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4 Posts tagged with the seminars tag

Year in Review

Posted by christinekarpinski Dec 21, 2010

2011clock.jpgAs we finish 2010, I reflect…


Looking back, 2010 started off on an upward trajectory, I was sure it  was going to be the best on record for my properties. Sadly, on April 20, 2010 everything changed because of the oil spill in the Gulf. Who could have predicted such a tragedy? There were people who lost their lives and livelihood and of course, there was significant impact on the environment and local economy. Retrospectively, I guess I was one of thelucky ones because most of my guests kept their reservations. No one  knows what to expect in the coming years but one thing we know for certain, there is an uphill battle to restore tourism in the region. I can only hope for the best.


The rest of my properties did well in 2010 bringing in the same amount of money this year as last. However the significant difference was I rented fewer nights for more money per night. I am extremely grateful  for this.


For my work at HomeAway, it was a year of many accomplishments. We  rolled out the new version of the Owner Community website that we’re using today. We also created a special website for owners whose rentals were effected by the oil spill, and just this  past month, rolled out our new Community forum.


We held 14 seminars across the country where we met and learned from  many homeowners and property managers. We also had our first ever  HomeAway Summit in May, which far exceeded expectations (we’re  doing another one this year!). It was also a great year for my podcast show—looks like we’ll end the year with just shy of 1 million downloads in 2010!


So in the end, despite some ups and downs, I have much to be thankful for.


I hope you have a happy holiday season and a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year!




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,




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.


Last Updated: Friday, June 4nd, 2010 at 12:05PM

oil spill in gulf of mexicoHi everyone,

I just got back from meetings in Destin, Florida regarding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Our CEO, Brian Sharples, really wanted me to attend these meetings so I could be educated about the situation and bring first-hand information back to all of our concerned homeowners and travelers. And of course, I also have a vested interest in this topic because I personally own vacation rental homes along the Gulf Coast.

As promised, here are my meeting notes:

An estimated 500 people congregated on Tuesday, May 4th, at 1pm. In attendance were concerned citizens who had all sorts of interests in the area. Everyone including elected officials, vacation rental owners, property managers, HOA managers, business owners, waiters, real estate agents, attorneys, doctors, and many more. Basically the community came together as they were all hungry for information on the oil spill.

Here are some of the unknowns:

No one can really confirm how much oil is being spilled out each day. There have been reports all over the place from 5,000 barrels to a million gallons per day.

No one knows when the well will be completely stopped (though preliminary reports as of Friday morning May 7, 2010, suggest that the cofferdam [containment dome] is currently in the water).

Once the leaking is stopped, no one knows how long this will take to completely clean up completely.

We aren't sure if even all the beaches will be affected.

Here are some general facts about the oil spill that I learned.

As the oil leaks out, it comes in a plume and travels with the ocean currents before it surfaces. Because of this, all of the oil may not be visible from the surface immediately.

Many of the preceding oil spills the general public hears about have happened in cold climates (Alaska, Iceland, etc.) The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is in a significantly warmer climate which will change the effects and will be significantly different. Basically the warm air and warm water assist in evaporation of the benzene and other toxic components of the oil, which I understand to mean that it will break down faster.

What is being done right now.

There are various steps being taken right now on multiple levels to minimize risks.

BP is attempting to control the situation by capping and containing the oil.

The EPA is training many groups of people to be certified in safe oil clean-up. Everyone from volunteers, beach attendants, general contractors, to heavy machinery operators are lining up to be trained.

The local, state and federal governments are all working together.

There are various methods of clean up being employed. As you likely have seen and heard on the news, here are some of the measures being taken.

Booms placed in the water to keep the oil from drifting into shore;

Controlled burns;

Chemicals sprayed on the surface to absorb the oil;

Human and Pet Hair Booms

Hay sprayed in the water

What should I tell my travelers who want to cancel?

Keep yourself informed and deal with questions on a case-by-case basis, but here's how I've been handling these questions from my renters:

“There’s no telling at this early date what will happen and whether our beaches will be affected. The tourism counsel in the area recommended that we take it day-by-day. The bulk of the tourism season doesn’t start for 4+ weeks, which is a long way away for clean-up efforts. If you don’t mind, let's just wait and see what happens and then discuss our options.”

You can also direct them to news articles such as this one:

Will my homeowners insurance or traveler’s insurance cover loss of rent?

I have heard from many owners who said they have called their insurance companies. From what I am told, they will not pay on the basis that this is not considered a “natural disaster” or “act of God”. However, the best practice is to contact your own insurance carrier to learn what your options are.

Word on the street is that BP put a reserved amount of money into a trust fund for certain losses. Here’s a link where you can find the phone number to file a claim.

This information is taken verbatim from Bay County Florida’s website: Businesses should keep detailed records of any business losses resulting from the oil spill. Businesses, including hoteliers, sport fishing charters, watersports rental companies, etc., that may be negatively impacted are asked to keep detailed profit and loss records and track any cancellations, should a claim need to be presented. BP has established a claim system and toll free number: 800-440-0858. This system will allow people to be entered into a process to recover lost income or recoup damage-related expenses.

Where can you go for more information?

Obama Encourages Vacationing at Gulf Beaches This Summer

Maps of the affected areas:

Updates on beach closures:


Harrison County:

Hancock County:

Jackson County:




Beaches of South Walton:

Bay County:

Local Chambers of Commerce

MS - Ocean Springs -

MS - Hancock County Bay St. Louis -

MS - Jackson County -

MS – Harrison County -

MS - Biloxi -

MS - Longbeach City Page -

MS - Harrison County (Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian) Tourism Commission

MS – Pass Christian -

MS - D'Iberville St. Martin -

AL – Dauphin Island -

AL – Gulf Coast -

AL - Gulf Shores -

FL – Sarasota -

FL – Treasure Island –

FL – Clearwater -

FL – Pinnellas Park -

FL – Tampa -

FL - Pensacola -

FL - Pensacola Bay -

FL – Santa Rosa County -

FL - Avalon Beach -

FL – Gulf Breeze -

FL – Navarre -

FL – Pace -

FL – Niceville -

FL – Destin -

FL – Crestview -

FL – Walton County -

FL – Panama City -

FL – Gulf County -

FL – Carrabelle -

FL - Franklin County -

Links for up-to-date information (this is not a complete list, but please email us if you know of others we can add to this list):


Facebook: Deepwater Horizon Response

Facebook: Florida Travel and Tourism

Information on filing a claim for losses due to the oil spill:

Important Phone Numbers:

Report oiled shoreline or request volunteer information:
Submit alternative response technology, services or products:
(281) 366-5511
Submit your vessel as a vessel of opportunity skimming system:
(281) 366-5511
Submit a claim for damages:
(800) 440-0858
Report oiled wildlife:
(866) 557-1401
Deepwater Horizon Incident
Joint Information Center Phone: (985) 902-5231 or (985) 902-5240

One last bit of advice

Do your own research, stay on top of the news and I highly recommend you seek advice from your own attorney.

Here’s to hoping the only oil we see on our beaches is suntan oil.


The information in the articles, blogs or other posts by Christine Karpinski are provided to assist vacation property owners or managers generally and are based on Ms. Karpinski’s personal experiences or the information she has been able to gather. This information is meant to help the owner community; however, please note that any particular situation of any owner or manager may differ and all owners and managers are encouraged to seek professional advice to determine what course(s) of action will be most beneficial for them. Neither HomeAway, Inc. nor Christine Karpinski can provide any guarantee or warrantee that this information is complete or accurate at any point in time or that any particular outcome will result if action is taken in response to this information.