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[Editors Note: This blog post was updated on 1/27 to address the comments below the post. What follows is the original post, plus an annotation at the end which includes the feedback on individual comments. Thanks!]

 

History of Quotable Rates

 

“What are quotable rates?” On each listing, owners and managers set the rental price on their properties; and those rates are published onto the property’s listing.  The listing, along with its rates are presented in search results if a traveler requests an instant quote and enters travel dates when searching. 

 

Last year we rolled out the first version of quotable rates, enabling owners and managers using HomeAway websites (including VRBO) around the world to present a quote to travelers when they entered dates for a stay.

 

As of August, more than 50,000 listings have incorporated quotable rates.  However, the process didn’t work for everyone, so we allowed owners and managers to opt out. Since the initial launch, our team has held thousands of conversations with owners and managers about what they want from a quotable rates application and in response to those talks, we spent the first part of this year working on improvements to our rates application. In August of 2013, we started rolling out a new application, and as of today, more than 150,000 listings employ quotable rates. Our approach was measured: we monitored feedback from our owners and managers and tracked the inquiry performance of listings with quotable rates.

 

As we previously communicated to you, we've taken the final step in making quotable rates the default by removing the ability to switch back to older rates applications.

 

Therefore, I suggest you budget a couple of hours of time to make the transition to the new rates application, gauge how other properties in the area are priced and consider your competitive pricing strategy.

 

We have some great resources, including an FAQ, and suggestions on how to make the transition here: http://help.homeaway.com/articles/en_US/Article/Quotable-rates-FAQs?&. And our customer support teams are ready to help educate you on the core concepts of quotable rates.

 

Why Quotable Rates Are Important For You:

 

Listings that use the quotable rates application get more inquiries and bookings than listings that do not use quotable rates. Here’s why:

 

  • Adoption of the application improves sort position; a vital factor for how many times your property is viewed in search results.

 

  • Quotable rates enable our sites to display pricing in search results, enabling travelers to filter and sort by price to easily find properties in their desired price range.

 

  • Travelers can also enter dates into search and view prices, which is key because travelers who enter dates are up to four times as likely to inquire on your property than travelers who don’t enter dates.

 

  • The new rates application enables our systems to also display a price in the search results of our global network of sites (such as HomeAway.com). This means that travelers on other sites get the “best view” of your listing in our search results. Before, our sites couldn’t even quote VRBO listings with unstructured text-based rates (see the image below).

 

Sonoma_Vacation_Rentals__Houses_for_Rent_in_Sonoma_CA_on_HomeAway__Lodging_in_Sonoma.pngAs you consider setting your rates, keep in mind that the bulk of travelers are not familiar with vacation rentals. Our research shows travelers tend to find complex rate structures and discount plans overwhelming. They require fast and easy price comparisons and become frustrated when they feel price there are hidden fees and opaque policies.

 

Addressing Your Concerns:

 

Some of our customers have voiced concerns about quotable rates.  Let me attempt to address those concerns below:

 

“Quotable rates require online booking and I will not be able to control who books my property

Quotable rates does not require you to adopt “Book it Now.” You can be an owner or manager who works exclusively with inquiries and still use quotable rates. When owners first hear about "Book it Now," some believe that it means that they must accept bookings without ever talking to the traveler and without any control over who gets to stay.

 

As vacation rental owners ourselves, we realize that interaction between owner and traveler is an important part of the vacation rental experience. Every vacation rental is different, and managers and owners want control over who stays in their property. Plus the personal dimension of vacation rental travel is what sets our industry apart.

 

“Quotable rates means HomeAway is preparing to force me into a commission model.”

We recently introduced a commission model (AKA pay-per-booking) but it’s up to you to choose which model is best for you. HomeAway CEO Brian Sharples has been clear about the HomeAway strategy: subscriptions are core to HomeAway’s business model.

 

“Quotable rates means that HomeAway will be giving inaccurate price quotes.”

The rates you quote must be reflective of what you intend to charge. That’s why the rates application includes concepts like seasonal rates, event rates, damage deposits, taxes, fees and rate breaks. We include pricing per person and increased rates for weekend nights (and for however you define weekends).

 

However, in talking to our customers we learned we cannot solve for every case. It would make the rate application unusable and overly complex. So while we kept it simple and you can note special cases via the notes field – just as you always have on HomeAway sites. For example, if you have a higher security deposit for larger groups, or a rate break for stays of 11 days or more, or give an free day for stays of 6 nights, or charge a different rate for children than adults, put it in the notes. 

 

You can still talk to your customers before they book with you. You can find out if you need to discount to close the sale, or if you need to charge an extra fee because they are bringing a large dog. As in the past, you are in control.

 

“Quotable rates requires a lot of work to set up.”

