Don’t Leave Rental Revenue on the Table Webinar Follow Up – Attendee Questions Answered!

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The Timeshare Board Members Association’s recent “Don’t Leave Rental Revenue on the Table” webinar delivered a dynamic conversation on timeshare resort rental revenue, with panelists Matt Eisenberger, Vice President of Rental Management, Capital Vacations, Jeff Farr, Vice President, Revenue & Technology, Grand Pacific Resorts, and Polina Gregory, Director, Vacation Rental Management, Lemonjuice Solutions, who joined TBMA president and webinar moderator Shep Altshuler for the September 24, 2020 session.

The webinar covered short stay and long stay rental strategies, prime targets for rental campaigns, which OTA’s are a must, the challenges of managing bookings, cancellations, refunds & rebookings, outsourcing rentals, and more.

We received several questions from attendees for our panelists that are now being answered below – we hope you find the information useful!

Question #1 from: Michael DiPaola, Sea Club IV and Magic Tree Resort

Do you charge OTAs a PPE fee?

Eisenberger: No, most resorts, at least at this point in time, are treating that additional PPE expense as an operational expense and are budgeting for it within general operating expenses for 2021.

Farr: We do not charge guest or distributors for PPE, nor do we charge for our Enhanced Cleaning protocols.   The Enhanced Cleaning Protocols and PPE requirements have become akin to utilities.  They are expectations.   We deem it our responsibility to do everything we can to create the safest environment possible for our owners and Guests.

With respect to PPE and cleaning protocols on the OTAs, most OTAs have added a filter that allows shoppers/guests to filter their search to include only those hotels/resorts with Enhanced Cleaning Protocol.    We now outline and merchandize our COVID safety program, Vacation Well, with all OTAs.  

Highly recommend that any TBMA member considering renting clearly outlines cleaning and safety protocol on any and all distribution channels for their rental program, including their own web site.

Gregory:  It is not something we charge guests. Our stance is that it is our responsibility to keep our guests safe.

Question #2 from: Neil Kolton, Interval International

Are you seeing more short-term stays (less than 7 nights) or are the traditional 7night stays still the main revenue driver for properties?

Eisenberger: Short term stays are the vast majority of what we are seeing comprised of long weekend “staycations” and drive to stays of 3-4 nights. With guests balancing work from home, schooling from home, childcare challenges, 7-night stays, which were in decline before the pandemic, will be very hard to come by except in select “fly-to” or isolated markets.

Farr: In general, the average length of stay for a nightly rental program is approximately 2.8 nights.   That said, since COVID, we have been seeing slightly longer lengths of stay.   Average is now 3.2.   In fact, many of the OTAs have released extended stay rate codes for stays of 7 nights or more and another for stays of 28 nights and longer.  Specifically, booking.com and Airbnb have programs that cater to both segments.

Gregory: It’s a dynamic process and a lot of factors are involved. 

Travel trends are showing fewer people are taking week-long vacations.  There are several factors that will influence your decision on the minimum length of stay.    We rarely set a 7-day minimum at a resort, though there are some exceptions.  Here are the factors that we take into consideration.  Most of our resorts fluctuate between a 2-5 day minimum.    

Seasonality/Demand

During your peak season, events, holidays, we recommend you can set a longer stay minimum.  During shoulder and off-season, we recommend decreasing the minimum length of stay required. 

Competition 

Are you competing against hotels or vacation rentals?   

Rental Guest Booking History  

Do you have a lot of guests booking week-long stays?   What is the average length of stay that your guests’ book?   How far in advance do your guests book longer stays?   How many vacancies to you have?   

Resort Location and Quality

Our experience is the higher-end and the better your location the easier it is to stick to the longer length of stay. 

Booking Window  

We keep a longer length of stay requirement further out.  As we get closer to the stay, we decrease our minimum length of stay.

Turn over the cost 

Question #3 from: Chad Nye, Club Chalet

Can you recommend good ‘booking engines’? We are a small timeshare.

Eisenberger: Probably the most popular booking engine for a resort on a budget is The Booking Button by Siteminder. It is only $47 per month and has quite a few features for the price. https://www.siteminder.com/pricing/

Another popular, higher-end booking engine is Travelclick’s iHotelier booking engine. This is more customizable and has a lot more functionality, but is about 10x the cost of The Booking Button. https://www.travelclick.com/solutions/reservations-and-booking-engine/ihotelier-booking-engine/

Farr: Recommend that you look for a booking engine that plugs in seamlessly with your channel manager and/or PMS.   If you are opening rental in general, look for one that plugs into the Channel Manager.   Pegasus, TravelClick, or SynXis as best in class booking engines.   We use Pegasus for most properties and Travel Click for a few as well.   Prefer Pegasus.    A list of booking engines that connect to SiteMinder is available through the following link:  https://www.siteminder.com/integrations/hotel-booking-engines/  All of these are available on a standalone basis as well.

Gregory: There are multiple options for small timeshares. If you currently have software, you want to make sure it integrates. Also, consider which OTA’s you like to list.  

Siteminder booking button is one option. Siteminder also has direct integration with most of the timeshare management software. 

Another affordable option for a small property is to use vacation rental software. These usually provide an option for direct booking and channel management.  

Question #4 from: Brian Rozler, Canada House

Are there any recommendations for specific channel managers when it comes to rentals?

Eisenberger: In my career, I have used all of the major providers and a bunch of smaller operators. The channel manager we use now ChannelRUSH has been the best of all. They are extremely competitive on price and Adam, the owner, is incredibly easy to work with. They offer connections to all of the major channels and can connect to any smaller channel willing to work with them. https://www.channelrush.com/hotel-channel-manager

Farr: Yes, to narrow your search, recommend you understand which Channel Managers connect to your PMS system.   Recommend SiteMinder as it is simple and cost effective and it connects directly to RDP, SPI, and TimeShareWare.    While I recommend SiteMinder, you may also consider Lexicon, TravelClick, and SynXis.

Gregory: It’s very important to start with the software. You want your channel manager to integrate directly with your Timeshare Management Software. The more you can limit the need to manually enter reservations the better.   

Rhea/Timesharesoft offers both full-service Timeshare Management Software with a direct connection to both Expedia and Booking.com. They are actively working on adding additional channels.  www.timesharesoft.com

Siteminder is a pure channel manager and integrates with most of the management software.  www.stieminder.com

For more information about TBMA Memberships, Sponsorships,  and the TBMA Webinar Conversations Series visit our website at tbmassoc.org