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Vacation Rental Management Conference: Vacation Rental Consultant Natacha Parmantier on Direct Bookings & Social Media

Vacation Rental Consultant Natacha Parmantier On Direct Bookings & Social Media
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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: Vacation Rental Owner and Consultant Natacha Parmantier

Natacha is a French vacation rental consultant who owns rentals in Spain. She works with property owners and managers around the world. She will share with us 3 examples of real-life actions taken by her clients right now: How one owner in South Africa leveraged her social media channels to help guests self-quarantine, how a property owner in Italy is using the downtime to create a Facebook group dedicated to his target audience of travellers, and how another client is updating their website. Natacha will also telly you why she believes that having your own website, having your own policies, and using social media channels the right way is conductive to getting more business when the rebound comes.

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

  • Natacha, who is originally from France but lives in Spain, is currently in France spending time with family because the day she was scheduled to go back to Spain is when the lockdowns in France and Spain began.
  • Natacha has seen the differences in legal restrictions for hosts in different countries. For example, in Spain and Italy, it’s illegal for hosts to operate their properties except if they’re hosting essential workers (like medical personnel), but in the US, the rules are less strict.
  • She’s also noticing that hosts are shifting their focus toward mid- to long-term stays. There is still some demand for these types of stays, one or two months in duration.
  • One aspect that Natascha helps property owners and managers with is driving direct bookings through social media. One advantage of direct bookings is that the customer service is much better. We’re seeing a lot of problems right now with guests who booked through OTAs who are now struggling to reach the customer service representatives or cancel their reservations. For hosts, the OTA can cancel bookings without your approval, like we saw Airbnb do recently.
  • Airbnb issued travel vouchers to guests who canceled their reservations. Instead of getting refunds, the guests received vouchers that they could use on Airbnb in the future, but guests don’t need to rebook their original property. That means hosts are likely losing money while Airbnb is not.
  • When guests book direct, there’s no intermediary involved. Customer service is straightforward because it’s just between you and the guest.
  • Many guests go to Airbnb or Booking.com (or another OTA) first because they’re familiar with the site and trust it. But once they find your property, they will often try to find it on Google to book direct and save money on OTA booking fees.
    • One key component of your marketing strategy is to use the same property name on all of your channels. If your property website uses a different property name than you use on OTAs, then it won’t show up in the search results.
  • The first step to increase direct bookings is to build a good website that can accept payments.
  • The next step is to create a Google My Business listing. This ensures your property will show up on Google Maps.
  • Third, be present on social media, including Facebook, Instagram, and perhaps Pinterest.
    • Consider creating a Facebook group to develop long-term engagement with guests.
  • Another strategy is to share updates about your property on your own personal Facebook page so you can leverage your personal network for additional marketing exposure.
  • One of Natacha’s clients in South Africa took some steps to make her property more attractive for long-term guests who want to spend the lockdown in a nice property by the sea. She offered services like stocking the fridge with food, and she was able to get two bookings.
  • Natacha has another client who created a Facebook group to brainstorm ideas about how to find guests during lockdown situations.
  • Property managers or owners who already have a strong online presence can work on adjusting their search engine optimization to target keywords relevant for the current circumstances.

Vacation Rental Management Conference: Full Conversation Between Natacha Parmentier And Thibault Masson

Thibault:

Dear Rental Scale-Up members, thank you for joining us for this new session. I’m now with Natasha Parmentier which has a great quality because she’s French. I think you are, as I am folks aside at this will enable us to talk a bit more about the French market and sources of big vacation rental market. But Natasha, it just a world traveler and she comes from the countries and now she a resident of Spain. So we’d be talking about both countries, the situation and what Natasha brings to the table as well is her consulting skills in a sense that she’s not only in the owner, but also she’s been a consultant for several years for a local property managers like you. And from the get go she had gotten people to focus on getting direct bookings maybe through their own website, but also through social media, meaning with a, a let’s say smart use of social media.

Thibault:

So direct bookings, but also it’s not about spending money anywhere but everywhere. But really linking back to foolproof strategies. So we go through examples of what’s Natasha usually does those. So watch she’s seen right now, right? She’s seen a growth into people being interested in reach out to her and she to a Facebook group, for example, she got a free group who people can, can reach and show. So she walk us through three concrete examples of local property managers taking action right now, even though there might not be demand, but taking action right now to be ready for the rebound. So without further ado, Natasha, welcome. Hello. How are you?