Depending on the complexity of your rates and the seasonality of your market, setting rates can take some time. However, once you have set up your quotable rates, the quote tool in Reservation Manager can generate quotes for travelers and attach it to your inquiry response. You do not have to adopt payments or "Book it Now" to use the quote tool.

 

In closing:

It takes time and effort to adapt to new systems. But because the listings that have adopted rates have seen increases in inquiries and bookings, we believe it’s worth it to you. And our support team is standing by 24/7 to help you through the transition.

 

We know that bringing travelers to your vacation rental is the core value we deliver to you. But as the vacation rental industry grows and expands, we can’t stand still: we have to ensure our marketplace is the best to bring you those customers.

 

As always, your feedback, and comments are welcome.

 

Thank you,

Tom Hale

HomeAway Chief Product Officer

 

>>>>>> Updated content from 1/27/2014 to address feedback from comments below:

 

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to comment on this blog post

We appreciate all of the comments and feedback: there are many good suggestions and ideas here. I want to take a few moments to a) let you know what our next steps are with regards to the rate application; b) address some of the comments here; and c) request that you direct feature requests and comments to this thread.

 

We are definitely listening to you, and for those of you feeling frustration, we are working on your behalf to advance our rates application to better meet your needs. However, it’s important to note that there are many owners who have successfully adopted quotable rates.  As of today, we have over 230,000 listings with quotable rates across all HomeAway sites and we are adding several thousand each week. In January alone we’ve added another 34K listings to quotable rates. Source: HomeAway internal reports.

 

Special cases and exceptions

There are still owners who have special requirements. For those owners, we suggest you use the notes and description fields to communicate your discounts, rate breaks, or special offers that are not currently supported by quotable rates. While this workaround of placing a comment in your notes or listing description for special cases is imperfect, it does allow us to solve for a wide range of variability in pricing models, pricing strategies, and special cases. 

 

Pricing is important

We know that pricing your property is a critical factor in your vacation rental success and that there are as many approaches to using pricing to distinguish your property from your competition as there are owners.  While we believe we solved for the majority of approaches to pricing with seasonal and event rates, flexible weekend definition, per person pricing, weekend, weekly and monthly price breaks, customizable fees and discounts that can be marked taxable or non taxable, changeover days, payment terms, calculated taxes and other features, there are some owners who must use the notes field to explicate their pricing or promotional strategy.

 

You can see from this google query (site:vrbo.com "quotable rates" -inurl:help) some of the strategies users are employing to communicate pricing offers outside of quotable rates. As of 1/27, Google counts ~100 listings on VRBO which include the phrase “quotable rates” in their notes or description, and most of these listings are accommodating for some special edge case. However, with nearly 117,000 listings on VRBO with quotable rates today, this is less than .1% of owners.  While a significant majority of our customers are making quotable rates work for them without having to note exceptions, even this relatively small number is worthy of our attention and focus. This is not meant to be an exact count, but it does give you a sense of the number of owners who are using this workaround.

 

Test your rates, please!

As a side note, if you do move to quotable rates, we encourage you to take a very active role in determining if the rate quote engine is pricing your property the way you want.  Please take advantage of the “test rates” function so that you can see how the system is generating quotes for you. One of the reasons quotable rates triggers strong reactions from owners is because pricing is so important. So take the time to test your rates by entering dates and seeing what the system is quoting for you.

 

We measure traveler behavior

It’s also very important to realize that we are looking at traveler behavior across millions of site visits and hundreds of thousands of listings, and as a matter of course, we A/B test our features to determine which implementation drives more inquiry and booking behavior. We are passionately committed to doing the absolute best job we can for you, and we use data to measure and optimize our sites to maximize your return. We are your partners, and we work very hard for you.

 

As we’ve studied quotable rates, we continue to see that properties with quotable rates are generating upwards of 20% more inquiries than those without because of a combination factors including sort order, listing quality, and high intent travelers sorting and filtering by price. Source: HomeAway internal reports, listings in the classic tier only on all HomeAway, inc sites.

 

Given that we implemented quotable rates primarily at the request of travelers who were frustrated by the difficulty of sorting and filtering by price, as well as the inefficiency and opacity of vacation rental pricing, we are encouraged by these results. But we also recognize that for those of you with particular rates concerns, learning that your competition is generating more inquiries because they have successfully adopted quotable rates may not be particularly welcome news.

 

But here’s a ray of light for you, as some new capabilities are already under development – and we’ve prioritized the ones we’ve heard about most frequently from our community.

