Friday, March 26, 2010

Industry Standard Vacation Rental Listings

One of the biggest hassles for a vacation rental owner who wants to list on multiple sites is entering and maintaining these listings in the various formats required. Each Vacation Rental site asks for basically the same info, but each requires the information to be entered on its site, in its own format.

What if there was an Industry Standard for creating vacation rental listings? Each site could then write some software to import the complete listing, into their site with a single button click!

Particularly for smaller sites offering free trial periods, this would make it so much easier to sign up new members. At the moment, the main reason that owners don't avail of special offers/ free trial periods etc, is that it is too much hassle to create and maintain the new listing. However, if the owner could create the listing with a single button click, there would really be no reason he/she would not sign up!

For this to be manageable, any proposed format should stick to the basic elements of a listing, rather than trying to include every single bell and whistle that each vacation rental site offers.

Since most of the vacation rentals sites subscribe to COHR, I asked for their input on this topic.

Most vacation rental sites were positive on the idea, although a number of potential issues were identified:

1. Agreeing a standard vacation rental listing format could be difficult: However, if the format is restricted to the basic elements, this is achieveable.

2. The bigger sites (i.e the Homeaway sites) would not support it: Actually, Homeway indicated they think the idea has merit, although, having invested heavily in trying to automate listing conversion between their various sites, they raise concerns about the amount of work involved. Again, if we stick to the basic listing information, this makes it easier.

3.Standard listings might mean duplicate content, which could hurt SEO ranking: However, it should be relatively easy for the different vacation rentals sites to format the information from the basic listing in such a way to avoid duplicate content.

4. It would make is to easy for fraudsters to create listings "all over the place". This is a valid point, but there is already a need to properly validate listings in some way. This could be done with utility bills, for example.

5. Do we really want to encourage even more new sites, none of whom get the traffic from renters to be worthwhile? :)

If we could get the vacation rentals industry to adopt a standard format for a basic listing, so that you could import this into any vacation rental site with a single button click, the benefits to vacation rental owners would be enormous.

I would be very interested in comments from other vacation rental owners.

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