Dec. 22, 2021

Delivering a Legacy of Excellence with Julie Byrd, COO of CaboVillas.com


20 years at one company is a big milestone for anyone, but for Julie Byrd it's been a labor of love and legacy. Julie recalls the early days of selling newspaper ads to CaboVillas.com founder, Don Hirschaut, which led to a full time position with the company and the beginning of Julie’s inspiring career under his mentorship. When Don tragically passed away in 2019, he left behind a passion for excellence and innovation that remains at the heart of the business and can be easily seen in the efforts of Julie and her team to create dream vacations for their guests. Through collaborative partnerships with Los Cabos tourism boards, local tours & activities providers, restaurants and attractions, CaboVillas.com has found the secret sauce to delivering the ultimate, personalized guest experience for families, groups and couples visiting the Baja Peninsula of Mexico.

Watch episode on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/k2dQgedqL04

CONTACT ALEX & ANNIE
AlexandAnniePodcast.com
LinkedIn | Facebook | Instagram

Alex Husner - Linkedin
Annie Holcombe - Linkedin

Podcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel

Transcript

Unknown:

Welcome to Alex and Annie, the real women of vacation rentals. With more than 35 years combined industry experience. Alex user and any Holcomb have teamed up to connect the dots between inspiration and opportunity. Seeking to find the one story idea, strategy or decision that led to their guests big aha moment. Join them as they highlight the real stories behind the people and brands that have built vacation rentals into the $100 billion industry. It is today. And now it's time to get real and have some fun with your hosts, Alex and Annie

Alex:

Welcome to another episode of Alex and Annie, the real women of vacation rentals. I'm your host Alex. And I'm Annie. And we are so excited today we've got another amazing guest and I know we say that all the guests are amazing, but this is one that I think Andy and I are very excited to talk to you. There's just a lot of great stories to unravel. Miss Julie bird coming to us all the way from California, who is CEO for Cabo villas, Julie, welcome to the podcast.

Julie Byrd:

Thanks so much. Thanks for having me. I'm so excited to do this with you, girl. Yeah,

Annie:

we appreciate you. And, Julie, I thought to get started, there's some people that might not know you. I think a lot of people do know you. But if you just take the opportunity to let us know about who Julie Burt is, and maybe a little bit about Cabo villas.

Julie Byrd:

Yeah, absolutely. So I am the CEO, as Alex said of Cabo villas.com. And we specialize in private luxury villas in Los Cabos. We also offer hotel accommodations. And so the full vacation experience there, not only just the vacation rentals, but we are also more of like a travel company. We the The interesting thing about our company is that we don't actually do property management. We are a rental firm. So we handle the client's requests. And we handle their stay and we do all of their on the ground concierge services. But we don't actually handle the housekeeping and all the other items that go along with property management, they do have those property managers in Los Cabos to take care of the houses. I've been with the company for 20 years next week, locked into the doors, selling them an ad from a local newspaper, I was taking a little break from the travel industry, and met Don Hirsch out and started working for him. And that's been 20 years. So we've had a fun career together. And I really love the destination of Los Cabos. And, you know, I'm excited to see where the company is gonna go.

Annie:

And congratulations, that's a big milestone to hit any PR anybody in this industry? 20 years. That's that's a lot.

Julie Byrd:

Yeah, yeah, it's been a fun 20 years, that's for sure. We've seen a lot of differences. And we've, you know, gone up and down with Los Cabos. And you know, how their sales go and how their occupancies go, our company kind of just goes along with it. We have 30 employees here in the United States. And we have about eight in Los Cabos to handle the clients when they get there, for just this single destination of Los Cabos that kind of tells you a little bit about our volume.

Alex:

Wow, that's incredible. Now, Julie, I wasn't, I didn't know that you didn't do any property management boots on the ground down there. That's really interesting. So you are, you know, there's I know, there's the hybrid OTA pm model, but there's some properties that you just totally booked for that you don't do anything else with them. But then the ones that are a little bit more closely intertwined to your program, explain me how that works. If you're, you're not doing the housekeeping, but you are doing, you're setting up their stay and doing the concierge type things. You tell us a little bit more about that?

Julie Byrd:

Yeah, so the owners, they are their own property managers, our concierge do you kind of moonlight as property managers, so they do handle some of the houses, the maintenance and the housekeeping and all of that, we hold the property managers obviously accountable, if they don't take care of the houses, then we will go in and make sure that the houses are up to the par for our clients. We do inspections of the houses regularly, we do an inspection before the clients arrive, we liaison between the client and the property manager to make sure that the housekeeper is there for the days that they need to be there and make sure that we can fulfill the promises that we've made on behalf of the owner and the property manager.

