March 16, 2022

Top 5 Things Vacation Rentals Can Learn from Hotels, with Pete DiMaio


Today we are joined by Pete DiMaio for a very special episode! Pete is Vice President of Travel Boom Marketing, the hotel industry's leading marketing agency and on this episode he joins us to share the Top 5 Things Vacation Rentals Can Learn from Hotels. We recently joined Pete on his show The Hotel Marketing Podcast to share what hotels can learn from vacation rentals. This was a fun switch-a-roo episode and it is packed with helpful information!

Pete details the following tips:

#1: The On-Property Experience Sells The Stay:

  • Meeting the “innkeeper” and not just transacting a purchase 
  • Enjoying the amenities (are they available via the vacation rental company)?
  • The moment a guest steps foot on your property is the moment you are selling the next stay. Are you able to add value to their stay?  Are you able to surprise and delight?

#2: Maximize Your email and owned assets:

  • Social channels such as Facebook, IG, TikTok and others
  • Email communications
  • Email automation
  • Triggered messages

#3: Own your Guest through Remarketing & Reengagement:

  • Email 
  • Paid re-targeting
  • Communications
  • Asking for reviews, etc

#4: Reduce Booking Engine Abandonment Through Transparent Pricing:

  • Your potential guests will abandon a booking if they’re hit with massive fees on the checkout page.
  • Example of property who increased their checkout fees and saw conversion rate drop by over 50%
  • Build the value from the onset

#5: Spend the Time, Money, & Effort In Your Marketing:

  • Focus time and effort to optimize your website, marketing, and communications channels and avoid getting too mired in the day-to-day management and operations. 

Watch on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/NAWJzb0RRrQ

CONTACT PETE DIMAIO
TravelBoomMarketing.com
The Hotel Marketing Podcast
pete.dimaio@travelboommarketing.com
LinkedIn

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

Alex Husner - Linkedin
Annie Holcombe - Linkedin

Podcast Sponsored by Condo-World and Lexicon Travel

Transcript
Alex Husner:

Welcome to Alex and Annie, the real women of vacation rentals. And we are here today with a very, very special guest, Pete DeMaio. From from travel boom marketing. And actually, Pete, we were on your show just a couple of weeks ago. So this is a special episode where we're doing a switcheroo of podcasters. Pete, welcome to the show.

Pete DiMaio:

Thank you so much. Yeah, we actually had a lot of great feedback from Episode 213. Where you guys were on our show, and I've been looking forward to it ever since then to get on your show in and play the yin to your Yang, hotel versus vacation rental marketing.

Alex Husner:

We're trying to use this as an opportunity to show that everybody can work together, right? Come on. Exactly. Yeah. Now we were on Pete show a few weeks ago. And we talked about the top five things that hotels can learn from vacation rentals. And so today, Pete is on to talk about the top five things that vacation rentals can learn from hotels. So really excited to dive into that. And, Pete, before we get started, just give our audience some history on your impressive career. And you've been in hospitality marketing for a long time now, but can you just give us a little bit more information about what you've done in the past?

Pete DiMaio:

Absolutely. So currently, I'm VP of travel, boom marketing. So we do everything from pretty much anything under the sun as it relates to digital marketing for independent hoteliers. And our goal is really to help hoteliers, who you are battling finding their voice online and battling having an over reliance on OTAs to be able to kind of create their own path, own their guests and succeed online. So that's what we do. Now. I've been in the hotel and travel space for over 20 years, everything from you know, I worked the front desk for a very brief period of time. And on both the traditional side, the marketing side and on the digital side where I've been been lately. And we have hotels and clients across the country. So anything from a small little boutique hotels to large, you know, several 100 room resorts. So kind of gives me a good idea of of what's happening with hoteliers today and kind of what some of the things that we can share with the vacation rental brothers that we've got.

Annie Holcombe:

Very cool. So you've been in the industry for a long time you are in Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach is a big vacation destination, lots of vacation rentals. So out of curiosity, you said you worked with independent hotel years, have you branched into vacation rentals? Or is that something that you have like holistically decided that's not where you want to go, or you just haven't had the the inclination to go into that space?

Pete DiMaio:

We really haven't broken into that space as of yet. We do have some of our larger clients who are management companies, they do have very strong vacation rental presence. Typically we're going to be working with independent hoteliers, and that that's really is our sweet spot.

Annie Holcombe:

And as far as markets do, you works just in Myrtle Beach. But I think your you work all over the country because you've had some clients down in the Panhandle where I'm at correctly, all over the world, right? Yeah, I mean, yeah, so

Pete DiMaio:

we started out in Myrtle Beach, for sure. And we had, I say a good portion of our clients are here in Myrtle. But over the past several years, as we've been growing the company, all that growth has been outside the area. So we have people from Yosemite in California to New Mexico to, you know, up in the northeast, down in Florida kind of everywhere.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah. So do you get to go out and go get those clients, you get to see these great destinations? Or do you have a sales team that's doing that for you?

Pete DiMaio:

If it's a cool destination, I'm in that sales team, for sure. I try I try to get around to you every one of our clients. Absolutely. So I haven't made it out to Yosemite, but that's in the works now to get out there and check that out. But it's fun for me to be able to travel to learn more clients. Yeah. And I think hoteliers in general, or marketers, should I say forget that. The most important thing at any given destination is the guests who are staying at the property. And you miss that if you're just stuck in my case working from home right now or working from the office. You miss really what is that? That thing that pulls on your heartstrings to make you love the business that we're in? Yeah, absolutely.

