Unique Island Assets
How Lodgify helped modernize operations and maximize direct bookings.
Located on the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, Jared Warren manages 17 luxury vacation rentals on St. John, offering his guests the chance to enjoy an unforgettable experience in the Caribbean with his business, Unique Island Assets. After working in restaurants, on charter boats, and in real estate, Jared continued the service of welcoming guests to the island by naturally progressing into the vacation rental industry. He began his business in 1999 servicing his and a neighbour’s home.
Initially, Jared had to rely on old-school manual processes, which became increasingly difficult to manage as the business began to scale when adding further properties to his portfolio. In addition, the property’s remote location meant he had to deal with lengthy payment processing times.
Taking credit cards was a challenge because it could not be done online. Customers had to call us to process their payment. Waiting for checks to arrive in our remote post office could take weeks, or they could even get lost, so it was hard to manage as the dates still had to be taken off the market while we waited. Lodgify’s booking engine gave us instant booking independently.”
Even listing on online travel agencies (OTAs), such as Airbnb and Vrbo, proved inefficient due to third-party fees, so having a direct booking website has helped Jared avoid having to pay additional costs. Especially now that 50% of all his reservations come through direct channels.
Having worked in various roles in St. John’s tourism industry, moving into the short-term rental business seemed like an organic transition. However, it wasn’t necessarily intentional at the time to create the business it has become today.
We are in a stunning location that is tourism driven. I wish we could say we had a solid plan, but we are like many small business owners, adapting as we grow.”
In 1999, Jared started leasing out his and his neighbor’s home; however, the industry was much different then, and the concept of short-term rentals was still relatively new, meaning they had to get creative and put in the hard yards to get attract customers.
We built our first website in 1999. We used the keyword “hotel” at that time because vacation rentals were not nearly as popular. The early search engines found us, but we also conducted a postcard mailing campaign to lead people to the site. You had to communicate massively to make sales, and even then, only about 5-10% of inquiries converted.”
Jared knew that his current business model needed a more modern approach, focusing on moving away from manual processes and OTAs and turning to direct bookings and automation.
There were thousands of challenges to running this business that we had to overcome— and continue to overcome—including staffing, quality control, finance, supply chain, inventory management, owner relations, and the Mount Everest of guest service issues that require care.”
Choosing Lodgify as Unique Island Asset’s PMS was a crucial step in the right direction when it came to planning for the future.
Having Lodgify has increased our ability to grow our business through additional bookings and additional properties. Its direct, instant online booking widget has helped us close sales more quickly and efficiently.”
The good news for all property managers is that no technical experience is required when using Lodgify’s Website Builder, and even if you already have a website, you can make the most of our booking widget to turn your website into a booking platform. Jared found the process to be straightforward and easy to set up.
It was very easy to use. We built a Lodgify website and then also used the booking widget on our existing site to link to the Lodgify site. We don’t exclusively use the site we built on Lodgify, but our home website feeds into it when guests are ready to book. The management of those bookings makes life easier too.”
Jared and Unique Island Assets have benefited massively from Lodgify, and it’s clear to see when we look at the difference in booking conversions before and after they became Lodgify users.
“Before Lodgify, we had to communicate extensively to make sales, with only about 5-10% of all inquiries converting. Nowadays, almost half of our bookings require no communication at all before guests decide to book. The impact of integrating Lodgify into our business model was felt immediately.”
What other channels do you use to generate traffic and bookings?
“We are listed on Airbnb, Vrbo, and other local sites, which ultimately feed into Lodgify bookings thanks to the booking widget. Social media is also big for us. We use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn to complement our marketing efforts.”
What advice would you have appreciated when you first became a host, and what are your top recommendations for new vacation rental owners?
“Firstly, to do this well is not easy. Be prepared to work 24/7 to succeed in the service industry. Secondly, if you are not prepared to run it like a business, you really should consider long-term renting instead. Guests need steady service from inquiry through checkout, and good communication and quick replies will fuel success. Triple-check your calendars and include dates and times and contact info in all communication with guests.”