Alex:

Gotcha. So the property managers that you have in market, are they individual owners, or do you work with other companies

Julie Byrd:

down there? A little bit of both? We have we have some that are professional companies and some that are individuals. And you know, we will guide the owners on who to hire as a property manager so that we can have a really good working relationship because that's really, really important and we'd you know, maintain those relationships with the outside property managers, so the professional ones and the individuals to make sure that they are you know, taking care of our of our houses.

Alex:

Gotcha. Interesting. Yeah. So what the way that I first heard about your company is actually kind of an interesting story. And I know I've shared this with you a little bit. But this is going back probably three years ago that one of my connections that was mutual connection, Ed St. Onge from flip do, I remember, he called me and he said, there's this company, Alex, that is called Cabo villas. And there's very similar to you and what conda world has going on between, you know, doing booking their own properties, and then booking for other properties. And they're, they're trying to figure out what they want to do for a software solution. And I just think you got to talk to them, because they, you guys are going to speak the same language. And I had the pleasure of talking to Don and Rick at that time, and we just had the greatest conversation that is, like, all the problems in the world we all related to totally, you know, could just, you know, just explained in the terms that make the most sense to us how challenging it is to wear those different hats. But I think it's interesting what you've done there. And I think the collaboration side is is really where the industry is going. And it just, it makes sense, right? I mean, you, you don't need to have all the inventory on your platform or under your program. But it does make sense to work with other like minded properties and see the value in what Cabo Brill villas does, and how you mark it and your wide net of guests. So it's, it's a great model. And I think it's just it's very interesting to hear more about it. So

Julie Byrd:

the one fun thing is that, you know, the there's that one side of the property management and the private rentals. And then there's the other side of the hotel inventory, and we work with all the local hotels. So it kind of gives us that nice blend where we can't find something for a client. Like right now we are completely sold out for New Year's weekend. It is everything is sold out in Cabo, but we can dig in and try to find like larger suites that hotels, the hotels find us as being a little, you know, their, their company that they work with that sells the larger units and the bigger suites because we cross sell, from the resorts to the villas, and from the villas back to the resorts.

Annie:

How do you guys out of curiosity, just from not being a manager, but being more of the OTA? How are you guys reaching the guests? Are the the clients that you are working with? Is it is it a very boutique style marketing that you do? Or do you do traditional marketing through outside of just channels? You SEO website? Like how are you doing that?

Julie Byrd:

Yeah, I mean, we used to, it's interesting that our founder, Dawn, it was really important to him to do these vacation guides. And they were these big, glossy, beautiful guides, and we had to produce them every year. And we had to get the owners on board, because we charge them for their page. And we distributed like 100,000 a year. And so we would have them in

Alex:

I'm working on this year's edition right now.

Julie Byrd:

You know what? We don't do it anymore. I stopped doing it last year, but

Alex:

just last year, wow. Yes. Last

Julie Byrd:

year, it was you know, it was his baby. It was the when we looked at the production, and we looked at the results that we got from it. I think that it was really good at building our business back when people kind of grabbed magazines. I we kept seeing that really weren't going through them. And then we would find them in pina coladas and Cabo and we stopped doing that. But that was kind of the start of our outreach to guests in a different way, besides just digitally, we put a little bit more of those resources into SEO and traditional marketing. But of course, we are members of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, we go to all of their functions, we, you know, we are a travel companies and we work with the hotels, and so we will, you know, cross market with that Mattel's as well, and try to just, it is really interesting, because a lot of our web traffic does come into our site looking for hotels, but the majority of our business is private homes. So you know, that is a marketing channel that we do use.

Alex:

Yeah, yeah. And I mean, really, that's kind of how vacation rentals has just exploded in the last couple years that people might come in. And they search for Myrtle Beach hotels, but then they start to see the condos and beach homes and they realize, guy, you can get one condo for the price of you have to get multiple hotel rooms and so much better of a value. And the experience that you got to being able to have that shared space is just incredible. But I love that you call yourself a travel company to I mean, really, because that's what we all are. And we're same thing very involved with our local tourism boards and CVB and DMO. And that's what it is. I mean, it's not just what we were all selling at the end of the day. We are all we're travel companies that we work with in our own destinations and others, you know, to really just promoting travel as a whole.

Julie Byrd:

I write Yeah, and one of the things that you know, is, is always high maintenance, it's a hard thing to do. But one thing that really makes our company stand out is that we provide full detailed itineraries for clients. Yeah, I just recently came back from vacation. I went down there to celebrate my 20 year anniversary and my 50th birthday. Yeah. And I took 20 I have my friends that and a lot of them haven't been and we invited their kids and we, we experienced destination, the way that our guests do. And so I was able to, you know, really live what we do for a living, right. And we did the camel rides, and we did the dolphins and we went at Bing, and they went fishing, and then I yacht and had groceries delivered and had the chef come in and had in Villa massages. And that is really what our company does so well is to be able to curate these itineraries that are very specific to what the clients are looking for. So that's a fun part of the job as well.