Alex Husner:

Absolutely. I know you've got a lot of clients here locally in Myrtle Beach, though to where you're headquartered out and you're actually heats offices just maybe 15 minutes from where I'm at in North Myrtle Beach. So we're basically neighbors here. And your company has been very well known in the market for many, many years and work with all the best properties that we have. And like you said, a lot of them are. They are ran as you know, condo resort type properties more and more towards the hotel side and how they're managed. But the properties a lot of them are individually owned by homeowners and we still face a lot of the same things. And you know, at the end of the day, it's all it's all accommodations. It's all properties that need maintenance and housekeeping and to be marketed.

Pete DiMaio:

Oh, yeah. And honestly, that brings up a really interesting thing that we'll talk about later on as well is when you have a condo tell type property, what happens to the units that are not on the hotel's rental management program? Right. I think we'll talk about that a little bit, because that can create some very unique challenges. Yeah,

Alex Husner:

yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, that's, that's exciting. And we're super happy to have you on the show. Pete, thank you so much. I guess let's just jump into it. Let's dive into the top five things. And now it's just our audience knows me and I do not know what they are yet Pete has kept these as a secret. So we are very excited, just as I'm sure to find out is this big secret list.

Pete DiMaio:

Number one thing that vacation rentals can learn from hoteliers is to convert over to be in a hotel. And go to travel do. That's a great podcast. I'll talk to you guys later. No, no, it's actually I've got five things that I think I've seen over the 20 plus years, I've been in the business that we had a little bit of a disconnect on on the marketing sides. In the first one is for a hotelier the on property experience is really what sells the stay to the guest. And I think that's something that vacation rental companies, particularly independent, or smaller companies can learn. Because I A lot of times I'll see a vacation rental company, really pushing the unit, the unit amenities. And you know, basically what you get for your stay, to the expense of not talking about the the amazing area, the ability, or the amenities that are at the property and everything that is kind of beyond the walls of the unit that the person is renting. Yeah, I think that's a really important one not to miss, because you I think hoteliers for a long time have known that, you know, the hotel is kind of the means to an end, in terms of a vacation, and you want to push the things that the person is gonna be able to do while on vacation, versus just the the property itself.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, and I totally agree on that. And, you know, for our properties that we have on our website, as well as our partners that we push out to VRBO and Airbnb that are obviously vacation rental channels, we really encourage them to put pictures that aren't just of the unit. I mean, you want to see outside of the building, you want to see, of course, all the amenities, but also some attraction pictures and what's nearby. And really, the more pictures you can show in your listings, and to get people excited about that on property experience that you said, the better. And I think vacation rental managers for the most part are probably hesitant if they are not doing that, because they don't control that experience. I mean, if we're not the HOA that is maintaining the property amenities, which most of us are not, then you know that that can be a little bit sticky. But for the most part, I would say when in doubt, you definitely want to be showing all the pictures to give that full experience.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, I think that the one thing that's come into play for vacation rental people to be able to kind of bridge that gap is working with companies like exploring where they can create an experience within the market that doesn't necessarily have to be on the property. Because again, so many of these properties, especially the high rise condos aren't necessarily built with a lot of amenities in them. And I know down here on a full, you know, a full capacity building in July, there's not an awful lot of room on the pool deck. So you want to make sure that people don't, are aren't just trying to stay at the property at the pool, they see all the other things around there. But your point is, is absolutely spot on. They need to do more focusing on the amenities and the experience that they're going to have there. Because that is a good chunk of the time that they're going to be in the market, especially if it rains. So you want to make sure that they know what to do. Yeah,

Pete DiMaio:

yeah. And the way I always look at it is the moment the guests steps foot on the property is the moment that you as a vacation renter or a hotel your is working on selling their next day. So it's a very long sales cycle. When you think about an annual vacation, you want to make sure that when they're actually there in person face to face, you put your best foot forward. So from a hotelier perspective, you have the front desk staff, you have housekeeping staff and whatnot that can help create that experience. Vacation Rentals I think need to find a way to become that innkeeper to the guests who staying there and create those little surprise and delight experiences. You if it's your own check in there's something special wedding for the room to make it more valuable that they chose the independent room versus just going through a massive Hotel.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. Especially with the rise of technology now that you don't even need to go to check in in an office in most cases with vacation rental companies that you can just go right to the room with the electronic locks that you know it's great for convenience for the guests, but on the other hand, it does take away that experience of actually meeting the people From the company and having that. So that's definitely something to be mindful of, of how you create that experience, you know, pre and post stay. And I think, you know, in the pre part, phone, phone call reservations are still a large part of all of our businesses as vacation rentals. I think phone is still like 55% of our revenue. or Now I'm sorry, opposites 45% of running online is 55. But still, that's a big chunk. So that experience that your phone call agents make over the phone in the booking process is very important.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah. Okay, well, so drop number two on us. Let's see where we go now.

