Monday, July 14, 2008

Do vacation rental sites send you false rental enquiries?

Many vacation rental owners send me complaints that, as soon as the trial period on their vacation rental listing is about to expire, they receive enquiries from renters. However, when they follow up on these enquiries, they find that the renters don't respond. Hence, they suspect that the Vacation Rental Sites are sending them these enquiries in order to entice them to pay for a full listing and that these enquiries are, in fact, bogus!

So, could this possibly be the case?

I have spoken with several sites owners and all deny that they would engage in such a practice. (Of course, they would say that, wouldn't they?) Furthermore, they say it just wouldn't be practical for the following reasons:

1. If these enquiries are generated manually, the amount of work would not justify the potential revenue they would receive. Typically, conversion rates from trial to full paying customers are less than 10%. Even if they could increase this to 20%, this means they would have to generate enquiries for 10 trial owners just to get 1 more to sign up. Of course, they would need to generate more than 1 enquiry for each owner, so the reality is that it would take probably up to thirty or more enquiries just to get one more trial owner to convert to a full paying account. Since most sites charge around $100 per year, it would hardly be worth it!

2. What about if enquiries are generated automatically? Well, this would certainly reduce the work in generating the enquiries. I am not a technical expert, but I suspect it is technically feasible to generate false enquiries. However, if this were possible, why wait until the end of the trial period? Surely, it would be more effective to generate enquiries within the first week or so of the trial period, rather than waiting until the owner has effectively written off the listing on the site.

I suspect the reality is that when owners get an enquiry at around the same time as a trial is expiring, they are putting 2 and 2 together and getting 5, and that these enquiries are likely to be as genuine as any other they recieve from the site.

At any rate, I would encourage owners to log the performance of the vacation rental site over the full trial period, counting not just the number of enquiries, but also the number of follow up responses, before deciding to commit to a fully paid vacation rental listing.

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