum income and let us handle all the details, interruptions, unexpected events and, even, political disruptions. Geez.

But, if you are not a client or if you just want to know what is going on in the vacation rental industry, then this month we rant on a bit about Online Travel Agents (OTAs), how we work to maximize their effectiveness and minimize their negatives.

For example, you may be aware that the formerly "couch surfing" website AirBnB, now focused greatly on vacation rental advertising, continues to dominate the gossip. They are just one of the hundreds of websites on which we list lodging properties and from which we get a steady stream of guest bookings.

In December, AirBnB "went public", offering to sell its stock on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. It was baffling. How does an investor value a company that had 2.25 billion dollars in revenue and a negative profit of 697 million dollars! Wow.

We want to let our clients know we have never operated like that. Service businesses - like vacation rental and lodging management - are not wildly profitable. We don't bleed money. And we are not counting on a big stock market score to survive.

Unlike AirBnB, we don't grow for the sake of becoming world famous. Maybe it's old fashioned, but our goal is to take care of owners, guests and staff members. Your property's future is safe and secure with us.

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All About Channels - Accepting bookings from AirBnB, VRBO, Booking.com, Expedia and many others (the industry calls them Online Travel Agents "OTAs" or "Channels") is expensive. Most charge the property and the guest a commission. So, long ago we adapted and created software that marks ups rates so that guests pay those.

Expensive - Some five years ago, we were hired to launch rentals at a new resort, and it was a huge success. Thousands of nights were booked at a property still under construction. Each time a guest checked-in at the front desk, who had booked through an OTA, they were told or given a form that explained that they paid 15 to 20% too much by booking through a channel.

Repeat Visitors - A funny thing happened the following year. Of all the OTA guests who returned, 75% booked through an OTA again and paid too much. Foolish yes, but those customers fell for the OTA hype and that just reveals the power of marketing.

Complications - Channels increase costs in other ways. Their guests are not self sufficient - such as they may not answer phone calls, don't read driving directions, can't turn on TV's and generally expect instant service, even at 3 am. That may be reasonable, if the "host" of the couch you are surfing is sleeping in the room next door, but more difficult when homes can be spread out many miles from staff.

Book Direct- For years, there has been a campaign asking managers to avoid advertising on channels, or at least to decrease the portion of business they accept from them. Unfortunately, that is just foolish.

Branding - OTA's have convinced people that they have all available properties in their catalogue (so to speak), that they have the lower rate (which is clearly untrue), and that they get special perks like Points (that can be used for more travel - after you earn a few billion of them).

Performance - Channels do offer one compelling advantage, By demanding the hated percentage, at least they only get paid when they send us rental income. In decades past, conventional media, such as newspapers, radio and TV, took the ad dollars without so much as a wink of a guarantee.

Newbies - It must be admitted that OTA's have another advantage. They can bring in new guests who have never rented a vacation rental home before. This expands the market for everyone. The steady growth of the industry over the past two decades is a direct result of travelers discovering the joys of renting a private home.

Conversion - So, it becomes our job to convert those channel guests into direct booking guests. It's better for them, better for properties, better for owners and, certainly, better for us to. We do that with printed "Table Tents" in the homes, including Book-Direct reminders on all emails, and even by reminding guests in phone conversations.

We won't stop the tsunami of OTA growth, but we can improve the situation for every home we serve.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0810 – 01/31/21
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

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

Big Business Falters - Lodging Newsletter October 31, 2020

By Wm, May
Published: 10/31/20 Topics: Lodging Newsletter, Newspaper, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 1

Defining success in any business should be judged in more ways than just by whether a company makes a profit.

Vacation rentals have been around by forever. Delegates rented private homes when they traveled to Philadelphia to meet and draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Although our first vacation rental operation started in 1964, many of us here today began about 20 years ago.

But, boy, have we noticed fast moving changes in those two quick decades. Houses are better and often bigger. There are far more of them. Rental rates have gone steadily upward. The number of people renting homes has climbed up steadily every year, including during the 2008 recession. But, guests are demanding more amenities and instant service.

After a huge drop during the pandemic, even more travelers discovered private home rentals and that will surely expand the industry, even after that deadly virus is dead and gone. (Yes, it will happen.)

