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March, April & May best months to visit old & green land of Umbria

By Giuseppe Nuzzaci
Published: 02/02/11 Topics: Comments: 0

The Umbria region is located exactly in the middle of Italy . And it’s the most charming headquarters in which to stay and to discover all the central Italy regions: from the now commercial Tuscany to the most wild and real Umbria, Le Marche and Lazio.

From Florence to Perugia, From Siena to the medieval Gubbio, from Pisa to the Spiritual and lovely Assisi, from Rome to Crotona, from Spello to Ancona or to the see of the funny Emila Romagna region with the towns of Riccione and Rimini. The nature during the Spring time in Umbria is like a soft bomb of colors . The Sun starts to warm the old medieval and Etruscan cities and villages of the Umbria region !

If you will visit Umbria during these months you will find around the region just the real Umbria people and you can test the real Italian/Umbrian lifestyle . You will not find so many tourists around. It will be easy to visit fantastic museums and galleries such as the Umbria National Gallery, the Archeological museum or the lovely medieval botanic garden, that are all in the Etruscan and medieval city of Perugia .

The Charming Villa Nuba vacation rentals in Perugia, Umbria is proud to be selected as the best Charming place to stay from the Umbria Villa Owners Association. Due to the comments of their previous Guests, it’s now also First as the best Specialty lodging in Perugia on the famous travel site "Trip Advisor" !

Great last minute availability specials about The Charming Villa Nuba Apartments rental in Perugia, Umbria where you can find comforts, traditions, a lovely garden, modern facilities and all in the countryside and at the same time at only 15 minutes walking distance to medieval Perugia :

For a Family Vacation or For a Group of Friends:


Del Perugino charming apartment cottage rental of s.m. 80 with two double bedrooms, two bathrooms, fully equipped kitchen also with fire place and Jacuzzi and sleeps 4+2 :

  • MARCH : a 7 nights stay just Euro 780,00 all inclusive ; 2 weeks stay at only Euro 1390,00 !
  • APRIL : a 7 nights stay just Euro 1150,00 all inclusive ; 2 weeks stay at only Euro 2200,00 !
  • MAY : a 7 nights stay just Euro 1200,00 all inclusive ; 2 weeks stay at only Euro 2300,00 !

For a Romantic Vacation or for a Family Vacation for a Couple with a Small Child :


Del Bonfigli luxury charming apartment cottage rental of s.m. 50 with a junior suite bedroom, a romantic bathroom with angular Jacuzzi for 2 people, fully equipped kitchenette and sleeps 2+1:

  • MARCH : a 7 nights stay just Euro 580,00 all inclusive ; 2 weeks stay at only Euro 990,00 !
  • APRIL : a 7 nights stay just Euro 900,00 all inclusive ; 2 weeks stay at only Euro 1750,00 !
  • MAY : a 7 nights stay just Euro 950,00 all inclusive ; 2 weeks stay at only Euro 1790,00 !

Finally at Villa Nuba they still have open the Early Bookings Special for reservations for the 2012 Seasons and with great specials with the very old 2010 rates !!!!

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR ? You can go immediately to visit the Villa Nuba official website www.PerugiaRentals.com where you can find more info, virtual tours, official video and contact information of the most charming vacation rental place to stay in Umbria !

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Author: Giuseppe Nuzzaci, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0173 – 02/02/11

PerugiaRentals.com

The Good Life at Packwood White Pass

By Veronica Garten
Published: 12/27/10 Topics: Comments: 0

Of course I am prejudiced. Having lived in the city for a long time I knew what I was getting into.

I let my hair down here!

Timberline Chateau

In July of 2010 I moved lock stock and barrel to the small town of Packwood in south central Washington State, just outside the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park. My new job was to be manager of the Chateau Timberline Hotel, then being taken over by my company Sunspot Resorts.

The entire area has a population of just about 1,000 smiling people. And my new abode is located about 4 miles East. Drive another 10 miles and you find the newly expanded ski resort of White Pass. It has always been a wonderful but hidden destination for winter outdoor sports. Now with 700 acres of new terrain and 500 additional vertical feet the secret is out.

All around town the mountains jut skyward making visitors feel like they are in the deep valleys of the Swiss alps. Mount Rainier seemingly hangs over the town as a constant companion. Most morning I am greeted by an elk herd that frequents my front lawn. There is something about their calm countenance that makes me smile.

In summer the weather can be sunny and hot. Outdoor and backroad activities are constant. In winter snow comes sporadically to the valley and always to White Pass.

Packwood is located at the intersection of US Highway 12 and Gifford Pinchot National Forest Road 52 called Skate Creek. Driving up and over that road to the village of Ashford is a trip back into time. Deep forest, high mountain bogs and almost no traffic.

Packwood is located between Mount Rainier National Park to the north and Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to the south. Tatoosh Wilderness, Goat Rocks Wilderness, and William O. Douglas Wilderness are to the north, southeast, and northeast respectively, all surrounded by the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

The town is situation in the upper Cowlitz river valley, just downstream of the confluence of the Clear and Muddy forks of the Cowlitz. It was first established as Sulphur Springs but later renamed in honor of William Packwood, a Virginian pioneer and explorer of Oregon and Washington.

Along with James Longmire, the two were assigned by the Washington Territorial Legislature to chart a pass over the Cascade Mountains, after several delegates to the first legislative session were killed going over the mountains elsewhere.

Perhaps the best part of living in Packwood is that its not Seattle, not Portland and not even Olympia or Yakima. The highway provides a steady but sometimes slow stream of travelers most of whom stop in Packwood for gasoline or meals.

In the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends the town hosts the largest flea markets in the Northwest, a big boost for tourism and the local merchants. (PackwoodFleamarkets.com)). The affair is a curious blend of unorganized chaos and confusion with vendors setting up so densely on the highway that traffic can be backed up for miles.

Packwood is unincorporated and has no mayor or city council. The local Destination Packwood tourism group (DestinationPackwood.com) promotes the area but even they don't oversee the markets which disappear as fast as they arrived on the last day. It may be the Northwest's last true unorganized festival.

Of course Packwood is served by all the technology you might like from hundreds of cable TV channels to high speed Internet. But much of that seems superfluous to me now as I oversee the hotel and settle into the kind of laid back and in touch life style that I have longed for over the years.

It could happen elsewhere I suppose, but for guests who want to get close to nature, enjoy the seasons and yet be an easy driving distance from the major metropolitan areas, Packwood is a favorite spot. And now its one of mine. I can't imagine living anywhere else.

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Author: Veronica Garten, Packwood Sunspot
Blog #: 0164 – 12/27/10

Bill Gates' Favorite Burger Joint

By William May
Published: 12/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0

Over the decades there have been numerous stories here in the Northwest U.S. about how the favorite restaurant of Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, was an old fashioned burger stand not far from Microsoft's campus.

You might like it too.



University District Burger Master

Learning From The past

Based on its altered construction, Burger Master looks like it was once a "Happy Day's" type car hop joint from an era well before my day. You remember Happy Days, the icon of 50's cliché, with Ritchie, Potsie, Ralph, Joanie and of course the Fonze.

I'm not sure if Burger Master had roller skating carhops long ago but maybe.

About 10 miles west of Bill's Burger Master there is another Burger Master just off the University of Washington Campus. Its been there so long, that the carhop motif was stripped away decades ago, leaving it with a big handy parking lot and a menu more like a diner than a burger joint.

I found myself driving past one morning recently and, having missed breakfast, rolled in to see what they serve at that hour of the day. I entered a time warp.

The menu behind the counter was to be expected. But when I chose the eggs dish I was sent back in time. The clerk said, "How would you like your eggs?" I was immediately suspicious of the question.

They don't ask you what kind of eggs you want at McDonalds, "Scrambled?" I guessed.

The clerk was a well dressed 55 year old man. The cooks were adults and there wasn't a teenager in sight. Nothing against kids, but the owner of Burger Master was paying these employees a real wage. Huh.

"And would you like Ham, Bacon or Sausage?"

Another trick question, you don't hear at McDonalds. "Link sausage," I said quickly in case he would remember that offering customers a choice wasn't normal.

"And to drink?" Ok here we are on normal ground. "Coffee, orange juice, tea?

"You have tea?" I mussed.

"Earl Gray, Darjeeling, English Breakfast, Chamomile... "

I cut him off, "Earl Gray please."

"Toast, Pancakes, Cinnamon Roll, or . . . "

I cut him off again, "Do you have biscuits".

"Two biscuits. How would you like your hash browns?"

"Crispy. No make it extra Crispy."

