Synta Keeling (under-represented host series)
54:26Synta Keeling is an Airbnb superhost and lawyer living in Washington DC. Debi interviewed her two days after the January 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol. Synta was previously interviewed in 2016 by the NPR podcast "Hidden Brain" for an #AirbnbWhileBlack episode that dealt with bias with Airbnb hosts and guests. Synta lives in the Capitol View neighborhood which is almost completely African-American. She is a black Filipino woman herself and has a lot of insight into fear that many people feel. Synta explains that she bought her house and was facing a stigma of living on the poor side of the Anacostia river in Washington, DC. She couldn't find a roommate. Some friends recommended Airbnb, with guests being from out of town who didn’t have the built in stigma about her neighborhood. Synta describes DC as majority-minority. People would tell her that no tourists would want to be in her neighborhood because of its location. When Airbnb started to grow, hosts began to make a lot of money and more hosts wanted to join. She sometimes hosted foreign guests who arrived with bias. Most were wonderful, kind, and polite, but sometimes there were unfortunate incidents. One of Synta's guests was a young man from Europe. He was headed to somewhere in the south for a semester. He was very opinionated about Americans, just off the get go, complaining and asking about American flags, guns, etc. Synta is a lawyer, so she is able to have educated discussions on an academic basis. Her guest didn’t like her answer, a long discussion about the complicated cultural aspects of the US. She always suggests that her guests take the Metro because it's faster than the bus, but this particular guest took the bus instead. When he got home he looked like a ghost. He said at one point the last of the white passengers had left the bus and it was all black except for him. He was scared and alarmed that he might get hurt. He slowly realized they are just sitting there, they are not going to hurt me. By the time he got back to Synta's place he was clearly struggling with these feelings. As a host of color, encounters like this are inevitable. She emphasized that it’s no one’s job to teach us about bias and what to do, but she says if you take advantage of teachable moments, it can last a lifetime. It comes up all the time when you’re hosting. For some people it’s crushing to realize that they could fit into a racist mold. Synta's Facebook group often addresses racist reviews and she often helps hosts deal with them. One those Facebook friends got a review that complained about a guy hanging around the yard. It turns out that the guy "hanging around" was the host's husband, doing landscaping in their yard. The guest just hadn't met him yet. Another host had a couple of young women guests from France. Synta says its normally hard to get police to come out to their area, but the cops will do all kinds of things for Airbnb guests. The two women were trying to get directions to the hosts’ address and asked a cop. He said "you do not want to be in that area at all". The cop gave them a ride there. And then the host had to deal with the guests feelings, being there at night, hearing what the cop said. It turned out ok but the host offered to refund their money. The guests stayed but it was a rocky start. The difference between hosting and a hotel, Synta explains, is that your home is very personal. You need to step back and think about what might impact the guest. She makes sure people know where she lives, no restaurants nearby, all the potential problems so guests can make accurate decisions. Debi added that some hosts state on their listings what a guest will and won’t like about their listings. Synta also uses Airbnb as a guest traveler. She hates to read dense listings and suggests if you look at some hotel listings, they are less dense. Use captions on the images! Synta said 3-4 years ago the US government liberalized rules for Chinese nationals. All of the sudden, there was a giant tourism boom. Coming from a part of the world that is homogeneous compared with the US, it's made more difficult that their exposure to black people is just from movies, mostly bad. When guests arrive and see the host is black, there are cultural issues or opportunities. And that’s what hosting allows us to address. Debi and Synta discussed the Capitol insurrection, which happened on January 6, 2021, just two days before their interview. She said that it’s been crazy. She’s been to the Capitol building a lot says and said the Capitol police do not play around. She found it terrifying when there were three people in the line of succession in the building and for hours no one knew their status. Synta hadn’t been hosting because of Covid, but also there was a lot of back and forth in the host community about not hosting because this particular rally was going to happen. There was a lot of traffic about hotels not taking reservations, so they made Airbnb reservations. Debi