But the growth has converted our little 'cottage industry' into one assaulted by corporate behemoths. They bring greater visibility, but fail to judge their success by the things that count most - quality, personal satisfaction and integrity.

In dealing with the Seattle Times newspaper decades ago, we learned what it was like to deal with powerful bullies who get too big for their britches. They charged top dollar, had embarrassing journalism, provided low-ball quality, and were smug and difficult to deal with.

Today, they beg people to advertise and plead with the world to give them another chance.

Now, the same is happening with all the large vacation rental lodging advertising websites. They promise too much, deliver too little, brag in never-ending PR releases, and reveal their quest for profit at the expense of doing 'great work.'

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Just a decades ago, a little known "Couch Surfing" business figured out that horning in on vacation rental advertising was more profitable than selling room stays on the cheap. Now, AirBnB is a giant.

Five years ago Expedia purchased the HomeAway company, operator of VRBO website, for 4 billion dollars. Then, within 60 days began tacking on a "guest service fee" that produced $400 million in bottom line profitability with the wave of a software wand.

In recent years, several management corporations raked in hundreds of millions in capital to buy up local vacation rental management companies in their quest to consolidate a fragmented industry. Their greedy system pays corporate officers and bankers big bucks, while short changing housekeepers and other workers. That resulted in thousands of disparaging on-line reviews. And all because they put profit ahead of performance.

AirBnB laid off 5,000 people and stopped answering phones, but saw fit to unilaterally change cancellation policies for managers based on hidden terms in their online small print.

VRBO fired thousands of people, stopped answering phones making it impossible for managers to get help. Just today it took 12 phone calls for them to admit that the assigned representative was canned long ago and no one knew who replaced them.

Booking.com has faltered. TripAdvisor is flailing with ever-changing tactics and policies.

Just a month after the pandemic ramped up, one of those corporate management firms simply closed its doors and disappeared. Another laid off 90% of their staff and had to borrow $100 million to stay afloat.

This summer, we received dozens of calls from guests of the corporate managers, asking us how to reach them, after being kept on hold for hours. They knew we were not part of those goofballs, but were desperate for help. We did what we could, but had to say, "Rent from our local stable management company to avoid those problems."

HUMBLE & KIND

This report is not to praise ourselves. Everyone has been affected by the Pandemic. But we never stopped answering phones. Our always smiling team members cleaned homes rigorously. Our software engineers quickly created responsive tools. And everyone worked overtime, while other companies cowered.

We must admit that less important questions take longer, while we work to serve guests, manage homes and maximize income for owners.

We are happy that our team members continued to make a living, but at the end of the day, we get our satisfaction by knowing everyone here performed above and beyond.

We appreciate the kind words from clients and guests who see our added burden. And, if you self-manage your own home, call us to earn more. If you use another manager, call us to get the kind of service they fail to deliver.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0795 – 10/31/20
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

Adapting to Change - Lodging Newsletter September 30, 2020

By Wm, May
Published: 09/30/20 Topics: Behavior, Housekeeping, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

A funny thing happened on the way to the Covid mess..

Ok, there is nothing funny about Covid, but there have been numerous changes to the world in general and to lodging in particular which are unexpected or even bizarre. This letters explain what they mean to property owners and how we have adapted to the upheaval.

After the March deluge of cancellations, bookings surged greater than ever before. There are many factors, but the biggest one is people just wanted to "get out of town" and driving-to destinations won out.

Staying in a private home or small lodging facility allowed guests to remain socially distant and yet allowed them to get into the out of doors.

With shopping, restaurants, movies, and other past activities prohibited, "discretionary income" actually increases for folks still employed.

For these and other reasons, rental income grew for most homes but management had to recognize and adjust many other factors. Some of these alterations had been inching into existence before Covid, but it escalated the changes.

Some changes require property owners to recognize and adapt to them fast in order to accommodate the many new guests anxious to rent their homes. Owners who accept change will prosper. Those who don't will lose out.

