June 23, 2021

Activities, Experiences, and Guest Data: Vacation Rental Superpowers

Whenever we start a discussion about guest data in the vacation rental industry, it’s always worth noting that the industry as a whole— and compared to other hospitality industries— is in its infancy. So if you are a property manager who is swimming in data but unsure of what data is important and how best you can put it to use, give yourself some slack.  The fact that you are even thinking about how to better use your data to improve your business means that you are well ahead of the game.

That being said, all of this new data is your superpower. As property managers, you have access to important, specific data about our guests— their preferences, their important dates, their favorite local activities— that the big online travel agencies (OTAs) just don’t have, and leveraging this information in “Book Direct” campaigns and guest advertising will become more and more important as the technology tools and systems that run the vacation rental industry continue to improve.

Take Back Control

At Xplorie, helping our guests collect, organize and strategize about how they can utilize guest data pertaining to in-market tour and activity usage to help drive revenue is a core focus for our team. However, even if you do not utilize a guest experience solution such as Xplorie to aggregate this data, you have many other assets that, if properly leveraged, can give you a “leg up” on the competition and drive both topline revenue and overall profitability.  For starters, utilizing your website to provide curated local information on the best local services and attractions not only provides a better guest experience but gives you insights into which of the recommended items most interests your guests. 

As vacation rentals become more popular and distribution increases, it’s becoming more and more clear that guests are not only searching for activities and experiences once they book— but they are performing these important searches while they are deciding on where to book. The home and the experiences the home can offer now go hand-in-hand. And the more information about your area you can offer on your website— through consistent, highly informative blog pages and travel guides— the more captive your audience is going to be and the more you are going to understand about your guests.

Gain Some Valuable Perspective on Your Market

Data is also showing us that the further a guest has to travel to a destination, the more searching they are doing about the area they are traveling to. For example, a family traveling from New Jersey to Mexico will do nearly twice as much online activity searching for their destination as that same family traveling from New Jersey to Philadelphia. 

As Cliff Johnson from Rented.com recently noted in a webinar on monetizing local tours and attractions, local experts— like property managers that have been in their market for years— tend to downplay their valuable knowledge of their area. For example, a property manager in Key West obviously knows where to find the best margarita on the island. But that same property manager is also so close to their market that they often assume that everyone knows this— so why bother sharing? This is a common oversight from being “too close” to your market. The solution is to hire some distance and perspective. Have a professional review your website that’s not from your market and can look at your site with the eyes of a guest. Evaluating whether your site is conveying the information your potential guest is searching for is key to providing the information that gets the booking. 

Mix It Up in Your Listing Photos

Consider utilizing your listing photos in a more creative way. Instead of the usual stock home photos and a wordy description, add photos of the local area attractions, with captions that paint a picture for potential guests. 

For example, instead of writing a bedroom caption that says the standard “Bedroom w/ king bed” add details about the mattress type or pillows. A photo of the local waterpark with the caption “Just a five-minute drive from the waterpark!” will go a long way towards adding value to a potential guest’s eye. 

Complimentary Tickets, Discounts, or Simply Recommendations?

When it comes to your local attractions, you also want to ask yourself— is it better to simply recommend local businesses, or should I partner with local attractions to provide complimentary tickets and/or discounts? This is a great question, and the answer depends in large part on your team’s bandwidth— meaning what you can deliver, and deliver well, and how you see these local tours and attractions fitting within the brand image you are working to build.

Providing complimentary tickets and/or discounts for local activities is incredibly effective at adding value to a home. In fact, a few of our clients have cut out the cutesy home names in their listing title and started adding titles like “3 Bedroom Home w/ Free Golf Passes.” Yes, the activities have become that important!  However, it is also very complex and time-consuming, which is why many property managers tend to partner with trusted technology solutions to provide this service.  Alternatively, you may just want to simply recommend local favorite spots to your guests, but if you do— we hate to state the obvious— make sure they’re good ones. 

Regardless, whether recommending or partnering with local businesses and attractions, always remember— you’re only as good as your market. So whatever way you go, improving revenue for your entire market through local recommendations or partnerships is always a good idea.

Meaningful and Matched Experiences

Lastly, make sure that the experiences you’re offering and/or recommending match your target demographic— known as a “unique sell.” For example, if you’re offering a luxury yacht cruise to a guest that’s booking a $100/night condo— that’s a bit of a mismatch. But offering complimentary canoe rentals to the couple that’s booked a cabin by the lake? You can practically hear the click. 

For homes that attract a lot of family reunions, having a small, repeatable menu of experiences— like custom t-shirts, for example— will add huge value to that group’s trip. Make sure that what you’re offering and what your guest wants line up.

Brian Hamaoui, an experienced vacation rental industry vet, also recommends reaching out to your repeat guests with some meaningful offer or opportunity— not just with a generic “book this home” pitch. This is where the data you collect is crucial. By targeting your repeat guests and sending emails and other forms of direct communication that mention their upcoming anniversary or birthday, or perhaps highlight one of their local favorite activities, your marketing will stand head and shoulders above the rest. And will also invoke valuable nostalgia— which leads to happy, repeat guests.

Guests are hungry for great value, but the value calculation extends beyond your rates. Loyalty based on price is the lowest form of loyalty and racing to see who can charge the least is a race many of us cannot afford to win. Rather, make your home stand out by adding value through unforgettable, valuable, and unique experiences. When it comes to generating direct bookings and beating out the big guys, your superpower is having the data to be able to do what they can’t. You can send an email like “remember last year when you visited Dollywood?” when Expedia and the other big OTAs can’t— they simply don’t have that information. They don’t know what guests are doing when they’re in your area. Don’t try to outspend them— that’s impossible. Instead, find a way to own your repeat guests— through paying attention to valuable data— in a way that they can’t. 


Thank you for the guest post from friend of Rented, Matt Loney, President, and CEO of Xplorie. With Xplorie, you can provide guests an unforgettable travel experience through free-to-guest activity programs, virtual concierge solutions featuring locally curated content and so much more, learn more about their offerings here

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