Pete DiMaio:

So number two is maximizing your email in your own assets? Again, I think yeah, hotel years because in past, they may have had a slightly larger budget compared to a very small rental management company. And honestly, I could probably say the same thing for very small hotel. But look at the channels such as, obviously, social channels, Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, and others. But your email communications as well, what are you doing to make sure you are really making the most of the assets you're able to develop, to reach out and connect directly with your guests. So I think if you know from from our perspective, from a hoteliers perspective, that's so important, because that is what you can do to make sure that you're minimizing the reliance on OTAs and third parties. But I think from a vacation renters perspective, it's also the thing that lets you continue to create the, I guess, ambience of a May amazing vacation, right? Yeah. Be in front of them on social via email. Yep. On the phone, specifically, whatever it takes to keep yourself top of mind to that customer.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, absolutely. And one of the challenges that we have, whether it's vacation or hotel is getting that guest information, if they book on a channel, depending on the channel, what strategies or what do you recommend to your clients for how they can make sure that they get that guest information? And when they get it? What's the next step? What do you tell them to do with it?

Pete DiMaio:

So this is tricky, particularly if you don't have somebody on property for the hoteliers perspective, just about everybody that we work with requires that the front desk staff update that folio with the proper email address. Yeah, yeah. Now from a, you know, Airbnb or VRBO, or VRBO perspective, making sure that you have the ability to collect that data as well. A great way you may not be able to get it for their current state. But having a comment card having a printed sign up in the at the property, you're simply when you're communicating with that guest make sure that you're extending the opportunity for them to have your personal phone number, have your email addresses and whatnot. I know the Airbnb VRBO and whatnot, they're pretty strict on, you know, keeping their data as well. Yeah, all the OTAs are Yeah, yeah. But the thing that how it organically you can move that guests from their customer to your customer. Right? Absolutely.

Annie Holcombe:

I think there's some workarounds. I know, with our partners at lexicon, we, since we're a channel manager, we do work with all the different channels, and we do the front loading of all their properties and make sure their content is curated. And one of the parts of the components of our onboarding process is to actually set up automated communications through the OTAs. So it's like, you know, when they get a booking, they get a notice that, you know, thank you for booking with this property, and it gives them the information. And then there's another one that'll go out, you know, in different increments, like 30 days out seven days out with different information. But it's, again, it's touch points that are going from the OTA, which they trust that they booked with, but the information that they're getting is about the property or the property manager so they can kind of they start to get comfortable with that relationship so that when they do arrive, they know that they they may have booked through an OTA but they've got somebody that's kind of boots on the ground with them to be there to greet them and take care of them. And it's we've noticed the more properties that we do that with the more the more capable or the the better the communication, ease of communication becomes because the guest gets used to that communication through the process of before arrival. And then they're not as put off when the when the property says, Well, hey, let me get your email for future because they've already been communicating with Mitch just kind of on a you know, a mask process,

Alex Husner:

right? Absolutely. Yeah. When our guests check in if it's a OTA booking, we have a little printout in their checking envelope that has it basically tells them the reasons to book direct and tells them if they booked for next year with us before they leave, they get a 10% discount. So that works really well that's that's driven a lot of people to I think just to think twice, man, most people you know, the general public doesn't know what book direct means. All of us thought you use that. Throw that term around all the time, but the general public doesn't know what that means. But I mean, they're already doing it by going and searching for other options when they see how much a booking fee is on Airbnb, for example. But at the same time, I think it's important not to overlook, you know, explaining to guests in a simple way Understand, weigh, you know what that benefit is?

Annie Holcombe:

I'm sorry. I was gonna say yesterday we interviewed Mark Simpson from boost Lee and one of the things you know, he focuses on is obviously the book direct. But we talked into the deep, like the depth of book direct and what that really means. And one of the things that he said that was coming up pretty regularly was that the and I believe this to be true just in past experience, people think there's so much labor involved in getting a book direct when if you just set up processes, and you set up kind of a, you know, format of how you're going to communicate to the guests. It's not as hard as it seems. And I would imagine from, you know, from your perspective, from travel, boom, you guys have sort of a template that you can give to somebody to say, Hey, these are maybe the, again, going back to the top five things that we're going to share, but things that they could do very simply that don't cost a lot of money and a lot of labor, would that be true?

Pete DiMaio:

Oh, absolutely. A perfect example. That is, I think, if you tried to manually do everything that you need to do to create that one on one relationship with a guest, you'll be working with one guest at a time, the reality is relying on your automations. And even the most basic email platform, look at MailChimp, they have some really cool automations and journeys, that you can create that platform now, by setting those up and putting the time in now. It's going to help you moving forward. Because everything that we've learned from an email perspective is the vacation is really the most important part of a person's life. They look forward to it, they can't get too much communication. If you look at the the confirmation emails, you look at the pre arrival emails, you look at a booking upgrade email, which is probably more specific to hotels, those have phenomenal, phenomenal click rates, because it's like I'm going on vacation, and somebody from that vacation that destinations talking to me. Yeah,

Alex Husner:

yeah. They want to know, as much as possible. Exactly. Want to know, smoothly. I mean, yeah, it's as much information as they can provide the better.

