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FlipKey Flips Misses the Point of Fairness.

By Ronald Wallace Lea
Published: 05/24/09 Topics: Comments: 0

Half the challenge of war is knowing who the enemy is. Sometimes he paints himself as your ally. But beware; those who operate opposite to your best interest are always your enemy. Today's newsletter alerts you to a traitor in the midst of the lodging industry.

Over the past months a graphically pleasing new website - ( - has been over promoting its services to the vacation rental market. I gave them my ear at the trade association meeting but it sounded like a case of something sounding too good to be true.

And now we know the truth. It was too good to be true.


FlipKey has just announced (or maybe we should say admitted) that ( has made a major investment in FlipKey. It was not announced if TripAdvisor will now control FlipKey but they will re-distribute FlipKey content. Unfortunately TripAdvisor is already one of the most dishonorable services on the web. So that means that two uncontrolled, unedited and therefore free-for-all media will now publish the dribs and drabs of consumers who never car about truth or fair dealing.

The idea that consumer reviews provide an unbiased look at travel is really just the opposite. In fact it is only the biased who take the time to post. An intelligent reader can see through the self-serving reviews but as we all know most consumers are not very discerning fact from fiction in any kind of journalism, let alone what are portrayed as balanced reviews.

So every business in the travel business knows that TripAdvisor makes it very easy for consumers to extort response from business and very difficult for that same business to respond and get an adjudicated answer. Remember TripAdvisor is NOT a place to have the truth found. It is a place for lies to be spread where the targets of the lies can not get them decided by an independent judge.


The FlipKey story, their sales pitch - is that guest reviews are a great way to promote your business. The founders are former employees of ( and unique service in its own right. They are surely honed on the - Internet can do anything and we intend to get rich doing it - get rich quick scheme.

The FlipKey plan sounds good except for one thing. The people who they will empower to post revues will allow be rebel rousers, liars and cheats. And the reasons they open up their editorial pages to low life is - well because they work for free.

Starting a real media with real journalist and professionals who have been schooled in the art of fair and unbiased reporting would actually cost money. What better way to build a whole bunch of content without having to pay for it. And all to line the pockets of the FlipKey crew. Smart yes. Ethical, well no.


Getting reviews out of satisfied guests is like finding water in the desert. Most happy industrious people are just too busy to take time to compliment vacation rentals no matter how great the accommodations. Ask any owner who sends surveys, plants GuestBooks, send follow-up emails or telephone after stays to get feedback.

Querying the vast majority of guests will result in very few responses. Why you could pay them for reviews and still get almost no takers. And when you get answers they sound like this. "Yes it was fine, why are you asking". Or, "Well we paid $5,000 and it was worth it but I would like it better for half the price."


On the other hand, there are guests who will be happy to respond. In fact, even without a chance to blather to FlipKey weirdos will search diligently for a place to spew their venom. And what are they unhappy about. A list would be humorous if it didn't do so much unrepairable harm to property owners.

The FlipKey scam is just another in the long line of scams that consumers fall for. Another example is the Better Business Bureau the grand daddy of all "we're helping consumers scam." The BBB has existed for so long solely because of its highly effective (but inaccurately) named organization. I mean who could argue with something called the Better Business Bureau even if they were, let's say, operated by terrorists.


But the BBB is anything but a valid resolution service. They report on and allow customers to libel and slander businesses. They then publish complaints by category and business name. They DO NOT review the claims to weed out the crazies; instead they just send them on to the business and demand a response. Remember this is with a business with whom the BBB has no relationship (you will already be labeled "Not an accredited business"). And if the business does not satisfy the guest then the business is labeled as "Has an unsatisfactory rating."

Go ahead and respond and the minimum wage BBB clerk will forward your answer back to the customer who will never accept an invitation that does not line their pocket. And when they don't like the answer well then you are labeled "Has an unsatisfactory rating" again. In short, you can't win by cooperating and you can't win by not cooperating.

Oh by the way, soon after a complaint you will get a phone call from a hard-sales BBB rep twisting your arm to join and thereby implying that membership might protect you from the customer scammers. You can even sign up for arbitration or mediation service and, surprise, you get to pay for that too.

FlipKey has packaged their poison pill with some tasty treats. They have a very nice contemporary interface. The site runs fast.


An interesting comparison to consumer reviews is to look at eBay. Sure providing on-line auctions was a great idea. But the secret to Ebay's success was that Buyer and Seller - both - get to rate the other. And the comments are actually posted online for the entire world to see. This causes participants to act reasonably with each other. Buyer's who continually ridicule sellers are quickly figured out as chronic liars.

Better yet, eBay almost requires and greatly pushes both parties to report. When you see a company with 990 good reviews and 10 bad ones you know it’s the consumers who are the problem not the seller.

The secret is that the defendant (business) gets to face his accuser (Consumer) and that is a primary tenant in fair minded courts in all civilized countries. Unfortunately the BBB's, the TripAdvisors and now the FlipKeyers don't offer and don't understand.


So for ( the model of disinterested standard bearer is a great strategy. Unfortunately its one built on deceit and rebel rousing that services no one. Not guests and certainly not lodging operators. By the way it could be fixed - all they have to do is require consumers to allow themselves to be criticized in return. Then a prospective visitor could listen to both sides and make an informed decision.

I doubt FlipKey will do this however, because the number of reviews would dwindle to almost nothing. Scoundrel consumers get away with bad behavior by hiding behind anonymity.


So if you have your properties listed on ( be warned that you are dancing with the devil. Facilitating third party reviews from guests is one of those great smelling means that tastes awful. We recommend pulling your properties from FlipKey before you get burned and the content because public domain for the rest of your life.

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Author: Ronald Wallace Lea, Sunspot Vacation Rentals
Blog #: 0090 – 05/24/09

World's First Vacation Rental Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

By William May
Published: 03/18/09 Topics: Comments: 0

The every increasing cost of advertising on the mammoth impersonal vacation rental listing websites has spawned innovation. On April 6th, the Vacation Rental Association, with the help of Plumbob Publishing is unveiling the first every Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for Vacation Rentals.

The Vacation Rental Multiple Listing Services ( allows guests from around the world or around the corner to find short-term vacation rental lodging in their own backyard. "Searching through hundreds of thousands of rentals is a pain," says Salman Arshad, chief programmer on the websites. "We're offering micro sites for specific areas which will actually have far more listings than the big guys, because it is so much more affordable."

This MLS service is, "The only ‘Open-Listing' and 'Open-Distribution' service in the industry," says William May, president of VRA and it is going to make lodging advertising cheaper and easier.

Open Listing means that all industry participants including Owners, Managers and Resort Operators are entitled to list their properties on the MLS. The fee is modest and used primarily for the maintenance of the VRA database.

Website publishers to can then re-publish rentals from the MLS on their own sites as service to guests as well as managers. Publishers too pay a small price and secure a large list of available properties.

After submitting listings, Owners and Managers can then select those publishers on which they want to display their rental offerings. Penny Taylor, co-developer of the website says, "Instead of spending hours submitting a single property to multiple websites, on the VRMLS it is all done with a few clicks."

The first website to utilize this revolutionary concept is ( The WS stands for Washington State and the site features cabins, condos, homes and villas for rent in the Evergreen State only.

One enthusiastic supporter is Dan Graham, operator of Mount Baker Lodging in Washington State. "I track hundreds of Vacation Rental listing sites and buy a great many ads per year. But this service is going to make it far easier. I wish we had had it years ago."

And the site offers applets that allow non-traditional websites such as local merchants and activity providers to embed listings onto their websites and include only lodging in their immediate area. These same applets can be used by managers and owners for the same purpose.

William May adds, "Paying for advertising is a hurdle to marketing of course, but the expense of labor to publish multiple properties to multiple websites has become overwhelming." We've solved that problem by putting control of vacation rental advertising into the hands of the people who should control it - owners and managers.

"Because we operate Vacation Rentals ourselves in Washington State, we can't wait to place ads on," adds May. "I just wish the site had been created years ago."

What about the mammoth websites that now dominate the industry? "We will be happy to cooperate with them providing they act like good citizens and serve the owners and managers responsibly." says May.

The Vacation Rental Association was originally started by people in the industry as the Vacation Rental Owners Association ( but recently changed to VRA. "We just felt there was too much conflict between Owners and Managers," says Taylor. The problem, she says, is that "Folks need to cooperate to better compete with traditional hotel, motel lodging, because they still have the lion's share of the market."

"Starting the VR-MLS is just one step in working together for mutual benefit." adds May.

ABOUT VRA: Membership in the Vacation Rental Association is open to all owners, managers and the vendors who supply them. Guests too can join to participate as consumers. VRA sponsors the Vacation Rental MLS which was created by programmers from Plumbob Publishing. Plumbob was started by the principals of Sunspot Vacation Rentals headquartered in Seattle. For more information contact William May 206-734-4507, or

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0105 – 03/18/09

You Can Still Go On Vacation

By William May
Published: 03/09/09 Topics: Comments: 0

What will happen if unemployment hits 8% in the US? If you passed remedial math in school you know that means 92% of folks are still employed.