======================================================

TREND - Vacation Rental popularity has grown steadily for two decades, right through the world shaking events of 9-11 and the economic travails of the 2007-2008 real estate depression. Once guests try a vacation rental, they stay at hotels less, and our industry grows.

NEWBIES - This summer, additional guests who had never rented a vacation home before were booking. Those "Samplers" will permanently embrace rentals just as those did before.

But first-timers are always sensitive to every little thing. They make incorrect presumptions about what a rental is and is not. They expect 24-7 service, they complain if the weather is bad, and if there is not a 100 quart baking pan in the home. As before, the solution is to provide ever increasing amenities, more service, and higher hospitality for those traveling to relieve stress and strain in their lives.

SENSITIVITY - Every lodging manager strives to keep guests happy. A decade ago, the arrival of online guest reviews made that mandatory. Covid sensitivity increased illegitimate comments

HOUSEKEEPING - Our cleaning has always exceeded guidelines, but we increased training reminders and rewarded staff. Newbies ask lots of questions, so we answer them over and over again.

MAINTENANCE - Our staff always seek to fix every little thing very fast. But if something larger breaks - such as a water heater - now it must be replaced same day. Notifying owners in advance takes a backseat to taking care of maintenance wiki wiki (quick) as they say in Hawaii.

AMENITIES - Owners got to decide what amenities they offer in their homes including Internet, Cable TV, and local phones. Now they have no choice. With work-at-home and study-at-home, an owner who omits any required amenities loses tens of thousands of dollars per year. For some it is time to join the current world.

LATE BOOKINGS - Decades ago guests booked far in advance, often six months to a year. Although the "booking window" has decreased over the years, Covid bookings are made a few days or a few weeks prior to arrival.

RATES - In March our Robust S2D2 Yield Management software said, "Hey where did demand go?" but we held rates and waited. Early May it said, "Demand is skyrocketing. I am raising rates." Each morning we followed the Las Vegas idiom to "let it ride" watching rates go ever upward.

EARLY - LATE - With Covid cleanliness concerns, it is odd that many more demand early arrivals and late departures. Our methods of managing requests proved even more valuable during this time.

INSTANTEOUS - Guests have always expected quick service, but Covid demands instantaneous. Forgot the code? Answer the phone and give it to them (again.) Power goes out? Determine if it's wide spread. Need local restaurants? Provide the answer cheerfully of course. Forgot driving directions/? Stay on the phone and direct them step by step.

GROWTH - Projecting income was impossible but beginning in April, dates booked up last minute and owners made more money than ever before. Covid has turned the world and specialty lodging on its ear yet again. Managers who adapt fast will see owner income soar.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0790 – 09/30/20
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

Smell the Roses - Lodging Newsletter August 31, 2020

By Wm, May
Published: 08/31/20 Topics: Education, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Is it time yet to take a long look at 2020? Does it seem like everything has changed? That things are upside down?

Nah. I would like to suggest that nothing has really changed. Yes, there have been some bad things, but the world is still advancing, improving and getting better.

Sure, we can always focus on things that need to be done, and often because their effects are negative. And, yes indeed, we must do that.

But getting lost in frowns and worry causes us to ignore that truly fabulous things are happening every day.

When one vocal expert proclaimed that the world was "going to hell", noted columnist P.J. O'Rourke said he could prove him wrong with one word - DENTISTRY. He said 100 years ago 8% of the population died from impacted teeth, which are now a thing of the past.

It's been said that more people have died in the history of the world from tuberculosis than are currently alive on the planet. Let's be thankful we don't live in an era when TB, dysentery and typhus were everywhere. No matter what television, newspapers and the internet want you to believe - it’s a great time to be alive.

So for our clients, staff, family and friends we would like to remind everyone that "this too shall pass" (the bad things), but that good things -- including medical wonders, scientific breakthroughs, instant communications, and access to knowledge -- will be here forever.

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It may be difficult to believe, but every day things are getting better and better. Here are some good ones to remember.

Video Calls - As a kid, many of us dreamed of the day when we would have video telephones. Never did we think it would happen like it has, or be as widely adopted. But happen it did and now you can talk to lost long friends and relatives, or make new friends, anywhere in the world.