Pete DiMaio:

Yep. And like little things like if you had a, your integration with your weather app, where you could send out an email a couple days beforehand, saying, Hey, here's what the weather's looking like, get ready for a great vacation. Those are the things that are so important, because you're creating that relationship. Then after that person has stayed and you reach out to them for your reviews and your your booking anniversary messages. They're already trained to be welcoming to your messages and open them,

Alex Husner:

right. Absolutely. Yeah, I'd love to say a product and interim type product that allows us to get more email addresses to from other people in the party. Because that's a big thing for vacation rentals with, you know, our condos are most of them are three plus bedrooms. So you could have, you know, 10 1214 people in a condo, but you only have the contact information for the person who booked it. And we were just at a conference recently. And one of the people I was sitting with said, Yeah, you know, it really does become a problem. Because me and my wife just went on this vacation, we were three other couples and the other couples wife, she was the only one that her email address was on file. And she got all the information about when trash goes out, and all these different things. And then she ended up leaving early, so none of them had any of that information handy. So it's like, okay, that would be great for everybody to have that. But not only to improve the value or the quality of the state that they're currently in, but then now to remarket to all those people the next time because they're not always going to book that one person that booked isn't always going to be the one that's making reservations for them. But we actually we talked to any guests view guy, I don't know, I've told you a little bit about them. And I was at Gen X was talking to them about it. And you know, that's I think having something in the room that allowed allowed us to capture that if maybe even you make it like a gamified type thing to get everybody in the party to put in their email address to get a coupon or something like that. I think there's a lot of potential there. And that would help hotels or vacation rentals that could be done in either segment.

Pete DiMaio:

Yeah, I mean, we've added this all the time. I'm sure we've added this all time on the golf side, where your package and you end up with, you know, eight, you know, 1216 plus people on a single booking. Yeah, how do you say, okay, these 16 people are coming down here on a golf vacation. Well, that's 16 vacations that they're probably gonna take with their families. Exactly. How do I get ahold of people? And yeah, it's tough. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I

Annie Holcombe:

think he doesn't stay fine. Stay by the company that does that where you can actually capture because everybody that logs into the Wi Fi, they have to give their email addresses. Yeah, I think they allow like, I mean, I think certainly Wi Fi only allowed for people to log in or whatever for users, but everyone has to log into they do that so I would do stay fi would be a good option

Alex Husner:

for that. Yeah. Yeah. Perfect. Awesome. Well, let's what's number three Pete?

Pete DiMaio:

So it was telling me before we were recording, I had four really great ones and one that's and this is so get ready. This is the kind of squeeze it in the middle Yeah, yeah, and I kind of split out number two, which is maximize you own your email assets. Number three, I would say is really own that guests remarketing and reengagement strategies. And we've pretty much talked about this a lot in terms of your email collection on property and whatnot. But you think about how you're engaging your guests after the stay. Hotels, early savvy, hoteliers, I think do this pretty well. Yeah, some of the great ways are, you know, a paid retargeting campaign through social or just PPC type campaign, it's really helpful to do and that's why you won't get that email address. But the other thing that I we found is super helpful, that I really haven't seen a lot of people use is what I call a guest in a state anniversary message.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, I was just thinking about that. Yeah,

Pete DiMaio:

it's crazy. So if you send an email that triggers 30 days prior to the guest previous booking, or not 30 days prior to the year anniversary. So what that will do is that gets in front of them before their traditional planning and booking cycle and puts you back from the center, they're already probably pre primed to be thinking about a vacation. And if you are being proactive and re engaging your guests, you're much much more likely to get that repeat booking. Yeah, and

Alex Husner:

that's such an easy one to automate that is very personalized to so I mean, that's like a set it and forget it kind of email. Yeah.

Pete DiMaio:

Yeah. And it's one of those ones where it's it's a rare time where you know, everything that that guest enjoys, you know that they're traveling with a family, you know, that they enjoy a specific unit type, you know, any all this great stuff that you know about that vacations, vacations previous day that you can integrate through the personalization levels. And then lastly, I'd say that a part of that process is making sure that reengagement is about asking for reviews. Getting those reviews on particularly Google from a vacation rental perspective, is that's the Holy Grail. If you can increase the velocity of those reviews, that's going to help search rankings, it's going to help awareness that's going to help everything that you do from a marketing perspective.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, absolutely. Like Alex and I focused on that for our podcast is, we're so used to telling partners to make sure they ask for reviews that we do that for our podcast quite so we're taking all these marketing tips and utilizing it for podcasting. Anyone that works at work well, so what's number four, then?

Pete DiMaio:

Alright, so number four, is, and this was near and dear to me, reduce booking engine abandonment, through transparent pricing. So you know what, and I've seen this one, specifically on the hotel side as well, where a hotel, your increase their cleaning fees to cover, I mean, obviously, employment is a major thing in our world right now. And they jacked up their cleaning, freeze, the resort fees, and whatnot. And what ended up happening is, you see a rate that you're going to be staying that you're gonna be booking for. And then when you get to that scary checkout page, and now your taxes and fees, increase the rate 30 plus percent of what the booking would actually be. And now all of a sudden, you've moved me from, you know, one price point to an entirely different price point. Yeah. And you've scared me, and you make me start to question, okay, look at all these hidden fees. What else do I not know? Right? Yeah. In that specific example, we saw conversion rate dropped by nearly 50%. And to the point where we reached out and said, Hey, what's going on? We saw a drop in your version, right? And we kind of backtrack to Oh, that was when these changes took place. Yeah, and I see this a lot on the vacation rental side, just you know, booking Airbnb ease and ferbos. On vacation is your Oh, great. This one's only X dollars per per night. And then you go through the process, and there's a cleaning fee. There's this fee, there's this fee, you will it's it wasn't $100 A night, it's actually $190 a night. Yeah, yeah. And you get right back to the beginning of that search process and start looking for different ones. Yeah,

