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Christine's Vacation Rental Insights

3 Posts tagged with the revive_the_gulf_symposium tag

Destin-005.jpgHi everyone,


I am finally back in the office from my whirlwind trip that included  visiting a college for my son, redecorating my vacation rentals, and  hosting the “Revive the Gulf” Symposium in Destin! Though it was  jam-packed with activity (and I’m certainly glad to be home), it was  also great to accomplish so much during one trip.


As promised, below is my recap of each of the sessions of our  Symposium. To start, here is a look at who attended:



  • A majority of the owners in attendance owned property in the local  area, but we also met quite a few with homes in Alabama and Mississippi
  • A significant amount of owners have been renting for more than five  years
  • Many of the attendees owned more than one vacation rental property
  • About half of the attendees had already filed with the Gulf Coast  Claims Facility


1st Session: State of the Vacation Rental Industry in the Gulf



Tom Hale, Chief Product Officer of HomeAway, Inc.



Tom’s presentation focused on the efforts HomeAway made to help boost  inquiries in the Gulf Coast following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill,  which included increased pay-per-click advertising, targeted emails to  Gulf Coast travelers, a dedicated

oil spill  response website

, and customized banner ads throughout our website.


But perhaps more importantly, Tom shared some of HomeAway’s plans to  continue to promote the Gulf Coast and the entire vacation rental  industry in 2011. The owners seemed most excited about the improvements  to the Owner Dashboard, our upcoming Super Bowl commercial, the sneak  peek of our new listing analysis tool, and most of all, VRBO phone  support! Phone support, with click-to-call technology, is currently in  test mode, but it should roll out to all customers sometime early next  year. Stay tuned for more info!



2nd Session: Restoring Tourism and Economic Activity



Pamela Watkins, Beaches of South Walton



Pamela spent her session telling us all the things that the visitors’  bureau has done with their BP claims money to help boost tourism and  restore the image of the area following the oil spill. Pamela felt  strongly that the media didn’t necessarily portray the true state of our  beaches, so the media is the best way to correct that perception.


So, with their payments from BP, the Beaches of South Walton invested  in the following marketing efforts:



  • Community workshops
  • Dedicated websites
  • Seaside newsletter
  • Television and radio commercials
  • Employee training
  • Satellite media tours to 60 stations nationwide
  • Celebrity PSA campaigns
  • Partner co-op campaigns
  • Rewards programs
  • Back to the Beach concert


What I found even more interesting, though, was the study that the  Beaches of South Walton conducted with travelers who visited the area in  2009 but didn’t return in 2010. Here is what they found:



  • 48% who traveled this summer but not to BoSW sited the oil spill as  their #1 reason
  • 15% who had booked cancelled
  • 85% never made a reservation this summer
  • 49% of those who went somewhere else said that their experience  wasn’t as good as BoSW; 41% said it was about the same; 10% said it was  better
  • 83% of those who did return intend to come back again in 2011; 6%  have already made reservations
  • 66% do not plan to make their reservations sooner than a few months  before their trip
  • 16% think the beaches will still be impacted next summer


Although there were some minor negative findings in the survey results,  overall it gives me hope that bookings will be just about back to  normal for next summer.



3rd Session: The Claims Process



Caroline Adams, Buzbee Law Firm



The Buzbee Law Firm has been involved in the oil spill since day one,  representing many rig workers, oystermen and shrimpers in addition to  vacation rental owners. When it came to our group and the claims  process, most people have filed for 1-6 month payments. No one has filed  for a final payment, and Buzbee recommends holding off on that as of  right now. Most people were paid about 2-3 weeks after submitting their  claims, if not sooner.


So, if you are among those who have not submitted your claim yet,  Buzbee recommends submitting your emergency claim with the following  supporting documents:



  • Description of business losses due to spill
  • Records showing gross revenues for 2010
  • Letters of business cancellations
  • Maps or descriptions of the area
  • Financial statements for 2007-2010
  • Signed income tax returns for 2007-2009
  • Details on efforts to mitigate losses
  • Daily/monthly occupancy information 2007-2010
  • Documents of insurance/collateral source payments from government  entities



4th Session: Recovering from the Oil Spill



Christine Karpinski, Director of Owner Community for HomeAway, Inc.



Ok, I’m not going to toot my own horn too much, but here are the main  points I addressed in my session. For more information on these topics, I  encourage you to read the articles I’ve linked below:



  • Stay firm on your cancellation  policy, and be up front about it with guests
  • Have confidence when speaking to your renters! Hundreds of owners  sent checks back to travelers unnecessarily; we must change this whole  mentality and have more confidence in our business as a group.
  • Encourage guests to purchase travel  insurance. Although most natural disasters aren’t covered, several  companies made exceptions for the oil spill.
  • The oil spill created some bargain-hunting monsters, but you just need to know how to deal with them.
  • Don’t undercut  your neighbors’ prices. None of us want to see a price war break  out.
  • After you’ve met your booking goal for the year, consider raising  your prices. It’s perfectly fair to raise prices once a year, but  be sure to leave them that way. Rather than cutting prices later, you  can always run a special.
  • Don’t scrimp on silly things – be sure to provide  the necessities like spices, detergent, a hair dryer etc.


