Recently, the New York Times published an article entitled "Summer House Horrors" detailing some negative experiences some customers had when renting vacation homes from individual owners. While I am sure these stories provided some fright and entertainment for the publication’s readers, the article perpetuates a fear that is keeping Vacation Rentals from breaking into the mainstream. Recent studies suggest stories like these do not reflect the experience of the majority of vacation rental customers. In fact, the opposite is true - Vacation Rentals have some of the highest customer satisfaction ratings in the travel industry. Douglas Quniby (Senior Director of Research at PhoCusWright) wrote a letter to the author of the Times article sharing his research findings that in his words, "clearly dispel this perception as a myth". In his letter Quinby shares the results of his research:
- 89% of those surveyed intended to rent a vacation rental again
- 87% were willing to recommend the experience to family and friends
- Only 10% of those surveyed had stayed in a vacation rental in the last 2 years. What an opportunity!
While the research clearly shows that vacation rentals provide a terrific customer experience for the vast majority of customers, it also shows that there is a fear of the unknown when it comes to this category of travel. At Mountain Reservations, we know our customers love the convenience, value and features of vacation rentals. We also know that many more customers are not aware of these benefits, or may be intimidated by the prospect of finding the right vacation home. Here are a few of the things that make it more difficult:
- Vacation Homes are unique. Each home is as different as its individual owner. For this reason, the customer needs more online shopping tools to help them learn about the home - detailed descriptions, multiple photos, floor plans, maps, etc…Customers also benefit from a knowledgeable customer service team that can help a them select the right vacation rental
- Vacation Homes are hard to find. The big online travel agencies don’t feature a thorough supply of vacation homes, and there haven’t been any nationwide online marketplaces for this category of travel. Fortunately, several new sites are emerging to fill this need. Homeaway.com is doing a terrific job of aggregating RBO (Rent By Owner) inventory - where you rent directly from the owner.
- Customers have misconceptions of Vacation Homes. Some customers have a perception that a vacation rental means a "working holiday" and they will be required to shop, cook and clean during their vacations. Today the benefits of a private home and hotel-like amenities can be found in a professionally-managed vacation home. At Mountain Reservations, we feature scores of homes and condos where the property manager offers services like maid service, grocery delivery, private chefs, even concierge services.
- The fear of the unknown. Since the majority of the traveling population has not experienced the benefits of vacation rentals, they are more susceptible to the fears and myths perpetuated in the NY Times article. They may feel they need to "know someone" in the market to find what they are looking for and to ensure they get a good deal. Others may not want to risk their precious vacation time on a lodging option that, to them, has elements of uncertainty. At Mountain Reservations, our Mountain Vacation Specialists help customers alleviate these concerns every day. Our Specialists are available to answer questions and reassure customers that they are booking the right home for their family vacation.
It's my hope, that as more customers experience the benefit of vacation rentals, stories like the one above become more readily recognized as the exception and not the rule. The emergence of trusted brands in the vacation rental industry will go a long way towards helping the customer feel more comfortable and improving the perception and awareness of the vacation rental category.