On a skype call to promote her new book "Bunheads", Prima Ballerina, Misty Copeland, shrieked with laughter, when a dozen tiny dancers joined her, all with their hair tied up in buns. Neither she nor the kids could dampen their joy. They to meet their hero and she to feel their love. Never have there been so many smiles on one small screen.

Togetherness - Everyone misses dining out, but families are spending more time together. More books are being read. More movies watched. And discussions are being held on race, prejudice and faith like never before.

Business - While certain industries have been turned on their heads by COVID, others have prospered. Unfair of course, but it is simply the outcome. As always, customers make the decisions and they change what they want fast.

Location - The system of workers sitting together in the same physical location didn't happen by accident. Collaboration, comradery and communications have always advanced business and, certainly, society. Now leaders have been forced to recognize that many tasks can be done at home, eliminating the cost and inefficiency of commuting. It was a good idea before, now it's brilliant.

Schooling - Children need other children for social reasons, and distance learning won't fill the gap entirely, but instantly parents realized it could be done. Except for the added burden on parents, spending more time with their offspring can be enlightening.

Getting Away - In our little niche of vacation rentals and specialty lodging, guests realize they can work and study from rustic, rural and recreational areas just as easily as being in a city. They need not go to jam-packed hotels and theme parks. There is a big wide world to explore and the jump in lodging proves guests are enjoying themselves.

Consumption - With COVID, auto and airline travel has decreased, lowering consumption of fossil fuels. The demand for consumer goods has plummeted, indicating some of us realize we didn't need quite as much of everything as we once thought.

Alone Time - Sitting on the couch, reading a book or playing board game with family distracted us until many folks realized that going a bit slower, and avoiding crowds has its own charm.

Change - Interruptions to our busy bee world reveal what made mankind flourish - the ability to change. Our ancestors came down from the trees, wandered the plains, climbed the mountains and sailed the oceans, sometimes because they yearned to see new things. But more often to get away from bad and move toward good. We will do the same and for the same reason - because we must.

Do yourself a favor today. Make a list of the good and great things in our world today. By comparison, today's interruptions are nothing.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0786 – 08/31/20
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

No More Hand Me Downs - Lodging Newsletter July 31, 2020

By Wm, May
Published: 07/31/20 Topics: Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

Our hearts continue to go out to those made ill by Covid-19 and especially those who have lost their lives. We also feel for those who have lost their jobs and are suffering financial loss.

We are lucky indeed that consumers continue to patronize vacation rentals. The move from conventional lodging to vacation rentals and specialty lodging has been growing for several decades.

But as Covid hit, even more people decided the best and safest place to get away was a clean, isolated vacation rental home in our wonderful destinations.

Dolly Parton said, "Storms make trees take deeper roots."

So we are inviting all of our clients to seize on this opportunity to grow their rentals even further. The opportunity is now.

Attached are ideas. Some cost money, but all will return far more income than they cost. With the extra income generated this summer, now is the time to double-down and grow further.

Join us. Call and ask how.

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Decades ago, vacation rental guest services pretty much consisted of "Here are the keys. Good luck." Over time, guests started paying more and demanding more. Now Covid has quickly raised expectations much higher.

There is no longer a market for properties that have missing amenities and upgrades. If a guest unknowingly books a home without good amenities, they will demand refunds. The giant online travel agencies like Airbnb will side with them.

Hand Me Downs - Sending used towels, linens, furniture, pots and pans from your primary residence to your second home will lose more money than it saves. Invest in the basics and replace them as needed.

Textiles - If you can see through your sheets, towels, or other textiles, they are far too old. Keep twice as many fluffy, thick white textiles on hand. (Only one set will be left out for each guest, but extras are stored away to handle quick arrivals.)

Internet - If you don't have fast internet, guests will avoid your property like the plague. With work-at-home and home schooling, investing in high-speed internet prints money for home owners. Avoid internet at your own peril.

Cable TV - Yes, some guests will stream Netflix and other channels, but without basic TV channels, including local network affiliates, many guests say no to your house. Even a budget Cable TV package will work. If you can't get Cable, using Satellite TV is OK, but a sad replacement for many guests who seem unable to operate it.