Natacha:

Hi Thibault, thank you very much for this introduction. It was perfect and I’m very fine. Thank you. I mean, friends, we have a nice house with gardens. We could be [inaudible]

Thibault:

So as I said, you were, you are you French, but you already live in a, in Spain. And we, we chatted a bit before recording this and just like a lot of people in industry, we all usually, you know, avid travelers and you got caught by the coronavirus. Do you mind sharing a bit about your own story?

Natacha:

Okay. Yeah. So I was, I spent three months in Brazil for the winter because we always escape for the winter, which is too cold for us in Spain, maybe for French people who were not agrees that statement’s cold in winter. But for us it’s cold. So we escaped for three months in Brazil. Then I arrived in in France to my parents so that my daughter can spend some time with her family, eh, for two weeks. And the day I was supposed to go back to Spain and it was the day they started their log down in Spain. And in fact in France as well. Well, which was very closing dates and the rules are very strict in Spain. You cannot go out. Kids cannot go out by any means. Eh, I know my daughter, I know myself as well. I didn’t want to go crazy. So I decided to stay at my parents’ place who have a garden so that we can enjoy a bit more on that. I’m not also alone in this, this time, which is very hard for you. So, yeah, that’s how it was.

Thibault:

And I guess in terms of look down, so you of course, you know the French market, the Spanish markets, you can shed a bit of all of this, but it’s so you are because of your network, because of the clients will have been throughout the world, you able to to see how varied the situation is. So can you share a bit more about different markets that you know about?

Natacha:

Yes. it’s very interesting to see. In fact, it’s a different type of logged on or how’s the virus has affected different countries. For instance, in some countries like, well some parts of Italy is UK, Spain and different [inaudible] counties. In the U S you cannot post. It’s illegal to costs there except for key workers. But a lot of my clients have are rural or property. So a key worker will not really need to be next to her. They have a big Villa mixed to a river and you need to be more close to a hospital. So for those people where they are really concentrating more on the after, when this is over, what can we do now so that when it’s over you can stop the game for speed, eh, and not just wait and the rest four months I’m doing this, logged on. And then you have a lot of people and it’s mostly in the U S to be honest, I see a lot of people who are still posting because the situation in the us is very different.

Natacha:

We would not go into political, but we see the reaction of the present is very different. So people, I’m not taking this, I’m not seeing the crisis the same way as some of us I’ve seen in, in Europe. So they have seen a posting, but they are all scores taking a lot of measures, safety measures, but see the posting and the, but I think for the places where you can hear hosts, eh, I see a trend right now, it’s to take at least medium or long, longer term bookings to be look like, to be able to pay the mortgages and things like this and to yeah, to stay in business. So because there is, there is a demand, we were talking about tips, eh, which people before slew [inaudible] you the fact that digital nomads where we can choose where we want to leave. So we are okay not to move that much, but if we can be in a nice face at the, at the same time, that’s why we tend to see a lot more medium one month or two months bookings right now. So I think depending on what your country is, you to do almost

Thibault:

Exactly. It’s, it’s very it’s very fair description of travel bans in some areas and still some demand or some it is very complicated situation right there. This in some areas, but still it’s mostly as you say, it’s vocational vacation stays that band and actually is very sometimes hard to understand whether can you host a business traveler, for example, right? This you talk about medical staff, right? Key workers, but how about business travelers may snuck to your, that, for example, consultant coming for two months to help a company restart the business or the factory restart. Can you host them? If there’s a ban, it’s not super clear. So it’s, it’s also very hard to navigate in lot of cases. And so usually you help like I said in the introduction, you help local property managers have more direct bookings.

Thibault:

Again are we the, the, the key strategy? So can you, can you maybe and I think we talked about this earlier, but what would be the, you see more people coming to you right now? So as you thought, okay if there’s a priority now what should people be focusing on and what should they care about? Social media? I mean, it’s not, it’s not by word. I mean obviously parts was kept by zits on Facebook groups. So you see the value. But again, let’s say it’s for us out for a minute in the shoes of a local property manager, it’s like, wow, I just had to refund lot of money and there’s no demand right now. Why should I care about social media?

Natacha:

Well is the thing is, eh, why you had to, for a lot of people, what I see, I see I am in a lot of Facebook group for people who are on Airbnb or hosting on Airbnb, booking on the other OTAs as the ad, no controller of the refills, the constellation. We see a lot of big companies what they are doing. And in fact, what Airbnb did for booking, I don’t know that much, eh, you can maybe say is the fact that instead of just refunding the guests, they kept the money and gave a coupon to use later on for the guests. But for sense, eh, you had your place booked on Airbnb, it was a guest has a coupon, you can use it for later. I can use this one for later. But who says that this guest will choose again your property or later on, no one you can sure whatever property, you know, and even maybe not even the same location, eh, to spend the monies that he has on the coupon.