Alex Husner:

it really I mean, that in our website does this full disclosure. So when you start on our side, it shows the as low as price per night, but that's the lowest night of that whole stay so that I can vastly throughout the week, but it's almost like, you know, I think about the sometimes I don't know if we even need to show a price at that point. It could just be like $4 signs, like it's either on low end of its very budget or it's luxury, because really that price that you see there doesn't help you figure out what the total amount is. Once you go through that process, you have to actually see that but one thing I will say that makes that complicated for us is you have to look at in your market, how your competition is doing it too, because that will happen sometimes and with us and we include departure cleaning and linens in our rate, some of our competition does not so that's also another thing But if they are, if one of your direct competitors is in your market like ours, where we still compete against VRBO, and Airbnb, but definitely very much against our, you know, nearby companies that are here, if they are not including the rate or the tax, or the tax or the fees, or they don't include the linens for maid service, that makes a big difference. And we try to make it very clear that when it shows the rate, it is saying that does include those, but you don't see the tax and fees until you get over onto the booking page. But it's it's tough. And I agree with you. I think the transparency, I think it could be better. But it's like everybody has to do it at the same time in order to get people to compare apples to apples.

Pete DiMaio:

Yeah. And in the case of that, that we were looking at was this was an outlier in the market. Yeah. And we saw the, you know, conversion rates for other properties. And the ADR for other properties, it still matched the figure you're paying per night. It's just how the the money was applied to that booking process. Right. Yeah. So what my recommendation would be is to test that, you know, can you pull back a little bit on your, you know, true ADR? Yeah, and then move a little bit more into taxes and fees to find that sweet spot, it's kind of that always be testing type mentality is, you know, what is that proper mix? And that kind of gets to the right management side, which is not my bag, necessarily. But yeah, it's something to consider.

Annie Holcombe:

Like, it's a hard it's a hard question to answer just because there's no, there's no right or wrong way to do it. It's just like what will convert in your market based on all the all the factors that are in play, and, you know, just from a vacation perspective, COVID up ended. So many norms that were in play, but but again, pricing, because all of a sudden, the measures that people had to take for cleaning took cleaning to a level that had never been done before. So they they're, I was talking to somebody the other day, and they were had a raid issue where they had rooms that were coming, coming through at 88 $90 a night. Yeah, all the fees and percentages were tacked on, it was $7,000. Oh, my God. I mean, their abandonment rate had it been like, you know, just completely skyrocketing, they had a rate issue. But I think, you know, again, it's just even even on OTAs, it's really hard to manage, because from a channel management perspective, we hold everything in our system. And we have to load fees on this channels customized by the way that they're serving them up. Some of them are saving, it's just one line item, all fees are together. So you see it quicker. And then other ones have emerged, like a percentage fees are applied when taxes are applied. But that you see, you go through like three processes, and it can go again, from $200 A Night to by the time you're at the end of it, you're like $500 a night. So you know, the shock is something that I think everybody is trying to get over. And there has to be transparency across the board. And I know, you know, from a branded hotel perspective, they, you know, they shouted at the OTAs for a long time to to help them message some of the things that they were doing, because they were getting accused of hiding these fees when they weren't hitting people just weren't reading them. But the problem is, when you're planning a vacation, you're not looking at the fine print, you're like I want to go to the beach or I want to eat you know, so it's a really, I think that's, to me, this is like the biggest one that everybody needs to work on. It's just hard all around.

Pete DiMaio:

Yeah, it's definitely not just a vacation rental problem. Hotels have a huge problem with this as well. And I really don't know what the right answer is, because a lot of it is also how those fees are applied. There, you know, a, the booking the actual booking itself, is typically go to the homeowner, cleaning fees and whatnot or go to the vacation rental provider. Yeah, so you have to make sure that you're covering your own needs. So you can service the guests properly. But also take care of the homeowner in a vacation rental type perspective,

Alex Husner:

even even beyond the fees within a market if you have a vacation rental company who is yielding their rates and is using right software. And then you have a company who is not who is still doing it the old fashioned way of they set the right spec in the fall of the previous year for the next year. And they just leave in there. It leaves for such vast differences in rates across the whole industry in the market. And we definitely see a lot of that here. And we still have a lot of companies that are doing it the old school way. And it's it's tough. I mean, I'm sure it's extremely confusing for the guests to understand because if they're looking at comparing two units, they're the same size and they might be in the same building, but the price could be a difference of $1,000 or more depending on the week. So that's a tough thing. But you know, I think obviously hotels are more experienced and they've just got I think better tools overall because they've been doing it longer on the revenue management side. And that's not my forte specifically either, but I just I think that they are much they're much more dialed into. If they know their comp set is at a certain a certain range and they're very close to it. Whereas for our properties, it can really range quite a bit.

Pete DiMaio:

Yet when you mentioned the rates for the year and said forget it. It reminded me of back in the old days lease here in Myrtle Beach, where you'd have a brochure and a look Print the rates for the entire year. Yeah, it was done. Like in November, right? Or the year even began. Yeah, I've set all my rates manager.

