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Vacation Rental Marketing for Luxury Property Owner

(This blog post is a follow-up to Insider’s Tips for Luxury Vacation Rental Owners)

Putting your vacation rental in the care of a Property Management Company

Taylor: So Thibault, I had on Heather Bayer from CottageBlogger.com who not only rents out her vacation rentals but also has a property management company. Do you find that property management companies or villa rental businesses are still a great option?
Thibault: Yeah, I mean, Heather Bayer is like a guru of mine. She’s great.
Originally, these agencies were the only players around. What i mean is, especially for overseas properties and luxury villas, villa agencies were the only places where rich people would go to find a vacation rental.
For instance, my St.Barths villa, at Christmas time, rents for about $30,000 a week. Very rich people do not usually use sites like Homeaway or Airbnb for this. But things are changing so fast. Villa rental agencies do exist and they still work well. inSt. Barths for example, for my bigger villa, I only use villa rental agencies. Why? Because of the good relationships I’ve had with these people helping me for about 15 years now. It’s working well, even though i give them a huge commission: 22.5% of the rental money is going back to the villa agency.
But these people are going to be there to welcome the guests at the airport, they’re going to assist the guests when there is a power failure or when the wifi is down. It’s an island, it happens.
You have to treat them like they are your salesforce. When they get me a great year of bookings, I send them a box of chocolates, for instance. It is not hard, you just go online and send a box of chocolates to your villa rental agency wherever it is in the world. When they get it, they’re happy and you will probably remember you. Villa rental agencies have hundreds of villas in theirs catalogs, so you want to be on top of their minds when they think about your destination.
For example, there’s this big villa agency based in Newport, Rhode Island. It’s called WIMCO. I’m going to visit them in early July. Why? Because, you know, I want to be nice to them and also to educate them about the villa: What’s new in my first villa, what’s going on with the new villa that I’m launching.
Taylor: I love what you just  said to “Use them as a salesforce” because that is exactly correct and you are just one of their villa rentals. They might have 100, they might have 500, depending where they are located, so it’s very very important to keep your villa in their mind each time someone calls and says “”Hey, I want an amazing villa for a 5 or 7-day holiday weekend. Which one do you recommend?”. They want to recommend yours and when things go on an easy way is to reward them with something like chocolates, and I think that’s fantastic.

Using Airbnb to list luxury vacation rentals, like villas in Bali and bedrooms in St Barts

I want to go back and highlight one company, Airbnb. It lets you rent out space or bedrooms in your home. So not only you can rent your whole villa, but you can rent out an empty room or what they call an “unoccupied living space”. Have you tried this before?
Thibault: Oh Yes Taylor, I mean, actually it’s no news that Airbnb is booming at the moment, but what’s interesting is that the people who first used Airbnb, such as students looking for a bedroom because they are visiting colleges, these people are have graduated, they have jobs now and they have money. They would go, maybe, on a honeymoon overseas or they have a family that wants to travel. So now, they are using Airbnb and they are looking for a villa rental.
In Bali, about 2 months ago, I met with an Airbnb employee and he was telling me that Airbnb is seeing Bali as a priority in Asia. Why? Because it”s a place where there are a lot of affordable villas. So, it means for a lot of first timers in Asia who are traveling abroad for the first time, Bali will be their first international destination.
One of the cheapest ways to stay over there is by renting and sharing a villa. So, Airbnb is very active on the Balinese market. Every 3 weeks, in Bal,i you can meet an Airbnb employee who will train you as a owner on how to have great listing, how to welcome people, how to improve your experience. It’s very interesting: It is a website you get to meet the employees, for real.
On Airbnb, you have to share a lot of information about yourself because the algorithm behind Airbnb will match the results of the search with things like your own background, the languages you speak, the country you’re from, even the college you attended. So it means that, again, its very different from Homeaway. On Homeaway, you search for a place, a price and boom!, you get listings following very obvious criteria.
Meanwhile, Airbnb will try to match you with friends of your friends, because your Airbnb profile is linked to Facebook profile.
I use Airbnb for my cheaper villa in Bali, but also in St .Barths to complement my revenues. When I’m at Villa Domingue, the bigger one which has 4 bedrooms, sometimes it’s just me, so what I do is list one of the bedrooms online on Airbnb and get some guests. It’s a nice way to get some company in the house, to have somebody else in the villa to share this great sunset with. It’s always fun to drink some rum together and its a great way to meet people.
Airbnb is interesting because you can use it to book your whole house or just part of it, even if you are there. This is not possible on Homeaway.
Taylor: Recently on the show, I had a true insider into Airbnb. His name is Jasper Ribbers and he has an awesome brand new book coming up. I’ve pre-read it and it’s one of the most amazing books that I have ever seen on any topic. It’s  “Get Paid for Your Pad”, I highly recommend it for Airbnb tactics. He delves in great details on their algorithm. And their algorithm is like the Google search engine where you don’t know specifically what you can do to rank high in Google for keywords. But there are 5 to 7 key things that he broke down.
And something else I found out about Bali that is interesting is that it is now becoming a hub for portable professionals. It’s right up there now with Chiang Mai in Thailand or with Bangkok in Thailand or with Saigon in Vietnam, where portable professionals can run their own business.
Thibault: That’s correct, actually I’m a part of a hub of digital nomads out there, called Hubud. It’s a place where you can work from with a great view of rice paddies, where you can bring your laptop, it’s a shared space and you’re right, there’s a whole network of people.
In a way, it’s good for me because I get to meet people and some of these could be my guests, my clients, because I have a strong wifi connection at my villas.
Even if you are overseas, if you have an overseas property on a small island far away, your guests will be expecting a very decent wifi connection. Most of us now work from our homes on vacation. So, it’s the first thing that you have to look into and sometimes it’s difficult. For example in St. Barths, the DSL sucks, so I have had set up an antenna that connects to another hill from where they broadcast a big signal just for me.
In Bali I have this Bulung Daya villa, it’s beautiful, it’s on a wild, black sand beach. The only building out there is my villa. There’s not even a cable for the internet in the whole area, so I have this 17 meters high antenna to get the wifi signal. It’s conveniently hidden away in a water tower, itself disguised as a Balinese temple.
Taylor: So Thibault, i had on Andrew McConnell’s from Vacation Futures who believes competition is great for the business. How hard or easy do you find it to compete with hotels?
Thibault: I have another property that I didn’t talk about, it’s an apartment in Paris. It used to be my own home before I moved to St. Barths. Of course, I rented out and what I did, I rented out through an online agency called Onefinestay. They call themselves Unhotel. They only take rentals that are high end apartments. As a guest you get an iPhone to call their concierge whenever you want, they come into the apartment and they put hotel quality linens and toiletries and it’s so amazing. It’s like a hotel service in an apartment. So, its called the unhotel experience.
St. Barths is very interesting because St. Barths has only 22 hotels and the biggest one has only 75 rooms. So what it means that 80 percent of the tourists in St. Barths will stay in a villa, not in a hotel. It’s very different from what you are expecting in a regular vacation destination. So again, it’s a great marketplace for real estate and it’s a great market for rentals.