Thibault:

Sorry, I jump in. Sorry. But so too, it’s very good example. So let’s imagine again, right? So I booked your place in Spain on the platform like Airbnb for example here. So what is, say I spent a hundred euros per night there. So you have, you had 300 euros coming because I was about to, I will be checking in a few days from now. So would it be fair to say correctly your, your good explanation is that now Airbnb we not be getting you the money because I would not be taking in, but my money as a guest, my money is held onto by Airbnb and they kindly offering me eight. I traveled vulture, so I’m not getting my cash back. I’m getting a voucher. And for you the host, it means also that it’s a voucher for Airbnb, right? It’s not a voucher for you not to shop. So I might not be rebooking at [inaudible] property. So in a way the cash is, is sitting with Airbnb and you were promised some revenues at not becoming and, and you’ll guest might not remove with you. So that’s, that’s, that’s very interesting. Greg, good depiction of the story. So what, so how did people re where property managers surprised or that work, they didn’t see it coming home, what did you say?

Natacha:

Yes, there was a big, big scandal, let’s say. And in fact this cause the fact that he provided young, it’s not sure, but I’m pretty sure from a strategy point of view is that the, that’s why after a while Airbnb, CEOs decided to change a bit once he was a, what they were doing regarding constellations then because it was a big scandal host. We are not happy with this. The way I just sync or their money refunding, even though they had strict cancellation policies and it was not for everyone, not for the countries where there was a Corona virus, troubled bottle already. It was for everywhere and people were really, yeah, they were very pleased with this. So that’s why when you think, okay, what if I was really in control of those contradictions there you can decide and you can really, I’m proud to say treats this thing one to one with the guest.

Natacha:

So here you can have a direct customer service, which is from you, not from the Airbnb side or on any of the OTAs. Is this from you? You can contact the guests and say, okay, what, what could we do? So that works for both of us. It’s a mutual agreement. And Sarah, there is no middle man, you know that’s a problem when you think, okay, yeah it’s fine. And I don’t say eh, like I really repeats and one of my clients asked me, okay I don’t, I told me I don’t want to be on Airbnb anymore. Say no, this is, this is not what we are talking about here. Being on Airbnb, Booking.com HomeAway, VRBO and depending on where you’re out, he is the most, this is the most, you have to be there but you have to use them as marketing channels.

Natacha:

Eh, they are all of the people we check Airbnb booking first because the trust them a second because they are used to use them. But afterwards if you have food or the marketing strategy in place and the first one is to have the same name on their listing on those OTAs and on your website and your social media, then say we look for you on Google. I mean everyone wants to save the fees. They are not stupid. There we go. Check you on Airbnb. And if they see that you ever direct names is see, okay, this is called this name, I will look for it on Google. And they will they can book direct on who they’re on your website directly.

Thibault:

So that’s, that’s the, I would say the general philosophy of direct booking in these channels for that. So, but what for right now, what are what’s [inaudible] so they were not in control even more. So it was like, wow, a big one in cost. What are the, maybe the three things in terms of priorities, where to start? Like, okay, Natasha and follow your advice. How did I get started? What are the priorities here?

Natacha:

Okay, so the first thing to start with is what I advise a lot of people is to start with you own website, your own websites. Either, you can do it yourself. Either, you have someone to do it for you. Either, you take one of the platform which are like all in one already done for vacation rentals. Like Smoobu, Lodgify and you have on a race to just, I mentioned a few, I have a few lists on my blog if you want. So either, you do this. Or, pay someone to have it done for you. This is the first step to have your own website and to have payments taken on the website. Be sure to have insurance, but even, I mean even with Airbnb you should have an insurance not just on the, on somewhat else’s insurance. So this is the first thing, the second while to have your listing on Google my business.

Natacha:

So is that you appear on Google Maps because once again, what are people used to do? Google Maps is like is the big thing. They will always look and we check their 40 days, they will right a name and you won’t, two of your little points there on this lap. A lot of people don’t have it and it’s a, it’s a big, like they are leaving money on the table and not doing this. So this is what you really want. So that’s the second point. And then redirect to your website. It’s a fair point is to be present on social media, Facebook, Instagram. If you have a blog on your website, Pinterest, because it’s very good to get bookings to get traffic and send bookings using Pinterest and in Facebook the, it’s good to have your own page and of course it has to be mentioned on your personal profile publicly so that people are, when they check it, they can go to your business page, go to your website directly from you. Yes, no profile and saying I for long term strategy, I really advise people to have their own Facebook groups so that they can be really seen as the experience in their area from traveling or for business traveling depending on what was their [inaudible]

Thibault:

Sorry. It’s a very complete list. And again, as we said at the beginning, we’ll also give three concrete examples of these example with the Facebook group. We should be like, what are you, you’re going to give very interesting example here. But so we thought if that recap [inaudible] was the first one have your own website and I like the point you made. It’s not just a a page which transactional rights people should be able to see. A candor should be able to book. And as you said, it’s either you have a cello manager like [inaudible] and you mentioned smooth as well as have a readymade templates from your website or even other channel managers. We just, that you may be using maybe some type, have some kind of widgets, some bits of code, just copy paste into your standard site and make it to national in a way it’s not too hard.

