Do you own a short-term rental in Hawaii? Are you looking to buy a Hawaii vacation condo and trying to determine how much income it can produce? Want high occupancy rates, stellar reviews and return guests? Instead of looking at what appeals to you, think about your audience.
People who come to Hawaii on vacation have more options for accommodation than ever before. Hotels, resorts, condos, houses, cottages, wellness centers, and even tree houses are available for nightly rentals. Those who choose a privately-owned condo do so for several different reasons. Many want a kitchen, so they can cook their own meals. Some prefer to be oceanfront and away from resort crowds. Others view this option as more affordable and don’t want to pay for a daily maid service they don’t value.
But what do these vacationers truly want and what do they look for? How can you maximize your rental income, maintain higher occupancy rates, and referred business?
Effectively Market your Rental
Unless the condo is a destination in itself, most vacationers will decide what area they want to stay in and see what’s available. If your property is in the location they’re after, your goal is to show up as one of their choices. These days, nearly everyone uses the internet to research their vacation home. What you want is to capture enough interest online that these potential renters will read reviews, request additional information and eventually book their stay.
Getting your audience to see your property displayed online is a challenge. With the thousands of options, your listing needs to shine. Whichever photos you choose to showcase will determine whether your prospect will be interested in viewing your listing. The first thing your audience looks for is high-quality photos.
High-resolution, bright, and accurate pictures of the vacation condo is the first impression your guests have. Displaying outdated photos gives the impression the property hasn’t been maintained. Unprofessional photography presents the idea that the owner or property manager is cheap, therefore cleanliness or functionality may be compromised. Multiple pictures of breaching whales, beached sea turtles and picturesque sunsets may warrant a feeling that the rental itself isn’t up to par.
If your photos are appealing, viewers will click the link for further information. Pictures tell the story and are more important than a written description. The second thing vacationers look for in their search is reviews. Positive reviews reassure the viewer that what they’re seeing is accurate. Negative reviews will be read with skepticism to see if the criticism was warranted and if it applies to their situation.
The third thing prospects will look at is the description. What they look for here is detail and accuracy. A successful description can be written by considering what you would want to know about a property. If you like to cook, you’d like to know which kitchen utensils and appliances are available. What spices, condiments or cooking oils are provided? For someone who watches TV at the end of day, what channels are available? Are there streaming services or a way to watch movies? A person with back pain may wonder what kind of mattress they’ll be sleeping on. A good description answers the questions that could not be answered through pictures, maps, and locations.
Show Care when Taking the Reservation
If you’ve caught the vacationers’ interest and they believe it’s their best choice, they’ll book. In this part of the process, they want to feel confident in their decision. They want to have specific questions answered that were not found in the photos, reviews or descriptions. Demonstrating that you or the property manager knows every detail about where they’ll be staying builds this confidence.
Another way your guests will feel good about the choice they’ve made is through reservation confirmation, cancellation information, and payment receipts. This is something that should be provided on the same day of booking. This demonstrates that you (or the property manager) are professional, timely and organized. Vacationers want to know they are booked, what they’re paying for, when they need to pay and when they can cancel the reservation.
While an immediate confirmation is essential, a notification of expectancy is also beneficial. One to two weeks before your guest is scheduled to arrive, an e-mail stating, “We look forward to seeing you soon” can provide additional peace of mind. At this point, your guests should feel confident in their choice of vacation condos, set to arrive with excitement instead of worry.
Give a Great First Impression
Check-in begins in the parking lot. Clear directions, maps, and instruction should make finding their unit a breeze. While this may sound elementary, vacationers in Hawaii unnecessarily encounter wasted beach time through lack of instruction. In describing where to park and how to get to their unit, the more specific the better.
Entering their home away from home, many guests will drop their luggage to explore the rental. This is the perfect time to make a great first impression through something unexpected. Something as small as a pineapple, box of chocolates or personalized welcome note can pay dividends in repeat business and referrals.
While exploring the unit, guests ask themselves two questions. First, have the photos and description accurately portrayed where they are staying? Second, is the place clean? Cleanliness is the most important aspect of any rental. It doesn’t matter if you’re staying in a budget motel or luxury house, if it’s not clean it’s not good.
Even the best cleaners in Hawaii will occasionally overlook some details in doing the job. Therefore, it’s recommended to personally check their work after every clean or have a detail-oriented manager do it for you. Sand on the floor of the closet, hair in the corner of the bathtub or dust in the air-conditioning filter can easily be missed. Take the time to give the unit a thorough walk-through after a cleaning and before check-in to avoid a bad first impression.
Anticipate your Guests’ Needs
In a perfect world, guests will check-in to your vacation condo, have a wonderful stay, sign your guestbook, and leave positive reviews online without you ever hearing from them. Unfortunately, even in Hawaii, things happen. The ceiling fan wobbles, the sink is slow to drain, or the air conditioner stops blowing cold air. These issues inevitably arise and can make or break the guest’s experience.
Understanding things do occasionally go wrong, guests should have clear instructions displayed for what to do in certain instances. Your guests want to report the problem then be informed as to how soon it will be fixed. Having reliable repairmen or someone close by to address problems as quickly as possible is crucial. A refrigerator breaking down after a trip to Costco can put a real damper on their vacation. Fixing a problem that arises as quickly as possible with minimal inconvenience is what your guests want.
Provide a 5-Star Experience
Vacationers have endured mediocre experiences when renting vacation condos for years. While there are still many owners and property managers who provide an average place to stay, their guests are wanting more. Businesses in every sector fail from not being able to understand what their consumers want and how to provide it. Owners and property managers who fail to provide quality service for their guests will eventually be weeded out.
People who stay at The Four Seasons and The Ritz Carlton pay top dollar for 5-star service. This begins prior to booking and continues through check-out. Some people want nothing more than a place to sleep while in Hawaii and don’t want to spend anything more than needed. However, those who can afford a Hawaiian vacation still want an experience. Many of these vacationers will pay more to have one that is exceptional.
Providing a 5-star experience doesn’t have to be expensive. However, it does require work, attention to detail, anticipation of what guests truly want, and maybe a box of chocolates. If you’re interested in owning a vacation condo on Maui, I would be happy to speak with you to answer any questions you may have. If you are an owner who isn’t satisfied with the service your current property manager is providing, contact me. I’d be happy to present alternative options on how you can provide a 5-star guest experience which will maximize your rental income.