V12 & YesBookIt Announcement by HomeAway Software

According to industry news resource, VRM Intel, HomeAway Software (now Vrbo) is sunsetting both V12 and Australian prevalent software, Yes Book It (YBI).

 If you are currently on V12, sources say, you will have roughly 24 months to switch software.  Vrbo is now enhancing Escapia software and hoping to move it’s V12 and YBI users to the Escapia platform.  To read more about the switch, read VRM Intel’s article here.


Many Property Management Companies recently left Property Plus and switched to V12.  Switching software is an expensive project from a time, money, and attention perspective.  The article mentions that many Property Plus users switched to Streamline, VRM, and LiveRez which have since had a majority share purchased by the private equity group GSV (Greater Sum Ventures) out of Knoxville, TN.

When considering what to do and where to go, our Director of Sales, Vanessa Humes remarks that, “It is definitely a time of change and shake up in terms of Property Management Software. While we’ve seen our clients make a big switch from Vrbo softwares over the years, we haven’t had a ‘fan favorite’ software stick out that we could make a big recommendation.  While I’m sure that VRMs would love to have a ‘one stop shop’ for everything software – pricing, data, housekeeping modules, website, marketing—it’s just not out there.  The good thing about ICND and the other long-time vendors services the industry is, If you have our website, we can integrate in with just about any software that offers an API.  Your website stays the same to guests and owners and in a time of so much change, I think that’s very important.”

She went on to recommend that, “although it’s a lot to manage, it’s really good to have companies that specialize in solving your pain points”.  It’s a lot for one company to have the resources to be able to offer the best in everything when they focus on more than one thing.  For instance, Vanessa goes on to say, “It’s very important for ICND to stay focused on websites and digital marketing.   We want to be the best at what we do independently of who you use for software, travel insurance, payment processing or any other service you opt into.  We aren’t over here talking about how you should be putting your properties on distribution channels and taking a cut of your commissions.  We’re talking about and focusing on direct bookings.”

Stay Tuned

Our finger is on the pulse of these changes and we’ll adapt our websites and digital marketing services to fit the needs of our clients.  As we receive more updates from changes in the industry stay tuned to VRM Intel, our blog, and our VR Ninja Marketing Podcasts for further industry specific news updates.

What’s Beers & Idears?

The word is out – ICND has been traveling across the country with our partners for vacation rental seminars but some of you might be left wondering: What exactly is Beers & Idears? We sat down with Director of Sales & Marketing, Vanessa Humes, to answer all of your questions.

Beers & Idears

Q: Tell us about Beers & Idears.

VH: Beers and Idears is a great way to get together with VRM’s in a close knit market, infuse some networking and education, build relationships, and have some fun.  You learn a lot about the area’s pain points and concerns and all come together with ideas to solve them. There is a tremendous amount of need in every market for a company to come in and do a good job of what they say they are going to do. I feel like this group of vendors does that well and why we decided to partner together. Vacation Rental Managers are looking for a one-stop-shop and we’ve basically put together a mall for them to go talk to vendors that enhance their business outside of property management software (which we know is the 800 lb elephant). We work with pretty much any property management software to do things better or implement unique functionality not offered by your PMS. Not only is it a lot of useful information you can go back and immediately put into play in your own business, it’s also a lot of fun and laughs by the end. Some come early to learn and stay late to play!

Q: Who are the partners?

VH: We’ve partnered with other independently-owned, like-minded companies in the Vacation Rental space. Along with ICND, we have Ascent Processing, Breezeway, KeyData Dashboard & RedSky Travel Insurance. We’re pretty much like family at this point! Read more about our partners here. Each one offers insights about their specific product or service.  All of these companies have a ton of years in the industry. We’ve seen it grow and we’ve adapted as VR companies have had to adapt and we will continue to grow.

Q: What are the takeaways for Vacation Rental companies?

VH: You’ve got a lot of vendors that care about this industry and making sure you have an outside perspective to know what to expect from the best.  Whether it’s what you should expect from your travel insurance company, the latest technologies in guest payments, the importance of data in making sound business decisions, or what features and functionality will push a shopper into a booker on your website, you are in front of some brilliant companies who have your best interests in mind.

Q: How was the idea of these educational seminars born?

