The Growing Need for Guest Assurance

The Internet has changed everything. It has taken what was once a simple cottage industry and exploded it into a multi-billion dollar business that spans the globe. A guest in Peoria, Illinois can now rent a private home in Stockholm, Sweden…in minutes. The advantages that technology has brought to the VR industry are incalculable but one of the most glaring shortfalls has been in guest assurance.

I was interviewed earlier this year and the question was put to me: “What assurance do guests have that the vacation rental they are renting is real and that the amenities displayed in the pictures are accurate?”

My answer had to be “None”

The advantages that technology has brought to the VR industry are incalculable but one of the most glaring shortfalls has been in guest assurance.

This problem could easily be laid at the feet of the large OTA’s (HomeAway, Airbnb, VRBO, TripAdvisor etc) and if you read the terms and conditions that guest automatically and most likely unwittingly agree to when they use one of these sites you find something like this.

The Site is a Venue and We are Not a Party to any Rental Agreement or other Transaction Between Users of the Site.

While we do take certain measures with a goal to assist users to avoid potentially fraudulent or other illegal activity of which we become aware, we assume no liability or obligation to take any such measures or actions.

While many people believe that OTA’s should play a larger role in Guest Assurance, my opinion is that they are not well suited for the job. Inevitably the pursuit of investor profit will conflict with any effort to manage standards of practice. That is why I am such a strong believer in the role of associations. When managed correctly, trade associations raise the level of professionalism, increase profits and raise customer satisfaction no matter what industry they serve…

A Practical Approach to Raising Guest Assurance

First show that the Owner or Manager & Property are real. Then Set Standards requiring truth in advertising.

Combating Vacation Rental Scams

Vacation rental scams work two ways. Either a new, fictitious, listing is created or an existing listing’s information is copied and the payments directed to a different place. Scams are a serious problem that is growing every year. The reason why scams are possible today is because for all the advantages the Internet has brought to the VR Industry there are some things we have lost. One being a physical place of business.

Before the Internet, establishing guest assurance was easier. Guests could contact owners and managers directly by calling or walking into their place of business. Guests could see credentials hanging on the wall or confirm where they were calling. With the advent of “Book it Now” guest no longer have these luxuries. So the question is: How do we make this information available to our guests on the Internet?

The answer is a two-step process. The first is to create a dedicated webpage that displays this information…

Step 1: Create a dedicated property certification webpage

 

Certification Page

 

A dedicated Property Certification webpage takes documents owners or managers have in their office and makes them available for view on the Internet.  Images of paid receipts for real estate taxes, lodging taxes, commercial liability insurance or a business license are powerful tools that assure guests and deter information thieves because all have numbers that can be verified at the source.

Step 2: Create a uniquely numbered certification seal

The second step is creating a uniquely numbered certification seal that directs guests to this dedicated webpage. Quality seals are recognized and relied on by guests with other products and services they use so the concept of a quality seal on a property listing or website is immediately understood by guests and becomes a powerful branding tool that distinguished Certified properties from Un-Certified properties on the Internet.

 

Certification Seal

Managing Truth in Advertising

Property Certification is a powerful tool for owners and manager to brand their property listings and raise guest assurance. Managing “Truth in Advertising” is the final step and is accomplished through an association’s “Code of Ethics”

It is not possible to inspect every vacation rental and verify that its advertising is accurate

but it is possible to enforce a “Code of Ethics” that mandates Truth in Advertising

Associations are most recognized for their ability to generate benefits members could never achieve on their own but associations do more than just manage relationships with vendors, they also manage relations between members and their customers. One of an association’s primary roles is establishing standards of practice through a “Code of Ethics” and enforcing that code.

Agreeing to abide by a “Code of Ethics” is a requirement for any association membership and as an association grows and increases the value of membership, so does the deterrent value of losing those benefits. Being part of an association is a privilege that must be earned. Having a system to receive guest feedback and to manage standards of practice is the final step in re-enforces the associations brand and raising guest assurance.

The Opportunity of Providing Guest Assurance

As the number of properties available for rent on the Internet continues to increase so will the need for owners and managers to differentiate their offerings from millions of others. Raising guest assurance through property certification is the greatest branding opportunity available to owners and managers today.

Every time the media runs an article on the growing problem of vacation rental scams, guest awareness and concern grows but like every problem it also carries opportunity. Those owners and managers that take steps to embrace a system of guest assurance will be the ones who will most benefit from it because if there is one truth in business it is that the greatest advantage always goes to those who are the first.

What’s AVROA and How Can it Provide Guest Assurance?

The Association for Vacation Rental Operators and Affiliates (AVROA) is a global trade association dedicated to supporting vacation rental owners, managers and industry affiliated companies. AVROA’s Property Certification Program is available to both owners and managers and is a free benefit of membership.

After completing your property certification application and emailing supporting documents to us, we will issue you a uniquely number Property Certification Seal,  create your dedicated Property Certification page. You will then be authorized to display your Certification Seal and link to your Certification Page anywhere you advertise your property.

AVROA’s Property Certification program is just one of the free benefits available with AVROA membership. Others are,  AVROA’s property listing service, Chapter program and Email campaign service (the “Get Out The Word” program). To learn more about AVROA and to join please visit us at www.AVROA.org.

Join AVROA Today

 

AVROA Logo