While the 92% may be holding back on expenses but life goes on. The employed will continue to buy groceries, clothes, cable TV, phone services and - make no mistake - they will continue to go on vacation.

Human beings know one thing for sure - Life is short. Remember that old adage "Eat desert first, like is uncertain?" Well going on vacation is like that.

And while the employed may feel bad for their unemployed neighbors most take a Homer Simpson attitude. In one episode the owner of the Kwik-E-Mart, the convenience store that Home frequents, confides in him saying "This is terrible. My visa is a problem and I am going to get deported, and lose my store and won't be able to come back."

Being the considerate person he is Homer laments, "Oh that is terrible, I feel so bad for you. And for your family. That is really bad news . . . Well good luck in the old country. Bye"

So the employed go on vacation, spend money at restaurants and enjoy themselves while they are feeling bad for others. You would be hard pressed to find a employed neighbor who has cut their overhead 50% in order to give money to a friend or even family member.

So should all of these people do more or feel bad about not doing more? In the long run no. Because during this economy those folks are actually benefiting. For example: homes have become more affordable, gas prices are down and even basic commodity and stables have gone down.

Vacation Rentals are no different. Many managers and owners see the wisdom in lower rates in order to increase occupancy. There is evidence this is exactly what is happening. Lodging prices have always been more flexible than most consumers know. Buy online and you might get a deal. Call direct to get the senior, military or other discount.

Travel in the shoulder season - when temperatures and weather are sometimes actually at their best - and you can save money. Stay longer for lower rates and you may actually spend less than insisting on the high season.

So if you are one of the lucky still employed, stable jobs folks take this opportunity to get out and enjoy your travels. Visit some great places, try out a new restaurant and do all this while helping that friend or family member by taking them with you. In most Vacation Rentals you can usually squeeze in a few more people for no more rental cost. As always, its a deal and there has never been a better time to go on vacation in a Vacation Rental.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0104 – 03/09/09

Protecting the Value of your Vacation Rental Home Investment

By William May
Published: 02/15/09 Topics: Comments: 0

Many books have been written about offering second homes as vacation rental lodging; promising income and appreciation from an asset that sits unused when owners are away. But renting means the owner is in business and, like any other business, one that will occasionally have to deal with cranky consumers.

Dealing with the public can produce happy and healthy relationships. But no industry is exempt from the tiny percentage of people who ask too much, are irresponsible, or are out-right crooks. That is why hiring a cordial, professional and even-minded vacation rental manager is essential.


From a vacation rental manager you may want extensive marketing, advertising and sales in order to maximize income. Or maybe you feel that housekeeping, maintenance and customer service are of most importance. Or perhaps you seek the assurance of a trusted and reliable person located close by to insure quick response and oversight should something go awry. Good managers have mastered all those skills.

They work diligently to increase capabilities and Owners are assured of our good intentions, our desire to serve and reasonable response when needed.


There are attributes some management companies are unwilling to shoulder and some owners may fail to examine. One is for the manager to be clear and concise when dealing with guest complaints, demands and even legal action.

The ability to reconcile opposing goals is at the center of good management. Lodging managers must advocate for good behavior from owner and guest to insure properties are safe, sound and successful. The manager should not advocate for the owner or the guest, instead, they must make decisions based on the best interests of the property itself.


Consumers have come to know there are many ways to get what they want – even when they are wrong. They can:

- Send repeated letters & emails to the business.
- Answer guest surveys dishonestly.
- Notify the Better Business Bureau.
- Contact a newspaper or television reporter.
- File a complaint with City or State agencies.
- Post negative online reviews.
- File suit in small claims or higher courts.
- Harass the manager with redundant complaints.

Businesses should expect some consumers to use all these tools to push demands even when they are not justified.


Seeking to resolve disputes is a good thing, especially when a complaint is justified. Unfortunately there is no reciprocal requirement that complainers make accurate assertions. Many forums do not require that complainer’s identity themselves nor do they allow viewing of the consumer’s complaint history. Consumers can extort free products or cash by applying undeserved pressure, and there is no backlash on the consumer if they make fraudulent claims.

Can consumers be blamed for cheating? Authorities like the BBB and government accept complaints but do not evaluate them. They employ clerks to pop information into a database, email it to the business and demand a response. Failure to respond brands the business as irresponsible. Responses are forwarded to the consumer again without evaluation.

Consumer advocate organizations portray themselves as mediators when they are nothing of the kind. The purpose of the BBB is to sell memberships. Businesses which get complaints also get high pressure sales pitches to join for a hefty fee.

The Better Business Bureau has one compelling attribute - a name that falsely implies members have a stamp of approval. That is not the case. The BBB violates its own guidelines in advertising, sales and marketing by selling what it is not - an unbiased evaluator of businesses. Worse yet, most media, government agencies and other such organizations do the same. They pass information along but fail to make determinations as to the merit of the consumers claim.


Newspaper, Broadcast and Website reporters are the most questionable of third parties. Branded themselves as consumer advocates (without any requirement for legal training or journalistic training) they anoint themselves as judge, jury and prosecutor in a kangaroo media court of their own choosing.

They use their pulpit to demand a central role in conflicts they know too little about. They are gleeful when intimidating employees, ambushing managers and evading legal advocates. These publicity hounding "judges" proclaiming themselves advocates for the plaintiff and that exposes their thinly veiled prejudices.

Whether government, pseudo agencies or media - any organization that reports complaints without allowing for compliments, is on its face, presenting an unbalanced view of their target.


There is a model for consumer feedback that works brilliantly. One based on age old legal concepts.
When online purchases began, consumers were leery about buying and providing credit cards. ( - an early pioneer of web auctions and commerce - became a blockbuster company by requiring buyers to be evaluated as openly as the businesses they utilize. It’s a two way street that causes complainers to justify their unhappiness and for businesses to publicly respond.

Better yet, the printed words of both buyer and business can be reviewed. Businesses are not saddled with an undefined grade like the BBB. And consumers are not allowed to make unidentified, drive-by problems. This system is based on a requirement of fair jurisprudence - that every person has a right to face their accuser in an open and fair forum.

By recording all transactions, not just those from the tiny percentage of complainers, Ebay levels the playing field. Business with thousands of transactions can never achieve 100% satisfaction because they will always bump into unscrupulous buyers. Buyers can also be evaluated and rejected when they exaggerate, lie and distort.

Ebay allows everyone to make informed decisions. Would you stay at a hotel with 10,000 positive ratings and 20 negatives? Or would you rely on the BBB for a property with 20 negatives but no place for the 10,000 happy guests to post a review. Omission of positives by any complaint reporting forum distorts the facts and is unfair and misleading.

If government, pseudo agencies, conventional media and online websites switch to a fair, balanced and fully disclosed environment like Ebay’s the value of consumer feedback would become a legitimate and valued service. For now it is heavily weighted to help get what they want, regardless of the merit of their claim.


Guests will demand refunds because the Beach Resort was too hot., or the ski resorts had too much snow, or the water at the lake home was too rough to water ski. These are all actual cases. Large hotel operators suffer less because they can more easily relocate a guest or offer appropriately small consolations.

Vacation Rental managers are damned if they deal with such groups because they eat time and money. And damned if they don’t because groups will slander the business for failing to respond to outside organizations whose primary purpose is to extract retribution from them.

The internet has made this situation worse. Consumers who would be loath to go to an office and falsify in person seem eager to libel businesses on-line. The BBB’s website says their “vision” is to provide an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust each other. But by not posting the history of consumers they fail to make trust possible.


Property managers serve a unique role as middle-man between the property owner and guests. Valid consumer complaints must be handled quickly, correctly and with courtesy. Sometimes discounts are warranted if the guest suffers a valid inconvenience, but usually careful listening and personal empathy are sufficient to resolve concerns.

But unreasonable demands must be resisted so that the property’s money is not handed over blindly to undeserving customers. To do both of these things fairly, the Manager has to walk a tight rope.

FIRST - managers must have clear policies, procedures, legal forms, rules and regulations, responsive staff and regular training. This is the foundation on which proper dispute decisions can be made.

SECOND - managers must investigate claims and make judgments about right and wrong. The manager becomes mediator between wild customer requests and a property’s condition. It is not a desirable job.
Many managers find it easy to hand over the owner’s money to save them selves’ aggravation. A competent manager bases decisions on facts only.

They must do so even if that results in a record of holding consumers responsible. A manager with no complaints is a manager who freely gives away the owners money. Smart owners want managers wise enough to compromise when legitimate and strong enough to resist extortion.

There are far more enjoyable parts of the manager’s job then dealing with conflict but doing so is just another aspect of what a professional management firm must provide.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0118 – 02/15/09

The New World of Publishing

By William May
Published: 01/23/09 Topics: Comments: 0

I have been in, around, up to and about communication, journalism, advertising, marketing and publishing for a lot of years in one form or another.

But this is a new era. The era of online publishing. Our company Plumbob Publishing is a thrown back to the era when journalists actually tried to verify what they write, where they get information and how well they convey it.