Mattresses - The biggest complaint from guests worldwide is of "well-used" mattresses. If your mattress sags, or is too hard, it's time to replace it. Doing so will cost less than losing bookings.

Furniture - It takes many years to "wear out" couches. You may not notice, but if your bum hits the floor when you sit, guests will be livid. Don't make guests feel like they are sitting on Great Aunt Alice's living room sofa. (Please, no doilies.)

Decorating - Yes, you can have too many knick knacks in the home. Most people are not designers, but homes nicely decorated with paint, throw pillows, vases and the like, show great in photos and rent more often. Here is one idea - homes that have replaced deck railings with glass look brand new and preserve the view.

Windows - It takes decades, but even window frames, glass, and sliders begin to age. If you have a window with a broken seal, it's gotta get fixed to save you energy costs and avoid guest complaints.

See the new show "Vacation House Rules" on HGTV to see how upgrading homes greatly increases income. One of its rules is "Put yourself in the guests shoes." In other words, if you were paying good money to stay in a vacation home, wouldn't you want the home to be attractive?

The show does not reveal how to increase income with great marketing, photos, automated pricing and reservations sales pros, but we already do that for you. Every home is unique and has an audience, but each home can make more money, if owners doll up their place.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0782 – 07/31/20
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

Vacation Rental Guest Psychology - Lodging Newsletter June 30, 2020

By Wm, May
Published: 06/30/20 Topics: Lodging Newsletter, Marketing Comments: 0

Well, where do I start? It has been a wild ride since the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus.

First, it was the massive economic slow down. But then, slowly, lodging guests realized they could "Get outta Dodge" and stay in a nice clean private vacation home, with contact-less entry, quarantined with their families, but still get out and about in nature.

Vacation rental bookings have rebounded in all our areas, and jumped hugely in some areas. As mentioned in last month's update letter, our super secret S2D2 Yield Management software prompted us when demand plummeted, but also alerted us to pump up rates when demand then jumped.

The result has been higher income for June and July. August is strong, too. And, with schools not re-opening, we think summer demand and, even, rates can continue into September.

Forgive us for gloating yet again, but we giggled as the local competitors were asleep and snickered as carpet bagging out-of-town managers missed the trend, because they are not in touch with every local market. Some panicked early and dropped rates by half.

We did the opposite and our clients are profiting.

The first office in our network opened in 1964 and we have been watching and learning as consumer behavior and habits change. Never have they changed as greatly and as rapidly as with the virus.

Here is the story.

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The Advertising Industry has always been greatly misunderstood. It is not all commercials with beautiful celebrities and cavemen selling insurance on TV. On the Internet, advertising is not all about search engine optimization, pay-per-click Google ads or Facebook's spying on its members.

Having started in the ad agency business, I have spent decades watching, studying and anticipating what customers want to buy. Ad pros never try to sell things to people who don't want them or don't need them. And not just because they want to be ethical, but because they know it's not sustainable.

Famous advertising professor, Ed Bannister, startled his class when he said, "Good advertising just makes a poor product fail quicker." (People try it, hate it, and forget it.)

An agency partner one said, "Advertising is easy. You ask people what they want and then you give it to them." Never has this been more true than during the last four months of a pandemic.

With the advent of vacation rental websites just 20 years ago, travelers figured out that staying with their family in a private vacation home is simply a better deal than staying in a cramped hotel room, with no kitchen, no living room, long walks to the parking lot, and outrageous rates - on a per-guest basis.

The 9/11 tragedy frightened the world, of course, but slowly travel returned. The 2008 recession took away discretionary income, some of which would have been for travel. Slowly it rebounded.

Some guests fall for the pitch from Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia, because they buy the pitch that all bookings are cancellable, that the OTAs list all lodgings, and that they can earn "points" that may have some value.

VRBO.com implied that guests were booking with the "Owner" when, in fact, the majority of properties --especially the well maintained, properly cleaned ones -- are from professional managers. But some guests fell for it.

AirBnB sold guests the option of renting a couch or room in someone's house, until they figured out that guests really want private vacation rental homes. AirBnB produces lots of bookings, but guests can be -- shall we say -- weird. Such as expecting the host to meet them for a drink when checking in, even if it's late at night.