 

Here’s the list of features currently under development for release in Q1:

 

  • Updating calculation for weekly and monthly rates
  • Reducing the steps to save a rate plan by removing the requirement to “test rates” before saving
  • Adding 60 and 90 nights as minimum stay options for longer term rentals
  • Adding children to count as part of per person rate plans (a common request on this thread)
  • Aligning the max guest count for per person rate plans with your maximum occupancy for your listing

 

As we look ahead, we’re also planning the following features, though these will likely take longer than Q1 to implement:

 

  • Additional tools to create price breaks based on length of stay
  • Additional fees that a traveler can opt into (such as pool heating fees, etc)
  • Fees based on length of stay (eg, a $5 per night fee for internet)

 

Specific feedback for commenters

With that, I’d like to move to some of the requests on this thread. If you have additional requests about rates, please add them on the main rates thread here.

 

@eastcoaster – I am glad that I was able to get your old rate cards to you so that you could quickly create your rates in our new quotable rates application. Congrats on getting your listings on Quotable Rates.

 

@bygeorge – please note that we allow up to 52 separate seasonal and up to 12 event rates. The average quotable rate card has 8 seasons or event rates, so your requirement for four seasons should be able to be met with quotable rates. You can have different rates, minimum stays, and per additional guest fees by season. That way, you can charge a different additional guest fee for high, shoulder, and low seasons. If you need help setting this up, private message me and I’ll get you in touch with someone to help you.

 

@echo and @mrmooper  clearwatercabin – thanks for the request to count children in calculation for per person fees. This feature is currently under development.

 

@ann12345  Every member of C-team owns and manages their own property, and a few of us manage multiple properties. It’s very clear to us that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to vacation rentals, so we do our best to accommodate the variety of property types, sizes, seasons, approaches to renting, and owners. It is important to realize that travelers do ask us for the ability to sort and filter listings by price. We do recognize that no two properties are the same, the cost of a vacation rental stay is a critical variable in making a decision on which property to stay in.

 

@marshall we send newsletters out to all owners, unless that owner has unsubscribed from our email communications. If you want to keep up-to-date on changes and developments in our product, I might suggest you visit the “product updates” group. From there you can subscribe to that group and get notified whenever anything is posted there OR you can direct your email client or RSS reader to get regular updates.

 

@judis  You wrote “You guys are trying to make this a 'cheap tickets' or hotels.com type site”. I am not sure exactly what you mean by this. However, we are responding to traveler desires to be able to efficiently and quickly find the right property for their trip, and a big part of that is knowing the cost of a stay.

 

@bwine You wrote “We should be able to opt out and respond with our own quotes”. There is nothing stopping you from responding with your own quotes. However, we are committed to the course of moving to quotable rates. You might address your concern that smaller parties do not know they can rent only a portion of your property by communicating this in the description or headline.

 

@ susaninrehoboth You requested “space for notes under each section of quotable rates”. Is your request for more notes in the rates table or in the detailed quote itself? We did test longer text in the detailed quote (the “popup window which shows the line items for a quote”) and it reduced conversion. We believe this is because there is a limit to how much text travelers are willing to read. Private message me if you want to continue the conversation. 

 

@ margaret you wrote “at 30 days the rate quote is grossly inflated. I have been told this is the way it has been programed to calculate.” Long stay rates are tricky. The way that it works today is that if if you set a monthly rate (of say $6000) AND the traveler is requesting a stay of 30 days or more, the rates engine divides the monthly rate by 30 to create a nightly rate of $200, and then multiplies by the number of nights the traveler is requesting, so long as it is greater than or equal to 30 nights. This works well for 30 day months and 31 day months (January, March, May, July, August, October, and December) For the longer months, if you choose the nightly rate you want for a 30 day stay (say the $200 per night in the example of a monthly rate of $6000) the quotable rates engine will calculate the right price for a 31 day stay, that is 31 * $200, which is the correct price. However, this does not work for February. As a workaround, you might consider create a seasonal rate for January 31 – Feb 28, set a 28 day minimum stay (if you only want to rent months) and set the exact price you want for a 28 day stay.  

 

As a side note, the quotable rates engine calculate a stay that is longer than a week and shorter than a month by multiplying the number of nights * the average nightly rate for your week rate for that season. For example, if you enter a weekly rate of $1400/week, when someone asks for a 22 night stay, the rate engine will calculate as follows: the average nightly rate for a week is $1400 divided by 7 nights = $200 a night. For a 22 night stay, this would equal $200 * 22 = $4400. For the sake of history, Quotable Rates version 1 allowed per night pricing to be set with discounts for ANY length of stay. However, the vast majority of owners created rate breaks at 1 week and 30 days, so we adopted that in the name of simplicity.

 

@gdebba You mentioned that you have to have a weekly minimum (from an HOA?) but often rent nightly rentals. We have heard of other properties that have to advertise a weekly minimum but want to sell nightly. I might suggest you prominently feature a message (in your headline, description, and “more info” about rates) that travelers should contact you for shorter stays. 