Alex:

Yeah. And that really gives that hands on experience that I don't think that I haven't seen many companies, if any that really do it as with as much gusto as your company does. I mean, that's definitely at the heart of what you do. How do you form those relationships with the attractions and the different vendors that you work with?

Julie Byrd:

Yeah, you know, it's just our we've been in Los Cabos for over 30 years. So we have really deep roots there. Like one of the guides that we use, who's absolutely so amazing as same as Oscar, he was best friends with Don and he and Don used to go out to the Sea of Cortez and go scuba diving for a week on a little board, or, you know, because Zodiak from La Paz, meadow and camp along the way. I mean, they did these great adventures. And so Oscar has been a great resource for us. So when we have like really VIP clients that want to do something that's super unique, we send them out with Oscar and he creates some, you know, some incredible experience for them. But you know, that's kind of how our roots started is Dawn went to the destination and he loved all the activities. He was an adventure person and he would go diving and snorkeling and you know, I mean, he was out there doing surf lessons to find a new surf instructor. All those things that he loved, it was the heart of what he fell in love with in Los Cabos. So, you know, we've just been curating those relationships for so long. We have some incredible partners and a destination. We have another gal Juliann, who she owns the company that provides all of our concierge services. They aren't actually employees of ours, they're employees of hers. And she also owns a catering company. And she's just an incredible partner we've been with for 15 years. And you know how she's family to us?

Annie:

Yeah. So do you guys do? Is it a requirement that people like book services with you? Or it can someone just come in and rent a unit outright? And if they want to take care of everything themselves?

Julie Byrd:

They can definitely, we don't I mean, some of our houses will say that they won't allow outside caterers because they are worried about the liability of that. Or, you know, their their kitchens not being well cared for. So some of our houses, some are more luxury houses have specific caterers that they want to work with or their own team, we will, you know, work with the owners, if they have someone who cooks like we have one luxury house, that's 10 bedrooms, and they have a staff of six, and they're excellent cooks, and the owners have trained them with a specific menu, and they don't let outside caterers come in at all. And so we promote the property for that. They pay direct for that it's not something you know, all of these concierge services aren't something that we do to make money, we do it to provide service to our clients and to provide a really unique vacation experience. So that when they are ready to go back, they want to come back to us. So you know, I mean, it is we we will work specifically with the houses on what their rules are. And if the clients just have their own, they want to do their own thing. They can totally do their own thing for most of our houses. Yeah,

Annie:

I would imagine given the location of Cabo to Los Angeles, you probably get some celebrity guests that have interesting requests or like data curiosity, like what is the weirdest request you've ever had?

Julie Byrd:

The weirdest request we ever had, was to paint the front door because the artist did not like the color of the front door. Oh my gosh, actually wanted it read the front door. Right? That same celebrity client we did. And we didn't bring in trees for the backyard. And so we had to bring a big truck with these big huge trees because they couldn't be like, they're going to grow really fast. Because they wanted more privacy. It was like ocean front. So we had to like, I mean, yeah, we did that.

Annie:

But it just shows the links that you guys will go to to make your guests comfortable and make their experience what they're looking for. That's crazy.

Alex:

Wow, that's incredible.

Julie Byrd:

We are so blessed to have some of the some of the clients that we've had. They're great

Alex:

is now I've got a couple questions. First, what is your percentage of repeat guests?

Julie Byrd:

You know, vacation rental software makes more yard Can you can you can do? Can you get that number from your system? Yeah, I

Alex:

can actually and that's as funny because we were just talking about this alien. I just got back from the women's conference and I was asking someone and they asked me the same question back and that's actually of all the things It can be hard to pull. That's one of the easier things to figure

Julie Byrd:

out Believe it or when what system is this?

Alex:

Yeah. Our own. So they built their own? Yeah.

Julie Byrd:

Well, I mean, I will say that we give our clients a repeat client discount. So like basically, if they've stayed with us before and they review the property, they get a membership to our amigo travel club and that amigo travel club will give them a 5% discount off of the next day. So what I can say is in the past, we've seen about 50% of our clients, or amigo travel club members. So we do know that that was a big membership percentage. But this year, so many brand new clients, I would say that probably cut it I mean, because our business, I mean, just this month alone, we're probably going to have 40% increase in our in our rivals just this month. So it's pretty insane. The amount of business we've had this year that it's brand new business. And that's because the rest of the world is you know, not as open as Los Cabos or safe to travel to

Alex:

right. Is that your business online or over the phone?

Julie Byrd:

All of the above? Yeah, that percentage hasn't really changed the online reservations haven't. I think that I would have thought that we would get more call center percentages through Kobe, because people would want to ask more questions, but it's remained the same. The percentage of business that we get as online reservations versus call center. Yeah. Gotcha.

