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Vacation Rental Management Conference: 1 US state, 2 vacation rental businesses, very different booking patterns

1 US state, 2 vacation rental businesses, very different booking patterns
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This article is part of our Rental Scale-Up vacation rental management conference series. This is an extract from our April 2020 conference: “Get Your Business Through the COVID-19 Crisis By Discovering How Local Property Managers Resist the Global Coronavirus Epidemic.”

Vacation Rental Management Conference: Missouri Haus Vacation Rentals & Branson Family Retreats’ Tyann Marcink Hammond

Tyann is a serial entrepreneur. She will explain to us why one part of her business, Missouri Haus Vacation Rentals, is doing way better through the current crisis than the other part, Branson Family Retreats. Tyann will share with us what you learn from it for your business. She will also talk about several initiatives that she’s part of, such as welcoming frontline workers and medical staff and To Guests, With Love, an initiative to promote the vacation rental industry.

Vacation Rental Management Conference: Video From The 2020 Local Property Manager Conference

  • Tyann’s Branson Family Retreats business, based in Branson, Missouri, focuses on family reunions (up to three generations) and the demand in the area is quite high.
    • Families often book far in advance (up to 2 years) since it takes a lot of planning to get a family of up to 100 people in the same place.
  • Her other business, Missouri Haus, runs 7 single-family home rental properties which get a lot of business due to local events in the area. These properties saw a lot of cancellations and a few reservations that rescheduled.
  • Branson Family Retreats, on the other hand, is seeing fewer cancellations since the majority of guests rescheduled.
  • Tyann has focused on direct bookings. Sometimes she receives Vrbo bookings and Airbnb very rarely.
    • Her guests prefer direct bookings because they don’t need to pay any booking fees (compared to Vrbo and Airbnb).
    • One reason Tyann prefers also direct bookings is that she receives her money sooner than via the OTAs.
    • She has also invested in branding and making her companies visible online.
  • With so many direct bookings, Tyann can “own” the entire guest experience and ensure that guests have a good experience from beginning to end.
  • Tyann proactively sent every guest a personal email with their options for cancelling or rescheduling bookings. She made all of her policies very transparent, posting the details on her websites and in digital guidebooks, so guests weren’t waiting in limbo and wondering what would happen to their bookings.
    • She recognized that guests want to feel like they’re in control.
  • The Branson Family Rentals homes are currently closed right now. Missouri Haus homes, however, are available for essential workers and people who need some extra space while they’re self-isolating.
  • Some businesses are starting to re-open in her local community, like movie theaters and bowling alleys.
  • Restaurants and wineries in the area are still open for take-out, so Tyann is hoping that people will drive in from St. Louis and recreate the winery experience at one of her rental properties.
  • Tyann is working with Touchstay and Hostfully (who are competitors) on the To Guests With Love project, which is a collection of videos from people throughout the industry set to an original song.
    • The purpose is to let guests know that the industry is waiting patiently for them to return.

Vacation Rental Management Conference: Full Conversation Between Tyann Marcink Hammond And Thibault Masson

Thibault:

Dear rentals, Gallup members. I’m now joined by Tyann Marcink Hammond. She’s in Missouri right now and we’ll see with her very interesting points. First she’s a serial entrepreneur. She’s been in industry for a few years. She’s, she’s done a lot and she has a lot to share. What’s very interesting to us today that she has two rental businesses in the same state. There’s 10 of us States and she will be telling us that actually those two businesses are fairing differently. And she was in USA and that could be very interesting to you because depending on where you own properties are, you can identify your own business better to one or two the other of her businesses. And then we’ll be talking about something great she’s doing, she’s actually hosting frontline workers, medical staff. So we’ll see how that happens and why is it possible what is legal where she is and we will then be talking about the future.