 

Wrapping it all up, resources, and a webinar on rates

In conclusion, I want to thank everyone again for their comments and feedback. Pricing is critical to your success, and rates are just a mechanism to help you present your best price to a prospective traveler. We’re trying hard to strike a balance between giving you the flexibility you need, giving travelers what the efficiency of a price quote, and not making the rates application too complex for the vast majority of users. And we are committed to working hard for you to improve quotable rates.

 

In the meantime, we have some great resources that can explain the basics of quotable rates here. If there is specific information that isn't explained or you would like to know about, let us know.

We will be holding a webinar to go over that strategy and tactics of quotable rates on Friday 1/31.  If you want to join, the info is below:

Friday, January 31, 2014
3pm-4pm CST

You can sign up here:


 

As a final note, I’d like to direct everyone to this thread about “feature requests” here. That’s where you should direct your feature requests for quotable rates as we’re using that as a tracking thread. We will no longer be accepting comments on this thread.

0

HomeAway Goes Luxe

Posted by brian.sharples Oct 30, 2013

Luxe_Screenshot.jpgIt's been a super busy month for our business as we announced the launch of our pay-per-booking platform as well as a distribution partnership with Expedia. And today, we've got more exciting info to share with you all…

 

In an effort to broaden our appeal to a more exclusive group of travelers, and to give some of you more targeted exposure for your luxury property, today we launched a new site geared toward high-end vacation rentals - Luxury Rentals from HomeAway. Luxury travel is one of the fastest growing travel segments in the world, with more than a third of luxury vacationers planning to travel more in 2014, according to research.  Our hope is to provide the ultimate resource for travelers looking to stay in truly exceptional vacation accommodations.

 

The decision to create this site is not a departure from our current business strategy to be the most complete vacation rental marketplace in the world; however, we hope that by having a site tailored to a particular travel segment, we're able to provide additional visibility for and deliver more qualified inquiries to those in the luxury category, and improve the search experience for travelers seeking high-end vacation accommodations.

 

The luxury travel experts at Andrew Harper curated the collection on our behalf by developing a strict, 75-point screening process to admit only the most luxurious homes to the site. We're adding new properties regularly, and are proud to have a diverse selection homes on the new site. I invite you to please take a look! 

 

Thanks,

Brian

1

At the HomeAway Summit this past weekend, owners and managers gathered in Scottsdale Arizona to connect, learn, and share with each other and HomeAway employees. We'll be posting the presentations and a wrap up in the coming days.

 

Brian Sharples held forth on the evolution of the vacation rental industry, and Brent Bellm shared some awesome market research, while HomeAway employees and vacation rental experts shared best practices on topics ranging from social media marketing and online security to new HomeAway products. Everyone made new friends, toasted old ones, networked and kibitzed. There was even an impromptu “ideas” panel pulled together by spirited Summit attendees to generate ideas for enhancements and improvements to HomeAway’s service.

 

On Saturday, teams of HomeAway engineers and product managers showed off some “fresh from the lab” ideas for products in the Sneaks session. A hybrid of American Idol and a Hackathon, the Sneaks are always a popular session at the summit. The teams pitch their ideas, and the audience votes with their applause to select a winner. Some of these features are live right now so go ahead and give them a spin! (Insider Guides and the iOS Mobile App)

 

Sneaks are real time market feedback for HomeAway and a chance for owners and managers to influence our roadmap of coming releases.  After each demo, the Applause-o-meter was put up on the screen to measure how the audience felt about each team’s efforts. We pay close attention to which sneaks get the most applause - so the audience yelled, stomped their feet, and jumped up and down for their favorite features.

 

sneaks.pnglive demos.pngapplausometer.png

 

After the 2012 sneaks, four of nine sneaks were released as products – Automating reservations via online booking, Traveller screening via profilesfiltering and searching on VRBO, and the mobile owner app have all made their way out to owners and managers.  A fifth sneak, “fighting phishing” is nearing beta, while the others are still over the horizon. 

 

In 2013, two of the sneaks are available today for you to try out. See below if you want to get an Insider Guide on your listing or get our new iOS mobile app (it works for VRBO, HomeAway, and HomeAway UK) that enables you to manage you calendar, inquiries, reply with quotes, and send payment requests.

 

Here’s the list of 2013 sneaks and presenters:

 

  • The VRBO team (Melissa, Paul, and Kirk) showed how the VRBO traveler site optimizes the experience across iPads, Iphones, Android Phones, Android Tablets, and devices of every size and shape
  • Matt of the HomeAway Traveler team illustrated a way to view the properties that are the most popular with travelers, with HomeAway Leaderboard,
  • Kate showed how Panoramic 360 photographs (see an example here) enable owners to really show off their properties
  • Dustin, leader of the HomeAway Traveler Team, created an Insider Guide revealing a new way to market your properties and provide your guests with information for their stay (learn how you can add an Insider Guide here)
  • Dave from the mobile team showed how owners can manage their inquiries, calendars, and bookings from their iphone. Learn how to get the mobile app here.
  • Patrick, Tim, and Michael of the social team showed a way for potential guests to learn if they know anyone who has stayed at or reviewed your property, increasing trust for reviews
  • Jason and Patrick of Glad to Have You showed a vision for how mobile apps and home automation from BeHome247 can make for hassle-free stays and save money
  • Jacy, product manager for HomeAway owner tools, showed masked email addresses, unlimited templates, and attachments as part of a new Inbox could make your lives easier while helping secure the vacation rental marketplace.