Annie:

Has your numbers recovered back to? Well, I said, I think everybody's numbers recovered. And so the 40% new is that over 2019? Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Actually,

Julie Byrd:

it's over our best December ever. Oh, okay. That's so crazy.

Annie:

Yeah. And our most of your get our most of the people coming. Are they? Us? Or are you still get I mean, again, kind of to COVID It's caused still some travel hiccups, but the vast majority of our American travelers?

Julie Byrd:

Yes, the vast majority are American travelers, for sure. Although, you know, now that Canada kind of has less restrictions. We've seen some more business from Canada, Canadians were dying to go to Cabo, because that's a big destination for them. Yeah.

Alex:

Yeah. I was just in Cabo earlier this year in March. And that was the first vacation we had gone on in, you know, the last probably, what, 14 months or so. And it was wonderful. I love Cabo. That was where we went for our honeymoon. And I've been several, several times over the past decade. And it's a wonderful destination. It's my favorite place in Mexico to go

Julie Byrd:

to foodie paradise. It's like, yeah, I was just talking to a client yesterday, because I found the perfect talk. Was there last?

Annie:

Oh, yeah, yeah,

Alex:

it's such a cool place. Now, one thing that I'd like you to touch on a little bit more, I think your history of how you got started with Cabo villas is really interesting. So you went in there to sell them newspapers, which is funny, because

Julie Byrd:

it was like a little small. It was like a little, it's called The Times Publishing Group. It's like this small, little free. It's not even a full newspaper. And I had left the travel industry. So I was working in traditional travel. So I worked for a company called classic vacations. And then I went to happy vacations. They're like wholesale companies, for hotels, and it's kind of like hybrid of what we are right now is where my career came from. And then I left the industry, I was like, I just want to do something different and started working for property manager locally here in Santa Cruz County, it was actually in Capitola, that I was working as a property manager. And I was like, God, this is a hard job as calls in the middle of the night. So I was like, I just need to take a little break from the travel business and vacation rental business, I don't know what I want to do, and started just selling ads for this little local newspaper, just to fill my time and, and kind of get my bearings and figure out where I wanted to go and walked into we were having a 41st Avenue specialist like every business on 44th Avenue is going to have like a discount if they sign up this month. And so I just started cold calling every business on 41st and walked into Cabela's. And I was it was our sales guy vacations back then which is our parent name. And I was like, gosh, I've been in the travel industry for so long. I mean to have by then I had already had a full career in the industry. And I'd never heard of this company like who are you guys and walked out of there with a job and have worked here for 20 years. So you don said you have to start I don't I know you have a lot of experience. But you have to start at the at the starting level you have to work and reservation. So I was like okay, I'll do I start seeing some things come through and I was like, Oh, do you want me to write the response to customer service complaints? I had a lot of experience. Yeah,

Alex:

you then kind of use that as a pathway to and it was just kind of like ping pong all the different things that you could do that they probably didn't even realize they hired when they got you but that's awesome.

Julie Byrd:

Yeah, family for sure. And you know, we lost on in 2019. Yeah. away from a tragic skiing accident. And that was just such a shock. And then COVID happened. And we've had to kind of, you know, maneuver this whole new world without him. And it's been a really interesting journey. And, you know, we miss him every day.

Alex:

Yeah, I'm grateful that I have that time, or there's few phone calls that we had a few years ago to talk to him because like I said, he's just, he's one of those people that he is very entrepreneurial, and had a great sense of the industry and had that collaborative mindset that knew there were creative ways to get things done. And just hearing about it again, it's there's so many similarities to how we operate here, a condo world. And it was, you know, our CEO just passed away a couple months ago, as well. And I had just talked to you, Julie, on the phone the Friday before Roy passed away, which was crazy, because we were talking about dawn, and the similarities there. But I think Don was very much to you like how Roy was to me as a mentor over the years, which, you know, that's when you have a mentor like that. It's it's, you know, a game changer for your career. And you've learned a lot over the years from him. But can you share some some lessons maybe that Don has taught you over the years that you still have put into place in your career today?

Julie Byrd:

Yeah, absolutely. You know, I used to walk into his office it to kind of get some advice on a situation and he would just shoot out questions at me. election, and so and it would kind of just jolt me at the beginning of them. And then so I really took a lot of time to prepare myself for any possible question. Before I walked into his office with the situation, and it really taught me to look at things from every perspective, to just like, look at it from every direction and try to find the, the path of least resistance, right? For everybody involved. And he was really had, he really had a gift of doing that, and really giving you the tools to really research and really know everything from every direction, like not go in with any kind of half information. It's like, what are the facts? And that was really helpful to me in my career, because I was a salesperson, so I'd be like, Oh, well, we'll figure it out. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. No. You know, one thing I did, I would tell him and I think we taught each other this was that he was always worried about the worst case scenario. Yes. Always always worried. Oh, yeah. scenario. And I just one thing, all you're doing is putting it out there in the universe for it.