So that just about covers it. If you have additional questions, I  encourage you to become a member of our forum on the Gulf Coast Response  Center website. I hope this event provided some much needed reassurance  for the future of our rentals. Here’s to a successful 2011!


Happy Renting,




whisper_or_shout.jpgHi everyone,


Christine has taken some time off this week from her job here at  HomeAway to tend to her other job – her vacation rentals! While she’s  busy handling repairs and buying new décor, I’ll give you some insights  into what’s happening in our vacation rental world.


You’ve probably read about our event coming up this weekend – the

HomeAway  “Revive the Gulf” Symposium, in Destin, Florida. We are expecting  well over 200 Gulf Coast homeowners to attend, making this one of our  biggest events of the year. We look forward to meeting all of the  homeowners as usual and hopefully bringing them some much needed  reassurance that bookings for the Gulf will bounce back in 2011.


This weekend also marks another milestone for me personally – my 15th  stay in a vacation rental property since joining HomeAway almost 3 years  ago. I’ve stayed in VRs for both leisure and business travel, spanning a  wide variety of property types, from small beach condos to urban  dwellings to mini-mansions. But no matter what type of property, I find  myself giving the same type of feedback to each and every homeowner.


So here, in my very blunt words, are the top 5 things I’d like to tell  every homeowner:



  • The more information you give to me before I arrive, the better. I  am a planner at heart (understatement of the century), and if you can  tell me what to pack and where to eat and where to park before I even  set foot in your home, you are basically guaranteed a glowing review.


  • Please don’t make me have to ask for the directions to your home.  This is something I expect to be given upon sending the final payment,  at least 2 weeks before my scheduled arrival. That gives me the  confidence that you are on top of your game.


  • Please don’t feel like you have to meet me at the house to show me  around when I arrive. Since travel can be delayed and I could be tired  and cranky when I arrive, I actually would prefer to check in with you  on my second day.


  • Please don’t make me suffocate at night. It’s ok if you don’t have a  ceiling fan in the bedroom, but can you provide a small tabletop fan?  Although I am always freezing, I like a bit of circulation at night. And  while you’re at it – a TV in every bedroom is a huge selling point for  me. It doesn’t have to be fancy – an old school 12” will do the trick.


  • Please don’t make me have to call to find out what I need to do  before checking out. I have no problem running the dishwasher, taking  out trash or starting a load of laundry – just give me plenty of notice  so I’m not scrambling as I’m trying to leave for the airport.


So there you have it. Honest opinions from an Owner Community veteran.  Please don’t take it the wrong way. Hopefully this just spares you a  complaint or two from a future guest.


Happy Renting,


Leah Carroll


The HomeAway Revive the Gulf SymposiumHi everyone,

As many of you know, I own properties along the Gulf Coast, so the oil spill has continued to effect me after the oil stopped flowing. And I know that I'm not the only one-- many Gulf Coast homeowners have endured a particularly difficult summer this year following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. To show our continued support for our owners, HomeAway is hosting a special event on November 6 and 7.

You are invited to a FREE symposium dedicated to Gulf Coast vacation rental owners, featuring Tom Hale, Chief Product Officer of HomeAway, Inc. We’ll also have other industry experts onsite to share insights and advice on recovering your rentals, and I'll be speaking as well.

In addition to learning from our panel of experts, you’ll have the opportunity to meet other homeowners just like you, facing the same challenges and striving to keep your properties booked and your beaches safe and beautiful for future guests.

We would love to see you there. To ensure that we have enough seating for everyone, pre-registration for each guest is required. Sign up today to save your spot.


Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa
4000 Sandestin Blvd., South
Destin, Florida 32550

If you're joining us from out of town, consider renting one of the many Destin properties available on our family of websites.

Or, if you'd prefer to stay at the hotel, we have a discounted rate of $109/night available for Symposium attendees.  Just call 850-267-9500 and mention our group.

Saturday, November 6, 2010
Speaker Sessions: 1pm to 6pm
Networking Reception: 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Sunday, November 7, 2010
Listing Workshop: 9am-12pm

Learn about our speakers and topics*:

• Tom Hale, Chief Product Officer of HomeAway, Inc., will kick off the weekend discussing the state of the vacation rental industry in the Gulf. Learn how HomeAway plans to promote your properties on, and for a successful 2011 rental year.

• Christine Karpinski, bestselling author, Gulf Coast homeowner and Director of Owner Community, will share her own advice and experiences about recovering from the oil spill, standing firm on your rates and dealing with bargain hunters.

• Caroline Adams of Buzbee Law Firm will be onsite to answer questions regarding the BP claims process.

• Representatives from the Beaches of South Walton will share what local tourism boards are doing to stimulate economic activity and restore tourism in the region.

• And finally, our Listing Workshop will demonstrate how you can improve your own marketing efforts to attract visitors to your areas once again

Register Now  
If you have any questions, feel free to call the Owner Community at 512.505.1544 or email

Hope to see you soon,


*Speakers and topics are subject to change.