 

It was too close to call a single winner, so the judges awarded a three-way tie to Panoramas, Home Automation, and the Inbox. It was a great session, and thank you to everyone who participated for all of their hard work, creative ideas, and energetic pitches.

 

Most of the sneaks were future concepts, fresh from the lab. But two of the products that were sneaks are live today!

 

If you want to create an Insider Guide like these (standalone guides here: vrbo.com and homeaway.com; and how they appear on listings on vrbo.com and homeaway) simply follow the instructions here for HomeAway owners or these ones for vrbo owners. Or just check out some of the awesome guides below:

 

 

Guide to Honokeana Cove in West Maui

Guide to to San Francisco and East Bay

Guide to Ilmington and the surrounding area

Guide to Greater San Diego


And if you want to start managing your VRBO, HomeAway, or HomeAway UK listing from your iPhone, open up itunes, and search on "homeaway vacation rentals" or learn how to get it here. Or if you are reading this on a mobile device, go here.

 

We hope to see you next year at the summit!

 

 

8

Online Booking is Live

Posted by brian.sharples Nov 1, 2012

As you probably know, HomeAway’s mission has always been to make finding and booking a vacation rental as easy as booking a hotel. With our latest product release, I believe we’ve made great strides towards achieving that goal and am pleased to announce the introduction of online booking on HomeAway.com and VRBO.com.

 

With online booking, travelers have the convenience of paying securely online, and the booking process is more streamlined for both you and your guests. While we are aware that this particular release isn’t a “win” in the innovation category, it is a relatively new offering in the vacation rental industry and will indeed be a game changer for some guests.  

 

As we’ve posted in the past, the Internet has fundamentally changed the way we do business. We demand speed and convenience, and the ability to pay online by credit card makes booking a vacation quicker and easier. Plus, it enables travelers to finance vacations, accrue credit card reward points and feel confident in their purchase. Online booking delivers this to the vacation rental category.

 

Because we know conversations between owners and travelers are so important to the reservation process (in fact, 70% of travelers said it was the best part), we made sure to include a review period so there’s time to answer any questions they have about the property or questions you have of them. 


The product is an extension of ReservationManager™, which enables you to accept credit card payments and eChecks through our secure interface. Online booking is a free service, but because we understand you demand choices in terms of how you want to manage your rental business, it is not automatically added to your listing. However, you can easily sign up through the owner dashboard

 

The Nuts and Bolts of How it Works

 

With online booking, prospective renters click the “Book It” button on a listing, which instantly generates a detailed quote and enables travelers to agree to your rental contract (which you store ahead of time).  Travelers then submit their payment information directly from your listing and you are notified about the request. You have up to 24 hours to accept or decline it.

 

When you accept a reservation, the payment is processed immediately and your availability calendar is updated accordingly. Any additional payments are automatically scheduled and invoiced, reducing the manual work involved with confirming a guest.

 

If you aren’t able to confirm a booking within the 24-hour period, ReservationManager will automatically decline the reservation request and the traveler will not be charged.

 

To learn more, check out the video below:

 

 

 

Again, while it’s not a required service, I highly encourage you to take a look at the product and see if it’s for you.  We know travelers want a simpler, easier way to book a vacation home and online booking solves that problem. Ultimately, we believe it is the right choice to delight travelers, simplify the booking process for you, and make the entire vacation rental category more efficient and competitive.  As always, we welcome your feedback.

2

Phighting Phishing

Posted by thale Apr 25, 2012

The phishing storm is brewing

 

The vacation rental industry gathered in Austin, Texas last weekend for the HomeAway Summit. Owners, Property Managers, HomeAway staff, and HomeAway partners discussed the state of the vacation rental industry, saw old friends and made new ones, and compared notes.

 

But this year, a new word entered the conversations in the halls, over drinks, and in the content of the Summit: phishing.  Phishing, loosely defined, is the attempt by criminals to steal your online identity, most frequently via accessing your email account. While our industry continues to thrive, the threat of hackers gaining access to owners’ or property managers’ email accounts continues. If we do not pull together to fight this threat, it will affect the way travelers feel about the vacation rental industry, and ultimately, about booking your property. A storm is brewing.