In case you don't know, a plumbob is a carpenter's tool. In it simplest form it includes nothing more than a weight on a string. As any fourth grader will tell you, holding the string with the weight on the bottom will always yield a true 90 degree angel to the earth. From there a carpenter can calculate level and square and straight. They call it being "In Plumb" and that is exactly what we want to do with Plumbob.

To start with we offer specialty Websites that report on, provide services to and support the industries they feature. Currently those are Vacation Rentals, Executive Suits and Photography, such as:

( (For the Vacation Rental Association)
( (The world's first Multiple-Listing-Services [ MLS ] For Vacation Rentals )
( (For the Executive Suite Association)

And some prototypes of the Vacation Rental Listing Sites which use the VRMLS service to list and display vacation rentals from around the world to just around the corner.

(Many more of these to come)

Overtime we'll be sliding back into the world of print publications and other kinds of Internet activity. Check often to see what we are up to. Or visit any site to register and use our services.

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Author: William May – Manager, Plumbob Publishing
Blog #: 0100 – 01/23/09

HomeAway's Pillaging of Vacation Rentals

By William May
Published: 01/21/09 Topics: Comments: 0

Somebody has to say it I suppose. The era of vacation rental home ownership has been taken over by people hell bent on dominating the industry and sucking the profit out of it from all other participants.

For the last 10 years or so the market for vacation rentals has grown faster then any other kind of lodging. At first, during that time, owning and operating a rental by managers or owners became an enjoyable and profitable experience.

Some homes actually make a cash profit after all expenses including mortgage. But many simply help to offset the costs property owners experience in holding a wonderful family asset in highly desirable locations.

Now, however, the fun is over. A company by the name of HomeAway has brought big finance to the small industry. They are offering website advertising and other services to owners and managers but they are doing so without consideration of the effects on those people.

The reason for their mistakes is clear. They've raised a purported $450 million dollars US to buy vacation rental advertising sites promising investors the kind of astronomical returns that were common in the pre-dot com bust and now in the pre-mortgage bust era. HomeAway managers have no choice but to wring out every possible dollar in profit immediately in hopes of satisfying their overly ambitious promises.

Bringing rentals into a centralize database for easy website distribution makes selection seemingly easier by guests. Anything that streamlines the buying process should serve to increase consumer awareness and the market size.

Unfortunately, HomeAway is followed a path common for companies hell bent on growth. They are instituting monopolist practices to limit competition and adding features which may sound good to owners and guests but which are leading to the demise of the customers (owners and managers) who actually by the bills. Here are some examples:

Search Engine Optimization - In the travel industry, getting your website to appear high on Google, MSN and other dominant portals can mean the difference between success and failure in any industry. But the technology and diligence required to do so are daunting. Google changes its ranking algorithm 500 times last year alone.

The only way to stay on top is to have expert staff to manipulate the system. HomeAway has the people to do it and no one else does. They constantly appear high on listings but it is a position they do not deserve. Consumer use search engines to find businesses not businesses that list other businesses.

Can you imagine newspapers allowing radios to appear in the first article on the first page of every issue? Google has lost its mind to allow this kind of manipulation. But HomeAway has been happy to capitalize on Google’s failure.

Pay Per Click Dominance - Another way to appear high on portal sites is to buy Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads. When Google solidify this opportunity PPC's were a god send for owners and managers. It allowed commercial sites some opportunity to get their ad and website noticed.

Providing you were in a unique location with unique key words such as "Kitty Hawk", "Kapalua Maui" or "Deer Valley UT" advertisers could figure out how to be found and pay reasonably affordable rates.

But Google didn't get blasphemously rich by being stupid. Their PPC system (now copied by pretty much all portals) allowed competitors to bid for position to get higher on the page and gain more attention. Of late Google has been killing the fatted cow by making their ad placement system more and more complex. All of these present several problems for Vacation Rental Operators.

First, Google may couch their overly ambitious ad system as allowing advertisers to buy only what they want and where they want it. But manipulating the PPC console has become arcane. Even knowledgeable operators find the time necessary to manage their ads simply not worth the time.

Second, the end result of Google's endless tinkering has, surprise, only served to increase the per click price and decrease the cost effectiveness of the ads. Most operators no longer find PPC’s of adequate benefit.

Third, and here again we come to HomeAway. Guess who is the only company large enough to employ staff to constantly monitor and manipulate the PPC system? But HomeAway also have a known habit of picking and choosing where they advertise on the portals to keep their listed operators happy. One day an advertiser thinks they are doing you a favor and the next day their inquiries plummet because they moved their ad money elsewhere. Of course HomeAway won’t tell them but is happy to keep the listing fee.

This also means the consumer is ill served. When he types in a town to find a vacation rental, he doesn't get a listing of the managers and operators in Orlando. Instead he gets links to HomeAway websites which, in turn, have listings to that town. A link to a link to a link. Anything that makes finding director operators more difficult harms the entire industry.

Surely Google and HomeAway know that consumers want easy to find products and services and don’t want to be clicked from one portal to another to another. But they have an unspoken collusion to force consumers through the hoops, to justify their existence and extract ever heavily ad costs from owners and operators.

Unaffordable Pricing - When ( was started ads were affordable, the number of properties was manageable and the service was cost effective. The prior owners of ( held out a long time but eventually succumbed to HomeAway's huge offer to buy the website.

But assets are hungry investments. The only way to service the debt or profit demands of investors is to crank up gross income. HomeAway has found insidious ways to do that. Like charging for extra photos – which no other site does.

They have been raising rates relentlessly, while at the same time increasing the number of properties rented. They do not publish the kind of statistics traditional media (newspapers, magazines, radio and television) but surely the number of inquiries per home has plummet. A business built on hidden deficiencies has something to hide.

Less Efficient Cost - In the end HomeAway's lust for increasing revenue will be its undoing. They probably know that already.

But HomeAway management will not relent from its assault on operators. They have no choice but to squeeze every dime out of its advertisers at the same time that the economy falters and owners and managers are failing. Small publications have always adjusted rates to compensate for the benefit delivered.

Heavy Handed Policies - Recently HomeAway has been promoting a seemingly advantageous problem of guaranteeing the quality of vacation rentals on its site. That must sound good to consumers especially first-time vacation rental guests who worry they are dealing with smaller companies of unknown capabilities.

Surely there is nothing wrong with HomeAway guaranteeing anything it chooses except that they are doing it with the advertisers’ money in an underhanded method. A Maui owner recently reported that HomeAway demand he refund a large rental fee to a guest. Seems the guest was charged with damage and filed a claim with HomeAway, who demanded it anyway. No trial, no jury just a hanging judge.

HomeAway has no sense of due process. To protect its franchise, they find it easier to just give away the advertiser's money even to dishonest guests. Great deal of HomeAway, Great for the consumer and terrible for operators, who are obligated to comply with HomeAway's dictates even if they don't sign up for the program.

Hidden Failures - HomeAway is not without its failures. In the investment world, buying various businesses and combining them under a single shingle is called a "Roll Up." It can make good sense in the proper forum. But HomeAway failed to understand that advertisers duplicate their efforts on various sites. They have tried various schemes of combining listings on the various websites they have bought. Often the advertiser's results go down while their costs go up.

It is safe to say that HomeAway is very lucky they were able to buy ( which continues to be its stellar producer because many of the other sites simply do not produce sufficient results for advertisers.

Disingenuous Advice - One of the smartest things HomeAway did several years ago was to hire Christine Karpinski, about the only person who had written about on how owners could operate their own homes without assistance by managers.

Some of the suggestions in Ms. Karpinski's book made reasonable sense some years ago. But as home prices sky-rocketed and the economy has faltered her observations have become out of date. Unfortunately, she is obligated to continue her mantra that owning a vacation rental home is a great investment. An investment, of course, which requires operators to pay big bucks to her employer.

Prior to the last 10 years, the reason families bought vacation homes was to share and enjoy them with family and friends. They were respites from the hum-drum of our regular lives. Renting an unused home was a good way to offset some of its costs. Families that owned such homes for long periods surely benefited when the property was resold, but covering all costs or even producing a yearly profit were not in the cards.

HomeAway's need to continually promote vacation rental homes as the next get rick quick scheme is off the mark. They know so but remember again they have investors to pay and offering more prudent advice is not something they can afford to do.

No Customer Service - The sure sign of a monopolistic intent is when a company fails to offer reasonable customer service. Remember when Ma Bell was accused of the slogan "We don't care. We don't have to". HomeAway has now earned that dubious honor.

Owners and managers constantly report being unable to reach HomeAway on the phone, emails that don't get answered and employees who take a less than understanding approach to problems.

On occasion HomeAway calls with discounts and offers on advertising and sometimes provides better pricing to new operators than to long-time customers. This is a common mistake in the ad world, one that traditional media no longer make. Taking care of your best customers always makes more sense than fishing for new ones.

The End of the Road - HomeAway is beginning to reach the end of its road. It won't die of course because too many people have too much money invested. But they have made a great many mistakes and have been able to gloss over them for too long by injecting money as a salve for all wounds.