Alex Husner:

Exactly. Isn't that crazy? And also, that was not that long ago. I

Annie Holcombe:

mean, no, it wasn't.

Alex Husner:

We still do our brochure, but we don't have rates in it anymore. It just says, you know, daily and weekly prices available online. But I remember Oh, my gosh, when I first started that kind of world doing that brochure, I would be given the rates, but then I still had to put all the pricing into these charts in order for our designer to do it. It was absolutely terrible. It was the worst

Pete DiMaio:

year, because you know, as soon as like February rolls around, you're like, I did it all wrong.

Alex Husner:

Always have a typo. And then it's one thing that somebody finds like, oh, shoot, it wasn't $700 $7,000.

Annie Holcombe:

I've worked with, I worked with managers that they do that. And actually one of the ones I can think of is actually from Myrtle Beach. And when we started working with her lexicon, she was like, oh, no, we set our rates in there. They're there. They're done for the season. I'm like, well, it's January, like what happens if you have a storm? And she's like, well, it just, that's just the way it is. And so she was like, I need somebody to help with revenue management. I was like, Well, what are you managing? If you're not going to change? I just need to know that, you know, if we're going too low or too high, so one of the pricing tools, and I don't remember who it was it talked, I want to say maybe it was beyond pricing, but it could have been wheelhouse or whatever, talk to her. And she was like, they said, Okay, well, you need to set you know, your floor rate, and then we will fluctuate from that. And she's like, Well, my flow rates in my brochure, that's what that's that's the way. They're like, do you want us to mark the rates up? And she's just like, No, I just want you to tell me if I'm wrong. And they're like, You're wrong, you know? Like, what do you mean, I'm wrong? How can I be wrong? They're like, this is 2020, you know, about this. So I think again, there are people that they've always done everything, even on the hotel side, they've always done it, especially with these little smaller hotels that are family on and family run. They've been doing it the same way for so long. And it's really more of that fear of the unknown, like, what potential is out there. But are they feeling like if they change something? Are they going to miss out? Are they are they losing what they have built up over time? So imagine with independent hotels, just like with vacation rentals, there's a lot of coaching and hand holding and cajoling and humiliating that's.

Pete DiMaio:

Yeah, that's funny. It's funny what you said there was kind of leads me right into number five, perfect. It's a perfect transition. It's time money and effort on your marketing. Oh, yeah. Definitely very small hoteliers, I think already have this problem and vacation rentals do as well. But if you're a smaller operation, you have to spend some time getting away from the day to day management. Yeah, and spend some time thinking about, you know, your quarterly writes that you're going to set in January and more for three months, maybe spend some time not ignoring that. And you know, think about your marketing, think about your strategies, and put the pieces in place. So that you can go back to your day to day management, but you're doing it in a much more optimized way.

Alex Husner:

Yeah. And it's the difference of working in the business versus on the business. Right. And for a lot of small vacation rental companies. That's that's tough. If you are the Director of Operations, and you don't have anybody in marketing, that's a tough thing. And a lot of what we see now, newer vacation rental companies, they are relying so much on VRBO and Airbnb, because that drives so much business to them. But it's like, you know, this kind of this last point ties in a lot of the other points that you've brought up that you've got to have that book direct strategy in place to and even just adding one of the things that we've talked about today is going to get you further ahead. So you don't have to jump all in and have to have a massive plan to get started on this. Just doing a couple things. Right is going to move the needle?

Pete DiMaio:

Yeah, no, I would kind of add to that is because it was like, Oh, it's too expensive. I don't have the time to stop my management and focus on, you know, my systems thinking. But I would challenge anyone listening to do one thing, and that is look at the total Commission's actual total costs. You're not doing it. Yeah. Because those those are the hidden costs of doing business. I'm paying this much to Airbnb and paying this much to Furbo or whomever it might be. What if you didn't have to spend that amount of money? Right? Would you spend that money on that would make your systems more effective? Yep. Yeah.

Alex Husner:

So yeah, and I think it comes down to what your company goals are, too. I know, for us at Condor world we've, we use the OTAs less than a lot of companies do. But that's been because we've put significantly more resources into building our brand because of how we want to grow that into you know, other different segments. But that's it's important to be thinking about that because if you do want to grow your vacational company, you want to move into new markets or anything like that. You want to be making sure that you are emphasizing you know the brand and book direct and using the OTAs to bring you that new business that fuels the whole funnel?

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, and I think a big part of it is to your point, Pete is that so many people don't do that analysis, it takes a while to do. But you really have to do that analysis to understand what your cost of acquisition of a reservation. And so many people don't know that they think like they think, well, if I'm putting you know about, you know, PPC out there, and I'm spending x amount a month and I get so many reservations, that's my cost. Well, that's there's so many other factors in there. And sometimes, again, in larger markets, like a Myrtle Beach or Panama City, you're competing against the OTAs. And they've driven the cost of that up so high, you have to use all these other steps in the process in order to keep that cost down for you. But if you don't really know what you're spending it not only from a time perspective, but just you know, needing tools or whatever it is, you have to know what that cost actually is before you can make any determination on what the right direction to go is.