Thibault:

What’s going to be like again, for one country to another state to another. [inaudible] Situation is different, but some of the thinking behind the, the actions are the same, whether you are that could be relevant to you. And last we were talking about something that she’s been doing, which is called two guests with love, which is industry for the whole initiative for the whole vacation rental industry. And I think you be all very interested in hearing about this. So that’s a long introduction because there’s a lot to cover, but I’m very TN happy to have you over in first. How are you?

Tyann:

Thank you so much. Hi everybody. We are doing very well. I hope everyone watching this is doing well and staying healthy and making good choices. Thank you so much for having me on.

Tyann:

I am honored, I appreciate it. So I am and I’m sitting in Branson, Missouri. It is in my new place that I’ve been talking for the past year and some, you may have heard about it already. It’s our new 10 bedroom house and we are putting a slide in off the deck and that’s going to be our little unique selling point as well. And our business here in Branson called Branson family retreats is focused on the three generation families and family reunions. And our biggest thing is this location on Branson is within a day’s drive of half the population of the United States. So a lot of families and friends come here. And so the demand for large homes is quite high. In fact, people will book up to two years in advance, which is really, really great for cashflow and protecting of when situations like this happen.

Tyann:

It takes a lot for these families to plan that far in advance because you’re looking at, for instance, this house sleeps 32 people and sometimes I’ll get an inquiry of somebody coming with a hundred people. So you know, in essence, as you know, it takes quite a bit planning for that many people. If not, if you’re used to a small family of one or two kids and then you’re only, you’re 10 people total and that might be large to you. But the perspective is, can get even larger. And I come from a large family. So it, yeah, make sense for us besides being direct competition with my family and my parents having one, four, five houses in the same neighborhood as this one.

Thibault:

So you have Branson, family retreats, which is one, one side of the business. And then you’ve got these other parts of the business. And what’s very interesting here that in terms of location, size, booking strategy, booking channels and target markets, it’s very different. And, and during these crisis, these what happened, the story is also very different. So it’s fascinating to hear.

Tyann:

Yeah. So back where near where we live near st Louis, Missouri is our Missouri house brand of rentals and houses, the German spelling. Both my husband and I are from German descent and I’m sixth generation in our County, which is really cool. My great, great, great grandfather actually named one of the towns there, which is awesome. And so we have several properties we own and then we also manage properties there too. So we have a total of seven properties and they’re all standalone houses. We, we don’t have any condos or complexes or anything like that. These are single family homes and they range from a tiny house to my 1900 bank that I purchased and rehabbed into a four bedroom vacation rental. So we’ve got that quite a bit of range and these guests are coming for family reasons a lot, but mainly for events.

Tyann:

So it would be weddings, it would be graduations. And then also we have the Purina event center just a few minutes down the road and everybody might recognize the name Purina from Purina foods. And so they’re based out of St. Louis, Missouri. And their event center is just West where we are. So they hold dog shows almost year round and we attract people from all over the country and even internationally as well. What’s really great is Corina actually schedules a lot of events five years in advance. So when all of this started coming in my Missouri house rentals, all of the, a lot of them were canceled. If there were weddings or graduations, things like that, they, people weren’t sure were going to happen again or would be rescheduled or when or anything like that. But because of the dog shows, those folks have rescheduled for next year, which is really nice.

Tyann:

And they’ve been able to immediately reschedule as well because they knew their dates and then contrasting to Branson those folks, because they do plan it far in advance and this is their vacation, it’s not just an event they’re traveling to. This is our vacation that they’ve saved up and planned for. They don’t want to let go of it at all. I even had somebody who was supposed to arrive this weekend. They waited until a week before, you know, just crossing their fingers, hoping that they’d be able to come any, you know, eventually they realized it would not work. So they rescheduled. And because of my booking strategy, the majority of the Branson folks, they’ve rescheduled later in the year or immediately picked a week next year. Whereas Missouri house took on a lot of cancellations besides the rescheduling. So do you want me to talk about my booking strategy?