"Can do," he said. You won't hear from a teenage clerk at McDonalds. "That will be hash browns, link sausage, scrambled eggs, biscuits and tea."



Burger Master Breakfast

And Service Too


I must have been looking uncomfortable, because he said, "We'll bring it to you, sir." Now it was really getting weird. Sir he called me. The price was only a bit more than McDonald's. I'm suspicious. I'll bet they'll even want a tip too. And in a burger joint.

The dining room was very large and very clean with big windows. I grabbed the free newspaper ($1.00 at McDonald's) and crawled into a booth. Before I got through the first page, the food appeared. It was on a real plate, with real utensils. A big napkins and was delicious.

The hash browns? Crispy. The sausage? Jumbo sized and tasty. The biscuits - melt in your mouth. I read the whole paper. I didn't want to leave.

There is a lesson to be learned from Burger Master, for any business. Offer a better product. Provide a few extras, give good service and set a reasonable price.

Burger Master was packed at 10AM on a Wednesday morning. It was standing room only actually and probably has been for decades.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0167 – 12/01/10

VRA Compares Renting Long Versus Short

By William May
Published: 11/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0

Across the globe major change is taking place. Thousands of long-term rental homes have switched. They now only accept short-term vacation rentals.

The reason is simple. Vacation Rentals are safer, quicker and can greatly increase income. Plus owners get to use the home whenever they like and make money when they do not.

Trouble with Long-Term

Long Term Rentals sound easy but they are more difficult. Here are some of the reasons:

  • Tenants are often lower income.
  • Rental Agents are no help long-term.
  • Laws give renters control of the property.
  • Long notice is required to inspect the house
  • Tenants can require costly repairs.
  • Tenants can stuff in extra family members.
  • Causing greater wear and tear.
  • Move In-Outs, are harsh on the property.
  • Property Managers collect rent only and
  • Seldom inspect homes or evaluate tenants.
  • Bad tenants can trash the home
  • And no one knows for months.
  • Tenants can skip out on rent
  • Or refuse to pay for months.
  • Evictions take many months
  • Requiring Lawyer & Court costs
  • Long Term Horror Stories

Stories of long-term Tenants who trash homes, don’t pay rent, can’t be evicted and then actually sue their Landlords are everywhere.

Those are virtually unheard of in the Short-Term market. Good Vacation Rental Managers collect rent in advance, deny occupancy to non-paying or troublesome guests, inspect homes frequently and provide quick onsite service.

Property owners love having their home carefully watched instead of infrequently cared for. They use the home when they like. And they get more money at the same time.

Vacation Rentals Benefits

Property owners, who live in desirable destinations, are flocking to the vacation rentals market. Here is how it compares.

  • Guests are higher income & more desirable.
  • Lodging Managers are with you for the long term.
  • Lodging laws protect the property.
  • Guests do not have Tenant rights.
  • They bring only their clothes & food.
  • Vacation Managers inspect homes weekly.
  • Occupancy can be greatly limited.
  • Properties are used less, reducing wear & tear.
  • Damages are infrequent and insignificant.
  • Costs can be charged to the Guest.
  • Guests pay in advance,
  • Eliminating Collection Problems.
  • Guests are required to follow strict rules.
  • And can be evicted immediately.

Balancing Both

In some cases houses should be rented short-term during high seasons, and long-term during slow seasons. Vacation Rentals are adept at both while long-term property managers fail at short-term. They are used to renting the house once every few years, while lodging managers are highly skilled at finding and renting homes weekly.

For properties that need a combination of long and short term stays, a Vacation Rental Manager is the best solution. They can even apply their kind of tight hands-on guest oversight to long-term tenants.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0189 – 11/01/10

Nothing Beats Chateau Chocolate Cake

By William May
Published: 10/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0

Years ago when I operated an advertising agency we sure thought we worked long and hard. Not to reveal my age, but I remember when we had to "spec" type, courier the details to a type setter and then wait days while it was set and returned to us. We then had to paste the galleys onto art board along with photos or other art to arrange the desired final ad.



All about Chateau Chocolate Cake

Fun Drudgery

Marketing campaigns took months to prepare. To convince a client to accept a print advertisements required us to draw the ad roughly replicating what it might look like. Once approved we then had to produce it, or record the radio commercials or shoot the television spots and in film no less.

Media plans, the choosing and budget of conventional media, also took lots of time. Decision making was actually fairly smooth but just typing orders, processing payables and comparing results was a paper and pencil exercise.

So I have been one to whole heartedly embrace the personal computer and how it has made marketing, advertising and selling smoother and more controlled. We can produce a lot more with better product and hopefully better outcome.

Digital Drudgery

Unfortunately, the digital age has also made it marketing incredibly complex as we go through a constant dance of Internet and conventional advertising in hopes of maximizing revenue. It is easy to get lost pursuing the latest, greatest marketing scheme.

For lodging we invest in directory ads, video spots and certain pay-per-click. Just like in older media, we try to get in front of the consumers eyes and promote a message that might, just might, get a slight bit of attention.

So it was last summer that I had the great fun of remembering that marketing is, if nothing else, based on common sense.

Chateau Timberline

Packwood, White Pass Washington

Our firm took over a previously shuttered resort located in the shadow of Mount Rainier National Park in an exquisitely beautiful and pristine place. Situated on a minor East West highway over the Cascade Mountains, Chateau Timberline was a well maintained hotel property with half-timber construction and immense visual appeal.

Sunspot Resorts

Unfortunately, there was no build up of time to pre-plan and organize media. Our company Sunspot Resorts has created a highly unique software and management system that allows us to deploy full automated websites including photography, online booking system and universal content including local activities, merchants and restaurants. Guests can search by map, available dates and more than enough information to pick the appropriate lodging.

But even with automated deployment and heavy advertising, websites take time to mature. Search Engine's don't index the site immediately. If you want to use the Global Distribution System (GDS) that can take months. Consumers will eventually find a good property and will begin to migrate to it when it offers a better experience than competitors.

But we had none of the time we needed. So we relied on the good old proven methods of marketing. We went local.

We opened within 3 days, and then spent another 3 days visiting all merchants and even the competitors in Packwood, Washington to introduce ourselves and to ask their help. But we didn't just come cap in hand. We came with flyers and cupcakes.

The results were stunning. It would be wrong to presume that none of the people in town had ever had a cupcake. They smiled, they ate and they remembered us as the new guys with good manners (Or at least I hope.)

Tasty Marketing

Mount Rainier is a popular area. Within hours, guests were being referred to the Chateau. Within 10 days we were sold out. Although we basked in quick success we had many people to thank. So early one morning I visited the biggest competitor in town who had referred many overflow guests to us and, at the last minute, I decided to take a fresh Chocolate Cake.

I figured they couldn't or wouldn't take a referral fee. But they were more than happy to eat cake.

And now we have become friends. We refer to them as well. We know the people behind the businesses and they know us, although we'll have to keep contributing to local groups to earn our keep.

Fancy complicated marketing makes it possible for small companies to compete. It allows for advertisers to pick and choose with care and to make the most of their budget. But let's not forget. No matter how great it is, nothing really beats a great chocolate cake.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0161 – 10/01/10

Removing the Pain of Hot Tubs

By William May
Published: 06/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0

Yes they are a lot of trouble. They are costly to operate, expose you to health claims, require constant maintenance and repairs and-- in general-- are a pain in the butt. (We own six of them).

However - However - in many locations such as ski resorts, mountain getaways and even lake front homes hot tubs almost always pay off.

In some areas, guests expect them and in others it will convince them to rent your home and not a competitor's.

In one location identical side-by-side townhomes produced dramatically different results. The one with the hot tub grossed $40,000 a year. The one without, just $26,000.

Don't be fooled into buying the biggest and fanciest. Guests don't demand such things. Buy a nice big basic hot tub. Get the simplest controls because guests won't operate complicated ones correctly. In fact, they'll touch the controls even if you tell them not to, the water will get cold, and they'll want a refund.

And price doesn't equal quality. In case you haven't shopped recently most tubs come on a skid and have everything contained and all hooked up. All you need is 220 volt power (in the US) setup by a licensed electrician.

Yes you can do it yourself but that opens more legal exposure. And don't buy a 110 volt model- they take too long to heat.

Next - learn all about your state, county or city's health department rules and follow them diligently. Hot tubs can be bacteria incubators if not attended to faithfully.

Buy only the right chemicals and, by the way, you simply must invest in an Ozonator - a little device that increases cleanliness, limits the amount of chemicals you must use and decreases that chlorine/bromine smell.

