The Vacation Rental Industry Has Become a ‘Big Box’ Environment – Interview with Tony Lopes

If you’ve ever looked for alternative listing sites, you might’ve stumbled upon OwnerDirect.com. With more than 20 years of experience, Owner Direct is a vacation rental listing website with a difference. They pair vacation rental properties with guests and make sure that both parties are happy with their bookings.

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We interviewed Tony Lopes, CEO, to learn more about their company and the evolution of the vacation rental industry.

What’s the story behind OwnerDirect?

Owner Direct Vacation Rentals started out in 1994 as a means to rent out Big White ski condos privately, rather than going through the resort reservation system. The founder, Dave Bowering, quickly realized that there was a need amongst owners of vacation properties to find guests via other means than traditional media.

From Big White, OwnerDirect.com expanded into other nearby ski resorts within British Columbia. As the years flew by, so did demand and we expanded to the global market with staff around the world.

How has the vacation rental industry evolved? What are the main differences between the industry 20 years ago and today?

20 years ago there was not much competition and many consumers had not even heard the term ‘vacation rental’. Most other holiday home rental websites were fairly localized and small. There were many property manager websites in specific locations, but not sites that offered a larger selection. Over the years, some big players have entered the marketplace with large investments to make vacation rentals a regular household word.

What is the biggest challenge in the online vacation rental world and how will it be solved?

For property owners and websites like Owner Direct, it’s competition, avoiding duplicate listings, keeping availability calendars and rates up-to-date, and staying with the times with respect to features and responsive designs that technology has helped create.

What are the most common mistakes vacation rental owners make when promoting their properties?

For me, one of the biggest mistakes vacation rental owners make is not photographing their home properly, or not updating their photos after time.

In addition to poor photos, many owners can be too rigid with their policies and rates. Vacation rental owners need to be flexible in some regards, as not every booking or guest is the same. Many owners lose bookings and keep many potential guests away from even inquiring, just due to the nature of their policies.

Another mistake some owners make is just not providing enough detailed information for guests on their listing. Guests want to know exactly what to expect so there are no surprises, whether it’s your descriptions or photos, be as detailed and accurate as possible. This will save you time in the long run.

What is your company’s biggest flaw?

We are very customer service focused. We spend a lot of time and energy with both guests and owners to make sure things work out and that both parties are satisfied with the reservation.

This can be detrimental because some visitors would rather just solicit requests to a dozen owners themselves, rather than work with a single entity like the Owner Direct customer service team.

What trends are you seeing with your renters? What kind of locations, amenities and services are they looking for when they book?

Renters are interested in travel and getaways. Our audience is from all over the world, but a majority of them are interested in travel within North America. Canada is trending strongly for US visitors given the strong US dollar. For US residents coming to Canada for a ski holiday or an outdoor experience in the Rockies, the pricing and exchange rate has never been better.

Some recent hot destinations include the West Coast of British Columbia, Okanagan Valley BC, Banff Alberta, Florida, Hawaii, California and Mexico.

Can vacation rental owners have their own website and appear in listings?

Yes. We believe that all property owners should use several media/websites to ensure a level of diversification across the globe. No large vacation rental sites rank well for guest searches across the entire globe. Some are stronger in Europe, others in Canada, and some in the US, etc.

In general, advertising is a good idea if it is cost-effective. Owner Direct also has many in-house integration/channel manager tools to make sure availability calendars can be kept up-to-date across any website a property might be using at the same time.

How do you see the future of the vacation rental industry?

It seems the vacation rental industry has quickly become a ‘big box’ environment where many websites have been purchased and amalgamated by other larger companies. Within that type of environment, many guests and owners get lost in the shuffle. No one is treated in a personal and caring nature.

At Owner Direct, we pride ourselves on being an independent company that has offered great customer service and a successful rental platform for over 20 years. We offer a level of service, assistance and mediation that is incomparable within the industry.

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