Thibault:

Yeah. And I was about to ask you because it’s like why, why in one case did people rebook? I mean, what’s, are we talking about? He bought some direct booking or we’re talking about some channels? Yes, very curious to, to hear more about this.

Tyann:

So in Branson it’s mainly direct bookings and VRBO. And the reason I think a lot of people do that I’m able to get a lot of direct bookings is because I’ve branded myself, I’ve really pushed the branding. And when you’re talking high numbers, cause a week can be $3,000 to $9,000 a week at my places. And when guests see those service fees, they just scared about the service because on that amount of money, so being able to really brand myself and do it in a respectable manner of being on a platform, you know, I don’t want to break rules, but I do want to make sure people know they’re booking with me and not just on a platform. So a lot of people will come find me and it’s an easy Google search to find me. I’m one of the things as you can actually Google my first name and I appear on page one of Google search, which is really cool when you have you name. So those the Branson houses, as far as Airbnb goes, I use Airbnb very little for those places. One is I don’t like how long they hold my money, it’s my money that my guests have paid and I only opened those calendars within 30 days of arrival. So I’m only back filling on those dates. [inaudible]

Tyann:

The thing is these people, they will book up to two years in advance. So you know, having the platform hold my money for two years is not not good for me and I don’t have that control over the booking and therefore I want control of the entire guest relationship because the guest experience from beginning to end is extremely important to me and why people come back and they talk about us and our places. They don’t necessarily talk about the booking platform that they found this on. That’s, that’s the key is I want them to talk about us as a company.

Thibault:

If I may add something here. So it’s very interesting in a way because you are talking about advanced payout and how important it is for because it’s a cash credit crunch, right? And a cash issue for love companies right now. Right. And if I understand correctly means that you already had in place policies and make sure that if they were looking made really very early in advance, you would get that cash on your own bank account and hopefully from a a platform or either direct or from home that will not be able to get that money back. Cause that’s, that’s something that happened in a lot of cases that we heard hosts or partners depending or depending how we call these vacation rental owners and platforms. Basically the, the money never arrived or got refunded. And so that’s interesting as well.

Thibault:

And so to note as well that even I think verbal and booking.com and Abby and the old change the way event space paid out are now. So actually it’s actually I think even on verbal now it’s actually going to be for them in the coming months. This can be very tricky to have a money before the chicken. So it’s now these events out is a great, is a key issue and we’re very happy you underlined it. And it also what you mentioned as well as the branding you own branding of host. You are, you are expert into this in the branding and how people should risky I guess use the same name over and over again on different platforms so they can find you and have either a nickname for a property in unique name. If you have yourself unique game it’s, it’s very healthy. That’s very two interesting points you gave us.

Tyann:

Yeah. The other thing we did to very much save those large bookings is I went ahead and I contacted every single guest with a personal email ahead of time and said, okay, this is our plan of what’s going to happen. B and I gave them a choice what they wanted to do and then I posted this same letter publicly on my website in case they lost the email that could go to my website, they could go to my frequently asked questions, they could go to that page. And then I also put it in our digital guidebook as well. So making sure I cover all my communication channels before they ask the question and then to give them a choice. Now I made sure the choices I gave them were beneficial to our business and our family as well as beneficial to them. And by giving them that choice, I have not had any, no hard feelings or backlash or anything.

Tyann:

When I tell them, you know, there is no refund during this period of time. For instance, we, for everybody in April and March, we said, okay, if you want to know, cancel and take refund, we’re going to give you a whole refund. There will not be any cancellation fees or nothing because of this. And then July, August, September, you know, these are your choices. You can cancel according to cancellation policies or you can change your dates or have a travel credit for future without any extra fees, but there’s not a full refund by communicating that before they’ve asked and sitting there wondering what’s going to happen. I think that has been a huge benefit to us because when you take control out of people’s hands and they don’t know what’s gonna happen, they’re in limbo. They get anxiety and fear. So instead we’ve done our best to give them control of the situation.

