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Vacation Rental Management Conference: New Zealand holiday rental manager Jo Bourke on facing COVID-19

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This article is part of our Rental Scale-Up vacation rental management conference series. This is an extract from our May 2020 conference: “How villa and holiday rental managers are navigating the COVID-19 crisis in Southeast Asia and Oceania.”

Vacation Rental Management Conference: Bach Break Taranaki’s Joanne Bourke

Jo has a Diploma in Business and has a passion for property management. Her background is in Real Estate, Property Management and Key Account Management. She and her husband Pete are the founders of Bach Break New Plymouth and together they have developed a recipe for managing and running a very successful holiday accommodation business. Jo & Pete are committed to taking excellent care of their client’s investment properties and providing guests with a 5-star quality guest experience.

Vacation Rental Management Conference: Video From The 2020 Southeast Asia & Oceania Conference

  • Jo is based in Taranaki, New Zealand, known for Mt. Taranaki and beautiful beaches. Peak season typically runs from October to April. During the off season, there is a nice volume of seasonal workers in the area, so it stays pretty busy year-round.
  • Jo’s company, Bach Break, manages 90 properties in Taranaki.
    • “Bach” is a New Zealand slang word for vacation home.
  • On March 26, New Zealand went into a full lockdown. Within 48 hours, Bach Break received cancellations for 95% of their bookings.
  • Jo decided to “stand up and fight” rather than sit idly in this strange situation. Her community has come together to create initiatives for the tourism industry now and in the future.
  • Jo was concerned about whether or not her property owners would stay as her partners, so she has kept them informed about everything she’s doing, and they appreciate the transparency and most of them have stayed onboard.
  • She has been impressed by her staff’s teamwork and the partnership of her owners during this situation, which has reiterated how important relationships are in this industry.
  • Bach Break has always put a lot of emphasis on cleanliness. They quickly adapted their cleaning protocol to meet the standards for essential workers or people who book long-term stays.
  • Jo has received inquiries from several guests looking for information about the cleaning procedure on property.
  • Jo is seeing bookings from New Zealanders who often book through local sites. She’s hopeful that international travelers, likely Australians at first, can visit NZ again soon.

Vacation Rental Management Conference: Full Conversation Between Jo Bourke And Thibault Masson

Thibault:

Dear Rental Scale-Up members. Thank you for joining us. I’m here now with Jo Bourke. Jo is the founder and director of Bach Break Taranaki. Obviously if you’re using, and you know this area really well, it’s very famous, but Jo will introduce us to this area for gold. I’m not familiar with it. Jo is an pretty amazing person. I mean we chatted before recording and I knew I would be getting a person who’s able to do a lot and deliver a lot, but that’s lot of insights for you. So quickly we’ll be talking about things like of course, what her business is. We’ll be talking about the lockdown in, in New Zealand, height walls. And so we’ll be talking about what she’s been doing during lockdown. She’s not being she’s not been a very studied lazy in a way and she’s been very active as you can imagine, but not only just looking at what was going on, but she pivoted her business for some of her client who needed to.

Thibault:

She improved some processes as she as well found the time to get together with the rest of her local industry to be ready to welcome welcome guests. So we were talking about that. And so we were talking about a topic I find very important, which is cleanness. Joe has always found this very important in your own business. Are we talking about again, what she’s been doing and how is this being used now to make sure that guests feel okay and feel safe getting back to her places? So, without further ado, I’m welcoming Jo right now. Jo, how are you?

Jo:

I’m great, thanks. How are you?

Thibault:

Pretty good. Thanks. I say we’ll be covering a lot and there’s so much insight you have into to bring this up. Thank you so much for being here and you’re very welcome. So take us through you, your region, and you, your business.

Jo:

Sure. So Taranaki is a beautiful place for anyone that hasn’t been to Taranaki before. It’s on the West coast of the North Island of New Zealand. We have a population of 122,000 people. It’s got the beautiful beaches and Mount Taranaki that everyone can use, ski and surf all in one day. While you can do it here.

Thibault:

Fantastic.

Jo:

Oh, that’s pretty special. We have the scenic coastal walkway, which runs along the waterfront. And you can, you can spend your days wandering along the year scoring the many beaches, getting into the city for car culture. We had to lock. So it’s a really special place. We’d love to see you here.

Thibault:

Yeah. How many properties do you have there?

Jo:

So we manage 90 holiday properties in new past.

Thibault:

Okay. It’s probably their properties and again, so do they it’s winter seasons, winter students coming, I guess. So they also look and see what was the business like there.