VH: A lot happened back in the fall of 2014: I had my third child, we hired April Burns, we had a kick-ass booking engine, and we had a lot of energy to put our ideas into motion.  So on the cusp of going out to San Diego for VRMA (which I missed because I was on maternity leave and April was too new to be thrown to the wolves, by the way she now leads the pack at these conferences) we tried to figure out how we could get VRMs together to network and we could share our ideas. So we called it Beers and Idears. When RedSky and the others approached us to put together a “Road Show” we thought it was great timing to pull that back in.

Q: Where are you most excited to travel to next with Beers & Idears?

VH: Hawaii. It’s on my bucket list to visit personally, a challenge on my fear of flying list, and a tremendous opportunity for us to show the commitment we have to servicing our friends in the islands.

Q: What excites you most about Beers & Idears?

VH: I love being in-market and building relationships. You learn so much about a destination when you are on the turf talking one on one with different companies. I have a passion for educating VR Marketers and Managers about the importance of direct bookings and the ever changing, ever evolving strategies to achieve that. I know ICND is the best at it. If we weren’t, our competitors wouldn’t be adopting our tagline of being “conversion focused” or emulating our innovative website features. That may sound conceited, but people who know me know that I give you straight-up, candid answers. ICND isn’t looking to bring on a million customers and get bought out by VC groups. We want to be the best provider and work with the best VR companies around the country and around the globe.

20 Year Anniversary: Q&A w/ Brandon Sauls

May 2019 marks InterCoastal Net Designs’ 20th year in business and much of our success can be attributed to our humble beginnings with Brandon Sauls at the helm. We recently sat down with Brandon to discuss where ICND is today, where we plan to go and how it all began with a fishing charter website. We live & breathe the tourism industry with our headquarters in the small beach community of Ocean Isle Beach, NC – making us well suited to understand our client’s business model and helping them see success in the vacation rental and tourism industries.

Follow Our Journey:

Q: Tell us about ICND’s beginnings 20 years ago.

Brandon: I was in college at the University of South Carolina, spending my summers working as a Captain in Ocean Isle. Two unique opportunities popped up back in 1996: 1) We needed to generate more business for the charter boat operation so we built a website and optimized it for HotBot, Lycos, Yahoo and AltaVista, there was no Google back then. Clients found us and we ran a successful charter boat operation for years while in college. 2) When I returned to USC, I posted on a campus billboard that I did website development. I landed an account and began optimizing a website for online golf club sales.  From there, I had a full-time summer job with the charter boat operations and was working full-time during the school year marketing the golf club sales site. Graduating in 1999, I began working on the H.L Hunley website, which quickly generated revenue and gave me the confidence to dive into the website design and marketing realm. ICND was fully born and incorporated in 1999 and it was off to the races from there.  I hired my first employee in 2000, second employee in 2001 and by 2005 had ten employees.  By this time we were building full scale eCommerce systems and one of the first companies in the area interfaced with the real estate MLS / IDX data feeds. We were delivering fully integrated websites to the local area long before anyone else. Fast forward to 2010, ICND joined the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association.  My wife, 3rd generation vacation rental manager at Sloane Vacations, showed me the way into this space.  At first ICND had an equal product to the competitors but I quickly realized we needed to make a move. In 2014 ICND spent 8 months on R & D,  rolling out www.AcmeHouse.com on our first version of our booking engine which made waves in the VRMA Community and catapulted ICND to the top of the competition.  From there ICND has moved 90% of our focus on the Vacation Rental and Real Estate space.

Q: Thinking about where ICND is today versus 20 years ago, what are the largest changes that have fueled our growth?

Brandon: Prior to 2010, ICND was successful but we hadn’t honed in on our niche. We built sites for charter boat companies, lawyers and doctors. Joining VRMA and focusing our efforts on one main product allowed us to develop a strong code base that we could quickly deploy, support and maintain. Since HomeAway.com, VRBO, and AIRbnb have showed up in this space – it has really accelerated the growth of the industry we serve.

Q: What sets ICND apart from other website design & marketing firms?

Brandon: Our team is key here at ICND, but here are a few things I think set us apart from the rest:

  • Direct Bookings: We maintain a strong focus on generating bookings through YOUR website. With a customized marketing plan, we focus on generating more revenue directly from your website.
  • Speaking of customized, our custom websites are award winning. VRM Intel voted us the best website in 2016 with Topsail Realty.
  • Customer Service: Our team is positioned to provide you with a hands on customer service approach. The customer is the focus here at ICND, and we pride ourselves on quick response time and customized solutions.
  • ICND is independently owned & operated, however, we have formed strong industry-wide partnerships allowing us to provide the best product to our customers.