Tyann:

For instance, we’ve even one guest that called two days ago about their July reservation. I said, you know, we don’t want you to have to make a decision right now. We, we require their balance paid 90 days before arrival, which is coming up soon. And I said, you know, let’s make it 60 days, let me reschedule your, your payment final payment. It’s not a big deal. And give you guys more time. That way they don’t feel pressured, they don’t feel anxious and they feel like they have control of the situation. Yet we’re also keeping our business intact and having, giving a good guest experience

Thibault:

That that’s, that’s real. So great to hear. Being proactive in communication and sometimes you even tried to communicate, reach out to the guest before the platforms too. So your, your bookings are out of whatever policy they are going to apply your makeup on the fly. It’s also something very useful. So we talked about the differences between your two businesses, but what’s the demand like right now? Is there any, any new demand? And I think I’m thinking specifically at front line workers and because I know you’ve been very active into this something, so again, a very interesting example and how we can help out and still get our business.

Tyann:

Yeah. So the, the Branson houses, no, they’re closed. We’re, we’re not having any guests there. Missouri house because of the size of them. They’re small, they’re located next to the hospitals. And so we immediately put out there on the new headlines, descriptions on our websites, sharing and Facebook groups contacting my local realtors, my network of people, and let them know, Hey, we are available. We will give a discounted rate to health care workers and make that available because we suddenly had empty calendars. All these events are canceled or rescheduled. And what happened is people did find us and they were so thankful. The one gal and what I found too, it’s the spouses or significant others of the healthcare workers that are doing the reaching out. So if you’re a type of person that wants only that person to book with you and to communicate with you, well forget about it.

Tyann:

They’re busy. I mean, they’re on helping other people. It’s their spouse or significant other or family member who’s doing this research for them. So open up talking to them, them instead of the one gal she told me, she goes, you know, our, our daughter’s immunocompromised. My husband is working at the hospital every day and we know several people who’ve had to pitch tents in their garage to keep their families safe. Oh my gosh. I was like, yes, of course we will give you an extremely deep discount. Let him come stay. He’s got, you know, he’s less than a mile from the hospital and he can make sure that he is keeping his family safe while working for our community.

Thibault:

That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. I think you even got the coverage in the local press for that, right?

Tyann:

I did, yeah. Rent responsibility did an article and then two days ago the local news station called me and they were able to talk to one of my guests. They were willing to do an interview as well. So we’ll, we’ll see if that, you know, you know, they us just make stories, but not everything is published. We’ll see what happens.

Thibault:

So I think it’s good. It’s just sort of being noticed here. And so that’s, that’s right now. So helping out or seeing that there’s actually people who need to stay somewhere. Of course it’s hard to predict the future, but what do you see or basically how are you adapting to maybe the rebound or, or how things are going? Cause I think your state is, is very special in coming to the U S

Tyann:

Yeah, we’re our, our state lets lets you do a lot of things. We are lodging is deemed essential so we were never told to close or anything like that. So we were are we have the state and then we have a County and then we have each town or city. So each of those levels can make different rules. So in the County that I’m in, our commissioner, he has said Hey you guys use your common sense, wash your hands, use social distancing, but you need to take care of your families and business. So if you need, if you feel you can operate within the sanitation and social distancing guidelines, then please do. Except you know, there’s some things that were closed down such as hairstylists and tattoo artists and things like that where you have to, you can’t be a social distance and you have to be next to each other type thing.