Pete DiMaio:

Yeah. And I think if you're thinking about your KPIs appropriately, your occupancy is not necessarily the KPI you want to look at, it's gonna be more of a rev par or, you know, profit per available room or whatever that might be. Focus on that. And if you have some, you know, occupancy that goes unused, but you're more profitable overall, that tells you you're probably getting to the right mindset of you optimizing your, your entire process.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, and I know for this year, specifically has been more conversation about focusing on the overall revenue, not a balance of revenue and room nights or occupancy, because they don't have the staffing. And so the staffing is a huge problem. And so it's a matter of like, how do I raise my rates and maybe not take those lower rated reservations, but still maintain my revenue levels, you know, not focusing on occupancy? I don't need to sell out every week, I don't need everybody to check out Saturday to Saturday. I mean, I think that that, that really has changed a lot for vacation rentals, where hotels understood that, that it was okay that you didn't have to have everybody staying seven nights. It was like if they stayed too, maybe they paid a little more than if they stayed three or you know, however it is. But I think again, at the end of the day, it's just you have to do what's right for your business. But if you don't understand the cost of doing business, it's really hard to make the right decisions.

Pete DiMaio:

Yeah, that's your kind of six. That was a sixth time.

Annie Holcombe:

Oh, yeah. I wanted to ask you for like a side a side item. So trends, like what are you seeing and trends that you think that maybe vacation rentals could tap into that or that hotels either have adopted or are going to be doing over the next, you know, 1824 months?

Pete DiMaio:

Yeah, that's a tough question. Because I think everybody's a little bit in flux. We actually have seen some hotels that are still having a lot of trouble with staffing, like you mentioned. And they're trying to figure out, do they have the hotel or the resort open at 100%? If they can handle I handle that occupancy? But the other trend that I'm seeing is we're seeing bookings farther out than we have in the past.

Alex Husner:

Yeah, yeah. agree on that. Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

If we were seeing that, and now with what's happened in the Ukraine, and gas prices, specifically in the southeast, because the gas prices in the southeast always go crazy. But we've seen that booking window shrink back down again. So while we were seeing we were seeing May, June July reservations, that kind of just didn't shut off. And you definitely saw a slowdown within the last seven days. So we're kind of back in that in the month for the month. I think that'll open up again, when think people start to feel like the situation over there is either coming to a resolution or going away completely. But yeah, but we have seen a definite increase year over year, and definitely over the last couple years.

Pete DiMaio:

Yeah. And you I think that that goes to the point of don't set your rates annually. Right. Yeah, exactly. Because what we're seeing is like, we're in some places, you know, July is, you know, you're over half filled up at this point. Yeah. Which for a lot of my clients is way above rate. Yeah. Where they start really doing that yield management. So yeah, where do I need to push my rate so that I am competitive with the market, but then also not leaving money on the table? Yeah,

Alex Husner:

yeah. And I think I mean, it comes down to you want your repeat guests, you want to incentivize them that they're going to get the better rate than a new guest, right? So it's like, in the beginning of the year, we want to offer our biggest discounts, and then you work if the price goes up closer to a rival. And I remember Pete going back, probably, I don't know, eight years ago, or so when the properties in the Myrtle Beach market started doing that. And it was like, hey, it was a big shift, because it used to be kind of the opposite. But when they started doing that, we looked at it too. And we thought, okay, that actually makes a lot of sense. But that for vacation rentals, it was different because we were, we started out at the highest price of the year. And then it got down at the lowest when we got closer to arrival. And we didn't have the rooms filled. But that's it. We've shifted things now. And I think from a revenue management perspective, vacation rentals has caught up quite a bit in that but you want your previous guests that are loyal to you want them to get the best prices and then just be mindful as you get closer to arrival. How you can really optimize that right?

Pete DiMaio:

Yeah, well What needs to be talked about? It's actually one of our episodes about Black Friday and Cyber pricing and really making sure that if you do say, you book early, you get the best rate then then becomes the the limit unit as the mass, right. I'm gonna write Yeah, it's gonna be I think we're gonna be a lot harder from a vacation rental perspective, because you empty rooms is a specific homeowner. That's angry. Right, right. Yeah. versus, you know, hoteliers? Like they just don't clean that room.

Alex Husner:

Right? Yeah, yeah, exactly. And even on the properties that are vacation rentals, but the round, like the resorts that you work with, the homeowner doesn't see their unit blocked off specifically in their owner's closet. And I think they see a an Occupy occupancy percentage for that type for that room type for a date range, but they're not seeing specifically that if I have Crescent shores one on one I can see as a kind of world owner that that week is blocked off, and that it makes it complicated. But that's the complicated part. Businesses Yeah. Yeah. And they can see what they got for last year, too. So I mean, there's a lot of transparency within what we do, which is is good, but challenging. Yep.

Pete DiMaio:

That's why they pay you guys the big bucks. Right? Yeah.

Annie Holcombe:

arguable least

Alex Husner:

margin somehow shorter than the sticker. But

Annie Holcombe:

gosh, so we're actually at 40 minutes. And this is probably one of our longer interviews, because Pete, you're awesome. And you're so much fun. And we're going to have you back to touch back on these and see if they worked for any of our, any of our part out all implemented with my partners and see how see how it goes. But I wanted to ask you, if you could give yourself some advice of what today is five years ago, and what you're gonna see, what would you give?

Pete DiMaio:

So I appreciate you saying this, these questions in advance because this was a hard.

Alex Husner:

Oh, man, we should have just sprung it on you.