Q: We know ICND keeps you busy, but tell us about your hobbies!

Brandon: You don’t have to look far across the internet and social media outlets to know that I’m an avid fishermen.  If I’m not working or chasing behind my twin twelve year-old girls, you’ll find me on the boat in the nearest body of water!  I enjoy traveling to the southern latitudes and always seeking some outdoor adventure!

Q: Where do you see ICND going in the next 20 years?

Brandon: That is a big question – as fast as the industry is growing right now the sky is the limit.  We have a strong product offering and we will continue to improve, expand and grow our core products. We have plenty of room here to grow within the US, and we’re also looking at new horizons in Europe and Australia. The same product that works in the US, will work anywhere in the world. Why limit yourself to just the US market?

Q: Tell us a little bit about Team ICND!

Brandon: Team ICND consists of forty of the finest developers, co-workers and friends that you can find. Check out our Team Page to learn a little more about each employee. Each person is very talented and bring their own unique playbook to the table that is in sync with our master plan… to make ICND the very best it can be.  Everyone gets along really well and works toward a common goal! The team we have in place now is most likely the most talented team ICND has ever had.

Ascent Processing Announces Vacation Loan Product

ICND & Ascent Processing have long been partners in the Vacation Rental industry and we’re excited to announce their newest product, ASCENTpay. ASCENTpay powered by Uplift is an essential tool for vacation rental companies that is both beneficial to guests and property managers. It is not required to be a current Ascent Processing client to utilize this product. ICND is fully equipped to implement ASCENTpay on your website today.

Why should you use ASCENTpay?

  • Immediate FULL reservation payment paid to vacation rental company
  • ASCENTpay powered by Uplift assumes all risk for chargebacks, fraud and more
  • Earlier average booking window
  • Higher average transaction value as guests are more willing to upgrade rental or stay longer

ASCENTpay is easily integrated on your website and allows guests to pay for their vacation in low, fixed monthly payments. Guests simply select ASCENTpay as a method of payment during booking.

Why is ASCENTpay great for guests?

  • Three easy steps
  • Great loan options and rates for maximum flexibility
  • No hidden fees, no late fees
  • Simple, instant approval

We’ve seen a similar trend in e-commerce shopping, but ASCENTpay is the first unique offering of its kind for the vacation rental industry. This cutting-edge technology will create a simple and easy process for guests making their dream vacation affordable and attainable. Visit Ascent Processing’s website or contact us to learn more.

Is your Website ADA Compliant?

Is your Website ADA Compliant

We at InterCoastal Net Designs have been helping our clients in making their websites ADA compliant. We have been asked recently why a website must be ADA compliant, so we thought we would share some of the information with you and how it helps your company out.

What Does ADA Stand For?

The ADA is the American with Disabilities Act and it requires that businesses and nonprofit service providers make accessibility accommodations to the disabled public. This means that they have to provide the same service to the disabled as they would for the non-disabled which includes their websites.

What Could Happen If We Don’t Make our Site ADA Compliant?

If your site is not ADA Compliant there are a few things that could happen. The first thing that could happen to your business is you could lose a client or a booking. We don’t want this to happen because the disabled person may go to another site that is ADA compliant. Another thing that we could see in the future is where Google and other search engines would only rank websites that are compliant. We know that they have recently moved in the direction to “force” businesses to make their sites mobile friendly or they will lose the rankings altogether. This could be the future with having your website ADA compliant and if it’s not then you lose your rankings. We don’t want this to happen to your business which is why we can help make your website ADA compliant.

How Do We Make Your Website ADA Compliant?

There are many suggestions on the ADA Website, but we know that there are many other considerations as well. We will take the precautions in checking your site to see if it’s compliant and if it is not, then we will make it compliant. There are several things that have to be addressed in making it compliant, but we will cover a few of the items for you.


Your website will have information and user interface components that must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive. This ensures that the content on your site is available to view in multiple forms that will be easy to see or hear regardless of the disability. We will make sure to place an alt text tag on an image.