The company has some bad habits: employees who don't take care of customers who have over-paid for websites that no longer produce the results they once did. They are no longer cost effective.

HomeAway is promoting investments not in the best interest of the customers who support them. And is then sucking all the profit out of those customers. It is not clear why industry leaders have allowed this to take place. They see the company pillaging the industry and have stood by and allowed it to happen.

Independent associations are the heart of almost every industry. But the Vacation Rental business has allowed a for-profit and for-huge-profits company become too close to the center of the world.

New Ideas and Methods - The good news is that the industry will eventually respond and find new and better ways of advertising. It will find ways of assuming a more normal arrangement where participants decide the direction of the industry and no on company dominates.

Those who are the heart of the business - owners and managers - will innovate, cooperate and beat back this threat to their industry. More about that in future issues of this blog.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0099 – 01/21/09

Google Shoots Itself in the Advertising Foot

By William May
Published: 01/17/09 Topics: Comments: 0

I can remember the first time I used Google. Up pops the browser there sits a simple single line search box. Type in what you are looking for and get some results.

Or use that "I'm Feeling Lucky" button which is still the dumbest thing they've ever done. I can't imagine why they hold onto it except that humans have a had time discarding bad ideas that they think are good.

But the simple page design concept was unique at the time. Even today most website publisher crowd their screens with so much flotsam the user has to spend previous time trying to find what he wants.

Actually the concept of good graphics and simple design are centuries old. The Advertising business has changed greatly in the last few decades but smart ad guys still know that you have to find one or two good propositions and push them relentlessly to consumers. I still can't figure out what the heck a gecko has to do with advertising but it is tough to avoid the messages.

Internet industry competitors seem to want to fight over the accuracy or relevance of the search results but I say Google rise to prominence was mostly because they kept it simple. Over the last few years Google has begun to destroy what it built. Customizing and adding all those gadgets, widgets and flotsam to your desktop may tickle the hears of the Google engineers who built them but the more the user clutters his own screen the more it detracts from that search bar.

Google is on the right track for services however. Can you imagine getting by without Maps, Images and some of the other tools? I hear their Documents and online office type applications have not zoomed into preference as they had hoped. But the services don't have to kill the simple desktop because you can just keep them in the simple menu.

ADWORDS: Every industry can have it picks and pans for how Google has affected their business. At first AdWords (the google paid advertising system) was a God send. For pennies we could get in front of users and onto the first or second screen. Cost versus financial return is the bible by which advertisers worship. At first AdWords were a religious experience.

But Google didn't get rich by giving away ads. Over the years they have devised intricate systems by which the advertiser could manipulate where his ads ran, when, how much he spent, and then could review the results based on Google analytics. All of that sounds pretty good until you realize it has resulted in an ever upward march of ad costs. I don't mean just the price per click (PPC), but I mean the cost to produce each and every inquiry. In short, the cost to benefit ratio on Google is plummeting.

The learning curse is jumping as well. Being proficient and having control of costs requires a PHD in Google University speak. Our firm spends time managing the process but we are coming to the end of the productivity road. That causes us to search out PPC ads elsewhere that can still be purchased at lower cost. It is easy to get lots of clicks at Google but we're taking more time to use alternate.

ALTERNATES: And we work on the premise, correct I think, that a click is a click is a click - no matter where it comes from. In traditional media like radio, TV, newspapers and magazines the forum in which the ad appears does affect the perception of the product advertised. But let's face it, Google, MSN and other portfolio websites are nothing more than glorified nickel want ads. It takes more time to manage additional ad serving services but the cost can be as much as 90% lower - a difference no advertiser can afford to overlooked.

DOWNFALL: Website advertising will be with us forever. Remember when people said Television would mean the end of Radio? Didn't happen and PPC ads won't ever go away. But I predict their current dominance is dimming and will continue to do so. The reason is that the text limits and bland appearance don't leave enough room for creativity.

As a former copywriter myself I love words of course. But let's face it Google PPC ad graphics are boring, bland and did I say boring? Yes Google has instituted the ability to utilize graphic ads and that is nice improvement. But they too are small and not lent to creativity.

The pundits will tell you that manipulating the message, headline, text and offer are heavily manageable factors and I agree. But only the giant companies can ever afford the kind of staffing necessary to stay on top of such factors literally on a minute by minute basis.

Google has made a pile of money by providing ads that small guys can afford and those small guys can't keep up. They have begun to search for alternate modes of advertising, promotion and public relations. And they'll find them too because they can't afford not too.

As Google tarnishes its golden egg other media will rebound.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0098 – 01/17/09

Why You Can't Shoot Vacation Rentals with a Camera

By William May
Published: 01/15/09 Topics: Comments: 0

Well of course you can.

Today everyone has a camera or two or three. They've moved up from the decades old "Brownies" to Polaroids to click and shoot and now into the world of digital and now to sophisticated digital cameras with large formats (pixels) and self correcting shooting.

So how come when you look at vacation rental photos they are still kind of lousy. Yes they have gotten better over the years due to technology. Some rental managers and even real estate agents have even taken a class or two. Some actually have some talent but still the photos are over exposed, under exposed, out of focus, have washed out colors or are just plain boring.

The reason is no camera can shoot what you eye can behold.

The human eye is a miraculous device. Made up to three layers of issue its complexity is almost too much to understand. The tough Sclerotic coat creates the "white" of the eye except in the front where it forms the transparent cornea. The Choroid middle layer is deeply pigmented with melanin reducing reflection of stray light. It reduces the amount of light and improves its image forming ability. The retina is the inner layer and contains light receptors, the rods and cones that process the signals before passing them back to the brain.

And it does all of this in low light, bright light and everything in between. It thinks and changes and adapts. Something no camera can do. OH sure scientists can cause the image to appear on a medium such as film or transistors (hence digital cameras) which can then be transferred and printed onto another medium (some kind of paper). But that is all it can do.

No camera can interpret what it gets to determine if the color is correct, if all areas are in focus and if the camera is level to the ground (as an example).So giving a novice a camera and expecting them to make art will not produce another Mona Lisa.

Instead, when it comes to our little area of the world - vacation rental and lodging photos - an additional machine must be added before great photography can be created. And that machine is the human brain.

Surely that is required to locate, light and photograph architectural type photos. But then the same machine needs to use other tools to review, edit and fix photos. The goal is to produce vacation rental photos that reveal nothing more and nothing less than what your eye can see in a split second.

Ancil Adams was famous for shooting nature photos especially mountains and forests. But did you know that he spent far more hours in the dark room than in the field?

Shoot vacation rentals is the same. Using tripods, lighting, Photoshop, macros and rigid shooting rules today's top photographers spend more time correcting photos than they do shooting. That is especially true when completing photos for commercial purposes.

In future blogs we'll reveal why photos by the Signatours Image Team far surpass what you find in the usual travel, lodging, website and real estate web pages. You can get a preview at ( Or look at the photos of fantastic vacation homes on our sister company’s website ( Tune in next time for the secrets of great photography.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0097 – 01/15/09

Sometimes the Best Ideas are Obvious

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

It was our very first vacation rental. A sumptuous 3,000 square foot vacation home located at Washington State's top destination - Wapato Point a private resort on 50 miles long Lake Chelan Washington. Because it sits on Native American land we dubbed it the Totem House and filled it with native American art. (

Now this is a beautiful place. The cleanest water, 300 days of sunshine a year and a resort with pools and hot tubs, tennis and basketball courts, acres of green grass and thousands of feet of white sand beach. There are indoor pools too and an ice skating rink in winter. Close to huge outdoor activities. But best of all is the sense of getting away and being in a place created for recreation.

But we did not know what we were getting into. The year was 1999 and buying the house was a long term goal. The seller had accepted renters for certain weeks of that first summer that was fine for us. And at the end of the year we were delighted to find how much income we had received for no inconvenience at all.

In fact, The Totem House went so well we were able to buy a large condo on Poipu Beach Kauai. The Poipu Place ( was an extension of the dream for fun, adventure and relaxation all wrapped into one place. Then we bought a place in a ski resort and other vacation rental homes too, all made possible by the nice income.

With interests in other businesses, operating the rentals was no sweat. But then a neighbor approached one day to say, "Hey, how come your house is full all the time and mine is not." And that is how it started.

In time we started management vacation homes for other folks in a number of locations. Our marketing, sales and guest services were more in depth than others and the business began to grow.

Two years ago we decided it was time to offer what we had built and we have been designing and building an expandable business ever since. Our concept is simple - offer all the back office tools that make rentals successful and that most local managers don't or won't invest in. Things like staff photographer, dynamic database driven front-office and back-office systems. World class websites and multiple channels of marketing.

So far So good. In the next few years we'll be opening in more markets start with the Northwest US and Hawaii and British Columbia Canada. If your own deserves the best management possible all you have to do is call William May at 888-628-8989 x902. Or if you would like to join our growing cadre of offices call today.