And after all these details, what's the payback? In those identical townhomes a $4,000 hot tub plus maybe $1,000 a year in maintenance produces $14,000 more in rental. You don't need a calculator to figure the return on investment.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0159 – 06/01/10

Mother Giant Radio Station Trounced Websites

By William May
Published: 05/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0

KJR Radio Seattle Channel 95 Disc Jockeys Posers 1973
KJ Radio Disc Jockeys 1973

Prior to the lodging industry, I had a perfectly normal life in the media and advertising industry. I worked at radio stations and publications and owned an advertising agency. Then I started, invested and managed some publications and a radio station.

While news, information and entertainment are the product of media companies, it is advertising sales that fuel the organizations. My first big job was at the "Mother Giant" radio station KJR-AM in Seattle, Washington in 1973. Fresh out of college I got to work with my heroes who were as eccentric as human beings are allowed to be when not locked up in prison.

I had sold newspapers ads while in college but the Radio Experts taught me a lesson about selling advertising - 'Don't sell it if it won't create sales for the advertiser," said Mr. Shannon Sweatte my boss. "This business must be built upon return advertisers. If you fail for them once, you'll never get them back."

Sales Perspective

Of course, the advertisers we dealt with were big and smart. They were stingy with money, and spent it wisely. As I started my career, calling on these tough negotiators, I began to get sales fright. What if I sold ads that didn't work?

Pat O
Pat O'Day Manager KJR Radio

I wanted to know and one day, got up the guts to ask Mr. Pat O'Day, the station manager who was then and later became a legend in the radio station business. (That's him in the photo.)

"You can tell your advertisers, that money spent with us will always make their cash registers ring, " said Pat in response to my question.

"But what if they don't?" I asked.

"Then we'll just run some more ads for free until customers come streaming in." He answers. "Or we'll do promotions if we have to. Or we'll have the Disc Jockey's visit or do live on-air commercials. We'll just figure it out. Do what it takes."

Retailers Know the Score

Many of these clients represented retail store owners who were notorious for asking clients how they heard of their stores, why they came in that day, and on which radio stations the customers had heard their store's ads. Expecting these clients to buy ads without knowing whether they worked, would be like thinking a mama Grizzly would let you run off with her cubs. "Ain't gonna happen," I said to myself.

Pat O'day could have just taken the money and run and probably would have gotten away with it for a long time. However smart business people know better. Perhaps that is why, all these years later I am so amazed by some of the dominant Vacation Rental Directory websites.

In today's recession, does it strike you right that HomeAway announces their revenue is up Forty Percent last year? Anecdotal feedback from VRA members, tell us that inquiries are down and the cost per inquiry and cost per booking is up hugely. Is it right that FlipKey gives away free ads, then demands reviews and then ratchet up the cost?

Yet HomeAway benefits by pitting one advertiser against another, by taking an ever increasing number of listings, even if it cannibalizes the results they provide for current advertisers. Consumer advocates could easily claim that paid ads from media should know they can not justify their costs to clients and could be accused of "Unfair and deceptive" tactics.

Desperate Advertisers

Some Advertisers track and can justify their purchases. Others buy more ads and fall for the gimmicky ad ones of photos to push up rates because they are desperate for inquiries - any inquiries.

Where are the smart website publishers who understand their craft as well as conventional media do?

Dennis Miller, Past President of Publicist of the West, (The Ad Agency who wrote the nefarious Super Bowl Commercials - well after Dennis' Departure from Publicist) says, "Media buyers who place ads for big companies would eat a newspaper, radio or TV station alive for boasting of such an accomplishment when their clients were hurting." Dennis is on the Board of VRA. "Aren't these guys smart enough to understand that?"

Penny Taylor, Former Manager of Northwest Cable Advertising (A $50 million dollar joint venture of Viacom and TCI communications, and now vice president at VRA as well as Sunspot Resorts) agrees. "For a hundred years, smart media operators have justified their existence by the results they can produce for clients. Being new to media, these techies and venture capitalists are making up their ethics as they go along. Failing to put client's needs first is going to bite them in the behind."

Websites and other new media have been a boom to the travel and lodging business. Today, they command a dominant aspect of the industry by usurping owner and manager advertising with their own Search Engine Optimization and big pool of capital.

But will website publishers ever learn what conventional media outlets have learned over so many years, or will they figure it out over time? Will they prosper regardless of their ethics, or will advertisers stop being victims and start demanding results?

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William May is President of Sunspot Inns, Resorts & Vacation Rentals and volunteer Executive Director of the Vacation Rental Association (www.Vrai.org.). KJR radio is still on the air, but now as a sports station. KJR-FM now places oldies music. Its not much like the old KJR-AM Top 40 hit station, but make listeners happy just to see the call letters still in business.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0149 – 05/01/10

Vacation Road Trips Start at the Dentist

By Gail Adair
Published: 04/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0

A Trip to the Dentist

I casually picked up a magazine while in the waiting room for my morning dental appointment. Coffee in one hand, I picked up "Seattle Metropolitan", Road Trips, a magazine with subject matter which sounded worthy of noting, and a great way to get my mind off of dental procedures in general.

Quickly I turned the thick, colorful pages, afraid my name would be called before I had a chance to pause on something appealing. An article that appeared short, to the point, and within the time frame before I was to be called into the chair, caught my eye. "Sequim in a Sports Car", was the title by Christopher Werners. Hmmm, I thought. I could picture myself already half there.




Dust Catcher Car

You see, I had the sports car. It’s a dazzling retro Ford Thunderbird blue 2-seater convertible. Normally, it is a dust catcher in our garage. I had always wanted to visit Sequim, Washington State to see what the "banana belt" was all about. The dentist’s office waiting room gave me my chance. I breezed through the article before the hygienist called my name. Then, while under a gentle dose of nitrous oxide, I told myself I had to make this trip a reality.

First stop getting home, I banged out "Vacation rentals in Sequim" on my PC keyboard. As a vacation rental enthusiast and owner elsewhere, I needed to experience what my own guests experience when visiting my homes. I was pleased to see a variety of vacation rentals were available in Sequim.

A secluded cedar log cabin called "Bayside Cedars" on Sequim Bay popped up. The price was right, and it had a hot tub overlooking the bay, which was something I knew my husband and I would enjoy. We arrived in Sequim, signed in with the friendliest property management staff, and off we drove to our personal little bungalow for the weekend.



Sweet Scent

We were greeted at the door upon opening it to a waft of natural sweet cedar permeating the interior of the cabin. It had all the modern amenities of a home with one unique exception. I spotted a hand crank coffee grinder mounted on the wall! This was my cabin, indeed.

Freshly ground coffee has nearly become a fetish for me. The aroma while grinding it is almost as pleasant as the drink itself. I pictured myself going back to the basics of hand grinding beans for my preferred beverage inside a cedar log cabin. I had my beans just waiting for morning, when I discovered I had actually poured the beans into a wall mounted flour sifter! Needless to say, I could not cause the flour sifter to grind my Italian Roast!

My husband came to the rescue by reaching into a cupboard and locating an electric coffee grinder. We both had a chuckle, which released any city life tensions remaining in us as we moved on to more significant matters.

Hot tubbing together with a newly purchased bottle of Olympic Cellars wine from the local winery was better than a professional massage. The weather was great, the view phenomenal, and so secluded but within minutes of a town full of shops, lavender fields, and even a wild game farm worth the trip in and of itself.

Walking down to our weekend beach front brought us to a time long forgotten. Exploring crabs scrambling sideways under every overturned rock, and finding colorful snail shells, became the height of our beach combing. We were gently being sprayed by an occasional underground sprinkler system, better known as clam beds which took us back to our childhood. These creatures encouraged us to look closer into their little world.

Crabby House

When we saw a hermit crab looking for a "larger house", amongst the snail shells, this further enveloped us into their small world stage. This was the only world they knew. We engaged fully into the activities within the simple life of a tide pool. The simplicity desired by many, in an ever complicated life, will bring us back to a Sequim vacation rental again and again.

From there, it was off in our sports car to the Hoh Rain Forest within the Olympic National Park. We might have visited on the only day it didn't rain. It was even a warm day. Our convertible top was let down and we drove through the forest able to look straight up into the moss covered branches which umbrellaed the road ahead of us. We were able to get up close and personal with 600 year old trees. What a road trip!

We completed the loop back to Seattle through the destination of Ocean Shores, convertible top down most of the way stopping only to take a long walk on the sandy ocean beaches. Hard to believe it was April and 72 degrees.

We will definitely be looking forward to our next Washington Road Trip, enabling us to visit unique vacation rentals in towns that welcome this tourist option. I don't think there is any better way to travel whether you’re reading about it in a dental office or making the trip an immediate reality.