 

For some, the storm has already come – just ask anyone who has had their email password phished. Scammers have intercepted inquiries, and ruined vacations by stealing money from trusting vacation rental travelers.  Owners and property managers have had to scramble to re-secure their email accounts and protect their reputations. And the reputation of the vacation rental industry is in question.

 

For most, the HomeAway Summit marked the first time that they ever heard of phishing, but they understood how both owners and travelers are at risk because of our industry’s reliance on trusted communications via email. (If you are not familiar with phishing, click here for an overview of how it happens, or read Carl Shepherd’s post on phishing.

 

Today, losses due to phishing are small: in Q1 2012, phishing scams affected less than 0.1% of travelers who found a vacation rental via a HomeAway website. 

 

But even one ruined vacation or theft of an owner or property manager’s identity is totally unacceptable. Everyone in the vacation rental industry – from owners to property managers to HomeAway – has a role to play in stopping phishing scams.  While phishing may be a relatively small problem in absolute numbers, recent activity tells us that the phishers are getting smarter and more travelers, owners, and managers are being affected.  It is clear that scammers and criminals have figured out that the vacation rental industry is a great target.

 

Why? Because:

 

  • the standard practice in the vacation rental industry is for travelers to pay large amounts of money for vacation rentals, long before the stay and sight unseen;
  • not everyone understands or uses safe and secure payment methods;
  • many people conduct their business in email accounts from email providers that have been repeatedly compromised; and
  • cybercriminals are good at exploiting communities that rely on trust and a personal connection.

 

Phishing is not new; vacation rentals are not the first industry to be targeted by cybercriminals. Phishers have attacked many online industries ranging from online auctions, banking, social media, travel, e-commerce, even medical and government institutions, impacting major brands like eBay, PayPal, Barclays, Wells Fargo, Chase, and Bank of America.

 

Everyone of us in the vacation rental industry has a lot at stake, and we will all need to work together to stop phishers.  You can do your part by guarding your email password with the same care as you protect your social security number, your bank account, and your most valuable possessions.

 

Our vision on how to fight phishing

 

So what can HomeAway do to fight phishing?  To be clear, we’ve been fighting scammers ever since HomeAway was founded.  But as we look ahead, we have come to the conclusion that HomeAway needs to take a strong stance against phishing.

 

We believe that we can fight phishing by:

 

  • safeguarding the traveler’s money by providing safe payment methods protected by strong security, such as ReservationManager™;
  • protecting owner and traveler email addresses so that phishers cannot readily target those accounts;
  • continuing to provide secure authentication so that HomeAway can ensure that only legitimate owners, travelers, and managers can access information; and most critically
  • moving interactions between owners or managers and travelers into a secure environment where everyone can be confident they are talking to each other, not a crook.

 

Our vision is that we can create an environment where we can protect owners, property managers and travelers with something we are calling “HomeAway Secure Communication.”  This would be a new system, envisioned only in the last few months, and which is now in development. We plan to make it available starting in the second half of this year.

 

This proposed system is similar to sites you may use, like Facebook, LinkedIn and others, where authentication is required by both parties before they can connect. On these sites, once two parties have decided to “trust” each other, they can converse via email. But until trust is established, they CAN still communicate keeping key elements of their identity protected.

 

In our vision, owners and travelers would still receive notifications and messages from each other via email and text message, but they need to reply via a secure system that does not disclose their email address.  This way, HomeAway would be able to ensure the legitimacy of the owner or property manager and the traveler.

 

We’ve already started: we showed one early prototype of HomeAway Secure Communication at the Summit during the HomeAway Sneak Peeks session. We demonstrated how the system will enable owners and property managers to:

 

  • communicate safely with travelers and only reveal their email address when they choose to;
  • have a persistent record of the conversation, payments and other events that have occurred;
  • manage their conversations, bookings and payments via mobile app; and
  • reduce manual and repetitive work for responding to inquiries, sending information about properties and managing bookings and payment.

 

We recognize that many of our customers rely heavily on email to manage their interactions with travelers. We also know that a system like this will represent a significant change for many owners and managers.

 

But it is precisely because your email account is so critical to your business that it must be protected.

 

We are highly sensitive to the needs of our customers and are aware of the scope of change that this solution represents. We are also laser-focused on making this solution as convenient and beneficial as possible; but we are counting on you, our customers – property managers and owners – to help us design and implement a solution that improves the efficiency and effectiveness of responding to inquiries and managing communications with your customers – the travelers.

 

We’re doing something different than what we normally do. We are announcing our intentions and inviting our community and customers to participate in the process of creating a solution because we believe it is critical to your future success as an owner or property manager: if travelers don’t trust, they will not rent. 

 

And if you have ideas, you can give us your feedback directly by emailing us at secure-feedback@homeaway.com or via the feedback links on all of our sites. While we don’t respond to every email we get, we do READ every one. 