At first Covid pushed people into panic, but then travelers ran out of patience and figured out that the safest lodging option is to rent a professionally-managed private vacation home.

We soared because we always ask customers what they wanted. Yes -- our cleaning exceeds high hospitality standards. Yes -- you can check in without "touching" anyone. Yes -- you can bring your family. Yes -- the homes have solid internet so guests can work while vacationing. And oddly, no -- there are no early check-ins to assure the home has been sufficiently empty prior to arrival. (That is the answer the guest actually wants to hear.)

Our ability to adapt to the changing market place has given even more visitors wonderful vacations and our property clients even more money. If your vacation rental home income has not soared, please give us a call. We'll fix it.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0772 – 06/30/20
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

The Little Things - Lodging Newsletter January 31st, 2020

By Wm, May
Published: 01/31/20 Topics: Lodging Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

If you have been reading these monthly updates for long, you know we have a propensity to quote songs, stories and even poetry. That is because creative endeavors remind us of obvious truths, and say it in a way we might all remember.

Property management is a seemingly simple career. Talking about it can be a bit dry. And the real work of those who serve is invisible to clients. Most cannot imagine the intricacies of the job.

In recent years, our industry has been plagued by self-promoting, venture-capital chain management companies, who want to manage homes from thousands of miles away. They are willing to lose millions of dollars per month in hopes they buy up the market before they run out of cash.

We see this a bit differently. Actually, we see it much differently.

Yes, we have every tool they have and then some. But we also vest our work in little things that make a big difference to guests and to property owners. Focus. Focus. Focus.

"Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." - Vincent van Gogh

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Hundreds of little things contribute to great guest experiences and hundreds more provide property owners with complete service. Our daily regimen avoids problems and ensures quality.

Penny - Every human can learn how to be calm and helpful to every person who calls, even when guests lock themselves out of the home at 3AM. It's not by accident, but rather by determination.

Jackie - If a home has been vacant for more than a few days, we go to each of them to double-check for dust, turn on the front door light, check the heat and - it's odd to say - flush the toilets to make sure there is no "ring."

Jon - It astounds me that other managers don't create floor plans for every property on their website. Of course, they haven't figured out to do them great and affordably like we have.

Kylee - Software speeds up the monthly statement closing process, but every item on every report is double-checked by hand because, well because we would be embarrassed if it was wrong.

Simon - No one likes criticism, but no one is perfect. So email surveys are sent to every guest. We sell them great stays but need to know if any little thing was off the mark.

Salman - Advertising on every possible website is the only way to ensure maximum demand for every property. That takes technical integration for rates and dates, and daily tweaks to the system are incessant.

Kate - When starting with a property we have the world's longest checklist. Would you want to get on a jetliner where the captain did a short checklist? Same thing with rentals. We do nothing by chance.

Fahim - In addition to our management websites, we build local tourism websites. Maintaining lists of activities, events, shops and restaurants takes far more time, but we attract even more guests than the other guys.

Bronson - In a hotel, it's is called "Night Auditor". Here we just call it constant auditing. Reconciling inbound payments from websites and guests requires great attention to details plus thousands of key strokes.

Lenny - After a long day running to properties with a checklist, I make a list of anything that might have been overlooked. And then I double-check it the next day.

James - After 15 years paying for Dynamic Range photos I am happy to report the competition never catches up. Superior photos gather more attention and produce more income. I hope they never figure it out.

Quinn - Answering the same repetitive questions from guests can be tiring, But some guests have been planning for years and its my job to make their dreams come true. It delights me.

William - My father once said, "It is necessary to master that we dislike the most" and then everything else is easy. We challenge everyone here to embrace the little things every day. It really is the secret to doing great work.

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Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0718 – 01/31/20
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

A Storm is Brewing - Lodging Newsletter December 31st, 2019

By Wm, May
Published: 12/31/19 Topics: Government, Lodging Newsletter, Regulations Comments: 0

What a lovely, enjoyable industry we are in. Tens of thousands of guests going to thousands of unique and interesting vacation rental homes, Inns, Resorts and other specialty lodging. Read more Leave comments

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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.