We will make sure that the user interface components and navigation must be operable meaning that a disabled user can easily navigate your website. We want to make sure that they won’t run into any limited functionality or time limits if we make it compliant for them. We want to make sure the disabled can navigate through your site using only their keyboard or that the web pages are titled with a topic.

Is It Easy to Understand?

Having a website that is easy to understand is something that the ADA looks at. We want to make sure that your website and its pages are easy to read, are predictable and have the capability to correct user mistakes. We want your website navigation to remain consistent throughout the site and that you provide instructions for all user impute fields. Also, we want to make sure that a user is able to confirm their financial transaction before they submit it for an order or booking.

 How Robust is It?

The ADA wants to make sure that the content is robust enough that it can be interpreted by a wide variety of users including assistive technologies. This will help ensure that the compatibility    between your website and current and future technologies that someone may use to assist them. We will make sure that your HTML documents include a start and end tags and do not contain duplicates. We want to help make their experience as good as it would be if it was non-ADA Compliant.

While there are many other ways that InterCoastal Net Designs can help with making your website ADA Compliant, these are just a few of the examples we do for you. We understand that while this can seem very complicated to get onto your site, it’s something that we know how to do. We hope that you will trust InterCoastal Net Designs in helping build your business and making your website ADA Compliant for the new year!

Conference Travel Ahead: Q&A with Director of Fun, April Burns

ICND will soon be jet-setting for conference travel and we’re excited to say the least. In September we’re attending Streamline Summit and Rezfest, with VRMA International on the horizon in October. In preparation for September travel, we sat down with resident travel expert, April Burns. Come see us on the road!

On Conference Travel:

Q: What’s your favorite part about gearing up for conference travel? 

AB: It is an exciting time of the year when conference season approaches.  The energy in the office goes up as we work on new campaigns, swag and new products to showcase.

Q: What do you most enjoy while at the conferences?

AB: During a conference it is great to explore a new town and get to see the local sites, but in the end it is the opportunity to see current clients and meet new friends.  There is a core group of vendors that travel to these events and become your second family while you are on the road.  They are there to help in times of need and for a good laugh. We also have our usual attendees that come to each event.  Some of them may be your client, but some become friends that you get to see and catch up with each year.

Q: Tell us a bit about ICND’s conference theme for Fall travel.

AB:  Each season we love to come up with new theme and play off them for our swag and booth.  We have many VRM’s looking forward to our t-shirts every year and this year will not disappoint.  I think that might be all I can really say…but have you ever seen Better Call Saul(s)??

Q: What are your tips for keeping the conference energy in forward motion after returning to the office/daily routine?

AB: It is important for your team feel the energy when you return to the office. They enjoy hearing about the trip, the people and a little swag for them definitely helps!  I have also found that if you take time to make a list on your return trip it will help you stay focused and energized

There is a core group of vendors that travel to these events and become your second family while you are on the road.

-April Burns, Account Executive

On Streamline Summit:

Q: Is this your first Streamline Summit?

AB: This will be ICND’s second Streamline Summit and I have been fortunate to attend both of them.   

Q: What is unique about Streamline Summit?

AB: Streamline really rolls out the red carpet for their clients and vendors.  Each year they have a unique theme and provide great events.

Q: Tips for Scottsdale, AZ?

AB: I have never been to Scottsdale, AZ, so I am very excited to explore this town. I have heard so many positive things about Scottsdale.

On Rezfest:

Q: Is this your first Rezfest?

AB: No, this will be my 3rd time attending RezFest.

Q: What is unique about Rezfest?

AB: RezFest gives us the chance to connect with our current Homeaway clients, while meeting new people.  It also gives us the chance learn about the next exciting steps with Homeaway. RezFest offers a great conference experience while allowing time to really mingle with the attendees and getting to enjoy the area.

Q: Tips for Marco Island.

AB: Marco Island is a gorgeous beach town, so take time and get out to explore.  We get to travel to some gorgeous locations so make sure you take time to get outside and see what they have to offer.

Travel Tips from April:

Q: You’re an experienced traveler, how many countries have you been to?

AB: I have been fortunate to go to over 30 countries.

Q: What was your most recent trip?

AB: My most recent international trip was to Australia for RezFest Australia.

Q: Tell us your tips for the novice traveler.

AB: Great question!  I have a few key items that I always do when traveling internationally

Tip #1 –   I try to travel with a carry-on, as I have had my luggage delayed in the past, but when I do have to check my bag, it is important to place a card with your name, phone and where you are traveling to (including airline details) inside your checked luggage – baggage tags can be ripped off and this will give them the chance to locate you and reconnect you with your bag.

