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How to avoid common mistakes villa owners make in their marketing plan

img Adiel Ananda | November 24, 2022
Hi, I’m Jing, I’m the co-founder and CEO of Bukit Vista, a hospitality management company that has lead 100’s of properties earn ___ millions of dollars in rental returns in over 10 years. In 2013, I joined Airbnb as a market expert and launched the home-sharing platform across Bali & Jakarta. During my tenure at Airbnb, I discovered many opportunities that our hosts were leaving behind and impacting their investments negatively. I started Bukit Vista for investors and property owners who preferred to delegate the day-to-day marketing and management of their villas, guesthouses, hotels & resorts to professionals.
Today, at Bukit Vista, we enjoy the benefits of a capable Data Science/Business Intelligence team spanning across the world. Our analysts work remotely from Jakarta, Bandung, Bali and California. We uncover insights daily that add potential revenue back into the pockets of our property owners. Our teams measure their achievements on the quantity & quality of their pricing decisions and our our owners enjoy their revenue management services. We started with three properties in 2013 and now we manage over 170+ unique properties and with between 70-80 guest check-ins daily.
You might be wondering if this is another generic blog post about Airbnb search rankings, which are already very common online and can be fairly boring reading, with no real takeaways. I’d like to offer a different, more inspirational, more delightful approach. I’d like to share practical tips, that for property owners, can make the difference between making a bit of rental income and becoming a full-time property investors.  We’re happy to dispel some common misconceptions that new property owners make on their business strategy that can cost them thousands of dollars in lost opportunities and revenue a year.

Why do smart owners make basic mistakes?

Most property owners will make a few, easily understandable mistakes during their first experiences in a competitive marketplace like Bali. This is completely normal, and goes to show how rare it is to find educational and informative content that’s useful for a rental strategy. My mission here is to remove those myths and use evidence & data based findings to guide our industry towards a sustainable and prosperous future.
So below are some of the common problems when marketing their properties listing and some of the proven solutions to address such issues.
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Bukit Vista constantly use data and technology to innovate the hospitality industry

Problem#1: Rely on unreliable, underpowered channels

Many owners will distribute their properties first to social media & a website, which soak up the most amount of time and are your least effective channels. Why?
 
  • SEO – Website
    • Websites are discoverable via search engine recommendation. Your website for a single property is never going to rank above a website or app that aggregates millions of properties. If you find this hard to believe, just ask yourself, when you’re going to a travel destination, do you search for accommodations for solitary properties on Google or do you usually open the app with the most options?
    • Even if you’re discovered by a potential guest, then comes the funny business of securing the transaction. Will you sell them key dates without a deposit? What if the guest damages your property? Does the guest feel that you’re trustworthy enough to send a deposit? Who will enforce a refund/cancellation policy? Should they sign a contract? How do you enforce an international contract?
    • You might use your website for repeat guests, but considering that most holidays to Bali are once-in-a-life trips, the chance of a returning visitor is limited. What you really need are verified reviews – which is not possible on a website where a guest knows you have full creative freedom to write whatever you’d like. Also, repeat visitors might want the same price as their last trip, will you agree to host them again at the rates from 2 years ago, or will you expect current rates?
     
  • Instagram
    • Instagram might be a great place to earn vanity metrics; likes, comments and shares, but unless you can bring that to the bank, you might want to distribute where real transactions are happening.
    • Bukit Vista has an instagram account with 5,000 followers, we generally get spam messages from ‘influencers’ bargaining for a free stay, solicitors asking if we need ‘x’ service, and bargain hunters who found us on Airbnb and ask for a 30-50% discount. We took instagram bookings during the pandemic, since the major international platforms were not working but as soon as business picked up, we stopped serving on IG.

Problem#2: Distribute too widely on OTAs

Eventually, experienced owners will realize that their guests shop where everybody shops, on the top 5 travel apps that even they themselves use to book accommodations. Airbnb. Booking.com. Agoda. Traveloka. Trip Advisor (falling in 2022). So the common thinking is to distribute on all the platforms and hope for the best, until – you start realizing that your bookings are coming infrequently and at lower-than-expected rates. Why?
 
Having worked at Airbnb, I’ve seen how platforms incentivize guests & property owners.
 
  • Platforms are paid by guests, who choose to use & reuse their services. The platform serves the guest by having a large supply of available, quality properties ranked according to the probability of being booked and well reviewed.
  • Platforms practice long-term greed, they’d rather keep a guest for 10-20 years, earning a small bit on each trip, rather than setting them up for a large, expensive disappointment that will cause them to leave the app. This also why customer service generally favors the guest over the property owner in disputes.
  • A property owner that is available, frequently booked, and delivers a consistent 5-star experience will be rewarded with high rankings and more opportunities to get bookings at higher rates.
If you’re distributing on multiple platforms, and getting bookings on all of them, you might feel great being popular and well served by all the biggest brands in travel, but long-term wise, your ranking is dropping on all the platforms you’re on. Why? The logic is pretty simple.
 
  • Each time you’re booked on Airbnb, you’re not available on Booking.com or Agoda anymore, so your property doesn’t show up in searches on those platforms and vice versa. Since you’re not showing up in search results, you can’t get booked – since you’re not getting bookings, other properties that are getting bookings & reviews start rising above you on the platforms where you’re not available. Think of it this way, everytime you win on a platform, you lose on all the other platforms.
  • Ranking is a feedback cycle. When you’re in a positive cycle, you’ll notice bookings arrived faster & at higher values. When you’re in a negative cycle, bookings are less frequent and you’ll find yourself deciding between empty rooms or massive discounts.
  • Our business intelligence team has played this scenario dozens of times, and the end results is this, you will always have a dominant channel in a single OTA. Even when we made two listings for the same property on Airbnb, one listing eventually wins over the other. The exceptions are properties with multiple identical units like guesthouses, apartments and resorts.
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One of our Bukit Vista emplotee working in optimizing our bookings
Ok now that we’ve seen the problems what are my options as a property owner in Bali? How would I market my villa correctly?
 
Surprisingly, the easiest way to determine where is the best fit for your property is to visit all the major platforms, search for similar properties in the area with a guest mindset and ask yourself a simple question.
  • If I were traveling to my own neighborhood as a guest, am I finding enough suitable options on this platform?
If you find a lot of great options, similar & competitive to your property on Traveloka, then that’s probably where it belongs. If you find the same situation on Airbnb, then Airbnb is where you belong.
 
Coming from an Airbnb background, I’ve been called biased towards Airbnb, but my bias is also supported by evidence. According to Google Trends, Airbnb, since 2008, has been by far the leader in searches compared to other leading platforms. Why?
Well I have another logical explanation here again, if you’ll excuse me for sounding a bit too favorable to Airbnb. Airbnb offers a pretty fair deal to hosts, $3M protection against damages, pet damage support, etc… This is not offered on other platforms. So if supply goes to Airbnb, then the demand follows as well, right? Plus, the Airbnb mobile app is quite sophisticated and sleek, easy to use.
 
We hope you’ve made it all the way to the end so far and find this post helpful for guiding your business strategy. We enjoy sharing investment-grade findings and advice through our over 10 years of experience here in one of the most competitive travel markets in the world. If you do plan to purchase a property in Bali, feel free to contact a representative at Bukit Vista for a free consultation and if you’d rather have us do the work of properly managing your property, hire Bukit Vista to manage your villa, guesthouse, resort or hotel.

Our mission is to inspire delight through hospitality innovations that positively transform our guests, partners, and employees.

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