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Author: William, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0096 – 01/10/09

Hello Blog. Goodbye Newsletters.- Lodging Newsletter January 10, 2009

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

After years of writing newsletters I've succumbed to writing a blog. Not sure what the difference is - we've been posting newsletters online years ago- as well as emailing them and, in fact, snail mailing them years ago.

What better way to keep in touch with all those people I should keep in touch with. So that is my promise to tell you things you'll want to know about Sunspot Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rentals in specific and about Vacation Rentals and even Lodging in particular.

I'll announce our cool new rentals as they come in. And our new offices and network members as our company continues to grow. Like Poipu Beach and Princeville Kauai in Hawaii. Plus Lake Chelan, Crescent Bar, Sunbanks Resorts, Gig Harbor, Whidbey Island and the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth in Washington State.

I would be remiss if I didn't mentioned we are recruiting agents, professionals and property managers in multiple markets right now. If you want to own your own business, live in a desirable recreation market and grow in our dynamic industry, please give us a call. We are recruiting and training new network members particularly in the Northwest States and Hawaii too.,

And I suppose I should tip you off to the specials, discounts and promotions we offer. In fact right now we're having our annual pre-season sale. You can get two weeks for the price of two in many homes. A big discount in Hawaii. And right now always best pick of dates before the spring rush.

In fact, I guess I better be going. If I don't book my own place before you do I wont have first pick will I? Oh, and by the way, happy new years from all your friends at Sunspot Inns, Resorts and Vacations rentals. You can preview homes and book online at ( Or give us a call at any time to book 888-628-8989.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0093 – 01/10/09

Lotus Hale Hawaiian Villa Vs. Poipu Grand Hyatt Hotel

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

The Grand Hyatt at Poipu Kauai Hawaii is a real gem. If you want beauty and pampering this is your place - provided you want to a small room, high prices, less privacy and a hike to everything you might want to do.

For just about $400 per night you get one of the 602 motel 6 size rooms. Better appointed of course but you will be 200 yards from the lobby, 200 yards from your car and 200 yards from the beach.

Oh and about that beach, its not Poipu Beach but Shipwreck beach. A nice place but too dangerous to swim most times of the year. You'll have the pleasure of paying top dollar for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the intrusion of the very pleasant housekeepers.

Or for that same $400 per night you can stay in the Lotus Hale - a true Hawaii villa two blocks west. You are closer to Poipu Beach and inside the Poipu Kai Resort complete with pools, hot tubs, tennis and onsite restaurant. ()(

You get privacy and a huge home with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, huge private lanai, gourmet kitchen, plasma TV. Plus your car is just outside the door. Better yet for that same $400 dollars you can bring 7 of your friends and family and spend time in the huge living room enjoying each other's company.

Lotus Hale is just one of the many discrete vacation rental homes and condo's available from Tradewind Vacation Rentals at ( A local company that has a national reach due to its membership in the national Sunspot Vacation Rentals Network. (

Sunspots is building the first global network for vacation rental managers in order to establish quality standards, instant booking and first-rate owner services. Tradewind provides pristine cleaning, quick maintenance if you need it and first-rate guest and owner services.

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Author: William May – Manager, Sunspot Vacation Rentals
Blog #: 0095 – 01/09/09

Barack Obama Endorses Vacation Rentals

By William May
Published: 11/24/08 Topics: Comments: 0

The next President of the United States has effectively endorsed the entire concept of Vacation Rentals by renting a private home in Kailua on the North Shore of Oahu, a Hawaiian Island. He is staying there for a week with his wife Michelle and two daughters.

He is staying at a secluded beach rental, obscured from the road by a long driveway and trees, about an hour’s drive from Honolulu. He plans to body surf, has already been on the golf course, visited a childhood favorite drive-in restaurant and visited his grandmother in her Oahu apartment building.

He said he might stop by Zippy’s, an Hawaiian chain restaurant known for its chili, or the Rainbow Drive-In for a Hawaiian "plate lunch," a mix of rice, macaroni salad and meat.

"I am going to go get some shave ice," he said. "I am going to go bodysurfing at an undisclosed location. I am going to see my Tutu, my grandma. And I am going to watch my girls play on the beach, and maybe once in awhile I will go in the water. But mostly I am going to sit there and watch them."

(In Hawaii the term Tutu is reserved for beloved grandmothers.)

In short Obama is doing what millions of Americans and others around the world have learned - staying in a private beach home is more comfortable, saves money and allows visitors to fit into the neighborhood rather than being relegated to tourist ghettos like the high-rise hotels and noisy diesel buses of Waikiki.

Republicans, still hoping to smear him as an elitist for frequenting such a high end vacation area, need to remember that Obama was born and raised in Honolulu. Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle who tows the party line should know better. In fact, Obama lived in Hawaii well before Lingle arrived on its shores.

Although he graduated from the prestigious Punahou School on Oahu in 1979 he did so on a financial need and academic scholarship afforded to those with great merit. At this point, it would be difficult to call the school's decision anything but prophetic.

The Maui news quoted local residents in the Windward Oahu beach community who have said they are excited to have Obama as their neighbor for a week and hope to catch a glimpse of him.

''Maybe we'll go back down to the beach and see if we could see him. That would be real cool - our future president down at our beach,'' said surfer Anthony Burris.

Like cranky xenophobes everywhere, these may be the same neighbors who yelp loudly at county officials saying only full-time residents should be allowed to stay in homes in areas such as Kailua.

But Obama's residency underscores that everyone, guests as well as residents, have a right to stay and enjoy the quiet lifestyle of a wonderful beach community.

Obama is just another American who endorses vacation rentals for what the comfort job and family atmosphere they offer. If vacation rentals are good for the next president of the United States they should be allowed for all visitors.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0085 – 11/24/08

Troy McCasland's Top 10 Ways to Get More Rentals

By Troy McCasland
Published: 07/28/08 Topics: Comments: 0

With over 14 years experience marketing vacation rentals, and countless success, the team at Rental Avenue has formulated some fool proof tips to help vacation rental owners and managers increase their market share and successfully reach out to their customers. Troy McCasland, president of Rental Avenue sent over his Top 10 ways to get more bookings for vacation rentals. I thought readers would find it helpful.

- - - - - - - - - -

One of the main concerns for any owner or manager is increasing occupancy and more importantly increasing profits from their properties. Using our tips and ideas, you can build your vacation rental business and increase profitability.

1. Build a Virtual Domain Website ( - and or setup a Rental Avenue account. It’s really important to have your own website address, with ONLY your property(ies). Having your own website allows you to create a brand, and a place for past and potential guests to come and book only your properties where they are not distracted by your competitors. Make sure your website allows guests to make online reservation requests 24/7 so you never miss another booking. Your guests want to book vacation rentals online just like they book flights, cars and hotels. They are anxious to book and do not like waiting for an e-mail reply, playing telephone tag and spending hours going back and forth trying to find and book their accommodations.

2. Create a signature file for e-mails - Once you have a website put it in your e-mail signature file so that every e-mail you send to potential guest includes your website address. This way, they will be able to access your webpage and browse your properties. A signature file is simple to create, and once created it will automatically be added to each email by your e-mail client program. Check our FAQ on how to create a signature file with using MS Outlook or Gmail

3. Auto-Responders - Setup a special e-mail account for rental inquires that is used on all advertising. Configure an auto-responder or vacation responder for inquires that come from advertising using this e-mail address. The auto-responder is used to drive traffic to your website where potential guests can book your properties. One of the most delightful things is to wake up in the morning and see that an inquiry came in at midnight while you were sleeping, your auto-responder immediately sent out a message inviting the customer to your website, and then a short time later a reservation came through before you have even had your first cup of coffee. Check our FAQ for sample auto responders and how to setup an auto-responder using MS Outlook or Gmail.

4. Advertise Your Website and Online Reservation Capabilities Everywhere - Setup an advertising budget; track the results using Google Analytics and Rental Avenue. Keep trying to find new and more cost effective ways to advertise your rentals using reservation tracking reports. If your property is sitting empty it’s because of only one or two reasons; either it’s too expensive or not enough people know about it. Your advertising budget should be 7-10% of your gross target revenues. Everybody knows about VRBO and HomeAway, but there are many other directories which will produce traffic and inquiries also. Here are some other great places to market your property:

Free Directory Listings:,,,

Paid Directory Listings:,,,,

Local Directory Listings: Local Phonebook, Online Yellow Pages, Google Local Business Listings

5. Pay Per Click Advertising: Pay per Click advertising is available by Google, Yahoo and Vamoose. It allows you to create specific criteria, including keywords, location, price, and other specifications so that you can be sure your ads are meeting your target audience, and because you adjust the price to fit your budget, it is great for companies of all sizes. Google, Yahoo and Vamoose Pay Per Click advertising is an efficient way to drive qualified leads to your site. Using Rental Avenues integrated system, you can see which key words are generating bookings, and make adjustments where necessary.

6. SEO - Search Engine Optimization, the holy grail of all online marketing. Google controls 70% of the search volume and 70% of all travel research begins with an online search. Imagine getting tons a free traffic to your website where potential guests see only your property. Register for our e-mail newsletter by clicking here, for tips and tricks and to find out how got on page ONE of Google for the leading key words (Maui Vacation Rental and Maui Vacation Rentals), and how we knew this was the top keyword search term, and what this meant to VROM in terms of traffic and bookings.