 

If you want to learn more about our vision for HomeAway Secure Communication, check our FAQ here.

 

And please sign up for the Secure Communication group on Community from HomeAway  to join the discussion – we’ll post updates there as we go forward.

 

What can I do now to fight phishing?

 

We all have to pull together to fight phishing. HomeAway has worked hard to educate the industry via emails, messages on our website, and via the Security Center. We continuously invest in technology to actively monitor fraud, to surface suspicious activity, and to harden our systems and protect our customers. More recently, we have introduced new products, such as ReservationManager and Traveler Profiles, and processes such as Phone Verification to support safety.

 

Here are a few steps you can take now to join in the fight:

 

  1. Educate yourself – visit our Security Center to learn about phishing
  2. Read our FAQ to learn how to spot fraudulent inquiries
  3. When you receive a suspicious inquiry or email, please let us know
  4. Accept safe payment methods like those offered through ReservationManager
  5. Include an up-to-date phone number on your listing. We recommend that travelers call the telephone number published on your property listing page to confirm their reservation and payment details
  6. Use two-factor authentication on your email accounts. See this article on how. http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2012/04/make-your-email-hacker-proof.html
  7. If you list on vrbo.com or homeaway.com - log into your dashboard to check your inquiries to make sure you (and not a phisher) are receiving your inquiries.
    Never enter your email password on any webpage via a link sent to you by email, or even if a login page that looks like your email provider’s website pops up unexpectedly.  Always go to the email provider’s website to log in
  8. And don’t ignore warning signs or red flags - if you have a bad feeling, it never hurts to double check

 

Together we can fight this threat to the vacation rental industry, and we’re counting on you, just like you count on us.

 

Sincerely,

Tom Hale

Chief Product Officer

4

I have to say I am REALLY excited about our new ad campaign that launches on January 15th during the 69th Annual Golden Globes!  Kudos to our advertising team and new agency of record, GSD&M, for really nailing the essence of HomeAway’s business with the new tagline, “Let’s Stay Together.” 

 

This time I feel like we’ve really got it RIGHT!  Truth be told, we’ve resorted to some pretty gimmicky stuff in the past couple of years, preying on the hotel industry and trying hard to stand out in the pack of Super Bowl ads with something shocking and memorable. 

 

Two years ago it was the Griswolds, an award-winning campaign starring the one and only Chevy Chase.  It received a ton of buzz and even won an EFFIE (for most effective ad campaign), and we sure had fun making it!  But for the most part that ad was a way to simply introduce the brand and poke fun at hotels versus vacation rentals.  And with only 30 seconds at the Super Bowl, we had little time to really highlight the positive benefits of renting a home. 

 

Last year we stayed with the “Why hotel when you can HomeAway” theme and introduced the “Minister of Detourism” as a character tasked with saving family vacations.  In the process, we made a major faux pas when a (fake) baby was flung into a window during the ad. That caused quite a stir, and in retrospect rightly so. We quickly pulled the ad and apologized.

 

This year is very different!  We’ve decided to skip the Super Bowl – it forces you to try and be provocative to stand out.  Rather, we have a much longer and broader campaign, and have really taken the time to focus on what our business is really about – promoting togetherness with families and groups. 

So this year it is all goodness, togetherness, and happiness – and emphasizing where you stay is as important as where you go while on vacation. As an added bonus, we got Al Green to agree to license his classic song “Let’s Stay Together” for our campaign.  The end result is a beautiful and artistic scrapbook montage of families and friends having the time of their lives while on vacation, and of course staying in rental homes!  

 

Most importantly, this campaign is as much about the industry as it is about HomeAway.  If we can simply get people to associate vacation rentals with better togetherness, then we will have succeeded with the campaign.  I think it is going to be a real winner for our industry; I hope you enjoy it too.

 

You may read the press release and view the 60-second ad here: http://www.homeaway.com/info/media-center/press-releases/2012/lets-stay-together

 

I look forward to reading your comments.

 

Best,

Brian

0

In the first two posts I’ve discussed goal setting and determining which social networks will help you achieve your goals, as being the first steps to take when marketing your vacation rental using social media.  Today I’ll cover how to decide on types of content that you could publish.

 

 

Step 3: Decide on the types of content that you want to publish on social networks

First, let’s define content; in this context we are talking about any information, photos, videos, links to websites, etc that you have available and want to share. Different types of content work better for different social networks.  If you’re time constrained you need to think about content that is readily available to you, and easy to publish, but if you have more free time then you can be more creative with what you publish.  Be imaginative with information that you can share and create content that encourages engagement.