 Tip #2 – Make a copy of everything – may passport and travel itinerary, and keep it in a separate location, in the event I lost my documents.

Tip #3 – Be a good ambassador for your country – prepare for long flights, research the location you are going to ahead of time and pack your patience! A smile and a good southern hospitality go a long way!

Be on the look out for April when she hits the road for our September conference schedule. April wears many hats here at ICND, but she’s widely known among our crew as the Director of Fun. However, after reading her travel tips we may have to add another title, Director of Travel! We’re excited to see you on the road!

ICND & Key Data Partnership: Visualizing Vacation Rental Data

InterCoastal Net Designs is excited to officially announce our partnership with Key Data Dashboard. Key Data Dashboard’s products are a natural fit for our vacation rental client base. Their software integrates seamlessly with your Property Management Software to provide real-time insights focusing on the health of your business.

What Can You Expect from Utilizing Key Data?

Key Data Dashboard’s software provides three integral ways to plug into your metrics – performance, benchmark & pacing.

  1. Performance: visualize vacation rental data, instantly! Regarding performance, Key Data provides an instant look at your revenue sources and can get targeted insights per property. Additionally, the software provides a unique geo-targeted heatmap. See exactly where your guests are coming from!
  2. Benchmark:  Keep a pulse on your competition. Key Data’s benchmarking allows you to easily compare how your metrics stack up within your particular market. For instance, did you book more nights than your market competition?
  3. Pacing: Examine future performance as of today vs. last year’s performance as of the same date. Pacing allows you to visualize your revenue and insights in readily available charts.

Demand Data with ICND:

ICND & Key Data’s partnership provides a unique opportunity to enhance the product with Demand Data. ICND will provide Key Data with insight search analytics on a per client basis. We will be able to provide Key Data with unique data such as dates and amenities a guest searches for on the site. Previously Key Data did not have access to this information, however, the partnership with ICND provides a full look at your site’s data and analytics. This allows Key Data Dashboard to provide our clients with a comprehensive view of your site’s performance and how best to market towards your clientele.

What does this partnership mean for ICND Clients?

Key Data Dashboard’s products eliminate hours of reporting and analyzing your data. Our partnership with Key Data presents a very unique offer for our current clientele, making the adoption of their product suite a no-brainer.

Starting August 1, 2018 – all ICND clients can receive Key Data Dashboard for FREE lasting through July 31st, 2019. There’s no reason not to try this software that is sure to be an integral part of your business moving forward.

Contact us today to get started for FREE with Key Data Dashboard. You can also connect with your account representative directly or call 910-575-6095 and reference this offer.

We’re excited to partner with industry leaders and provide this unique opportunity for our client base, and look forward to this successful partnership with Key Data Dashboard.


What’s Next for GDPR and Your Website?

On May 25th the European Union officially implemented GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation.) The web design industry has been abuzz with this news for quite some time. At ICND we’ve put in the research and developed tactics necessary to assist our customers with this transition.

There are many moving parts to GDPR, but the three main points are listed below:

Users must consent to the processing of their personal data and companies must explain how data is collected and the intention for utilizing data.

Users have the right for their personal data to be deleted/forgotten.

If a website experiences a data breach, it must be reported within 72 hours.

We know GDPR can be confusing, but for our customers primarily operating and marketing within the United States, this is what GDPR means for you:

Updating Your Website Privacy Policy: We have created a new privacy policy that can be adopted by our customers. This revised privacy policy was specifically developed in response to GDPR, providing website users with more in-depth information on how their personal data may be collected and used.

Readily Available Contact & Data Controller Information: The updated privacy policy needs to include clear and concise contact information for website users. This will assist users wishing to request information your company has about them, correct any of that information or delete the information altogether.

Opt-Choice for Email Marketing: Upon completing a contact form on your website, users should have the ability to opt-in if they wish to receive further emails from your company.


Google Analytics Settings: Since personal data is one of the largest components of GDPR, you can choose the amount of time Google Analytics retains data prior to deleting the information. This will not affect standard analytics on your site. Google Analytics presents customers with the following time-frame options for retaining data: 14 months, 26 months, 38 months or 50 months. ICND Digital Marketing customers have already had this completed on their behalf. If you’re using your own Google Analytics platform, you were likely already prompted to decide on this time frame.