Thibault:

But again, this people who come to help, and I really liked what you send them. Two, which is a Google my business for the directory that we’re all using. And, and more and more actually when you search for property names, you see this up here up right into the results with reviews themselves, right? So it’s, it’s very, I really like very good advice. And in thirties is social media for, to, to boost your presence. And I really liked also how you linked all this to the billboard effect, right? The billboard effect is the, is what you alluded to for new, for you own property name, right? It’s like Airbnb or booking.com will wheel you. It’s very important once we have the same property name over and over again or so because consistent also because people will be looking for, it was as whole billboard effect at hotels I’ve been using for 20 years for example. And I really also like the, the you went when they were up to say at the VBA effective you under your own name on your own name. Right. People maybe maybe Googling you as well as maybe the owner of the property. So symbol on your Facebook page and then when you on your own personal Facebook page [inaudible] equals so to your website.

Natacha:

Yes, exactly. It has to be yes. People, people and it has to be public because we are all curious, wait, we are all in different Facebook groups. We are commenting, eh, and if you, this is for any business, I am talking about vacation rental, but any business in January, if you don’t make this information public, if also you don’t use your cover picture, which is what people would see when just just puts your mouse, Oh your name Wednesday on Facebook. Is it just put their mouse on your name. We see the cover picture. You don’t mention your picture or your business there. You are leaving money on the table. Eh, you have to mention you have to give people what you want to be there. Action. The next step, eh, you have to give it there so that it’s, it’s probably kids. Nice to have. Is there a picture of your last quality days? But it’s better to, if you want to get more business to have it directed to somewhere. Well you want to take people.

Thibault:

That’s, that’s pretty smart advice. So what was thinking of this smart advice and there’s actual implementations, right? People actually taking action, which is, I think you have a free Facebook group of people could enjoy. And again, all the links you talk about your blog and the physical, other things under the video to help people find out about this. You, you, you help people take action. Can you share a be the example of three local property managers, right. Like the people watching us actually what are they, what are they doing right now to prepare for the crisis or sorry, to face the crisis and prepare for a rebalance.

Natacha:

So as a first example is one of my clients who is in South Africa and we luckily we just had a call right before her countries of Africa went into lockdown and I had her for just a few days before. We’ve also had clients who were in or already in countries where we have a lot of laws. We were sharing information on how it was we’ve logged on, we got logged on. She was telling me, but do you really think that some people will book my place or so was giving her some information? I would say me or yes, I’m sure that your case can be booked. You have sea view, you have a big balcony. Your place is nice. You can fill the fridge with the food and it would be an additional service for people who would be on lockdown. So it was, that’s exactly what she did after or I sold, she showed away already other presents and she already has a website that we had worked on.

Natacha:

She already had social media, active Facebook, a Facebook page or Facebook group when after our call I saw that she posted on her Facebook page but pictures saying great offer if you want to be [inaudible] we’ve receive you et cetera and send me a WhatsApp if you are interested. And after I, after just a few days I was doing your life in my Facebook group. She was there on her life and she shared this and I have someone that is, the two properties are booked for a lockdown. They are going to say two weeks or extend if the [inaudible] is the extended and there wasn’t like a group super happy during their life sharing with all of the other people that she had. Some people move to a place even on the McDonald’s, so it’s possible. So that’s the first case.

Thibault:

And, and as, and as we said as well at the beginning obviously there are places where it’s not legal to host vacation guests maybe it’s actually met. It could be legal to host actually local people. It can be legal to business travelers, it can be legal as well to host people I know who have kids at home and looking for a quiet place where to work from. So there are even right now cases, there are beds that this case cases where still this can be still applied. So it’s very, very interesting to leverage existing social media presence to advertise this.