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Gail Adair, is Vice President of The Vacation Rental Association (Vrai.org)Vrai.org in charge of Legal Affairs. She is also a vacation Rental Owner. VRA is a worldwide not-for-profit trade association comprised of Owners, managers, Suppliers and Website Publishers worldwide.

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Author: Gail Adair, Moses Lake Vacation Rentals
Blog #: 0155 – 04/01/10

Sunbanks Resort - Little known Secret Location

By Penny L. Taylor
Published: 03/31/10 Topics: Comments: 0

The weather warmed up so I took a drive over to Banks Lake a few days ago. Never heard of it? Well I would like to introduce you to a location you might never know about but really should visit one day. It is a really stupendous summer destination. Let me give you the details:

  • Sunbanks Resort is smack dab in the middle of Washington state. An easy drive from Western Washington and anywhere in the Northwest.

  • On a lake the size of Lake Washington. A Mecca for swimming, water skiing, personal watercraft, fishing and power boating.

  • The terrain looks like the great Arizona desert destinations with sheer granite walls all around.

  • Summers are toasty hot, but the big draw is that the lake water is amazingly warm. Far warmer than Lake Chelan or the Columbia River lakes.

The resort has big new villas, cabins and even some camping. And you can see them all at this website (SunbanksSunspots.com)SunbanksSunspots.com. >There are photos from every angle and good rates. Give Sunspots a call 8am and 8pm everyday of the year. 888-628-8989.

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Author: Penny L. Taylor, Istay Organization
Blog #: 0146 – 03/31/10

Become a Vacation Rental Angel

By William May
Published: 03/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0

Operating a vacation rental business can be fun and profitable but it is also an opportunity to do some good in the world. Now property owners and managers can do that by participating in a public program that offers unused vacation rental nights to charitable causes through the Vacation Rental Angels Website.

The program is administered by the Vacation Rental Association (Vrai.org) a not-for-profit trade association offering membership services to owners, managers, suppliers and website publishers.

"Every now and then we see a property or manager who is inaccurately portrayed in the media", says William May, President of Sunspot Resorts and volunteer Executive Director of VRA, "And we thought it was high time that the public understands the millions of dollars that owners donate to good causes."

VRA offers inspections and verifications of properties to assure the traveling public of property quality. Members of VRA subscribe to a Code of Ethics and the vast majority of properties are well run, even luxurious. Guest complaints are almost non-existent for VRA members, who take their responsibilities seriously.

Participation in the Angel program is open to all VRA members and there is no cost or rigid rules for donations. Members who agree to offer at least one week per year free to charities may join the program and have their properties and their donations listed on the VacationRentalAngels.com website.

"Limiting how and when donations, or forcing owners to use the site for giving, would only serve to lessen donations," said May, "And that would defeat the entire idea. This program says give first and then get a little recognition later".

Vrai.org operates the world's first Multiple-Listing-Service (MLS) for Vacation Rentals at www.VRMLA.org. VRA member can easily post their property to the VacationRentalAngels.com website along with subscribing to many other paid and free websites. Vacation Rental Owners and Managers, not already VRA members, can join the group and become Angels by visiting www.Vrai.org to join.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0141 – 03/01/10

Sponsor: VRAI – The Vacation Rental Industry, a not-for-profit organization, offers member services to owners, managers, suppliers and website publishers worldwide, including the world's first Multiple-Listing Service (MLS) for Vacation Rentals. Membership from $49 per year, insider knowledge and dozens of free advertising opportunities. – VRIA.org

Become a Vacation Rental Angel

By William May
Published: 03/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0

Operating a vacation rental business can be fun and profitable but it is also an opportunity to do some good in the world. Now property owners and managers can do that by participating in a public program that offers unused vacation rental nights to charitable causes through the Vacation Rental Angels Website.

The program is administered by the Vacation Rental Association (Vrai.org) a not-for-profit trade association offering membership services to owners, managers, suppliers and website publishers.

"Every now and then we see a property or manager who is inaccurately portrayed in the media", says William May, President volunteer Executive Director of VRA, "And we thought it was high time that the public understands the millions of dollars that owners donate to good causes."

VRA offers inspections and verifications of properties to assure the traveling public of property quality. Members of VRA subscribe to a Code of Ethics and the vast majority of properties are well run, even luxurious. Guest complaints are almost non-existent for VRA members, who take their responsibilities seriously.

Participation in the Angel program is open to all VRA members and there is no cost or rigid rules for donations. Members who agree to offer at least one week per year free to charities may join the program and have their properties and their donations listed on the VacationRentalAngels.com website.

"Limiting how and when donations, or forcing owners to use the site for giving, would only serve to lessen donations," said May, "And that would defeat the entire idea. This program says give first and then get a little recognition later".

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Vrai.org operates the world's first Multiple-Listing-Service (MLS) for Vacation Rentals at www.VRMLA.org. VRA member can easily post their property to the VacationRentalAngels.com website along with subscribing to many other paid and free websites. Vacation Rental Owners and Managers, not already VRA members, can join the group and become Angels by visiting www.Vrai.org to join.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0138 – 03/01/10

Do's and Don'ts for Vacation Rental Listing Websites

By William May
Published: 02/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0

We are revisiting how Vacation Rental Listing Directory Websites operate. In the last issue, their successes and failures were outlined. (Go to the Newsletter Directory to read the first part in this two part series).

You were promised a list of do's and don'ts that we would like to see them all adopt.

So here is that list but let's not hold our breath. Change comes slow no matter how obvious the need.

ALLOW TWO EMAILS: Advertisers need to have one email to receive notice of administrative matters from the website and a second email that guests use to make inquiries. Even small companies segregate bookkeeping from sales. Forwarding both types of messages to the single allowable email address is just plain dumb.

SILLY PHOTO EDITING: VRBO's faded borders were out of date 10 years ago. Holding on to that look makes them look stodgy and outdated. And now we see websites prohibiting the user of brands.

DO NOT HIDE ADVERTISERS: In some states it is against the law to run ads that do not disclose the name of the real estate broker. And yet most of these sites do it as a matter of course. Guests want to know who they are dealing with. If they presume it’s the website, that gums up the world for all involved.

KILL THOSE SCHEMES: Have you seen how websites are limiting direct communication between guest and advertiser? Can you imagine a radio station running ads for a car dealer, extolling the virtues of each auto but refusing to name the dealership? Preposterous.

The latest trick is that some websites now assign each advertiser a new phone number which transfers to the advertiser's phone. They do this to measure results so they can prove their worth to advertisers. But it further distances the guest from the lodging provider. Prior to the Internet, advertiser's were forced to measure their own results. It was a better system and more honest too.

DO NOT LIMIT LINKING: What makes the Internet work (and is absolutely required to gain good Google page rank) is links into the advertiser's website. Yet many directories forbid links back from listings to the lister. They do it for purely selfish reasons of course, but it’s a disservice to advertiser and guest alike. It proves they know that we need them more than they need any single one of us.

IS RE-DISTRIBUTION GOOD? Frequently managers are noticing that ads submitted to one site appear on scores of others. The websites and software companies are becoming incestuous in their polygamous relationships. Distribution is good, very good, but after awhile no one knows who really produced the results.

DISCLOSE DUPLICATION: Re-distribution has resulted in a good number of websites that accept submissions from multiple websites and software companies. It is not uncommon for an advertiser to open a new website and see multiple listings for each of his properties. This is certainly confusing to guests and serves no constructive purpose. Websites need to disclose where they are re-distributing their content.

WAKE UP GOOGLE: Today, the major vacation rental directories get the lion's share of their traffic from Pay-Per-Click advertising. They employ PPC Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts to run their ads higher up in the rankings than owner and manager can achieve. There is no good purpose for Google to allow large directories to usurp top position from people who actually provide a product. Guests want to talk to the operators. They don't want to be shuttled through other websites to find what should be listed first on Google: local vacation rental providers.

PROFIT MOTIVE: Of course, the only reason software companies and websites have created this convoluted heavily proprietary system is to make profit. They should be congratulated. But they should be condemned for making the industry less competitive than it could be.

LIMIT THE DATA SET: Having key features be searchable is a fine idea. But it takes so long to upload listings to some of these sites, even the free ones that many advertisers simply opt out. As an industry can we agree to a standard set of information and then make it uniform.

That doesn't leave much room for competing sites to build a better mouse-trap, but comprehensive yet, restricted data sets have been the norm in Real Estate Multiple Listing Services for decades. It works well there and serves everyone equally.