Jo:

So currently at the moment, generally, yes. Okay. So a little bit quieter in the winter months. Our prime time basically runs on the start of October through to the end of April as our really key time. But for the larger, we obviously have a number of you know, contractors, people that come into the region work. So we give a lot of niche, you know, people traveling around. So we still get a lot of business straight to winter time, time through the summer.

Thibault:

So we’ve just talked about the usual times, but do tell us about the Covid-19 times. How was it?

Jo:

Okay, so on the 26th of March the government moved to go into complete lockdown of New Zealand and I remember the dates cause it was my best day, so it’s not something that also goes so all of a sudden with that and we clocked out the office and left the office and it was kind of a surreal feeling knowing that we were hitting high numbers. We made sure what happens within the 48 hours that followed. We lost 95% of our bookings, but basically at that stage, which is where the whole business falling apart basically. And yeah, it was a shock kind of something that it was out of our control and we couldn’t do anything about it. So it was, it was difficult times.

Thibault:

So difficult times, a big shock for you and the team, yet you managed to find to find some energy and then, and stay super productive. Right. There’s so many things you’ve been doing. So can you maybe take us through what that first thing you did after the shock? Well, how did you regroup? How did you find this energy?

Jo:

Well, I took a few days to do that. You know, I decided it was time to stand up and fight and what was is, is everyone was entrusted and full came, you know, the whole community was interested in talking because all of a sudden, you know, cause of 19 had changed the way we viewed things. So there was lots of opportunities to be involved and different. So I got myself involved on a local level in the community. So working with a hospitality, tourism and being in the app and we started to have meetings and discuss what we could do to benefit the region. So it’s exciting and we’re still working on a number of Gates now. Like what was really great is it’s everyone was willing to come together. So it was a perfect platform to start cleaning, you know, how we bring the tourism market and, and what we find to go to attract international tourism in the future. So we’re currently looking at things like X. We are, people can can look up events, they can select accommodation, they can look at the different restaurants and hot pan the whole holiday from, from the end. Oh yeah. It’s exciting.

Thibault:

Yeah. And so something to, to to note as well is that, as you just mentioned, right domestic demand has always, I think, been strong in the area. Right? So, and just so you mentioned a bit earlier in his talk that contractors for example, so there’s, there’s there’s demand for your cases from domestic travelers already and there’s even in off season you have some things. So let’s, let’s talk about the demand right now. So are there any new bookings and, and yeah, and is it just short term rental? I used to doing longterm rentals was what was demand like at the moment?

Jo:

Well, a big part of 19 is we actually had to, I was concerned about how ordinance and were they going to stay with us through this process. I need an income as well. So what we actually did is pivot out business slightly through long term was as well. So anyone that they desperately need an income and felt they didn’t want to go through this time without one we actually pivoted to be able to belong in refills for those clients. A majority of our clients has stuck with us and stuck with holiday regionals because we’ve kept them well-informed and we say hi, you know, there’s going to be a huge domestic market moving forward. So I’d always want, you know, within a lot stay with us in some, have moved along to rentals. And so working with the mind that you had placing people into those properties. So things though may was holding on to those times basically. So having nice relationships, not letting all of them and working together because it’s a partnership.

Thibault:

Yeah. So this, I think it’s one of the keys again, we just heard you talk about how you’ve been able to reach out to other local hospitality businesses and events and even your relationships with your clients, like your, your owners. So how do you think, how important have relationship relationships been in cell crisis for you?

Jo:

Very, very important. One is my team. You know, I have amazing staff and we pulled together and I’ve never seen Iran fight as hard as what we had for us. It really demonstrated to me that like you were about the business so much and it’s been really important for me to look after them through this because when they come out the other end of that, you know, making, you know, those experienced people. And the other thing was my owners, you know, clearly I’ve had feedback because I was emailing them every few days, time then what’s going on and what’s coming up and what we’re planning. So I’ve had some really great feedback from them saying, look, thanks so much for keeping in. It’s all when asked for, you know, as for you to keep us informed, you know, that’s been really important. So we had that community relationship with our owners without chain. And I think all those relationships become stronger for this.

Thibault:

That’s fine. That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. Again, that’s again, relationships don’t happen, happen overnight, right? So something that you said, right is something you’ve done over and over. So finding the right moment. Right, okay. Now maybe we should email them every two to three days, but they need information. So it’s, it’s really interesting to hear about the balance to you found to inform them the right moment, the right information. That’s fantastic. It’s something I also wanted to talk about. So again, for people who have no clue about New Zealand, what’s a bach.