Alex:

I saw honestly, Julie, I swear to you and Dawn and being Royer. That's a no kidding. That's exactly how Roy was to even to just coming down to the questions like every morning, going in his office. I mean, he, he always had a million questions. And they were always great questions. But he wasn't as focused on asking me the details on something. And he asked the details, but he he thought, like I did, that we both loved sharing big ideas, but that he would always, like, have a different way of looking at it or come up with a different way to look at it to challenge me, I guess. And it was a worthwhile experience for the 12 years that we had him here because, you know, I, I do find myself thinking differently in situations and thinking, you know, what would Roy say right now? Or what would he think and I'm sure that happens to you, at least on a daily or weekly basis. So even

Julie Byrd:

does but I'm going to tell you his best friend, Oscar Wilde, who I talked about that is our tour guide. He said to me, at his head, his service, it is celebration of life. He said, I don't want you to always have to be like, What would Dawn do, because you have good ideas, too. And I'm just gonna give you that benefit. Because honestly, like, there are things that happened during the COVID that Don would have never done that had to do. And it was you know, it was like changing our cancellation policy. I mean, he never would have done that it would have to fight for weeks and weeks and weeks. And so I really appreciated that advice that I got from Oscar because I do think about what Don would do. And I think about all of the questions that he would ask me, so they can really question myself and have all of the information before I make a decision. Right. Yeah. You know, I think that, you know, that there has a lot. It's great that I can think that what he what he would do, but I can also do what I think is right. Exactly. Yeah.

Alex:

And I think empowering. For people like Don and Roy that were in the industry for so many years. You know, there there's a lot of things that were put in place years ago that stayed in place for a long time probably longer than they needed to right and then you know, so it's unfortunately it takes sometimes a shift like that for changes to come into a company and some are some are good. We've kinda world. Roy's grandson, Ben is now president and he's doing an amazing job and he's, you know, put into place several different things that I don't think we would have thought of if it was just Roy running the ship. And you know, Ben's an operator has literally worked from the mailroom to reservations to maintenance to housekeeping. So he sees the the spectrum of what we do from a different lens than what Roy did. Roy never actually did reservations, or maintenance. So, you know, it's just a different shift in leadership. But I think, ultimately, it comes down to that foundation that was set in the early days is that of the principles of being a good business, right. And that's, that's where we all continue to grow. But

Julie Byrd:

actually, Michelle Don's widow, she was our CFO, and she stepped into our CEO position. And I tell you, she is so fun to work with, because she isn't as beautiful. She is she's really just excited to do new things. And she's like, she really likes to have things simplified. And that, to me is a lot of fun. I mean, we've changed since then, I mean, we change our cancellation policy, we've changed software systems, we now have pricing, or everybody's working remote. Our office is totally different. There's so many different things. And it's really exciting. And I like having a this female leadership team. I mean, we do still have rec are, you know, we're a women run company, for the most part, and it's really fun to have that change. Yeah, really enjoying the, the different challenges that she brings, because she also she runs with ideas. It's like when her and I meet once a week, we have ideas and we we brainstorm. It's like, the next thing I know, Rick's asking me, Michelle was Nia put this thing together? Yeah.

Alex:

Yeah. Done. That's awesome. That's really

Annie:

great. There was one of the themes last week at the women's conference was about and actually somebody just put a quote up, I was gonna it says, the more you seek the uncomfortable, the more more you will become comfortable. And it sounds to me like I don't know, I never met dawn, and I'm new Roy on the periphery. But I've known Alex for several years. And there are so many similarities between you two, it's really fascinating. But they both of those gentlemen prepared you for their, for them being gone. You know, whether you you know, whether you knew it or not, they the time was right. And that was just the way the universe worked out. But you were given all the tools and all the guidance, and you were prepared. And so I know from Alex's standpoint, Roy is as proud as he can be of everything that she's doing. So I'm sure that's on his view as

Julie Byrd:

well. Yeah, I go to bed at night knowing that he is.

Annie:

That's a good feeling. That's a really good feeling.