EMBRACE A MULTIPLE LISTING SYSTEM: This point may sound selfish because VRA has already created the world's first Multiple Listing Service for Vacation Rentals. We did so because advertising is too expensive, administrative time is far too great and the for-profit companies have wrested control of the industry from those who actually perform the work: property managers and owners.

For-profit entities are so proprietary that they have refused to establish a cooperative database. That means the only way this will be done is just how it was done in Real Estate Brokerage: by not-for-profit organizations owned and managed by Managers and Owners.

MLS's are the backbone of the entire real estate brokerage industry. They could not exist without them. They are effective and affordable in ways that Vacation Rental websites are not. A single central database of rentals is desperately needed in the vacation Rental business.

Until that happens industry participants are going to spend their time competing with each other instead of working together to grow the industry, take business from conventional lodging and provide a superior product to guests. In case you were wondering, VRA is not asking to be the center of that database Universe.

We are ready to deed control of the database to an open-membership of those who are the foundation of this industry: Owners and Managers. That can be done under the auspices of VRA or any other forum that gets the job done. If you would like to participates, please call today. Time is short.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0135 – 02/01/10

How Vacation Rental Listing Websites Get It Wrong

By William May
Published: 01/01/10 Topics: Comments: 0

Vacation Rental Advertising just keeps getting more and more complicated as new listing websites appear almost every day. VRA is now tracking approximately 785 Vacation Rental Websites. I say approximately because the number changes so often. Some sites, presumably when they have insufficient revenue or the operators tire out, just disappear. But new sites keep taking their place.

Surprisingly, this constant churning must delight the larger, older websites. They hang onto their existing viewers and let the little guys dilute the rest of the market significantly. Every now and then something really innovative pops up.

For example (Rentability.com)Rentability.com is a graphically intriguing website with nice tools. Advertisers pay on an affordable per-inquiry basis. Whether it can gain any traction in the market, we've yet to see, but their efforts need to be applauded. There are many others like Rentability who are moving technology forward far better than the fat cat websites.

In a way, the Vacation Rental Association is contributing to the roll out of new websites. VRA's multiple listing service (VRMLS.org)VRMLS.org makes it easy for local associations and geographic areas to put up their own sophisticated listing websites with very little time or money.

Specificity is the future of vacation rental searches. More is not always better. Newspapers are a good example. Giant metropolitan tabloids are struggling for readership and advertising revenue while many local newspapers march right along. And why you ask? Because they offer a more concise view of the world. They print both news and ads relevant only to their geographic area.

Plus the big guys do what big guys do - especially in the Internet. They begin to suffer from feature bloat making it ever more complicated for users to utilize their products. As a parallel example, when Google's AdWords service started, placing ads was simple and straight forward. Kudos to them for attempting to better segment their ads but today, reviewing and placing AdWords requires lots of time and expertise.

Vacation Rental Listing Websites are doing the same thing. HomeAway has launched various programs such as their Vacation Rental Manager "Pay Per Inquiry" (PPI) service but have gummed it up with restrictive rules that do nothing to enhance manager use. At the same time they refuse to share all listing data between (VRBO.com)VRBO.com and their second tier sites like (HomeAway.com)HomeAway.com and (CyberRentals.com)CyberRentals.com. Don't be mislead; their refusal has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with squeezing every possible dollar out of advertisers. They will only offer features which pad their pockets.

Big websites continue their march toward oligopoly where the top few websites control the market sufficiently to limit acceptance of lesser websites which causes vacation rental owners, managers and guests to do things their way - or else.

Sometimes it’s the little things that drive us crazy about using various websites. In the next issue we'll outline a check list of do's and don’s that we would like to see all Vacation Rental Listing Directory websites follow.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0133 – 01/01/10

Doing What We Can To Help People

By William May
Published: 11/19/09 Topics: Comments: 0

For a number of years our company has donated vacation rental home use to a wonderful group called OutdoorsForAll.org (Formerly SkiForAll.org). Their mission is to enrich the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through outdoor recreation.

OFA takes handicapped folks to destinations and into sports they could never imagine otherwise. Blind kids go skiing, the wheelchair bound go biking. The offer horseback riding, hiking, swimming, canoeing, rafting, water skiing and more.

The first time they stayed with us they brought a dozen kids to a ski area. It made us feel good to help, but we were disappointed when the housekeepers found that the beds had not been slept. A bit alarmed we placed a quick phone call to the organization apologizing because we didn't want them to think they could not use the beds.

We were greeted with boisterous laughter. "Oh you don't understand do you?" said the director. "These kids are mostly bed bound so staying in a big bed in a luxurious home is not an adventure." She explained. "But sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor by a fireplace is a thrilling experience for them. They could hardly sleep." We smiled and felt better.

If you want to make yourself feel great today, click here to make a donation to the Ski For All Organization.

Besides wonderful groups like Outdoors For All, we sometimes have guests that require special assistance.

Recently one such guest complained that we could not provide her with a wheel chair condo during her stay - even though she failed to request one when booking. She complained her condo wasn't actually on the beach, even though it was as close or closer than every other accommodation in town.

Never the less, she went home and THREE MONTHS later demanded a full refund, complained to every agency and media (who bought her trumped up story without corroboration) and then demanded a full refund for the week long vacation she received.

Businesses are often maligned for being callous or uncaring. That is unfortunate because businesses are nothing more than people; people who care about every guest and work diligently to satisfy them.

Our staff and affiliates were crest-fallen when that guest complained. But should they be?

Their actions went beyond the call of duty. Instead of sulking about one person who seemed to be asking for far more than she ordered, they need to focus on the hundreds of thousands who appreciate their lodging, noticed how clean the linens are, appreciate the comfortable furniture, relax at the pools, use the fully furnished kitchens and offer those little compliments everyone needs in life.

We need to judge our own compassion by those who appreciate it, but keep working for those pesky people as well. You know we will.

P.S. A good thing came out of this incident. We sponsored and our not-for-profit trade association - the Vacation Rental Association (www.Vrai.org) formed a donation program where owners can announce their giving to charitable causes. See VacationRentalAngels.com

.

P.S. Coming Soon. The VacationRentalAngels.com program sponsored by the Vacation Rental Association. Where owners can announce their donations to charitable causes.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0128 – 11/19/09

Complaints, Compliments and Compassion

By William May
Published: 11/18/09 Topics: Comments: 0

She wanted to go to the beach. It was to be a special trip with her daughter who had special needs. Larger homes were her preference, but a plain ocean front condo was her budget. She asked for a first floor home and a vendor to provide oxygen.

On the coast of Washington State oceanfront means there is nothing between you and the ocean, except for a hundred yards of sand dunes, dune grass and sometimes scraggly pine trees that reach out to very wide, very flat beaches.

Upon arrival the woman requested a wheelchair unit for her son (not her daughter it seems), a view and easier beach access. The condo was on-grade with no steps of any kind, but she also now wanted a view. The condo faces the ocean but it is not exactly right outside the front door. It is as close to, or closer than every other accommodations in town.

She was offered and selected a different condo to the North. But after moving she complained there were too many pine trees blocking the view and no path to the ocean through the dunes to accommodate the wheelchair.

The next day, she wanted a higher view. After inspecting several condo complexes she selected one to the South but soon that was not to her liking. She then demanded and was upgraded to an ocean front house far north.

Was it enough? Well no, because then the guest insisted she be moved back to the very first condo. The dutiful staff loaded up her things and drove them back. She was offered the option of canceling and receiving a refund but declined. Then every day for the rest of the week she called central reservations office asking for a larger house.

She wanted some owner to donate a bigger home due to her personal situation? A difficult request but a staffer called competitors, asking for donations. He waived his fee to afford something even bigger, but in the summer high season there were no better alternatives.

The guest stayed for the week and upon departing complimented the staff for all their great help.

So it was a big surprise when THREE MONTHS later the guest filed complaints with the government and a TV station claiming that no one took care of her, no one satisfied her needs, no one understood her problems and no one solved them for her. And all it would take to make her feel better is to receive a full refund for her entire stay.

The TV reporter didn't check the facts, didn't ask to speak with the manager, and featured the wrong condos in his report. He didn't care that the guest signed paperwork that specified a condo that was exactly as ordered; that she saw actual photos before booking; or that she got driving directions a week in advance that also showed the photos of the home again.

He didn't care that she had been offered a full refund repeatedly. He didn't care that staff personally carted the woman's belongings from home to home to home to home. He didn't care because he had a deadline and needed to get a story out to please his boss. The facts be damned.

In 1861, Wilbur F. Story, Editor of the Chicago Times said, "It is a newspaper's duty to print the news, and raise hell." Unfortunately today's quasi journalists only remember the raise hell part.