Jo:

Oh, okay. So a bach is a vacation home. So it’s no different than any other vacation home. Back in the sixties and seventies, the family, we go off to the page and the North Island and the South Island, that’s called a crib. Oh, sorry. Yes. So I guess that stuck over either time in when we first named the business. And branded it. We didn’t think about the international market. So we’d get lots of questions. Well, what is it that we probably should have an occasion times, you know, but it’s just a real Kaley thing.

Thibault:

Yeah. On the other hand, you know, I was looking at name of your property, a property management company. That’s great. It was like, well, what’s bach? I mean this is the composer. So of course, Oh no, that’s how they click. I don’t know. To me it’s actually a good brand name. Do something local is that you sound more authentic that vacation rental will hire. Right. So, so yeah, I thought it was like to break to bring to to people and also something you’ve been doing a lot with your, your, your companies is taking care of cleaning. I know that cleaning is a, is a topic that’s has become certainly fashionable in a way that it’s something I think you, you’ve, you’ve, you’ve found very important in your business for a very long time. So I’d love to see with you know what you’ve been doing all these, these years in terms of cleaning and whether you’ve seen maybe new questions around it from people who want to book. For example,

Jo:

We put a lot of emphasis into cleaning with an organization. Always has the staff are track trained really well. So wait till you stop me with input property to claim and project his survival. We also do a pre inspection on a day they arrived. Like I said, we take it very, very seriously. That property has to be a macula. You know, we want people arriving to really clean environment. That’s why it’s being really critical for us. And the fact that we use a commercial building company and provide our linen and towels and all that. So that’s something we’ve always done. Now when covert 19 pain obviously we w we wanted to be approved by civil defense to offer central services to people coming in that were either ADA equal you know, couldn’t leave the country and needed to pocket down. Why, why the lockdown was on what any emergency service people coming in through our region.

Jo:

So it was ministry of health guidelines. So we stopped completely devised and trained and red walked cleaning standards were required within our sales from cars at 19. So from that we also saw that it was so critical to our business that paperwork were sure that when they arrived at holiday property thoroughly, and we’ve noticed it, we’ve had a number of people contacting us and signed up, what is your cleaning standard? I’m coming to your property but on the button nervous about it and a bit unsure and can you please tell me what planning procedure is? And so that’s become really, really critical. We also advertise the fact on how the things that we act cleaning properties properly to kind of at 19 standards requested by the ministry of health. Yeah. So it’s very essential,

Thibault:

I guess. For Bach Break Taranaki. So let’s, let’s last question. We’ve got the demand. We talked who said that the man is coming back and about how the efforts you’re doing with your local community to even start addressing more international markets. But how’d you see 2020 for example, do you think that Australians give you able to look for examples? First we’re talking about an international market that’s not too far and probably doable. So how do you see it one, the demand coming from and also in terms of channels or platforms. Again, where do you see these people looking from?

Jo:

Sure. I think there’s going to be a variety. I mean domestic tourism is going to come back strong because a lot of pay ways can’t travel overseas, but they still want a family vacation, you know, so I going to be booking all over New Zealand and they’re going to be booking in what we call their own backyard. So they’re not slow parts of New Zealand that they haven’t. So some of the New Zealand booking platforms that are very familiar to New Zealand as the likes of that time away. Wonderful holiday houses, which is probably, you know, probably not aware of, but that is a New Zealand product. And so, yeah, so at the moment we’re finding we’re getting more bookings through those channels. And in a course when they open up the Australian bubble, which hopefully, you know, will be in the next few months, we don’t know for sure, but, but we will see the, in a bit more international tourism coming in and we hope it’s not too long until we can welcome international travelers to our, she was a game, you know, and showed her around Taranaki. I mean, we’ve been surprised since I’m coming out of lockdown, how much business we are getting, you know, it’s basically packed out and we surprised we, it’s exceeded our expectations. We’ve had more bookings. I mean, and then we thought we would haze. That’s very positive.

Thibault:

Yeah. Thanks Jo. That’s, that’s, I think it’s a positive note to end them. Really that’s no things that are coming back. You know, obviously as we said, it was so you help out to be because your Malka has always had very strong domestic demand. But that people actually book. That’s such a relief I could imagine. Right. So the shop Jo, what do you want to, again, take the time to thank you because it’s was very insightful. Again, we got to learn about the market, your region, what we doing, your business. If people want to reach out to you, maybe know more about your business, about Bach Break Taranaki, what’s the best way to get ahold hold of you?

Jo:

Sure. and you can just email me my email is [email protected] Well, you can just go to our website right there.

Thibault:

Okay. So we’ll make sure to put the link to the website. Right?

Jo:

That would be great. I love that. Yeah.

Thibault:

Once again, Jo, thank you so much and I wish you a great day.

Jo:

Thank you for having me. We’ll see you again. Bye.

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