7. E-mail News Letter to Previous Guests - Staying in contact with previous guests, is a great way to create customer loyalty. Reaching out to your customers and showing them that you want their business, is also a great way to promote your specials. You want to keep your customers coming back each year. You already know that they travel, so the next time they travel, you want them to call you for their accommodations, or spread the word about your property. There are plenty of Email Marketing Programs that can help you to manage your customer database and the monthly newsletters, other Rental Avenue customers liked using Constant Contact

8. Direct Mail - Another way of creating recurring customers & customer loyalty is direct mail. Sending out a yearly Christmas Card to past guests is a great way to remind them who you are and how to find you. Especially if they are going to spend the holidays with their families brainstorming their summer vacation! Other direct mailers which have shown positive results are notifying them of ongoing specials, or discounts. You can create and mail postcards to your previous guests for under 50 cents each using any number of online services such as PrintRunner. Using Rental Avenue you can easily download an excel spreadsheet containing all your guest data including both postal and e-mail addresses.

9. Join Trade Associations - Joining Trade Associations is beneficial way to increase local channel marketing. Most vacation destinations have a visitors association or bureau, chamber of commerce, and possibly more specific local associations. There are also trade associations such as the BBB, Vacation Rental Association ( which can provide support and resources to the vacation rental owner. Being a member of some of these trade associations will not only increase the perception of security, but it can also open your door to many valuable networking contacts and resources locally, and improve your search engine rankings.

10. Use Resellers like property managers, travel agents or other Vacation Rental Marketers. – There are plenty of companies founded on the fact that they help book other people’s properties. At a sliding rate, you can utilize Vacation Rental Marketers, travel agents, and property managers to increase your occupancy and to keep your property booked. This is a great way of reaching markets that you may not have been able to support. You can also seek out vertical resellers, people who are not primarily in the business of vacation rentals, but perhaps, local activities; you can drive business to you and your website, before the guest even begins to look for their accommodations.

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Author: Troy McCasland,
Blog #: 0084 – 07/28/08

The Care & Feeding of Xenophobia.

By William May
Published: 01/20/08 Topics: Comments: 0

The adverse reactions to Vacation Rentals continue. For example on January 1st, 2008 the island of Maui in Hawaii just outlawed 1,100 rentals. And now the island of Kauai is going to followed suit.

Interestingly, the reasons for vacation rental prohibitions or restrictions in each jurisdiction are different one from another. Clearly there is no consistent problem with rentals and when there are, complaints they are statistically non-existent. If you can find complaints of noise or over parking they pail in comparison to long-term rental homes and are often less than the rate of such issues in non-rental areas.

All communities have statutes on the books to limit and regulate such concerns. But elected officials in those towns, like most in America today, find it hearty fare to point out new culprits when all they really have to do is enforced the laws they've had on the books for decades.

Kauai Case In Point

On Kauai, an ex-mayor, soundly trounced last time she ran, is anxious to garner local votes for a chance to run for Mayor again. And remember, all those VR owners have NO VOTE.

Something like Taxation without Representation I think.

By the way, her constant outcry is that outlawing the 800 VR's on Kauai (Outside tourist zones) is that it will make more affordable housing. Oxymoronic when you realize the median value of those homes in over $800,000.

The State of Hawaii just red tagged about 20 homes in the Haena (North shore) area of Kauai and those homes average $5,000,000.

So what is the underlying cause for the fear of rentals? Well it's as old as time itself. Having attended many hearings here are the common laments,

- They don't live here.

- They are not like us.

- They are not part of the community.

- They don't come to potlucks. (Actually overheard)

- They've made my property value go up. (A complaint?)

In other times those kinds of complaints have been used to distrust immigrants, new comers and those of other religions and races. Its called Xenophobia which is defined as "The fear of others." And boy are those VR owners & quote; "It is this phenomenon that is the underlying cause for all prejudice.


With VR's an equally strong prejudice is triggered. A kind of double whammy of envy and fear. "Why can those darn outsiders afford those homes, when I can't,: and "My kids will never be able to afford a Five million dollar home and that is just not fair." That shows that economic disparity can cause fear of others as well.

On Kauai we definitely have a lack of and great need for affordable housing. But the ex-mayor's quest to turns in to lower-income housing is counter intuitive. In fact, her actions would have an opposite effect to what she wants.

Restricting rentals could easily remove about 3,200 guests per day (that is 800 units' times an average of 6 guests each) from the tourism trade.

In a destination like Kauai that means the loss of hundreds of thousands of nights rented and all the dining, shopping and activity spending those consumers do. In short, stifling rentals, cuts the jobs for those who build and service the homes and does harm to those very folks she purports to help.

In short, Xenophobia is what allows local folks to blame all their woes on new comers and people who don't look like locals. That kind of prejudice is no where near as severe as many minorities have felt but it sure looks like the same thing in a different package.

It is time for tourism industry workers, local merchants and tax collectors to step up and stop those who would steal their income.

Smart Communities

Contrary to the news, there are smart communities that are realizing that Vacation Rental guests settle in for longer stays, spend more money, are more affluent and are a nice clean industry. A few years ago Chelan County, Washington State voted to officially authorize Vacation Rentals in rural areas.

The County Commissioners heard lots of testimony but may have been most persuaded by a single young man from a housekeeping company who came with the most logical argument when he said,

"Hey, its either tourism or we build another Aluminum Smelter on the Columbia River. Are you guys that dumb?"

Growth is inevitable and smart recreational areas are beginning to understand that private accommodations are a blessing for their economies, employment and life style.

Will logic and reason win out? Will economics convince leaders to choose a good industry over less desirable ones?

Or will the shrill fear mongers stifle another great boost for their local economies. Only time will tell.

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Author: William May – Manager, Plumbob Publishing
Blog #: 0082 – 01/20/08

Puttin' On the Ritz - Luxury Vacation Rentals Are Hot & Here's Why

By Ana M. Kinkaid
Published: 08/20/07 Topics: Comments: 0

Not all vacation rentals are cozy vacation homes. Some are grand estates that celebrities have been enjoying for years. But whether the rental is a cabin nestled in the woods or a mansion overlooking the sea, vacation rentals are one of the best and least expensive forms of lodging available to travelers.

Take a look at the value that even the grandest of properties offers:

La Veranda in Umbria Italy is a five bedroom 17th century farmhouse with satellite television, Internet and a pool set among a grove olive and cypress trees. It rents for about $1,200 a night.

Now that might seem high, but remember it has five bedrooms - enough for ten people or five happy couples. Divide ten into $1,200 and the cost per person is a mere $120 for your own Italian estate!

Not bad when you consider that nearby hotels with similar amenities charge over $400 a night. That's quite a savings. But there's more.

By choosing to stay in a vacation rental, guests can enjoy and participate in the local community in a much more natural way. Vacation rentals are the best way to enjoy the latest trend in the hospitality industry - experience based travel.

But the trend to enjoy elegant vacation rentals isn't limited just to Europe. Recently even a home designed by the famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, joined the ranks of available vacation rentals. Located in Acme Pa, the Duncan House is set in a beautifully landscaped garden with shade trees and walking paths.

This one-of-a-kind property offers three never to be forgotten bedrooms all for $385 per night (two night weekend stays only). Anyone looking at the website for the property ( would have to agree, the Duncan House is not only amazing and unique but also an unbelievable bargain.

As more and more travelers enjoy the luxury of a home away from home at prices below the price of a standard (and often boring) hotel room, our segment of the hospitality industry continues to grow and expand.

Once "puttin' on the ritz" was only for the wealthy who could afford the glamorous Ritz Hotel in Paris or New York. Today, the discerning travelers can select another choice - one in tune with the times: Vacation Rentals!


Do YOU have a favorite luxury rental that you think is great? Please email us at VROA and let us help you share your find with others. We can all learn by sharing and remembering what a true bargain vacation rentals are?

Your calls and emails are so welcomed here at VROA. Call us at 206-343-7777, ext 920 or Ana @vroa.orgAna


TOP PROPERTY: The Sandpiper Beach House, Provincetown - Cape Cod

The world of vacation rentals has largely been made possible by the most far reaching invention of this century - the Internet. But successful vacation rentals owners must do more than just have a website. They must offer a website that is attractive and informative enough to catch and hold the traveler's interest.

One such outstanding site is the Sandpiper Beach House, located on Cape Cod. From the professional photographs to the restful choice of background screen color, this site sets the tone for the viewer within seconds of logging on. Elegant and readable font types were selected as well as easy to read maps and clear directions. The total graphic impact of the site is elegant, restful and chic.

With a site as beautiful as the property, the Sandpiper Beach House is this week's "Top Property". Well done, Sandpiper Beach House!