For a number of years the company has been donating vacation rental use to a wonderful group called OutdoorsForAll.org. (Formerly SkiForAll.org). Their mission is to enrich the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through outdoor recreation.

They take handicapped folks to destinations and into sports they could never imagine otherwise. Blind kids go skiing. The wheelchair bound go biking. They offer horseback riding, hiking, swimming, canoeing, rafting, water skiing and more.

The first time OFA stayed in a vacation rental from the company they brought a dozen kids to a ski area. It made everyone feel good to help, but housekeepers were disappointed found that the beds had not been slept in.

A bit alarmed a quick phone call was made to the organization apologizing because no one wanted them to think they could not use the beds.

The call was greeted with boisterous laughter. "Oh you don't understand do you?"; said the director. "These kids are mostly bed bound so staying in a big bed in a luxurious home is not an adventure," she explained. "sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor by a fireplace is a thrilling experience for them.

They could hardly sleep." Everyone smiled and felt better.

Businesses are often maligned for being callous or uncaring. A media reporter then telephoned to call the company on the carpet for failing to do enough. The guest filed complaints with the State and the Better Business Bureau.

All of that is unfortunate because businesses are nothing more than people; people who care about every guest and work diligently to satisfy them.

Staff members were crest-fallen when that guest complained. But should they be? Their actions went beyond the call of duty.

Instead of worrying about one person who seemed to be asking for far more than she ordered, and whose needs were impossible to meet, they need to focus on the thousands who appreciate their lodging, notice how clean the linens are, appreciate the comfortable furniture, relax at the pool, use the fully outfitted kitchens and offer those little compliments everyone needs in life.

After a person has done all they can to help others, after they have gone far beyond what is reasonable, they need to have the wisdom to judge their own compassion by those who understand and appreciate it!

P.S. To see a much better explain of philanthropy visit VRAI's VacationRentalAngels.com program where Owners can announce their donations to worthy charities.

Or, go to OutdoorsForAll.org and make a donation to a worthy group. They deserve it.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0127 – 11/18/09

Everything Robert Fulgham Learned in Kindergarten

By William May
Published: 11/01/09 Topics: Comments: 0

I stumbled onto an Internet posting the other day that told me it has been twenty years since Robert Fulgham wrote "Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."

That is stunning really because it does, as they say, seem like yesterday. Of course I've read some of his other books and now that I've visited his website (RobertFulgham.com). I see there are others I will have to savor. So should you.

After 22 years as a Unitarian Minister in the Pacific Northwest, Fulgham published that first book and has never looked back. His view of the world is pretty simple or so it seems. As the world accelerates and technology dominates, Fulgham would remind us of the basic, appropriate and mature.

Although his attitude might strike some as youngish or maybe even immature, the stories and ideas he illustrates so well are the basic foundation on which we as humans should strive.

So what would all of this have to do with the somewhat non-universal industry of vacation rentals? Well plenty as it seems. Or maybe I should say it has to do with every business, every career and certainly every calling.


The kindergarten book reminds us all to foster those concepts which are universal in every culture. Things like:

- Don't lie. Always tell the truth.
- Don't hit.
- Treat your parents well.
- Pick up after yourself.
- Say Please and Thank You.

To me it seems like Fulgham’s message might be summed up in the phrase "treat everyone well" or at least try.

I am not sure I have always accomplished that goal but I know I am always aware of it and have always tried. I also know that isn't easy when conflict exists in the world, as it inevitably does. Nor is it easy when others might try to bring you down to their level. An acquaintance who becomes distraught, a customer who is unreasonable or even governmental bureaucrats who steal more and more freedom from Americans.

It would be easy to despise such people but in the end, we have to remember to treat them well also. Even if that respect will not be reciprocated.

VACATION RENTALS & LODGING

So is there anything practical in this blog? Yes I assure you there is. Here are a set of rules for how we conduct our business in hopes that guests, owners and vendors will treat us likewise.

- Be Clear. In advertising, contracts, phone calls, emails.

- Be Fair. It can be difficult to understand unreasonable requests, but we gotta keep trying.

- Be Quick. Get back to people. Take care of problems as fast as possible.

- Be Happy. No job is easy and half the job is simply deciding to go about it with joy.

You can buy Robert Fulgham's Book at Amazon.com.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0125 – 11/01/09

Prin The News Raise Hell - Lodging Newsletter November 1st, 2009

By William May
Published: 11/01/09 Topics: Lodging Newsletter Comments: 0

Sometimes it is nice to see your name in the media and sometimes it is not.

As the volunteer Director of the Vacation Rental Association (VRA) I receive calls from media all over the country. Speaking with most reporters reminds me of sitting in Journalism class while pursuing my college degree in Communications from Washington State University all those years ago.

The Communications Department is now named after Edward R. Murrow the CBS television journalist made famous for his broadcasts from London during the Blitzkriegs of World War II. Murrow is idolized by virtually every professional well meaning journalism student for his strength in exposing the McCarthy era Communist witch hunts of the 1950's.

Murrow didn't go after destroying every small business person or government bureaucrat he could intimidate. In fact, I'm pretty sure he would be embarrassed by the state of some current news organizations who have nothing better to do than harass small businesses and well meaning companies.

Instead, Murrow focused on those very few evil and bad will people who seem intent to do harm to others. His ethics were sound unlike those of many reports in conventional media today.

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying, 'Freedom of the press is reserved for those who own one." That powerful statement warns citizens about the power of the press. And it encourages them to resist over zealous journalism by fighting fire with fire.

Franklin's thought was the rule from the American Revolution until very recently. Today every person on the planet with a computer with an internet connection has the opportunity print their thoughts and stories on line.

While much of that information is flawed, biased and selfish, there is hope this new age of unlimited visibility may level the playing field between laymen and reporters.

For too long reporters with little proper training, no adherence to ethical principals, insufficient time to examine both sides of a story and, frankly, a dangerous casual disregard for the position of others have begun to pop up in main stream newspaper and broadcast organizations and not just in odd-ball print publications.

It is really too bad. Bad for everyone. For those who slander others. And for those who believe such lies without questioning the integrity of the writer.

But the internet is good because now those conventional media reporters themselves can become targets of probes from anyone with a computer, video camera and website. They find out what he feels to be parenthetically stripped searched and exposed to the world for any failing real or imagined.

TODAY'S WRITERS

It is good news to know that there still exists today a legion of journalists who hold true to the principals of Ed Murrow, Walter Cronkite and other greats. But sadly, the quest for ratings, notoriety and ever declining newspaper readership and broadcast audience has forced conventional media managers to hire folks simply not equipped to cautiously handle the immense public-opinion power they are given.

In 1861, Wilbur F. Story, Editor of the Chicago Times said, "It is a newspaper's duty to print the news, and raise hell." This quote, or something pretty darn close, has also been frequently attributed to Mark Twain.

In that regard we could consider unethical reporters a success.

Unfortunately they have focused on the raising hell part because it’s a lot easier than digging for information, being factual and attempting to report accurately.

They seek out stories to bolster their resume and inflate their own egos. Unfortunately that is done by spewing innuendo, falsifying the facts and not even pretending to pursue a neutral reporting stance.

The difference between Mark Twain and so many current writers is that Twain knew the difference between when he was reporting the news and when he was writing fiction. (Pretty good darn fiction too, most folks say.)

That is not true of the vast majority of folks, with little training or great thinking, who can blog away at all hours of the day and for page after page about every conceivable subject from the lurid to the boring.

Citizen journalists however can be forgiven because they haven't studied the craft nor been entrusted with the

public airwaves or widely read print media. They are kind of like people with gun's who have only seen them on TV.

What may seem glamorous in a scripted made-for-TV war movie is, as any soldier will tell you, a pretty great place to have a gun turn you into blood and guts and death. So these writers know little of the damage they can cause.

Educated journalists on the other hand know better.

A look at online bio's for reporters shows that most have some form of degree in journalism, broadcast or some similar line of study. Unless colleges have changed radically in recent years I know there are well-meaning, well-trained and ethical professors who care deeply about teaching students to research facts, evaluate testimony, and attempt to provide a seemingly unbiased version of the news.

These colleges turn out a great many skilled and well meaning reporters. Like any industry where participants willingly agree to pursue big money, big fame and fan worship (think of sports here) journalists can fall victim to the lure of the game.

You only have to travel from town to town watching sportscasts to admit that all home-town sports reporters are sporting the home-town at the expense of pretty much every other town. Perhaps with sports that should not be concern - after all no one gets killed in sports and even drug-taking athletes can get back in the good graces of fans if they repent.

