Before joining the vacation rental industry, Sergio Castaneda was working full-time for a job that paid well but lacked the excitement that he was craving. Instead of playing it safe and listening to those telling him he was crazy for wanting to change careers, he decided to follow his gut feeling and change his life for the better.
Inspired by his own adventures around the world and the hospitality that he was always welcomed with, he decided to start his own vacation rental business. Today, Sergio loves what he does and the people that he gets to connect with every day.
“Being a world traveler myself, I wanted the opportunity to help create an experience for others in my city as others have done for me! On top of that, I love to hear everyone’s story and absolutely look forward to meeting people from all over, ensuring that we make their experience memorable!”
Jumpstarting a lodging business in a bustling city is no easy feat. Competing against a swarm of rentals while being new to the industry, Sergio found himself struggling to promote his properties. Although he had taken all the necessary steps to create beautiful homes filled with plants and high-quality amenities, the bookings just weren’t coming in.
“We encountered issues when we first started in just getting our brand and business’s name out there.”
Despite listing on online travel agencies like Airbnb, he knew based on his own experience as a traveler that he had to take things a step further to improve his online presence and visibility.
“We had interest from Airbnb, but you could tell we were lacking something. It wasn’t until we started using Lodgify that I could say our rentals had a brand, something we can say we own and be proud of!”
Challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic
When lockdown first began after the COVID-19 outbreak, Sergio’s business took a hard hit. Although he was faced with a multitude of cancellations and forced to drop prices to stay afloat, his positive mentality pushed him to keep looking for solutions. The same perseverance that had previously helped him change careers was now helping his business survive a pandemic.
“I believe a lot of our struggles had to do with adapting to the changes. We did have to reduce prices and also received an enormous amount of cancellations, but people still needed a place to stay and there was still business to be had.”
What they liked most about Lodgify
It’s clear that Sergio values design and comfort. The harmonious combination of modern furniture and rare plants results in his rentals having a personality of their own. And while listing on online travel agencies can be a great way to increase exposure, Sergio knew that it wouldn’t be enough to truly transmit the experience of his Jungle House.
Sergio’s personal travels also made him aware of the importance of an easy booking process and outstanding communication. Through Lodgify’s automation tools and integrations, he was able to focus on several tasks while maintaining the same quality for each guest.
“Lodgify has a lot of third-party integrations and an extremely helpful automated messaging system, both of which have helped a lot in our business!”
How they got their first bookings
Right off the bat, Sergio began to use social media to promote his highly Instagrammable vacation rental. He also found it useful to leave flyers in local centers to get his brand name out there.
“We promoted ourselves through social media and by leaving flyers in local business centers and universities. We also used a very helpful article by Lodgify on how to boost SEO for your website.”
Other channels that generate traffic and bookings
Sergio knows the importance of listing his property on several channels. That said, aside from his own website, the Jungle House is currently listed on online travel agencies such as Airbnb, Vrbo and Booking.com.
“We still receive a lot of traffic through Airbnb, with some bookings occasionally coming from Vrbo and Booking.com.”
Tools and strategies that helped them to overcome the pandemic
Sergio’s ability to adapt and remain curious during challenging times is what has led his business to success. Instead of only focusing on his usual target audience and sticking to what he knew, Sergio decided to work towards attracting new guest types and cater to their needs. Whereas his properties were often rented out for events before the pandemic, he now opens his doors to families looking for a long-term escape.
“We have increased flexibility as it’s more common to receive inquiries from different types of travelers; those wanting a few nights away from their home, those still traveling for work and those looking for a long-term stay. We adapted to the market and now are making more than ever before!”
Using property management software also allowed him to list on several online travel agencies without sacrificing customer service.
“Listing on other channels has helped get our name out there – as well as word of mouth after providing top hospitality. If you provide an amazing service, the business will come naturally.”
How Lodgify helped them grow their vacation rental business
What started off as a dream to give back to a community that had accommodated him during his travels soon turned into a reality. Since then, Sergio has continued to work tirelessly to transmit his values and personal style through his brand.
Knowing the potential of his properties and truly believing that they can bring joy to travelers has driven Sergio to keep improving his business.
“Lodgify has definitely helped us create a brand for ourselves, instead of just being another listing on Airbnb or Vrbo. This definitely makes an impact in that your customers almost feel a sense of pride staying at your home!”
Positive changes during the pandemic
Throughout the pandemic, Sergio has gone above and beyond in following COVID-19 cleaning protocols. The result? A stream of repeating guests who feel genuinely comfortable at the Jungle House.
“We are definitely seeing a lot more loyal, returning guests. We have gained credibility since guests know that they are staying at an extremely clean and sanitized home with top hospitality.”
As an experienced vacation rental owner with four properties, Sergio’s most important tip is to not fear the unknown and to build a team with people that complement one another. Instead of dwelling on your weak points, he believes that it’s crucial to put your ego aside and learn from those who are more talented in that specific area.
“Some nights in this business will be a breeze and some nights will have you question it all. The key is to focus on the bigger picture and why you chose this business. I quit my well-paying job to do this full time and people thought I was crazy, but here I am making just as much as I was before but having so much fun along the way. Surround yourself with an amazing team, focus on your skillset and lean on others to help with your weaknesses.