Pete DiMaio:

I'm glad you asked me the questions, you know, so I guess my advice to myself would be the voice my concerns and speak the truth, as soon as realistically possible. I've always had issues where you kind of want to dance around the cold, hard facts, and you want to appease others, so you don't necessarily hurt their feelings. But what I found is that really only hurts your credibility in the success of our clients. Yeah. And I started to kick myself every once a while be like, Okay, you're being too nice. You kind of need to say specifically, what's on your mind. And you need to say specifically, what is the best course of action, and then deal with the repercussions as they may but at least you're being true to yourself, and to the client's best interest?

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, you're right. At the end of the day, you need to be a trusted adviser for them. And they're going to continue to bring you back if you told them the hard truths. I mean, they have to do and what's going to work and what was what is it going to work?

Pete DiMaio:

Yeah. And that's of all the things I think, you know, looking back that I've messed up, it's, you know, well, I don't know if we can let me think about that. Those kind of things. Yeah. In the back of your mind, you're like, No, don't yeah, that's

Alex Husner:

yeah, don't

Annie Holcombe:

don't be don't be indecisive in front of a partner. Yeah, exactly. Perfect. I

Alex Husner:

think that that just, you know, that goes to how important it is to build really good partnerships with your clients or your homeowners, whichever your clientele may be there that, you know, and then for myself, personally, with our resort partners that I went through that as early salesperson to and you know, you've just got to build up that confidence to know that sometimes you're going to make recommendations that they might not originally agree with. But if you feel like you're offering it for their best interest, then it's worth it to say if they don't take your advice, then oh, well, but at least you did the right thing by trying to show them the way.

Annie Holcombe:

Yeah, exactly. So I think the other question that we Alex and I were dying to know is what was your first job?

Alex Husner:

Yeah, yeah. Wait, hold on. Was it singing?

Annie Holcombe:

No. Oh,

Alex Husner:

that's what it was. For audiences listening. So you have to go and listen to Pete's podcasts a travel boom Marketing Podcast, because he does a song during each episode. Kinda want to make you do it.

Pete DiMaio:

I can only sing it for news items. We don't have any news items.

Alex Husner:

Well, you have to come back and do a news item. Great singer. So not just for the hotel marketing news. But also it's

Pete DiMaio:

it's a variety show. Yeah, exactly. I love it. That's it. Yeah. So my first job at 14 I got a job as a cart attendant at a local golf course. Ooh. And the best part about that job, and this is going back to old school, South Carolina, because my family moved down here in the mid 80s. Yeah, if you had a job, you could drive at 14. So I I was able to drive to work at 14 years old, which was a horrible, horrible idea. Especially now that I have kids that are older than that, I'm like, Oh my gosh, I can't believe my parents would let me drive.

Annie Holcombe:

Really funny. That's pretty much my husband's family is all from South Carolina. And they talked about that I didn't realize it was like that late in the 80s. Because my husband and his brother were born in the 50s and 60s, but they were able to drive when they would go to their grandparents house, they were able to do that. And I was like that your grandpa can't let you drive. And they were like, No, it's legal. Yeah.

Pete DiMaio:

Oh, it was. This was probably as 91 Oh, wow, that Wow. Yeah. But we're kind of more out in the country. We literally had one of my sister's friends drive to her sixth grade party. I think it was like two miles away. His dad said he can borrow his truck and drive down the road to the

Annie Holcombe:

I was so short. At that age, it would have been like this.

Alex Husner:

Oh, my gosh, we appreciate you being here so much. And this has been a very informative episode. And I love the style this I think we can have you back certainly to talk about more topics. You're just such a wealth of knowledge. But how can our audience get in touch with you if they want to learn more about you or what travel? Travel blue marketing can do? Yeah, sure

Pete DiMaio:

thing. So they want to kind of keep up with me. They can check me out at Pete DeMaio which is p e t e di m a i o on LinkedIn. They can also find us at travel blue marketing.com. It's also traveled with marketing marketing on LinkedIn as well. But it either those places is great. We love feedback. We love ideas. And we love helping Hoteliers and vacation rental owners alike.

Alex Husner:

And they can find the podcast on the website also, right? Yes,

Pete DiMaio:

yes, I've got a travel marketing.com/podcast For just look for hotel marketing podcast on Apple, iTunes, Google, Spotify, wherever you want to listen to podcast, we're, we're there in waiting to sing songs for you. Yeah.

Alex Husner:

Everybody that will be so surprised when they go over there and happy that they did. Well, if anybody wants to get in touch with Annie and I you can go to Alex and Annie podcast.com. And if you're enjoying listening to the show, we'd love to hear from you. If you can leave us a review on Apple podcasts or whichever podcast service that you listen to. That would be amazing. And until the next time, we will see you soon. Thanks everybody. Hey, thanks. Yeah,

Pete Dimaio Profile Photo

Pete Dimaio

Vice President- Director Client Services & Marketing TravelBoom

Pete DiMaio is the vice president and director of marketing at TravelBoom. With TravelBoom, Pete takes an analytics approach to hotel marketing and works tirelessly to ensure his clients are able to drive occupancy, increase RevPAR, and improve direct bookings; all while providing a granular level of reporting that proves the return on investment. Pete has over two decades of experience in hospitality marketing from both the traditional and digital sides of the business. Pete is active in the hospitality community both with HSMAI and as the host of the Hotel Marketing Podcast.