Published weekly for all Members
Copyright - Vacation Rental Owners Association
Read this and all prior newsletters at (

Director & Editor - Ana Kinkaid,
Publisher - William May,
P.O. Box 21305
Seattle, WA 98111-3305
Voice: 206-343-7777, ext 920
Fax: 206-628-0839
WEB: (

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Author: Ana M. Kinkaid, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0081 – 08/20/07

So Easy a Caveman Can Do It - How To Write Great Marketing Material

By Ana M. Kinkaid
Published: 08/13/07 Topics: Comments: 0

I'm sure you recognize the ad campaign that the title of this piece is referring to. It is so effective that not only has it won many awards, it has spun off into a TV series for this fall. Now that's a great marketing job!

Whether you are an insurance company or a vacation rental you want to do the most effective marketing possible. But the question we are often asked by owners here at VROA is: Sure, but how can I create a marketing program that draws in more reservations?

Start by practicing right brain creative thinking, called "Lateral Thinking". Another way to think of this approach is to "think outside the traditional box". Don't stop and accept an idea that just seems O.K. Search for that idea that is unique and will grab and hold the viewer's attention even after they leave your website.

Most of us develop our first marketing campaign wrong the first time out. I know I did until a friend in the advertising industry sat me down and showed me how the "big boys" do it. Here's what I've learned:

Start at the end first. Yes, you heard me right - start at the end. Develop your slogan or memory tag line first. The phrase "So easy a caveman can do it" was created by the marketers by thinking beyond traditional insurance phrases. They developed the slogan first and THEN created the storyline/ads to support it.

It's a little like writing that college essay. First you need to create a thesis sentence that easily captures what you want to say. Then and only then do you write out the rest of the piece supporting the thesis or, in this case, the slogan.

Seven-Up didn't do lots of media production and then decided to call the marketing campaign "the uncola". Instead, they started with a lot of creative thinking and came up with the idea of the "uncola".

Only after they had the memory tag or slogan did they generate the ideas of turning Coca-cola's famous shaped glass up side down and then draining the color out of the beverage, leaving the viewer with the image of a sparkling, refreshing "Uncola - Seven-Up. The slogan and the supportive images increased Seven-Up's profits by millions.

After you've decided on a slogan that's catchy and original, write down in outline form how the ideas and images you are planning to use support that statement. Don't pad your text with unnecessary words or pictures.

Stay clear and focused. Always remember the old saying in advertising, "the more you say, the less they will hear you." Too many individuals list far too much on their websites. The result is a quick "click-off" and a lot of lost reservations. Uncluttered space gives the viewer's eyes a chance to visually rest and consider booking with you. A site that is overly busy visually will only make the viewer turn away.

The hook is that element of creativity that captures and holds the viewers' attention while tying into the slogan. The hook for Seven-Up was the inverted traditional coke glass. The hook in the Geico caveman ads is the cave men walking around in everyday life situations when we expect them to be in caves instead.

The hook is that punch that ties the slogan and action together creating a memorable marketing impression on the viewer - and increased bookings. Sadly, marketing dollars are often wasted on elaborate ads and websites that achieve little. The reason is most often poor planning and a lack of focused creativity.

Join the many successful owners with a full reservation book who have taken the time to think through an innovative marketing program. It is easier than you think once you start and, actually, a lot of fun. Even the cavemen can do it!


Do YOU have a favorite ad (hotel or otherwise) that you think is great? Please email us at VROA and let us help you share your find with others. Together we can all develop better and more effective marketing material.

Your calls and emails are so welcomed here at VROA. Call us at 206-343-7777, ext 920 or Ana @vroa.orgAna


TOP PROPERTY: Yukon Mountain Retreat, Whitehorse - Yukon Territory, Canada

If someone wanted to get away from it all and delight in the absolute wonder of nature, they could not find a more delighted location than the Yukon Mountain Retreat. Situated in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Karen Pelletier and Jesse Duke are both geologists who carefully planned and researched their vacation retreat for 20 years before opening it seven years ago.

All their hard work and planning shows on their website. Their location is unbelievably beautiful - and their website has the pictures to prove it. Epic scenery and smiling faces highlight their central theme - their mountain retreat is about the peerless beauty of nature and the warm welcome of the Canadian North.

Is there any wonder why VROA is delighted to name Yukon Mountain Retreat this week’s Top Property? Well done, Karen and Jesse!


Published weekly for all Members
Copyright - Vacation Rental Owners Association
Read this and all prior newsletters at (

Director & Editor - Ana Kinkaid,
Publisher - William May,
P.O. Box 21305
Seattle, WA 98111-3305
Voice: 206-343-7777, ext 920
Fax: 206-628-0839
WEB: (

Read more

Author: Ana M. Kinkaid, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0080 – 08/13/07

Write Now - Email the Leading Travel Magazines

By Ana M. Kinkaid
Published: 08/06/07 Topics: Comments: 0

One of the most important jobs that an owner can do is market his/her property. To be a success, people need to know where your rental is located and why it is special.

One of the easiest and least expensive ways to advertise your property is through issuing press releases. Sent to the right place and the right person, press releases are converted by writers into articles.

So your first task is locate the publications that cover travel. Well, the staff at VROA has been hard at work of your behalf. Here's a list of the major magazines that cover travel along with their web address.

21st Century Adventures -(

American Way - (
Arizona Foothills Magazine - (
Arizona Highways - (

Backpacker - (
Blue Magazine - (
Business Travel News - (
Budget Travel Magazine - (

Caribbean Travel & Life - (
Coastal Living - (
Conde Nast Traveler - (

Destination Elsewhere - (
Distinctly Montana - (

Fido Friendly - (
Food & Travel - (

Global Traveler - (

Hawaii - (
Hawaii Bride & Groom - (
Hemispheres United Airlines - (
Houseboat - (

Idaho Magazine - (
Islands - (

Journey Woman - (

Lovetripper Travel Magazine - (
Luxury Spa Finder - (
Luxury Travel - (

Missouri Life - (
National Geographic Traveler - (
Nevada - (
Northwest Airlines World Traveler - (
NW Travel - (

Ohio - (
Oregon Coast - (
Orlando - (

Passport - (
Pathfinders Travel - (
Recommend - (

Sky - (

Texas Highways - (
Theme Parks Magazine - (
Time Out - (
Tourist Attractions & Parks - (
Travel 50 & Beyond - (
Travel & Leisure Magazine - (
Travel Blogger - (
Travelgirl - (travelgir)travelgirl
Travel Magazine - (
Travel Smart - (
Travel Weekly - (
Travel with a Challenge - (

Vacations Magazine - (
Vermont Life - (

Yankee Traveler - (

Set some time aside and review the publications, looking for the ones that relate to your region, style and location of your property. Review the suggested VROA guidelines for writing a press/media release and get started. You will be surprised at the results!


Do YOU have a favorite publication that covers vacation rentals? Please email us at VROA and let us help you share it with others. Together we can all spread the word about vacation rentals as the great new vacation buy.

Your calls and emails are so welcomed here at VROA. Call us at 206-343-7777, ext 920 or Ana


TOP PROPERTY: Casa Mullaney - Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Casa Mullaney is that near perfect website that offers just enough text and clear bright photos. Any visitor to this website can easily visualize their vacation in this attractive tropical setting. The aerial photograph shows clearly how short the walk to the beach will be while the pool shots invite the guest to consider just staying at the Casa for the day.

The interior photographs sparkle with sunlight yet promises cooling shade as well. Clear and focused, the decor expresses a restful feeling that will guarantee a great holiday among gentle breezes and sparkling sands.

VROA is delighted to name Casa Mullaney this week’s Top Property.


Published weekly for all Members
Copyright - Vacation Rental Owners Association
Read this and all prior newsletters at (

Director & Editor - Ana Kinkaid,
Publisher - William May,
P.O. Box 21305
Seattle, WA 98111-3305
Voice: 206-343-7777, ext 920
Fax: 206-628-0839
WEB: (

Read more

Author: Ana M. Kinkaid, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0079 – 08/06/07

American Beauties - Great Website Designs

By Ana M. Kinkaid
Published: 07/31/07 Topics: Comments: 0

One of the questions we often are asked by owners here at VROA is: What constitutes good website design?

Take a moment and review some of these properties that Travel and Leisure Magazine consider outstanding in the hospitality industry. Their sites are a great place to learn how to design an effective 'look' without spending months doing expensive research. So type in the web address, makes some notes and look for the following new trends in web design.

Work with a color palette that matches the mood of your property.
Example: (

Place the most important eye-catching imagery on the 'top fold' to use an old newspaper term.
Example: (

Use photos that captures the mood guests are seeking.
Example: (

Less is more. Don't overcrowd your pages with too much text or photos.
Example: (

If you haven't reviewed the wonderful functions that the newer software programs offer, you might want to do some research in this areas as well. What was difficult and time consuming only a few years ago is today just a click away with innovative programs doing the work.

There are also web design firms on the Internet who will create a state-of-the-art web site for you if you prefer to go that route. For the technical shy, it is money well spend.

Your website is a vital marketing tool. Don't let it get stale or dated. Evaluate lodging websites regularly and watch for developing design trends that will work with your rental. Write the Internet address down and forward it to your web designer with a note that you are interested in that effect.

