From the Start – Commitment to Hospitality

From the Start – Commitment to Hospitality

Where does a career in the hospitality industry begin? When people look for  vacation homes they probably don’t start with the credentials and background of their host, but it might not be a bad place to start. Like many people who retire to Florida to start a new career in,
my background has little to do with my career as a vacation rental proprietor although it has everything to do with the way I approach making sure that Erehwon Retreat guests have a superlative Florida vacation experience.

As a young man in the 1970s, in the field of Arts Management, I was keen to develop both my skills and my experience – Dr. A Clyde Roller, then the Resident Conductor of the Houston Symphony stated that “I was by temperament, background and personality, ideally suited to a career that required me to create an immediate good relationship with people.”

Some five years later, the Governor of the State of New York, Hugh L Carey, wrote to thank me for the hard work I put into the dedication of the Helen Owen Carey Playhouse named in honor of his late wife. Just four years further on, President Jimmy Carter penned a thank you to express his appreciation for my efforts in putting together a Performance of American Arts to honor Deng Xiaoping the Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China.

I list these accomplishments not to boast, but to make clear that my entire career has been a commitment to ensuring people have first rate experiences whether in the theater, or in my Florida vacation home rentals.

Florida Vacations are all about experiences

What we all seek from a vacation is a wonderful experience – an unforgettable memory for all the right reasons. From seeing “Mickey” to a Snowy White Egret, a commitment to service means that I want my guests to have more than a holiday, I want them to have the kind of experience that
makes their Florida vacation something better than just a break in the sun, turning it into the kind of event that delights on every level. For some guests I suggest going outside when it’s dark and gaze in wonder at the firmament of stars, planets, the moon and make a day trip to Cape
Canaveral. Others want to see the birds during Migration. I am remembering a guest who asked for special birding suggestions while telling me Pakistan has over 786 native species of birds.

Unforgettable moments are built up out of an understanding of the hospitality industry and a recognition of what moves a vacation from ‘a trip to the sun’ to ‘an unforgettable trip’. It’s the difference between setting up a vacation rental to help pay your mortgage and establishing a vacation rental to delight visitors and support the local community. As an example, our most recent review on Home Away explains the philosophy that underpins
everything we do:

Review #20506705 “Erehwon Retreat designer delight – Bandbox Fresh” 5 out of 5 stars

Super clean. Great amenities. Close to everything. Fabulous!

“Our host was exemplary – super knowledgeable about the area, great recommendations for dining and things to do. We were also property hunting and he gave us great insights into the area. Would highly recommend and return in a heartbeat!!”

Florida vacation rentals by owner can be mediocre or magnificent. I spent my entire career in Arts Management ensuring that people were enthralled by the performance or experience they had
invested in. I use every aspect of those skills and training to offer suggestions. From the everglades, coral reefs, clear springs, magnificent forests, special dining and turn of the century history, I take immense pride in succeeding in exceeding every guest’s expectations.

Book Direct with No Service Fees. Ever.

Never pay vacation rental service fees again

Vacation Rental ServiceNo matter if your Florida vacation is a lifetime’s dream or an annual family ritual, there are many new issues to keep in mind. Firstly, hurricanes.  Hurricanes Irma, Michael and Dorian devastated the state, impacting more than two million homes, so talk with the property owners before booking.  Sometimes they’ll admit their property itself is fine, but the surrounding area has been badly affected.

So, resist Instant Book and instead ask the property owners about their home, and homes in the neighborhood, even if it’s a few years after a storm.

Secondly, since February 2016 online travel websites have consolidated and vacation rentals have multiplied.  Sadly, some permanent residents don’t feel welcome the constant arrival and departure of strangers in their tight-knit neighborhoods. Be sure your rental is welcoming!

Thirdly, service fees.  Some community leaders and city personnel believe many listings don’t respect residential zoning rules. Unscrupulous property owners dodge sales and bed tax, condo rules, or apartment leases. Plus, who isn’t annoyed at the service fees imposed by travel websites? Guests never pay a service fee when they book direct.

Tips for finding the perfect vacation rental service

Here are my 2017 top tips for finding the perfect vacation rental service at the best price.  Did you know over 60% of American vacationers have yet to try a vacation rental?  If this is a new idea to you, why not look at my 2015 top tips?

Lowest cost per night may not be cheapest

Advertised property prices are usually pre-tax and usually without cleaning charges, plus they often come with a host of ‘optional extras’ that you can’t avoid. Remember that in High/Peak Season, a Florida vacation rental home could be 45-55% cheaper than a hotel. In the Off Season, hotels are much keener to match vacation rental rates.

With a vacation rental you also enjoy two to five times the space of the average 450 square foot hotel room.  A hotel isn’t the same as a vacation rental home, and here’s why. Vacation rental properties increasingly offer a unique experience – every detail is designed to complement their locale and deliver excellence.  A  hotel focuses on giving a standard experience wherever you are in the world. Vacation rental service is very different in both cases!

Use trusted travel sites

When looking for a longer stay, Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) may be perfect for longer stays. For example search ‘Tampa FL’ to find Erehwon Retreat listed.  A last minute getaway? Airbnb offers excellent options, particularly home shares with the owner is present.  Many people are looking for longer stays with COVID-19, so Booking.com now offers weekly and monthly fees.

Trust your instincts, and your host’s instincts

Travel portals can be great, but remember algorithms rob us of the opportunity to experience the new. They place us within a prison of our own predetermined desires. We get what we have wanted previously … and nothing else.  It’s a narrow way to travel. Further, the sites increasingly hide guest’s contact details from owners, and don’t give guests the property owner’s phone number either. That’s why so many proprietors have their own websites to:

  • let you book direct
  • have direct contact with the vacation rental owner
  • avoid the 9-16% service fees being charged.

Read reviews

So you’ve found a potential vacation rental service through an online travel agent (OTA). Now dive into the review process and see what people say.  Remember, many properties are reviewed on Yelp, Foursquare, TrustPilot and Google.  It’s a disaster to discover your property changed hands and the new owners didn’t earn the rave reviews you read online. Look at guest photographs and ask the owner for more photos than are shown online. This gives you a real sense not just of the property but of its location and the neighborhood. Google Street View gives a sense of what you’re renting, but keep in mind, it’s only updated every three to five years.

While OTAs make it easy to set up as a vacation rental owner, it takes real commitment to become part of the hospitality industry.  Erehwon Retreat’s refresh program ensures every tiny detail will make your vacation special, as our Eight or Great post makes clear.