Alex:

One of the things that you said to me that was interesting on our last call Julie, with the the properties that you work with that are on your more hybrid OTA model is really to call it that are the hotels that you booked for, you used to use a connection, I don't know if it was through the GDS, but used to get their rates digitally, right or electronic. No,

Julie Byrd:

we never got them digitally electronically, none of our computer systems have ever been able to talk to an extranet that we've always wanted to, that's why we actually talked to condo world was to figure out a way to get connected rates for the hotels, because we were competing with the OTAs for so long. And we were trying to manually so we would get our rates from the hotels, our contract rates, and then they send us promotions. And so it would be like early booking bonuses 20% off for travel dates of this and booking window of this. And so we would manually go in and update those rates. And we had a full time person, that's what she did is she updated the rates all the time. So when we did the conversion over to track, let me back up, we tried to keep up with the OTAs. And all we saw was our business going down and down and down in business because you can't compete. Just when you're trying to compete on price, you just can't because they have a technology that really is easy to use. And, and it doesn't talk to vacation rental software. So unless you're gonna, you know, really get to systems and make that you know that thing, then, you know, you've got to figure out a workaround. And so what we, what we've always tried to do is keep up with up, keep up with the rates and try to have the best price guarantee and all of that. And then when we were doing our conversion on my team came to me and said, I cannot keep up with the rates and load the new system. Something has to give. So she said, Let's just take all the rates offline. So we did, we took all of the rates off our website, we took all the availability on our website, we eliminated the ability for people to make real time reservations, we told our agents that they have to price the properties differently, that we weren't going to be maintaining the rates in our system or stop cells. And immediately we started getting all of these requests for rates on our website. So instead of having the rates on there, we had a request rates, which we do now still. And our business is tremendously up.

Alex:

We're getting unbelievable.

Julie Byrd:

It's unbelievable. Every day we come in and we have so many requests, we can barely answer them all. I mean, yeah, we're really we had to buff up our team so that we can answer all these inquiries and they're now in our database. Sitting there now, you know, I mean, it's, it's a good, it was a good move. And so now that we have the technology finished, we're not going to go back

Alex:

yeah not to blame you, it's almost like you've created this like illusion for guests that they don't know what the price is going to be, they would want to reach out to find out, you know, it's the opposite of what we've all been working towards and trying to get right synced, and all the API's and everything else. But it just,

Julie Byrd:

you know, it's, it's doing what we do best, which is personalizing vacations, and helping people find the right vacation for them. I mean, these resort clients, they may request a resort that's in San Jose all inclusive with a robust children's program, and they're going on their honeymoon, you know, it's like, you don't want to be there, you want to hope you find the right property, even if it is just a hotel room, or, you know, that guidance isn't out there on Expedia, or hotels.com.

Alex:

And that's definitely one of the challenges that you know, you face but it's also an opportunity, the same way that we do that, when you have a lot of inventory on your site, it makes it easier to go and, you know, play the big paperclip game, right, let's really go for the big marketing approach. But at the same time, you've got so much on your site, that you've got to be able to drill guests down in the correct rabbit hole to find what they're looking for. We just spent the last two days training with Doug Kennedy, which was awesome, we had him come in and work with our staff. And that was always Roy's saying was you know, don't take a guest on a tour of the Grand Strand. I mean, don't tell them about 20 different properties, like you want to really ask those questions up front, so that the options that you give them are definitely you know, within a reasonable, you know, close proximity of what they're interested in. So, you know, from a website standpoint, there's there's ways to do that. And I think your team obviously is very honed in on, you're helping guests making sure they get the right options. But that's that's harder for an Expedia or verbo or Airbnb to do besides just offering great filters. You know, that's that's one way that we all have an advantage is to be able to offer that personal touch and concierge. Yeah.

Annie:

So given everything that you've been through, in your experience, what do you see is the biggest opportunity that lies ahead going into 2022. For you in Cabo villas?

Julie Byrd:

Well, I would say at the biggest opportunity right now we just met with beyond pricing, we've just changed over to dynamic pricing. And we're seeing really, really great success with it. You know, we have a mix in our inventory, where some of our properties are exclusive to us. Some properties, we share inventory, that the property managers, and some we share the inventory with the owners who do their own thing as well. And we do require rate parity. And we do require that we've pulled that calendar, because we take online reservations, obviously. But the great opportunity for us is to move a lot of those non exclusive exclusivity because we're only offering that pricing obviously, to the exclusive properties. And we're seeing the ADR go up so tremendously. I mean, it's really taken hold. And I think that that's a really good opportunity for us to be able to grow our inventory, grow our exclusive inventory. And you know, now that we've got this new technology in who knows where else, you might see a cabo villas in a different destination from

Alex:

there. Oh, that's exciting. I love that.