Vacation Rental Marketing & Social Media

Taylor: So, Thibault I know something that you do extremely well is levering social media online to a worldwide audience whether that’s Facebook or Twitter. What are some tips that you can share about that?
Thibault: Well, Taylor you are yourself amazing when to comes to this. I’m just a property rental owner so I have to find ways to be active and at the same time to manage my rentals, especially when I do direct bookings. You have to make sure that guests are welcomed at the airport, make sure that there are employees at home ready. It’s a whole, there’s a lot of work to do so, there’s no way I could spend a lot of time online.
Sp what I am trying to do is I try to save time. I try to be efficient online. For example, I use Twitter a lot, because Twitter is a great way to be noticed by journalists or bloggers. In a way, I could use Twitter to talk about my properties, but what i usually do is i use twitter to talk about the destination. I do destination marketing. I got a travel blog about Bali called RealBali.com and one about St. Barths called SaintBarth.com.
It talk about what to do, where to stay, etc. It’s like my personal tips that I share about the place, so it makes me interesting to a journalist looking for a local source.
Another great social network is LinkedIn. They have professional groups, lots of them are dedicated to vacation rentals, so I’m out there trying to answer some questions to help out other people. It’s another great way to network with vacation rental gurus and you could be, for example be invited to guest star in a vacation rental podcast.
The last thing is a site called HARO, Help A Reporter Out. There is also Source Bottle in Australia. On these sites, you find help requests from journalists who say for example “I want to talk with a property owner in St. Barths” or ‘I want to talk to somebody who owns a villa rental”. It’s a free services, you just go online and just try, and everyday you get questions from journalists that you may be able to answer.
Taylor: So Thibault, I wanna ask you one more question and we’re going to wrap up our call and find out the best ways to connect and follow with you. But the last question that I wanted to pick your brain about is that, I have virtual assistants, myself and I had on John Jonas from Replace Myself and he also owns onlinejobs.ph. How can people incorporate VA’s into their vacation rental business?
Thibault: Well I think its great that you had John Jonas. When it comes to VAs, use John Jonas and somebody called Chris Ducker from Virtual Staff Finder
So I got through this chrisducker.com to find my first VA. As you guys understand right now, my villa is listed on multiple sites in different countries. So having a villa assistant for me is great because when I get a booking, I handle all communications to the client myself. It’s always me answering, giving my personal touch because guests are looking for me and of course, if I have to negotiate prices.
But, when the booking is closed, somebody has to update all these calendars. That’s what my virtual assistant does. A Virtual assistant can, for example, help you with your social media, such as for sharing travel news about your destination on Facebook.
Taylor: Thibault, fantastic talk today. What are some final tips or strategies you might want to share on things I didn’t ask you.
Thibault: That’s a good question, as you know I love talking and there are a lot of things I could cover but then again, when it comes to overseas properties, buy with your heart. The first house I bought was really about the view. When I was in the house, I saw the view and it was a 220 degree view on the ocean, in St. Barths and it was amazing. So you want to buy something that is extraordinary. Even if it’s small. You buy something that you love. Why? Because it has more appeal and again you will be staying in this house hopefully for some time and you will really enjoyed more.
Taylor: Love it Thibault, and what are the best ways to follow and connect with you.
Thibault: As I said, I’m very active on Twitter so people could follow me there. My Twitter account is @TiboStBartsBali .
Taylor: Awesome Thibault, why dont we leave it there. thank you so much for coming on about vacation rentals  and I hope we can get you on again soon.



Rental Scale-Up

Thibault is the founder of Rental Scale-Up. He owns vacation rentals in St. Barths and Bali. He also leads innovative projects for companies within the vacation rental industry. Feel free to reach out to Thibaut Masson on Linkedin.

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