Is your resort getting the rental income it deserves? For many legacy timeshare resorts, the answer to that question is too often “no.” The reasons vary, but the end result is the same: a struggle to monetize association-owned or controlled inventory to defray the loss of income from unpaid maintenance fees.
For your resort to maximize its rental income, it requires focusing attention on multiple touchpoints so that consumers know you exist and appreciate the true value of what you have to offer. To find out how to do that, Resort Trades checked in with Grant Miller, head of growth, and Greg Eure, head of development, at Vacatia Partner Services, which was formed to help legacy resorts and their associations embrace a fresh approach and apply creative solutions to their most vexing issues. In a recent case study, VPS grew rental income at Crown Resorts at The Poconos in Drums, Pennsylvania, from pre-pandemic revenues of $20K to projected annual revenue of $550K for 2021. For all the resorts under our rental program, VPS has increased rental revenue by 150% from pre-pandemic levels, delighting both the HOA and individual owners that banked their weeks into the rental pool.
You, too, can emulate that success by focusing on these key areas.
“One-third of legacy resorts don’t distribute their unused inventory to online rental channels, and among those who do, many fall short when it comes to the staffing and technology to make the most of their rental potential,” Eure says.
Is your inventory visible to all the major online booking sites where potential guests are shopping? Are you dynamically pricing your inventory and pushing out updated pricing and availability in real-time, versus typing them in manually? If not, significant dollars are falling through the cracks as well as making it harder for your operations to eliminate double bookings. “Considering that the average lead time to booking has now shortened to 24 days to check-in, it’s imperative to update your inventory and pricing in real-time,” Eure says. “By installing channel management software and configuring your property management system to ensure this critical functionality is in place, you’ll boost revenues and increase operational efficiencies.”
Another tip is to provide payment flexibility. Because timeshare resorts can have higher rates reflective of the space and flexibility residential resorts provide, if your website allows guests to sign up for payment plans that break up charges prior to the actual stay, you can increase bookings. By adding the capability for guests to pay in two to four interest-free installments or pay for their trip monthly, you’ll ease sticker shock and boost bookings. Adding online chat and phone support will help guests with payment or other questions.
Resort Photos and Descriptions
Begin with high-quality photos “High-quality images increase sales and direct bookings,” Eure says. “They also lift your optimization on search engines so more eyes will see your listing. Your photos are what website visitors see first and denote your appeal and professionalism.” Hiring a professional photographer who can capture great images and then provide edited files with the correct balance of lighting and contrast makes all the difference.
Websites with images receive 95% more views than web pages without images. The reason for this is very simple: When presenting a text along with an image, eye-tracking studies have shown, that readers’ eyes are instantly drawn to the image.
To find a photographer, ask other local businesses and real estate agents that have great websites for suggestions.
The other piece of the puzzle is the copy. Here, you must provide informative, interesting copy that contains the keywords (SEO) that resonate with your audience. Use thoughtful, precise adjectives that make travelers want to visit both your destination and your specific resort. “Don’t be afraid to show personality,” Eure says. “Often, that’s exactly why vacationers are interested in staying at a legacy resort versus a bland corporate property.”
Highlight, both with photos and copy, aspects of your resorts that set it apart from standard hotel rooms. That includes living rooms, kitchens and
the privacy that comes with a bedroom door that shuts—a bonus every parent can appreciate!
Once guests arrive at your property, it’s time to provide a warm welcome. “This is another way that timeshare resorts can separate themselves from Airbnb and other sites,” Miller says. “Having staff on-site to assist guests with check-in and other needs provides a superior experience.”
Large, branded hotels allow guests to text staff to request services, and there’s no reason your resort can’t do this, too.
Does your resort have an activities program or a welcome party? These types of events show your resort’s personality, again setting it apart from the crowd.
The second part of this puzzle is your resort’s physical property. If your units and common spaces are tired and dated, your guests’ experience will suffer. “An investment in updating resort amenities and units can pay for itself if done correctly,” Miller says. VPS is so sure of this that the company has a program to lend funds for resort refurbishments based on projected increases in rental income, saving resorts from having to do a special assessment.
The Feedback Loop
To improve your resort experience, it’s important to know what past guests think. For exchange guests, your exchange company can provide detailed guest ratings and comments. You can survey past rental guests, too.
Eure recommends using online reputation management software that scrapes guest reviews across multiple sites and combines them in one place so they can be analyzed to determine trends and inform decision-making. “Your team can also use this platform to respond to all the reviews in one place, saving them significant time,” he says. “When an association is trying to determine budgets, it’s important to have data –- through the aggregation of all guest and owner feedback – that tells you which are real opportunities to positively impact the owner and guest experience versus one-off or isolated issues. This will allow your association can spend its dollars more effectively to enhance the hospitality experience for all owners and guests.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Michelle DuChamp will be available to take questions about increasing revenues during a Trades Learning Center webinar at 1:00 p.m. ET on September 28. Register at ResortTrades.com/LearningCenter.
Judy Kenninger is a frequent contributor to Resort Trades.