Julie Byrd:

That's like I've been I was begging dawn for this for so many years. And so, you know, we needed to get the technology, we were on beach 12. And it was good. And it had its, I mean, the 12 had a really great activities module is the one thing I'm missing at track. But we got another company that I happened to know this. This other travel person like me, He's a specialist in Greece. And he does, he does the same thing that we do in Greece really. And I met him through windy parent and Conde Nast Traveler, and he created a software. And we were able to write a connection between the two software so that we can use his activity software with track and they talk to each other in a really easy way. So when we book the activities, the full itinerary in the trip around system it as soon as we confirm it, feeds it into tracks that we have the accounting all in one system. That's really the reason why we didn't want to invest in two separate systems for the resorts is because you want to keep your accounting once. Oh, yeah, really complicated if you don't. And so we were able to, you know, do that. So now that we have this technology that's really set up. Well, we can grow. I mean, I had to like talk about it, think, figure out where as you know, it's one of those other new things that having this kind of fresh blood, but Michelle being our CEO, we can, you know, the sky's the limit. Yeah,

Annie:

that's really that's really exciting. I think that that's you've done so many wonderful things in such a relatively short amount of time considering but just again, sky's the limit for you guys. And it's exciting and so I will be happy to welcome you to the States or wherever, whatever markets you You ended up and I think there's a lot of opportunity for you to grow. So thank you

Julie Byrd:

don't worry too much about the states because we probably will stay with that tropicals, right?

Annie:

I don't blame you.

Julie Byrd:

Right, we have to kind of be able to talk to the same client. So you know, we say, Cabo sold out, but we have this

Alex:

right, exactly. Yeah. And it's

Julie Byrd:

ready. I'm kind of you know, we have we had our feet wet in Loretto and Lapaz. And I'm gonna kind of get my feet wet in those different areas, we've got this new property that we're developing, or one of our owners is developing out by the Four Seasons and Kosta palms, it's like out by the East Cape of Los Cabos who's buying the same airport, but it's a completely different vacation experience. And so we're excited to expand out to that area.

Alex:

Yeah, it's a great growth strategy to do that. And you're approaching it from the right mindset that it's like you leverage that inventory, to get guests that you might not have been able to get before and also offer your guests if you don't have what they're looking for an alternative, right, because you obviously deliver on the experience to a very high level that if they, if you don't have anything for them in Cabo, but there's something and another part of Mexico, they want to know when they book there that they're going to have that similar experience to what they're accustomed to when they go to Cabo. And that's the same way that we've built our out of market partnerships, and the Panhandle where Annie is and Gatlinburg and these other areas, and we're going to have your properties back on our site at some point here soon. Once we got our integration with track finalized, but it's, you know, I think there's a lot of opportunity in our industry for more of those collaborative type partnerships, because we can either all give our money to Airbnb and VRBO. Or we can try and harness it ourselves and, and grow our own brands, you know, within those efforts, and it's nice to see you guys are taking the latter, they're definitely. Well, so, let's, we want to wrap up with a couple questions.

Annie:

Yeah, so um, so Julie, we talked about this, when we kind of did our pre call with you, we like to throw questions out at you just to kind of everybody get has a different take on it. So, um, I think what is something for you is your biggest, you know, one of the greatest accomplishments, either professionally or personally, that you, you know, that you hold on to? And what, you know, just, it's a guiding force

Julie Byrd:

for you? Well, I'll tell you, I mean, up until this last year, I thought I had a lot of those guiding forces, right, that big accomplishments, but nothing was as big as doing as as going through this COVID going through the massive increase in business at the same time of changing software. Everything that we did this year, was I mean, we were working on short staff, because, you know, we, we were switching systems, so we didn't want to do a whole bunch of hiring. And we were getting more inquiries than we'd ever had in the history of our company, we were having greater success in sales that we'd ever had in the history of our company. And we were changing software systems. I mean, that is a huge accomplishment, accomplishment, this last year, I had to be creative, I had to pivot when I needed to, and be able to have that flexibility to just make new decisions and change things and accept those changes. So I would say that 2021 was my biggest accomplishment to get through this year, and have this new technology implemented in our system.

Alex:

How long does it take to change software? Just curious?

Julie Byrd:

Well, I mean, we started with the track conversion. And then we were like, this was like at the end of 2020. And we were like, Okay, we are getting a massive amount of business. We need to concentrate on that. And we don't want to take away from that by doing this off. Because we so we kept kicking it down the curb, like okay, well, we'll do it in six months, or we'll do it. And so then finally, we were like, Okay, we have no more we can't do it anymore, because we've got the B 12. End of Life. So we basically we worked on it from January. We went live in June, with track and then we went live in July with trip around which is this off, which is the activity software. And then we went live with beyond just recently. Wow. To go. And so we've been working on all

Alex:

year. Yeah, you have to just kind of dive in, I think and be 12 giving that deadline to everybody. It probably was a good thing, right? Otherwise, it would have stayed on it but and, you know, credits to track They're a great group and their software is, you know, top of the line. So glad to hear that you're happy. I mean that that's that would be the worst story. If you said, I've spent all this time this year and I hate my software. And we're gonna do it again next year. And that happens, but I'm glad that it's been a good experience for you.

Julie Byrd:

And just being able to instill confidence in my team that what we're doing and all these changes are for the better. And you know, that was awesome. So difficult building our team and we were, you know, building up some higher level management positions so that we could restructure our corporate, you know, positions and kind of just get ourselves set up for the future. So that was a big accomplishment this year.