Please note that these suggestions are precautionary measures. While GDPR does not currently pertain to our customers only doing business in the United States, we feel these measures will keep your website current with industry standards.

Contact our team today to learn more about GDPR and get started on updating your website!


Afternoon Delight With April & David | AKA The Nameless Podcast


We are so excited to launch our very own podcast where we will be talking about everything from Marketing Strategy to Vacation Rental News and everything in between! Alright, we will have a little fun with it too and there might be the occasional joke or two. We pride ourselves on staying ahead of the curve in the Vacation Rental Industry not only when it comes to Website Design and Marketing but also how the industry functions, right down to the consumers. What better way to share than just plain talking about it.

Episode Numero Uno, Getting To Know April

On our first episode we have April Burns, one of ICND’s Account Executives and David Thompson, our Social Media Director talking about where the industry is going as a whole, what the biggest buzz topic is right now, and what April’s favorite drink is. We hope you enjoy our podcast and have a couple laughs while we bring light to some major vacation rental topics that effect us every day.

Things To Come…

This podcast is also going to show you who we are as a team and as people. We want everyone in our industry to know that we aren’t a bunch of web developers that don’t like sunlight… ok some of us are; but we are also people just like you and we face many of the same struggles that Vacation Rental Professionals face every day. And we want to come up with solutions that makes all of our jobs a little easier and a little more fun.

How Can You Get Involved?

  • Start following us on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. We will be publishing episodes every month and would love your feedback and encouragement.
  • If you have suggestions for the show, don’t be afraid to send them in! With such a mix of people, we have a lot professional diversity which gives us a unique perspective. You never know, we might just solve a problem for you.
  • If you think it’s funny and informational, share it. We want to make our industry better and I think we can all agree from the latest #BookDirect campaign that we can make an impact if we do it together.

We hope you enjoy our podcast and our “crazy” team. We certainly enjoy what we do, and the industry we get to serve. Laugh a little and join us for a informational roller coaster.

Only Dead Fish Go with the Flow

Are You Swimming Into or Against the Current?

I left a marketing position for resorts in 2009 to join ICND where our focus was on vacation rentals. I quickly learned that the vacation rental industry was similar to the hotel industry, but growing quickly and up against some of the same hurdles as the hotel industry as well as many different challenges.  Similarly, the hotels had already gotten comfortable with putting their inventory on the OTA’s only to learn that the OTAs then wanted rate parody, didn’t give the guests information, and were squeezing profit margins with their high commission fees.  The hotels had to learn how to get guests to come back and book direct through direct marketing channels such as email and direct mail.  They already understood the power of an email address and how important it was to get a guest to come back and #bookdirect.  

Differently, the vacation rental industry faces a large amount of legislation from having most of their inventory amongst full-time homeowners who are complaining about vacationing guests being too noisy and disruptive in their neighborhoods and complexes.  For hotels, they already were zoned for rentals.  However, with the introduction of Airbnb into many of their neighborhoods and causing more competition, they are busy fighting against vacation rentals in metropolitan areas such as New York City.

By 2009, hotels had already gone through the era of major brand franchising and acquisition of mom and pop run hotels. Even the “mom and pop” brands had grown so big, managing multiple resort properties they had already performed much like a corporation.  Meanwhile most of the vacation rental industry had historically been owned and operated by “mom and pops” successfully.  ResortQuest was acquired in October 2010 and entered one of the major travel brands world-wide.

Air Bed & Breakfast

In August 2008, a company called Air Bed and Breakfast entered the marketplace, bringing new ideas and business model.  The idea of shared accommodations entered into the playing field.  While the vacation rental industry was known for renting the whole house, cabin, or condo, the idea of being about to rent a room or apartment short-term was now a possibility and added, not only awareness to vacation rentals, but also additional legislative battles we are facing today as an industry.  By the time Expedia announced they would purchase HomeAway in late 2015, HomeAway was already living in the shadow of Airbnb as one of the most highly valued privately held companies.

Today, Airbnb, Expedia, and Priceline (through Booking.com) continue to drive continued awareness (and traffic) to the vacation rental industry.  Still, most vacation rental companies continue to be owned and operated by sole proprietors in locations that are historically well-known for vacation rentals such as the Outer Banks, Gatlinburg, and Breckenridge.  As inventory in these areas doesn’t grow as much as the demand for vacation rentals allows vacation rental companies to increase rates, book more shoulder season stays, and increase their customer base.  