 

            Think about:

    • What information do you have that’s “insider knowledge” for the location of your rental, or just some of your favorite things in that location? Do you know the best shop to go for coffee in the morning, know of great deals at local restaurants, or the perfect spot to see that amazing sunset? 
    • Photos of your rental or local events and attractions near your vacation home are easy ways to create new content and share relevant information with potential guests
    • Offering a deal or freebie that is exclusive to your fans on social networks
    • Sharing videos of your rental or the town where your rental is located. If you don’t have any video consider creating a few short tours of your rental or favorite attractions in the area. Adding a personal touch through video could make a potential guest feel more comfortable when considering renting your home.

 

Again, let’s go through the well known social sites and talk about content types that work best for them.  Keep in mind though, without engaging with the community, publishing content isn’t going to yield results.

  • Facebook
    • Updates about your rental business and events in your rental location
    • Links to local attractions, restaurants you enjoy, discounts being offered in the area, posts about “things to do” or “what you should know about X city”
    • Photos of your rental and the area including attractions and events
    • Video tours of your rental and the local area and/or local businesses you enjoy
    • Deals can be publicized or offered exclusively to your Facebook fans on your page. You can also utilize Facebook’s new Deals product which will allow you to create a deal that can be found on mobile applications and by subscription.
    • Poll your fans about your home or fun facts about the area with the Questions product on your page
    • Add your vacation rental as a location guests can “check in” to on Places and updates will be shared with their networks giving your business more exposure
    • There are also easy to use applications that allow you to create custom landing pages, or Welcome Tabs to greet visitors of your page. These applications, such as Pagemodo or Involver, are easy to set up and install on your page.

 

  • Twitter
    • Short snippets of information about your rental and the area such as:
      • Deals for your rental, calendar updates, reviews received, last minute vacancy dates, events and attractions in the area, deals being offered from nearby businesses or restaurants
    • Photos uploaded through a site or application like TwitPic or Instagram
    • Links to video tours you’ve posted on YouTube or your website

 

  • YouTube
    • Video tours of your rental
    • Videos of events or attractions in the location of your rental
    • Video of tips for things to do, places to eat, museums to visit, etc

 

  • Flickr
    • Photos of your rental, your local area, events and attractions

 

  • Yelp
    • Contribute reviews of your favorite restaurants and shops
    • Join conversations in the Talk and/or Events areas. The key here is to contribute to the conversation and not only talk about your rental. Look for conversations where it may be appropriate to join and talk about your rental though.

 

  • FourSquare/Gowalla
    • Deals if you offer them
    • Tips for what to do in the area

 

  • Forums
    • Contribute your expertise about the vacation rental industry, your business or your local knowledge
    • The important thing about Forums is to find something you’re interested in talking about and become a part of the community with conversation and not just marketing your rental
    • Local information can be a great conversation on destination based forums where you can add value with local knowledge

 

  • Blogs
    • Blog on your personal website about local information and features of your rental
      • Provides an opportunity to engage with travelers and potential customers through your blog
    • Find opportunities to guest blog on other sites that discuss topics where you could add value to the       blogger’s site
      • Often you will be able to include your bio with a link to your personal site or vacation rental listing so guest blogs aren’t overly “salesy”
      • Guest blogging can also help with search engine rankings by providing links to your personal website        or your vacation rental listing

     

     

    In Part 4 of ‘Social Marketing 101 for Your Vacation Rental’, we’ll discuss how to build fans and engagement on your profiles.

    0

    Welcome to HomeAway Insights

    Posted by jeff.mosler Mar 28, 2011

    Hello,

     

    It’s my pleasure to welcome you to our official  HomeAway Insights blog, your window into HomeAway’s  products, policies and processes, spanning our global brands including  VRBO.com, HomeAway.com, Homelidays.com, Holiday-Rentals.co.uk and many  others.

     

    We have heard directly from you that one of our current opportunities to enhance customer experience is to improve our communication pertaining to important product, policy and process decisions.  Through our existing support and marketing channels, HomeAway mostly communicates the “what,” “how” and “when” of key launches and product decisions.  We will now use HomeAway Insights to help explain the “why.” For example, some customers are interested in why we feel traveler reviews needs to be a standard offering for the vacation rental category. Others may be interested in new product features. Members of the HomeAway team will share our philosophy on these types of topics using this new communication channel. 

     

    As Vice President of HomeAway’s Global Customer Experience team, I have the unique opportunity of seeing first-hand how our products and services are being adopted, and I continuously get to hear and read about the good (and the not so good) stuff experienced by our customers around the world.  My team, and all of HomeAway, is focused on creating a world-class experience and advocating for customer needs.  We are here and we are listening to your feedback, so please keep the great ideas coming our way!

     

    We look forward to continuing our dialogue and enhancing our customer experience as we advance the vacation rental industry together.

     

    All the best,

     

    Jeff Mosler

     

    Vice President of Global Customer Experience