When staying in a vacation rental for the first time, all travelers have expectations. Expectations can range from good to bad to accurate to totally unfair. But whether we like it or not, those first expectations play an important role in the overall experience. If our expectations are met or exceeded, then we’re leave feeling thrilled. If they’re not met, then we’re typically left feeling disappointed, sometimes even deceived...
And the same is true about destinations! Before arriving to Nashville, my expectations were high: world class country music, dazzling barbecue, and the Tennessee Titans, but I didn’t know a whole lot more than that!
My good friend Mary, was going to be in the area and I convinced her to fly in and join me in seeing how those expectations would be met! We stayed with the great John and Ellen Oden at Heidtke House, a contemporary ranch home about 15-minutes from downtown Nashville.
And like most people who visit Nashville, we certainly got to experience all that. But on top of it, we were exposed to a second, totally unexpected layer to this place. In choosing to stay with John and Ellen, we got to know their Nashville: a city, a people, a style through their personal lens. This visit was a masterclass on the new power of hospitality. A lesson that the best people and businesses and places a lot of times aren't predictable at all.
Each destination and host has multiple layers to its success. So we decided to pull back the curtain and share commentary on the people, places, and best industry practices that made this destination so unique.
The Learning Center
The following series of videos are designed to help better understand Nancy's secrets to success. Watch each short clip and think about how it might apply to your vacation rental business.
1. Validation as Fuel
Validation is huge. And seeing the result of hard work is a really important thing. In many industries, professionals don't get enough of it. But in vacation rentals, our work is directly validated -- reviews are the vehicle for this validation and John considers his collection one of the most precious things he owns.
2. "Market Research"
Ready for the most enjoyable market research ever? John recommends investing in a stay at the nicest vacation rental you can find. Take notes about the experience and how you can improve. Ask the host questions about how they operate and what products they use. Sit down at the end of the stay and create an Action List of next steps. Oh and in the process, don't forget to sit back and relax: this is the vacation rental industry after all.
3. Pushing the Envelope
Constantly look to improve your guest experience -- don't ever sit still or get complacent: this is one of the universal attitudes we've observed about the world's most successful vacation rental professionals. John is always on the look out for amenities or upgrades to his home -- in fact, he aims to have at least one improved element before any guest stays a second time. Not sure what to upgrade? Abundle (this episode's sponsor) is an easy go-to. Invest a few hundred bucks and assess your response from guests.
4. Kaizen: Continuous Improvement
Upgrades to your vacation rental properties should be viewed as investments. Not only are they generating better reviews, commanding a higher price per night, and setting you apart from the competitor down the street. But they are actually investment assets, increasing the overall value -- on paper -- of your business.
5. The Cost of Doing Business
"The cost of doing business" is a phrase we heard from John several times. It can be easy to disregard small gestures like welcome snacks or courtesy drinks as additional expenses. But John views them as integral elements in the guest experience -- and so they are not added costs, but rather costs of doing business. Calculate these costs into your total nightly rate so that it's quite literally a line item in your business expenses.
6. A Different Kind of ROI
One of the biggest “disrupting” factors about the vacation rental industry is that many hosts define success in ways other than cash flow. This “lifestyle” element of the business — getting to meet new people, pursuing passions, creating one’s own schedule — changes the terms of the playing field. It means hosts are making decisions through a different lens and the results are surprising.