We live in a market age that is moving and changing at an amazing speed. American designers create some of the most beautiful, innovative and effective websites in the world. These 'American beauties' should include your property. Don’t you agree?


Do YOU know of a knock-out website? Maybe it's yours? Don't hesitate - email us at VROA and let us help you share it with others. Together we can all spread the word about vacation rentals as the great new vacation buy.

Your calls and emails are so welcomed here at VROA. Call us at 206-343-7777, ext 920 or Ana @vroa.orgAna


TOP PROPERTY: Cedar Chalet - Bar Harbor, Maine

Sometimes a beautiful homes just seems to fit into its location as if home and site were made for each other. Any guest reviewing the clear and colorful pictures on the Harp-Hawkins website would have to agree. Warm wood tones echo through the photographers making the large gallery of images warm and inviting.

Pictures of the outside porch and the bay beyond just seem a breath-taking extension of the lovely interior of this north woods chalet.

VROA is glad to say "Well Done" to this vacation rental owner and award Harp-Hawkins "Top Property" status.


Published weekly for all Members
Copyright - Vacation Rental Owners Association
Read this and all prior newsletters at (

Director & Editor - Ana Kinkaid,
Publisher - William May,
P.O. Box 21305
Seattle, WA 98111-3305
Voice: 206-343-7777, ext 920
Fax: 206-628-0839
WEB: (

Read more

Author: Ana M. Kinkaid, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0078 – 07/31/07

Seven Staff Styles - Understanding Your Employees

By Ana M. Kinkaid
Published: 07/23/07 Topics: Comments: 0

There's no way around the fact that the vacation rental business means working with people each and every day. And each and every person you will deal with has their own unique work personality. So whether you're interacting with your staff or a new vendor, you can make your workday easier by understanding how best to work with each work style.

Take a moment then, look at these seven common work personalities and consider how you can best work with them. It will be worth your time and increase not only profitability but also your peace of mind.

This individual is results oriented and a leader. They can also be a loner, bossy and often not very tactful. This staff person needs to be allowed to take the initiative in dealing with projects and problems.

They handle delegation well if you do not micro management them. Vendors who interact with you using this style, often like to be valued and commended for their ability to solve problems and obtain results.

This staff member is a free-spirited and easy going individual who tends to be disorganized and a bit impulsive. Structure of any kind, whether it involves paperwork, deadlines, or details, is very uncomfortable for them.

The drifter works best when given only short projects or tasks to work on. This individual enjoys projects that offer lots of variety including who, what, where and when they will work. Staff or vendors of this type want to be valued and praised for their creativity and originality as well as their ability to think and create outside the traditionally business procedures.

This type of worker can demoralize your entire staff by being angry, hostile, cynical and grouchy. They do not hesitate to criticize other staff in public or to demean their efforts.

Although often difficult to work with, this staff member or vendor is valuable for their ability to handle unpopular or hostile situations. They can best be helped by assigning them only the tasks they will be good at. Restricting their access to other staff members will limit their negative staff impact.

This personality style is thoughtful, pleasant and helpful. They tend to view their fellow workers as extended members of their family and often need to do extensive socializing during the workday.

They most commonly cannot say no to any request and often take on too many tasks. Pleasers can be easily motivated by simply telling them that their activities make you happy.

This popular employee or vendor is charming, outgoing and entertaining. They are often the first to volunteer for a project and often the last to finish it because they hate to give up the stage.

They do not like to deal with negative outcomes and are very career focused often without regard for others. This individual reacts very positively to recognition and incentives. They enjoy high-profile tasks and assignments.

This staff member or vendor is quiet and somewhat reserved. They tend to like a warm, nest-like environment that limits change and growth. They do not like to take responsibility or deal with accountability.

The avoider will value maintaining the status quo above everything else. This individual works best when surrounded by a sense of safety. They loved written directions, guidelines, procedures and rules.

This person can appear to be cautious, precise and very detail orientated. Often they take large amounts of time to complete a project. This is because they feel most comfortable when they are working with the largest body of information possible.

This can create a situation where others can view them as procrastinators. They tend to evaluate the ideas of others, making themselves also appear negative. This individual works best when they are freed from restrictive timelines and a respect for data and analysis is shown.

Keeping these work personalities in mind as you interact with staff, will make your vacation rental business run more smoothly and more successfully. Understanding how to work with people is one your most valuable business skills. Give it a try and have a great…and insightful day!


Do YOU have a success story you want to share? We all know something that will help another owner. Let other owners know. Together we'll spread the word about vacation rentals.

Your calls and emails make our day here at VROA. You can reach us at 206-343-7777, ext 920 or Ana @vroa.orgAna


TOP PROPERTY: Cypress House - British Virgin Islands

Guests couldn't help but be attracted to the Cypree House after looking at their informative website. Located in the British Virgin Islands, this impressive website lets guests preview the over 4,500 square feet of relaxation space awaiting them. Breath-taking views, a gourmet kitchen, marble baths and a private pool all hint at the luxury just an airplane ride away.

These owners present a vision of the vacation of a lifetime through their choice of images and words. They paint with text and pictures a dream holiday waiting to be made real.

Great website AND vacation rental property Cypress House!


Published weekly for all Members
Copyright - Vacation Rental Owners Association
Read this and all prior newsletters at (

Director & Editor - Ana Kinkaid,
Publisher - William May,
P.O. Box 21305
Seattle, WA 98111-3305
Voice: 206-343-7777, ext 920
Fax: 206-628-0839
WEB: (

Read more

Author: Ana M. Kinkaid, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0077 – 07/23/07

Landing Success: Improving Your Web Marketing

By Ana M. Kinkaid
Published: 07/16/07 Topics: Comments: 0

Many successful owners extend their marketing outreach by writing short internet travel stories about their area. These often include a "hot" link or URL address that takes readers to a "landing" or "jump" page.

What, I can hear you asking, is a landing or jump page? It is simply a brief pre-page that potential guests read and submit data to before entering your main website. And it is important for several reasons:

1. When possible guests are welcomed, rather than just dumped onto a website, they feel acknowledged. This is important because it supports the continuation of communication with you. If that thread is broken, you will loose contact with your potential guest and most certainly the reservation.

2. Using a landing or jump page enables you to capture critical data. If your page asks the guest to provide some basic data, you are gaining valuable sales information both for now AND in the future.

3. Don't, however, ask for too much information - just the right information. Their name, email address and possible travel interest is enough.

4. Because you have asked for information, you owe the visitor an absolute promise of privacy regarding the information supplied. Your IT programmer can write this into your page, but you need to reassure your site visitor that the page is secure and that you do not sell or share any information provided.

5. Keep your copy short. A landing or jump page is only a lead-in. It is not the great American novel about your vacation rental. Website designers call this shorter text a 'teaser'. It should say welcome and move the validated site visitor onto the main site.

6. Consider linking different landing or jump pages to different interest stories. If your program includes a counter, you can easily see which text and approach draws the most guests to your site. That kind of insight is extremely valuable in focusing your marketing efforts.

7. Develop a follow-up program. Properly designed, your landing or jump page will provide you with valuable information that can lead to increased reservations, but ONLY if you follow through with a consistent telemarketing plan. When do you let possible guests know about early booking discounts for the winter holidays? In June or December 1st? It will make a difference.

More information about designing a landing or jump page is available on the internet, that wonderful source of information for the busy business person. Do a search and give the idea some thought.

I promise that the more you consider having a landing or jump page, the more you will see the value of the marketing material it will capture. So take a jump, consider something new and, I bet, you'll land more reservations and increase your revenue. And that will make it all worthwhile!


Do YOU have a great internet idea? We all know something that will help another owner. Let us know. We'll spread the word.

I look forward to your calls and emails. You can reach me at 206-343-7777, ext. 920 or Ana @vroa.orgAna


TOP PROPERTY: Echo Lake Lodge & Cottages - Fayette, Maine

Sometimes there is a rental so perfect that guests return again and again, because, well, it just feels like home. One such property is the Echo Lake Lodge and Cottages in beautiful Fayette, Maine. Situated only 15 miles from the state capital, it is surrounded by peaceful pines on a quiet country road.

This vacation rental draws its guest back each year by practicing a successful marketing program that makes sure guests know that wonderful kayaking, fishing, swimming and canoeing are all available. Built in 1936 by the water's edge, this owner can well be proud of both the lodging and the memories shared with guests.

Well done Echo Lake Lodge and Cottages!


Published weekly for all Members
Copyright - Vacation Rental Owners Association
Read this and all prior newsletters at (

Director & Editor - Ana Kinkaid,
Publisher - William May,
P.O. Box 21305
Seattle, WA 98111-3305
Voice: 206-343-7777, ext. 920
Fax: 206-628-0839
WEB: (

Read more

Author: Ana M. Kinkaid, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0076 – 07/16/07

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DETAILS: We work to keep this information up to date, but details do change from time to time based on circumstances, often on short notice, and sometimes beyond our control. To verify any answer or other information you may need, please call or email us anytime. Allow a reasonable amount of time for response. Only legitimate inquiries will be answered.