Alex:

Yeah, for sure. So one other question for you what, what is one memory that you wish you could relive over again?

Julie Byrd:

You know, what it's like, again, 2021. For me, I just got back from this dream vacation, where I met with my friends. And it was like my friends when we had 25 of us and we stayed in. We stayed in three different villas. So we did one villa for three nights. And then we moved over to two different villas for five nights, there was 25 of us. We did all of the activities, we really lived what we do for a living, and it was just such an incredible experience, this group of people that I brought together, they bonded in a new way. I mean, not all of them knew each other or really, you know, but we we've spent a lot of time and we had we created some deep connections, new deep connections, and we got to see Los Cabos. And then we had this. I mean, I don't know if you saw the blog post about my birthday party, but you know, what they do down there? There was there was flamenco dancers and fire dancers and mariachi and fireworks and delicious food and a dance floor with Cabo. Julie on it. I mean, it Wow.

Alex:

Avo Julie, I love I'm sure that's what they call you down there. Yeah, it is.

Julie Byrd:

I mean, Instagram, fun.

Alex:

I love that. What a great memory. And I'm glad that you're you had a great year, despite this being a crazy year for everybody to so that's

Julie Byrd:

awesome. Yeah, it was a well deserved vacation. We were done for two weeks. And just I want to hold on to it forever. They all want to go back for my next birthday. I was like when I turned 60. Yeah, a year anniversary of the company. And then I can do another trip for 25 people because it was like back in my roots of like, planning these itineraries. That's where I started, right. I'm a little rusty.

Alex:

Yeah. That's probably only a birthday. You really want to have once every decade because it sounds like a pretty big blowout. So yes, I

Annie:

needed a vacation from your vacation when you got back from that. I

Julie Byrd:

actually didn't it was it was. I mean, with the first week that we were there with just my partner myself. And we were there for the VIP summit, the Los Cabos VIP Summit. And so the tourism board took a found wind it's wined and dined us, and it was just wonderful. We got to try some food, that's where I found the best taco. And, and, you know, relax with my, with my, my guy. And then then the whole group got there. And it was great. I mean, we were pretty good together.

Annie:

That's great. That's great. That's great. Well, I think we're at the end. And just thank you so much, Julie, for taking some time out of your day to let us ask you questions and learn more about Cabo villas, I watched you guys for a couple years, having worked with you a little bit. And it's just amazing. And I'm so happy for you, you clearly are in an amazing place in your life professionally and personally. And you're thriving. And I think again, one thing that we love about this industry is the passion of the people that are in it, and it's drives all of us every day to do the best that we can do. So thank you so much for being a guest on our show.

Julie Byrd:

Well, thank you for having me. I'm so honored, I really follow both of you and just love everything that you do. And for this industry, it's really important and meaningful. So thank you guys for waiting to

Alex:

know. Thank you so much. I'll just add one thing to it. Andy and I have talked about, you know, quite a bit on the show the power of connection through LinkedIn. And that's kind of how I first started hearing about you, you Julie, I knew Dawn and rec through the phone calls. But just watching you through there and seeing you know what your conversations on things, you just seemed like such an interesting person. So I'm glad that we connected that way. And for anybody else out there. You know, I think LinkedIn is such a wonderful tool to build your network. And you know, like Greg Fisher said, on our last episode, your network is your net worth right. And at the end of the day, this is such a collaborative and it's a small industry, even though it's a big industry, but it's great to have people like you all the way on the west coast that are experiencing such similar things as you're in Myrtle Beach is unbelievable. But thank you again for being with us today. And we wish you nothing but the best of luck and for an amazing 2022

Unknown:

Thank you. You too. Awesome. Thanks, everybody.

Annie:

Thank you

Julie Byrd Profile Photo

Julie Byrd

Chief Operating Officer

With CaboVillas.com for 20 years, Julie Byrd is the company’s Chief Operating Officer and is passionate about delivering her team’s in-depth knowledge of all things Cabo travel related. Specializing exclusively in Los Cabos, Mexico, the company offers over 100 private vacation rentals, as well as resort reservations, private yacht charters, fishing charters, golf tee times, activities, full event planning, private jet charters, ground transportation – and more. An exceptionally high level of customer service sets Julie’s team apart, with an in-destination concierge team in Los Cabos, 24/7 customer service, and a highly trained team of Cabo sales professionals. Each trip is completely customized for each client, with a host of options to personalize the stay including chef services, grocery prestocking, in-villa massages and more. Julie’s proud to work for a woman-owned business with a staff that’s 90% female, bringing a unique perspective to the vacation rental industry. “Outstanding service is the very heart of our business,” says Julie. “We are committed to ensuring our guests not only enjoy the vacation of a lifetime, but that they can’t wait to book a return visit with us.”