In the last few years international travel to the United States has increased. Europeans, in particular, have different school schedules and tons of vacation time. They're also more accustomed than Americans to renting vacation homes when they travel. Interested in marketing to international travelers? Before you get started, you’ll want to read our list of the most frequently asked questions to decide if it’s right for you.
Q: Who should target international renters?
A: Properties in internationally-known regions (i.e. Hawaii, Florida, Colorado Rockies, etc.) are obvious hot spots. Of course this shouldn't discourage you if your home is located elsewhere, as many international travelers visit other destinations all around the country.
Be sure to take a close look at where your current renters are coming from. Do you have any from outside the U.S.? If so, you may want to increase your international marketing to book even more renters.
Q: What nationalities visit the US the most?
A: The top ten countries* (after Canada and Mexico) whose residents visit the United States are:
1. United Kingdom
6. South Korea
8. The Netherlands
Q. What are the top U.S. markets for international travelers?
A. Florida destinations like Orlando, Miami, Naples, and Fort Myers lead the pack, but Europeans are also traveling to Hawaii, Las Vegas, Orange County, Calif., Colorado, and urban destinations like New York City and Washington, D.C.
Q: What are some of the benefits in renting to European travelers?
A: Europeans have much longer vacation benefits than Americans. Fifteen nations in the European Union require that workers take a minimum of four weeks vacation; France requires at least six, and eight weeks is the minimum for Lithuania!* The potential for increased bookings significantly improves when you consider a new pool of people with longer vacations and more date flexibility.
Q. Should I list on an international listing site?
A. If you own in a market frequented by European travelers, adding your property to a European site can widen your traveler base and increase your international exposure. Listing on European sites is a great way to increase the number of eyes that take a gander at your property listing. However, when writing your listing, make sure you use the verbiage used by Europeans regarding vacation rentals: use "holiday rental" and "holiday home" in place of "vacation rental", and "self-catering" instead of "rent by owner."
Q. How do I attract international guests using sites on which I already list?
A. Some international travelers are already looking on U.S. listing sites like VRBO to find vacation rental accommodations, which is good news. For improved results, it’s best to also list on a site like HomeAway where your rental is automatically cross-sold to their international listing sites. There is less than 20% overlap in traffic to these sites, so the benefits are much greater than just appealing to international travelers.
Even if you are on HomeAway, be sure to include information that matters to international travelers. Since these guests may not be as familiar with your vacation rental market as American travelers, be sure to include very specific location and destination information in your headline and description. Including distances in meters as well as feet can’t hurt either.
Q. How do I read and respond to an inquiry written in a foreign language?
A: Use an online translation service like GoogleTranslate or Babelfish to get the gist of the inquiry. Then decide if you'd like to put in the work necessary to coordinate the booking for the guest. Be sure to respond to the renter whether you are going to accept the booking or not. If you don’t know their native language, send a link to one of the translators mentioned above with your response in English.
Q. I received an inquiry that is written in grammatically-incorrect English. How can I tell if it's scam?
A: Many owners have become conditioned to red flag any inquiry with less-than-perfect English. However, as you embark into international waters, many of your potential renters may not fluently speak and write English. Don't automatically assume that any inquiry that doesn't exhibit perfect English is a scam.
The key red flag to look out for is if someone is asking you for cash back. This is not a standard practice in America, Europe, Asia or anywhere else! If someone is e-mailing you and asking you to send money back to them for any reason, it is most likely a scam.
Q. Can I call an international inquirer back?
A: Making a phone call can be tricky because you are dealing with different time zones. Be sure to note where your potential renter is calling from — time zones vary greatly and a prospective guest could easily be seven or more hours ahead of you. It is simple to search for the country’s current time by using Google or another search engine.
Of course, there’s also the cost of international dialing. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on international calls, especially if they don’t result in bookings. But when screening, many prefer to do it over the phone. In this case, it’s prudent to feel out whether the inquiry is serious or not by exchanging several e-mails back and forth. Then you can arrange a convenient time for both parties to talk. If you want to book international travelers frequently but avoid the associated phone charges, look into downloading Skype on your computer. Skype-to-Skype calls are free, no matter the location, and there is also a video chat option.
Q. How should I accept payment from international renters?
A. Credit cards are the easiest and safest way to accept payment from renters and dealing with exchange rates, etc. Because not all international travelers are accustomed to paying with credit cards, it is important to be flexible when taking a booking from an international guest. Bank-to-bank transfers are common practice for some European countries (especially Germany, Italy, and Spain) and they are an acceptable form of payment. Yet, the same payment safety principles apply as when taking payment from American guests—avoid fraud and scams by not accepting untraceable wire transfers, cashier/certified checks, or money orders. You can also use ReservationManager to ensure all your payments are secure.
Q. What are the drawbacks to advertising to international guests?
A. With increased exposure comes an increase in inquiries and work. You'll be dealing with a customer base with different cultural norms and currencies, and are also likely to get foreign language inquiries.
So, still want to go for it? While you may be ready to start renting internationally today, remember that this is not for everyone. There will undoubtedly be more work involved when you factor in the difference in time zones and translating messages each way. However, many people find it an excellent way to keep their homes filled in slower seasons when it may otherwise sit empty. At the end of the day, it’s not much more different than any other booking; you will still need to clearly define the rules ahead of time and respectfully communicate your expectations. Feliz alquiler (happy renting)!
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