Many of you will already know Darren Cronian from Travel Rants. For those that don’t, he’s a blogger and speaker who champions the rights of the holiday consumer. But take note: It’s really not a “rant”, he actually offers practical advice and tips to solve all manner of travel related problems!
The vacation rental industry, although small relative to the overall size of the travel industry, is growing rapidly. Competition is high, with fairly low barriers to entry. Consequently the market is fragmented and standards vary, depending on which site the consumer lands on. So we decided to approach Darren to find out what his view is on the holiday rental / vacation rental industry.
Q: Whilst the concept of vacation rentals is widely recognized in the US, do you feel that British holiday makers view holiday rentals as a competitive alternative to hotels, B&B’s, etc?
Darren: The short answer to your question is – Yes. I think there are a few factors that go into the decision of booking a holiday rental over a hotel or B&B, like the holiday destination, the size of the group, and the type of holiday you are looking for. I read a few months ago that most British holidaymakers book a villa, condo, or apartment when going on holiday to Florida, and I suspect that this is because for a family for two weeks it works out cheaper and are closer to the theme parks and other tourist attractions. It is worth consumers comparing the price of a holiday rental over a hotel, especially if there are a number of adults who are contributung towards the cost of the holiday.
Q: For British holidaymakers, which factors do you think are most important in choosing a holiday home – value for money, privacy, space and facilities, self-catering options or authenticity and the desire not to feel like just another “hotel key”?
Darren: I would say that the main factor for most consumers nowadays is value for money, there’s nothing worse than renting a “luxury apartment” to find that it is everything but luxury. Of the complaints I receive, a high percentage are because the holiday accommodation has not met their requirements. Facilities are important to the consumer too, so when a holiday rental is advertised as having specific facilities like a jacuzzi, make sure it works, and that there aren’t any hidden fees.
Q: If you were looking to book a holiday home, would you be happy booking via an automated portal, or would you want to enter into direct contact with the holiday home owner beforehand?
Darren: When I book a hotel or holiday, I do so through a reputable company, so I have trust in them, and that they will deliver what I have paid for. While you do hear horror stories of overbooking and miss-selling, the majority of consumers get what they have paid for. One of the fears that a lot of people have booking a holiday rental is that worry that when they arrive at the destination, that no accommodation will exist – they book through holiday homeowners, who are not big, popular brands. So, it is always more comforting when you speak to the owner, and you can tell how genuine they are, so for me, I think it is important to keep that direct contact with the holiday homeowner.
Getaway Earth: We believe this direct communication with the owner is critical. Ask as many questions as you can, check other sources of information (the owner’s own website, their Facebook page, etc), read reviews (but do so with common sense – see Darren’s comments below), etc. We published our own tips on what to do prior to parting with your money which we encourage you to read.
Q: With social media playing an ever greater role in travel and holiday decisions, what percentage of those booking a holiday home, in your opinion, would search for details and reviews of their holiday home on sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Tripadvisor before booking?
Darren: Reviews have always begin a debatable topic, because who do you trust? I would trust a friend or family member who recommend a holiday rental on Facebook or Twitter more than a group of random strangers on Trip Advisor. I still read the reviews on Trip advisor before booking because you can get some useful information, I.e. ask for a room on the third floor etc. The problem with reviews is that anyone can leave one – so my personal preference is that reviews are tied in with the renter – if you rented a villa, then, you can leave a review of it on the holiday rental website.
Q: Visiting holiday rental websites, which features do you think are the most important for holiday makers to see before booking?
Darren: I cannot understand why owners and rental websites do not use video more. To build trust in the holiday rental owners, it would be great to see them showing you around their home. Nowadays this need not be an expensive thing to do with even smart phones producing quality video.
Getaway Earth: We agree with Darren, video can be a very powerful tool yet we see it so rarely used. In our experience owners, who operate on tight margins, tend to view it as a costly production whose value in generating additional revenue is unproven. We actually partnered with Dan Childs to make the below video for one of our owners John Hobson. The price was cheaper than you’d think and we feel it was well worth the money…
Q: Other than video, what other features are important?
Darren: Aside from this I think it is important to see good quality, large photos – it really is something that makes me rant when I see small, grainy photos, it shows me that the owner does not care. Also information about each room in the property, and no hidden fees – one of the topics I receive most complaints about holiday rentals is arriving at the villa to find hidden costs for hot water in the pool, or usage of the jacuzzi.
Getaway Earth: The caring owners point is something we have decided to focus on. In our view, in such a highly fragmented market, it’s important to stand out. But not just superficially. We actually ask our owners to spend time and attention on their listing, the aim being to promote high standards of content and presentation, recognizing that we have one shot at attracting the travelers attention.
We are very grateful for Darren’s time and his valuable perspective. You can read more from him on his Travel Rants blog. If you’d like to express your own view on anything you’ve read please go right ahead and leave us a comment!
If you would like to list with Getaway Earth please feel free to take advantage of our free holiday rental listing offer by visiting our registration page.
Thanks for reading!