Tyann:

But otherwise, you know, most things were told common sense. And they’re actually opening up a Friday, the 24th, April 24th in phases. So the first thing that’s going open is the letting the movie theaters and the bowling alleys open. And there was something else too. I don’t remember and we’ve gotten a lot of backlash to our County because of that. But the thing to remember is whoever starts to open first, it doesn’t mean you have go there. It doesn’t, they don’t force you to leave your house and go, you can still social distancing, make your own choices, use common sense and that type of thing. As far as future book teens I,

Tyann:

I mean patient, I think once we hit that turning point of people feeling comfortable to travel again, it’s kinda hit and force. And we’re an hour outside of st Louis, so we’re that perfect driving distance to get away. Our wineries are all right here. They’re, they’re doing curbside pickup for wine and different meals so you can still have that bit of a winery experience and then bring it back to my vacation rental, you know so you can still enjoy that area. Still enjoy all of our unique food in the area. I expect that to, to really hit and at that point we’ll be ready. You know, we’ve got extra cleaning procedures in place and we have cleaners who are willing to do that. I know not all cleaners are willing to work during this time, which is perfectly fine too. There’s no reason to shame anyone who’s doing that. You know, everybody’s got their reasons and their comfort level. And, and let them be, let them do that for sure.

Thibault:

That was great to hear how you’re adapting and how as well being, you know, drive to destination is, is, is amazing, right? Cause you can imagine people wanting to get away. I mean will people who want to re be United through this, you haven’t seen friends and family for a while. Again, you could do that. You have the perfect place for that for people all around. Your, your, your, your location. And I don’t want to leave without having you talk about to guests with love. It’s something we’ve talked about on the, on the rentals club website in the, in a physical group and I think some members have joined it. But for, for those who don’t know what that is, can you tell us more?

Tyann:

So two guests with love is an industry collaboration project. It’s spearheaded by two competitors touched day and host fully both digital guidebook platforms. So it’s really cool seeing two direct competitors come together to create a collaboration. And I’m really thankful as a community ambassador of touch day to be a part of this. And so both of us have been working together to create a, a unique standalone website and have as many supporters as possible. We want everyone to support. We have well over a hundred supporters with logos and links back to your website. And then we have have an excess of over a hundred videos submitted so far. And the deadline was supposed to be yesterday, but we’ve extended it to Monday. And this weekend I’ll start downloading the videos because it’s my job to put them all together. So I’ll be going into hibernation for a little bit next week to get all these videos together.

Tyann:

And we just decided on our music which is an original song by a friend of David Jacob. He is at Hostfully, so he reached out to a friend and we’ve gotten a permission to use this original song. And so it’s going to be uplifting, upbeat, super fun, and we want everybody to join in together. So if you’ve got, if you’ve got a shirt that has your brand name on it, make a little video. It can be anything. It can simply just be walking through the room and we need a few straight man videos anyway, or you can do something crazy. Before this project happened, I caught my husband doing a peanut butter dance. So that probably make its way into the video as well. So anything crazy, anything straight, man, I’m not perfect. It does not have to be perfect. It can be.

Thibault:

I go, I feel net and I uploaded the links beside the, below the video would make it easier. So you can download my video or the video from my, with my rental. I’ve taken these B over be with me with my tasks and what’s gonna happen. They all going to be pulled together to get one big video and then we’ll share this online.

Tyann:

Yes, we’ll share it online. And the purpose is to let guests know we are responsibly and patiently waiting for them to return. And this is what we’re doing. We’re preparing for them, we’re having fun, we’re making sure things are ready for them and we want to welcome them back with love and open arms.

Thibault:

Nice. That’s great to hear. So once again, I will put the links below. So do participate if you watching the conference this weekend is Saturday of just these, do you have time? So if you are, can go to your rentals on Sunday, just do that. Tyann, Thanks a lot for your time today. I really appreciate that. It was, you know, we covered two businesses and just one, we covered frontline workers. We talked about how to adapt for the future and being very flexible actually to whatever comes and as well we talked about two guests with love, which is a great initiative. People should be thought of. So thanks again for your time.

Thibault:

And I hope to see you in person in person very soon.

Tyann:

Yes, absolutely. I mean, I’ve got enough United airline miles to get the two of us to Europe and my husband and I are just, Oh, we want to get, get over there and see everybody.

Thibault:

Yup. So I see you very soon then.

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