PROCLAIMING THEIR BIAS:

Consumer advocate journalists are the next category of reporters to fall under the spell of self-aggrandizement. They openly admit they are here to "fight for consumers". No where in their diatribes do they promise to care if the consumer is correct or accurate. Never do they check out the reputation of the consumer.

Instead, they start with the bias the "consumer is always right."

That is tantamount to saying that in a divorce, the "Husband is always right." Society has learned there are seldom absolutes like that and anyone with sufficient education or self-thought knows better.

A good reporter’s job is not to become the story. But to report it fairly. Those who take delight in chasing people down the street, jumping on employees, demanding meetings with people they have never met or and making life hell for other people so he can print a dishonest and disreputable story have sunk to the lowest level.

If a reporter has to big, ugly, ineloquent, rude and obnoxious to get a story, then he is making the story instead of finding one. There will always be consumers who fall for everything, but to fool them into believing a story because of such tactics should be objectionable to all involved.

Naturally creating a story is a lot easier than investing the time necessary to locate a story, determine if it is legitimate and gathering sufficient fact to determine if the story is true and worth of the reader or viewers time. But being lazy should not be a substitute for destroying the honor that Murrow and prior practitioners brought to the craft of news.

Oh and about our own self-aggrandizement here are a couple of stories you might like. Unlike those reporters who need a story before 5pm everyday, we didn't solicit the inclusions or intimidate anyone to get included.

Go to www.WashingtonPost.com and search for "Andrea Sachs" Reporter and "Vacation Rental".

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Author: William May – Manager, Sunspot Vacation Rentals
Blog #: 0114 – 11/01/09

Seeing your Name in Print

By William May
Published: 10/01/09 Topics: Comments: 0

Sometimes it is nice to see your name in the media and sometimes it is not.

As the volunteer Director of the Vacation Rental Association (VRA) I receive calls from media all over the country. Speaking with most reporters reminds me of sitting ` Journalism class while pursuing my college degree in Communications from Washington State University all those years ago.

The Communications Department is now named after Edward R. Murrow the CBS television journalist made famous for his broadcasts from London during the Blitzkriegs of World War II. Murrow is idolized by virtually every professional well meaning journalism student for his strength in exposing the McCarthy era Communist witch hunts of the 1950's.

Murrow didn't go after destroying every small business person or government bureaucrat he could intimidate. In fact, I'm pretty sure he would be embarrassed by the state of some current news organizations who have nothing better to do than harass small businesses and well meaning companies.

Instead, Murrow focused on those very few evil and bad will people who seem intent to do harm to others. His ethics were sound unlike those of many reports in conventional media today.

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying, 'Freedom of the press is reserved for those who own one." That powerful statement warns citizens about the power of the press. And it encourages them to resist over zealous journalism by fighting fire with fire.

Franklin's thought was the rule from the American Revolution until very recently. Today every person on the planet with a computer with an internet connection has the opportunity print their thoughts and stories on line.

While much of that information is flawed, biased and selfish, there is hope this new age of unlimited visibility may level the playing field between laymen and reporters.

For too long reporters with little proper training, no adherence to ethical principals, insufficient time to examine both sides of a story and, frankly, a dangerous casual disregard for the position of others have begun to pop up in main stream newspaper and broadcast organizations and not just in odd-ball print publications.

It is really too bad. Bad for everyone. For those who slander others. And for those who believe such lies without questioning the integrity of the writer.

But the internet is good because now those conventional media reporters themselves can become targets of probes from anyone with a computer, video camera and website. They find out what he feels to be parenthetically stripped searched and exposed to the world for any failing real or imagined.

TODAY'S WRITERS

It is good news to know that there still exists today a legion of journalists who hold true to the principals of Ed Murrow, Walter Cronkite and other greats. But sadly, the quest for ratings, notoriety and ever declining newspaper readership and broadcast audience has forced conventional media managers to hire folks simply not equipped to cautiously handle the immense public-opinion power they are given.

In 1861, Wilbur F. Story, Editor of the Chicago Times said, "It is a newspaper's duty to print the news, and raise hell." This quote, or something pretty darn close, has also been frequently attributed to Mark Twain.

In that regard we could consider unethical reporters a success. Unfortunately they have focused on the raising hell part because it’s a lot easier than digging for information, being factual and attempting to report accurately.

They seek out stories to bolster their resume and inflate their own egos. Unfortunately that is done by spewing innuendo, falsifying the facts and not even pretending to pursue a neutral reporting stance.

The difference between Mark Twain and so many current writers is that Twain knew the difference between when he was reporting the news and when he was writing fiction. (Pretty good darn fiction too, most folks say.) That is not true of the vast majority of folks, with little training or great thinking, who can blog away at all hours of the day and for page after page about every conceivable subject from the lurid to the boring.

Citizen journalists however can be forgiven because they haven't studied the craft nor been entrusted with the public airwaves or widely read print media. They are kind of like people with gun's who have only seen them on TV. What may seem glamorous in a scripted made-for-TV war movie is, as any soldier will tell you, a pretty great place to have a gun turn you into blood and guts and death. So these writers know little of the damage they can cause.

Educated journalists on the other hand know better.

A look at online bio's for reporters shows that most have some form of degree in journalism, broadcast or some similar line of study. Unless colleges have changed radically in recent years I know there are well-meaning, well-trained and ethical professors who care deeply about teaching students to research facts, evaluate testimony, and attempt to provide a seemingly unbiased version of the news.

These colleges turn out a great many skilled and well meaning reporters. Like any industry where participants willingly agree to pursue big money, big fame and fan worship (think of sports here) journalists can fall victim to the lure of the game.

You only have to travel from town to town watching sportscasts to admit that all home-town sports reporters are sporting the home-town at the expense of pretty much every other town. Perhaps with sports that should not be concern - after all no one gets killed in sports and even drug-taking athletes can get back in the good graces of fans if they repent.

PROCLAIMING THEIR BIAS:

Consumer advocate journalists are the next category of reporters to fall under the spell of self-aggrandizement. They openly admit they are here to "fight for consumers". No where in their diatribes do they promise to care if the consumer is correct or accurate. Never do they check out the reputation of the consumer.

Instead, they start with the bias the "consumer is always right." That is tantamount to saying that in a divorce, the "Husband is always right." Society has learned there are seldom absolutes like that and anyone with sufficient education or self-thought knows better.

A good reporter’s job is not to become the story. But to report it fairly. Those who take delight in chasing people down the street, jumping on employees, demanding meetings with people they have never met or and making life hell for other people so he can print a dishonest and disreputable story have sunk to the lowest level.

If a reporter has to big, ugly, ineloquent, rude and obnoxious to get a story, then he is making the story instead of finding one. There will always be consumers who fall for everything, but to fool them into believing a story because of such tactics should be objectionable to all involved.

Naturally creating a story is a lot easier than investing the time necessary to locate a story, determine if it is legitimate and gathering sufficient fact to determine if the story is true and worth of the reader or viewers time. But being lazy should not be a substitute for destroying the honor that Murrow and prior practitioners brought to the craft of news.

Oh and about our own self-aggrandizement here are a couple of stories you might like. Unlike those reporters who need a story before 5pm everyday, we didn't solicit the inclusions or intimidate anyone to get included.

Go to (WashingtonPost.com)WashingtonPost.com and search for "Andrea Sachs" Reporter and "Vacation Rental".

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0126 – 10/01/09

Remembering the "Thank You" Game

By William May
Published: 09/01/09 Topics: Comments: 0

Surprises are great. And thank you's are best.

In an industry like property management that requires attention to detail, constant supervision and reconciliation of occasionally conflicting goals between guests and owners it is too easy to forget the little personal things that make life worth living.

Long ago I attended a parent-child basketball camp and had the great luck to meet a man who I now call hero. Having built the largest basketball camp for kids in the United States, Coach's success seems based more on his knowledge and approach to life than on his immense basketball training skills.

At one camp he suggested to everyone they could learn how to be thankful by using his now famous thank-you game. The rules are simple.

You can be in a meeting, watching television or whenever you find yourself in the car with your family, especially on those long boring drives. The games starts by one person mentioning something they are thankful for. Then next person does likewise and so one until everyone has spoken.

The first responses are what you might expect like, "I am thankful for what wonderful children I have." or "I am thankful for having a loving Dad."

These kinds of honesty is not easy for everyone. Some people seldom tell anyone how they feel about things. And complimenting another person directly to their face is a lost art unfortunately.

After each person has spoken you should sneak a peak around the room. Smirking smiles will be breaking out all over the place.