The original vacation rental companies that were founded 20, 30, and even 60 years ago were built on blood, sweat, and tears and often handed down leadership across generations. When we look back at the last two decades of the vacation rental industry, we realize we are in a time of big change with disruptions on many different levels of the business.

This disruption has led vacation rental company owners and managers to face many challenges like having to have a bigger presence in legislation and advocacy on a local, state, and federal level.  It’s made vacation rental companies have to compete not only on a local level, but against large brand sites across the search engines and other marketing mediums.  It’s caused changes in business models and using technology to streamline the company to perform as cost-effective and creative as possible.  It’s brought about mergers and acquisitions at a pace the industry has never seen before.  It’s caused increases in operational costs, marketing costs, and a decrease (many times) in commissions to manage properties.  Vacation rental managers feel like they are often squeezed by both ends.  But together, VRMs are doing amazing things against the rising tide.

The changes have also brought many positives, like a tremendous amount of awareness to the overall idea of vacationing in a house, cabin, condo, room that somebody else owns, as well as destinations that weren’t typical for vacation rentals.  It’s opened up the amount of inventory available to manage.  It’s help to show us that there is a huge amount of potential in delivering our message to millennials and they can, in fact, be very loyal to a brand.  Technology has allowed us to be more creative and cost effective with every facet of running a vacation rental company: management, operations, housekeeping, and marketing/communications.

But, in time with such attention to our industry, we are asking ourselves, how will we continue to compete?  How will you continue to strive?  With marketing, there seems to be two roads… distribution, or more direct bookings.  And even if you rely heavily on distribution, in the back of your mind, you know… you need more direct bookings.  It’s like the holy grail of vacation rentals, but also smart to maximize your exposure with bookings through distribution channels.

Here are the steps…

Step 1 is having a website that is easy to use, allows for you to market your properties, integrates with your software, and allows for you to communicate directly to guests.  A good website is built to be mobile friendly.  More than 50% of traffic, on average, comes from a mobile device and conversion rates are going up every year.  That means, a majority guests are still booking from a desktop, but more and more from mobile.

There are different tools out there like HotJar and Google Analytics that will tell you if your site converts well.  You should always be looking to improve your conversion rate.  Additional items that help you increase your conversion rate are quick user experience, offering search criteria that make it easy to find the right property, and offering all of the possibilities of linens, pet fees, add-ons, and travel insurance without having to call. In case you missed our last email, we gave you a checklist of items that help you convert more visitors into online bookings – Top 10 Marketing Power Moves.

Step 2 would be to make sure people can find your website in the search both organically (SEO) and through paying to cut through the clutter and be at the top through Pay-Per-Click (PPC).  It’s time to invest in your website and digital marketing.  What is your value proposition for search audiences that is going to make them book with you?  Do you have the largest inventory of vacation rentals in the area?  Do you offer a different guest experience?  Do you offer something for free?  You can always brag about the no traveler fees when you book on your site to help educate guests to come back and book with you direct.

Step 3 is to use social and email marketing to drive traffic to your website and to remarket to the visitors who have been on your website and haven’t converted.  Email addresses are essential to be collected from guests that have stayed with you before, no matter how they found you.  Emails should include: an offer, a reason to come (upcoming events or things to do), and call to action.

In conclusion!

Distribution is not out, but when you can market your properties on your own, these disruptions make a ripple rather than a wave.  Distribution can still be used for tougher to rent properties, or shoulder seasons.  Programs, like ICND’s Distribution partnership with MyBookingPal allows you to block out certain periods (like your peak periods) and only select those homes that need the boost to go out into the land of distribution.  That helps maximize your income from your top performing dates and properties.

To be honest, I’m excited about what I see in the industry trends: the amazing amount of growth, the influx of technology, and the amount of investment.  But we can’t just sit around waiting around to see what happens next, but make sure we are on top of our game. Don’t be a dead fish. We don’t have to go with the flow.  Even if the current feels strong, ICND is here to help.  Connect with us about your pain points and let us help you overcome your hurdles.  Our experience with building websites and marketing for a diverse portfolio of vacation rental companies across the world allows us to provide the expertise to help you succeed.