Natacha:

Yes, exactly. Yeah, I think it’s always, so first thing you have to do is [inaudible] [inaudible] prisons that you already have. I mean, even though you may not have a Facebook page for your place, you already have a network. You already have people who follow you on LinkedIn, who follow you on Facebook, on your personal page. Not say they are in your network. Plus they know people. So it’s your share something. You don’t have to do it all the time on your personal page of it like this so much, eh, but you can do it, use this network and then create your business page afterwards. But you can always, we all have a network so use the network. It’s always the easiest thing to use your networks and know you or they may be friend of your friends. It will be easy that way. So this was the first example.

Natacha:

The second one wasn’t a country where it’s in Italy whereas they’re on lockdown. They were one of the first country after China of course to be on lockdown and this, so this was a totally different case if we not host and even the way I’ve still is, they have like different sweets but it’s where they are living as well as they have kids. You also want to, you have to be sure about health security even so they could host. But we were talking like do you really want to call strike now you have to think about the consequences. And so we are working on their after situation after crisis and we are working because they want to target a very specific a type of people and we are working with them to create a Facebook group. So is that they they can attract is this group of people, even though they cannot host them right now, they can start creating their authority, creating the expertise on the area, those type of people. So that’s okay. After the crisis Zay will be okay, so we have already or, and this authority or this network that’s, they can share their progress.

Thibault:

And I, I know what topic you’re talking about, maybe some big delicate for the client reveal where it is. So we look into this, but what I can say when I heard what his first book book group was about, maybe what could just say, it’s about helping some types of people find the right this nations and the right rentals me for them as well. It’s niche. It’s interesting. Like wow, that’s, that’s very smart. So I think again, for the sake of this client, it’s not for real that the, an exact group or the niche in here, but it’s like, well, I think it’s was very interesting as sort of a thing that yeah, these people will be traveling. It would be happening and it’s also across several destinations, which is very, very smart because lockdowns maybe lift up different times from countries or you can see big that other one continent, hopeful continent. Hopefully people will be moving this summer.

Natacha:

Yeah, you have to, you have to think very like niche, as I said, from my clients, I prefer local says his niche, but any niche you have, you have to stand out. You have to, right now it was the case before the crisis. We really see how it goes after the crisis because in fact some people were posting before are losing a lot right now and some people were not like kind of if I can say stroking off will disappear, but some of the Kings is tied also to think, okay maybe I can do something with supervisees that I had and I was not choosing and to know. So is that why it would be a completely new market after after this and there will be like always competition if you really want to to stand out, you have to find ways to stand out and that’s what we are doing with this customer. We are really making sure that after this, yes there will be

Thibault:

Interesting. And also you even have another, I think a third example as well and she lists all the back to basics are the priorities we listed earlier, which is about either creating your website or improving your website.

Natacha:

Yes. So Zillow’s have clients who are in the U S and either is they cannot host again for health reasons or they cannot host because it’s illegal. There are a lot of my clients are in rural areas you don’t host that much or at that time and what I would say is, so they had already their presence, they already have a website and they are thinking right now, okay what can I do so that afterwards I can have people coming to my place. So we are working on their website optimization with the keywords and for people who don’t know like search engine optimization, you really have to target the right keywords or keywords which is super wide something which is specific for your niche so that okay, you create content which is definitely directed falls. Those people also. That’s because on Google you will not appear on page one.

Natacha:

From day one you have, it takes a bit of time. So if you were right now that’s after this crisis, you can be better and better. That’s what we are doing with those customers that say no. Okay. Which keywords they want to target, which contents they will create for this. And once they have the content created for the website, how to use this content on Facebook, on their social media pages, how to share it to get the traffic so that after it was they can either do ads if they want to be targets those people were interested before or also basically to climb up the ranking on Google, thanks to Trump.

Thibault:

Interesting. side first and expanding and going maybe into paid ads with the right guidance. Thanks so much Natasha, because we’ve really been able to go through talking about as usual, which are like in this kind of videos, talking about the personal situations, what’s look done and the fact that you’re, you are sort of stuck in France right now, but you’re good place with your own parents and I think your daughter has a garden. So that’s not, it’s not the worst condition. So, which is good to know and that’s, you’re still in these time to work on your business and have property managers either improve what they have or get started on the right path. So if, if people, so watching this one to get ahold of you, I will of course, as I said with a link to your website, your Facebook group and what’s the best way to, to contact you. Really

Natacha:

What is the best way to contact me is either to send an email is that you can find on the contact information or I can send you the email so that you can put it as well or directly, basically when you go on my website, you have the chatbots at the bottom right, which I advise are based on was their website to have. Cause it’s very important and you can just chat with me there and then we can start the conversation there.

Thibault:

Sounds good. Perfect. That shot again, thanks a lot merci for your time and I hope to see you in person very soon.

Natacha:

Yeah, me too. Thanks. Thank you very much. Bye. Bye.

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