But the game is not over. Because this game goes on until you reach your destination, or everyone is out of ideas. In a car, thank you's may come tumbling out one after another but be separated by pauses and that too is acceptable. Be thankful that there is no hurry. Give everyone sufficient time to dig deeply into their thoughts.

My family once spent over two hours in a car as compliments went round and round. Eventually resulting in "Thankful that the car still has gas" and that "I am sure happy it didn't snow or we would be stuck somewhere."

Does this sound a little mundane? That's OK because the best thank you's come near the end when each person realizes they have so much to be thankful about. My young son once said, "I am thank you for this game because it makes me remember how much I have."

Today I am thankful that the recession wasn't worse that it was. I could say thanks for all the owners and guests who have hung with us as the industry continues rapid change. My thanks for the housekeepers, maintenance people and reservation crew knows no bounds. So many people have been understanding and compassionate and kind. I am very thankful that guest inquiries continue to rise and that our team is in tact and making constant headway.

Of course, not everyone has been pleasant. But maybe that's because no one taught them the thank you game.

So that means this year I have to be thankful because maybe I'll get the opportunity to introduce the game to more people and hope they'll enjoy the great benefits I have received from a kids basketball coach.

Give it a try before the end of the week.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0119 – 09/01/09

Owners Who Kill The Messenger. And Managers who help them.

By William May
Published: 07/01/09 Topics: Comments: 0

The stinging effect on vacation rentals and vacation rental managers through out the US due to today's economy is having a effects that none of us can do anything about.

The loss of demand is bad enough but now some managers are receiving those proverbial calls from owners who want to kill the messenger instead of rewarding those operators who are busting their butts to make things happen. For top managers it is a time to capitalize on the opportunities but I do hope you are one of the ethical groups out there who refuses to do so with the old Peter-Paul scheme.

This newsletter is a wake-up call to managers to watch out for the scoundrels who will misuse current owners just to steal new ones. And to owners about how to do themselves a favor.

Lack of Demand

If fewer travelers in total are going on vacation then surely vacation rental revenue will also suffer. Traveler preference for vacation rentals may still be increasing as it has for a decade at least. It might even be increasing as guests look to cheaper ways to travel and realize what a bargain they get renting a home instead of a hotel room. More space, fewer restaurant bills and the opportunity to split the costs among more friends.

But recent drops in pre-booking demand and current month occupancy in virtually every geographic market must be out pacing any perceived growth in vacation rental preference. The numbers don't lie. From vacation rentals and rent-direct owners every member calling VRA has reported a drop.

Some see as little as 10 to 20%. Tourism in Hawaii is reporting an over all deficit of 30-40% and there are rumors in some Florida destinations of being hammered by 70% drop offs. Yikes that hurts.

Taking Action

So what should the industry and individual practitioners be doing right now, immediately to retain business or stay in business? The laundry list must include cutting costs of course but that is a double edge sword. All businesses should only spend what is needed to provide a good product. Being opulent is seldom a good tactic.

One seemingly smart move is really just the opposite. In every recession there are businesses that cut advertising because doing so is easy, immediate and visible. If past recessions are an indication (and why wouldn't they be?) dropping out of public view is the beginning of the end.

That is more true now because consumers use the internet to daily to determine if you are still in business. Some go directly to your busy website but most revert to finding you gain through search engine and website directories. If you aren't there, they don't find you in the first place and probably not on return.

In another newsletter we'll ask experts from everywhere there strategies on the cost cutting side of things. For now, however, let's focus on retaining or increasing revenue.

Get Your Game On

I must admit I quit playing basketball at the tender age of 50. I miss it, I do. From it I learned many things. First, if you aren't talented it still feels good to play. Second, the game is all about being ready to play and pouring it on.

If you play basketball in various gyms you also learn an important rule - known when not to enter the game. Unless you are Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or some other superstar there may always be someone in the place who will enjoy kicking your posterior.

Today the economy is the opponent and we must all decide whether we stay in the game or throw in the towel. If you are a gamer, then the next decision is to decide how hard you are going to play.

Here are some things my rental management company has done to up our game. We're increased our reservation hours and are open seven days a week. Plus someone always has the mobile in their pocket for reservations. (We already have a 24-7 emergency operator for other matters). We have built faster, more efficient software. Think one-second quotes and fully signed, sealed and done reservations in 60 seconds or less.

We have asked our creative staff to reshoot photos of units that needed them. Non-reservation staff are in the call-queue to attempt to grab every phone call with a live person, no matter how busy the phones (Yes the phones still get busy but they get cold sometimes too.)

Our part-time media buyer is now full time. The ad budget has been doubled and with staff that triples our costs. We have crated a software driven automated ad placement system and helped started the industries first multiple listing service (MLS) for vacation rentals, mostly so we could use it.

We call every phone or email inquiry lead three times before setting them aside for fresher calls. The on-site staff are spending more time double checking properties, attending to issues and following up on details.

These are all good things we were doing anyway. We just decided to go into hyper mode.

John Wooden was the Coach of UCLA for a great many years. He won ten NCAA championships with his closest competitor no where near. I had the great opportunity have a long breakfast with him years ago, after hearing him speak for four straight hours to a group of kids.

In all his years of coaching, Coach Wooden ran a full-court press 75% of the time. For those of you not basketball fans, that means his players contested every pass from one end of the court to the other. This is terribly tiring and no player really wants to do it. But players, you see, like to win. And wining is what Coach Wooden taught.

There are great players and smart players and skilled players. But the player who wants to win the most usually does so. The one who will put in hours at practice, live and breathe the sport and always be one step ahead of the competitor.

This economy is every rental manager's chance to win a championship. If they have the stomach for it. And if they go at it hard enough.

Killing The Messenger

Our owners know this. We try to find time to keep them posted of the situation and try not to sugar coat the economy. Taking the time to report takes time away from serving them so it is a delicate balance.

It is satisfying to find so many who understand the plight and appreciate our extra energy and effort. But we can't expect that with everyone. Owners are like bosses. There are good ones, lazy ones and the kind - those who don't care about the details they only want results. Unfortunately the economy is going to make some want the impossible. And that is tough to deliver.

Accomplices

I guess the only thing that surprises me in this economic meltdown is when I see other managers taking devious steps to steal owners away from other managers. Almost always competition is good. We have had numerous owners come to us from other managers asking if we can do more.

It would be tempting to inflate the truth and make pie-in-the-sky projections. Having been in three professional service industries over the years I have been offered this easy out before. But easy outs seldom are.

Dear Owners

So if you are a property owner and wondering if your manager is up to the task of meeting this catastrophe head on, how should you go about evaluating the work your manager does?

First, realize there are no magic elixirs. No manager has an unlimited number of guest inquiries that they can just casually throw your way. Whether they have 10, 100 or 1,000 homes they must market relentlessly to fill them and more so in this economy.

Another manger tells the store of losing a long time landlord for whom they had increased business about 10% every year including in 2008. The owner switched to a new manager who is open just 6 hours a day for reservations, has an ugly website and no on-line booking engine - but it does have an online calendar which is very revealing.

It has only been 3 months and the new manager has secured absolutely no bookings. Nada.

Beware of managers who rob Peter to pay Paul. One recent caller told the story of losing one of her condo owners to another manager and two weeks later signing back another condo in same complex who was leaving that other manager.

The reason? It seems some current bookings had mysteriously canceled at the same time that the first owner was getting bookings. Same complex. Same dates.

It is obvious and it is not ethical. The other manager moved guests from an old owner to a new one to get the new property. Luckily, in this case, the owner figured it out and jumped shipped. But I worry many owners are falling for the ploy.

Is The Grass Greener?

We have heard the click "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." We all know it is never true. But asking questions is particularly important now-a-days.

The surest way to determine if your current manager is well underway to protecting your rental interest is to become knowledgeable. Ask detailed questions and be a smart savvy boss. Evaluate the effort but not the results because right now no one can guarantee you anything. In fact, walk quickly away form any manager who tries to BS you with promises.

Instead, you should want to know these facts:

- Has your manager increased or decreased operating hours?

- Have they hired or laid off sales people?

- Are they working longer hours or letting dejection take its toll?

- Has advertising and marketing been increased decisively?

- Are they undertaking new websites, photos, panoramas and more?

- Do they invest heavily in the internet or are their websites second-class and antiquated?

Making subjective decisions takes time. It is emotionally satisfying to fire the messenger. But don't lose the investment you have already made in your current manager.

If they are innovating, cooperating and hustling you have a keeper. Musical chairs won't get you anywhere.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0117 – 07/01/09

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