added that Airbnb cancelled a lot of reservations. Synta said that because DC isn’t a state, you can’t bring the national guard, you have to wait for the federal government to act. She lives 2 miles from the Armory, which was mobilizing. Debi asked Synta about #AirbnbWhileBlack, and her interview with the NPR podcast Hidden Brain. They began by messaging her about discrimination against guests, but Synta brought up discrimination against hosts. They picked up on this and came to her kitchen for an interview. Synta told the story about a young woman Quirtina Crittenden who wanted to travel on Airbnb but was getting rejected. At her friends' suggestions, she changed her picture (she’s black) and shortened her name to her nickname Tina, and suffered no more rejections. She tweeted out this experience with the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack that went viral. Synta told Debi about her own picture on her profile, and then about her brother’s. He’s a host too, but appears more African American. Synta is part Philipino. She had a photo taken with the two of them together, like a family photo, to reduce the unfortunate reality of adverse impact to his bookings. At the end of their interview, Debi asked how she could be a better host, to be more aware of things I could do better. Synta advised her: "when you get a booking, and you have a feeling, a gut reaction to decline, particularly if they are under-represented, ask yourself objective questions, whether you would react the same way if the guest is white. And if you screen your guests, be sure to ask everyone the same questions." LINKS: Synta Keeling's Airbnb listing Synta on Twitter and Instagram is @myneckofDC NPR Hidden Brain podcast on bias, with Synta Keeling Other interviews in the Hosting Your Home Under-represented host series: K Rhea C L Reed Anthony Gannt I want to give a shout-out to Feedspot, for inclusion in their article titled: Top 15 Airbnb Podcasts Thank you to Carla Chicarro of Lodgify for mentioning me in the post, 29 Women Who Are Making Waves in The Vacation Rental Industry Thank you all so much for the recognition and the attention! It makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile with this podcast, and with Host2Host. Debi
At Ease Rentals with Anthony Gantt (under-represented hosts series)
45:30UPDATE! July, 2021: Anthony just won a $100,000 entrepreneur award! Anthony Gantt and the birth of At Ease Rentals: Anthony is a smart Marine Corps officer who saw an opportunity and jumped on it. He was changing duty stations (in military terms, “PCS” or permanent change of station) and when he turned in his reimbursement request, it was denied. Why? He had stayed in an Airbnb instead of a hotel. Anthony had made several PCSs before and never had a reimbursement be denied, and this really burned him up. So he began the process of getting the rules changed. We hope you will find this interview along with interviews with Kevin Rhea and CL Reed to be educational. He began the paperbound process of changing government regulations and had a breakthrough. After a surprising meeting with some government travel officials, he notified the military that he was going to work on a platform that would be an OTA (online travel agency, like Airbnb) for the military. This platform would be one that meets all the various rules for military and civilian government travel. It would allow federal travelers to stay in short term rentals if they so choose. And the other side of the platform works by inviting vacation rental managers and individual STR hosts to list on the platform. The result is his platform At Ease Rentals. Debi asked him about new hosts on his platform, and about safe travel. Anthony says that bookings are difficult for travelers of color. Hosts would often reply that the dates were not available. Frustrating. And looking out of place in a given neighborhood, for example. But of all the cities he’s traveled to, he finds Orlando to be the model for a good vacation rental experience. He feels that it’s not so much about safe travel as just having to deal with prejudicial bias. Debi asked if Anthony knows about Airbnb’s changes such as not showing the picture until the reservation is made. She also made the point that it seems like no other OTAs besides Airbnb seem to address the issues of discrimination and bias, and while Airbnb hasn’t cracked the code altogether, they at least make earnest attempts to solve the problem. Anthony spoke about his four daughters, teaching them to be proud and that the only thing that can bring us down is divisiveness. Anthony made the point that diversity just adds higher returns on the investments. From his standpoint, Anthony sees us as Americans first, like I’m American, African descent. American, Italian descent etc. He doesn’t really like the term like Black American. American first. What can I do to be a contributing member of society? We need to be the beacon and the role model for the rest of the world. Debi asked, how can we make guests feel more comfortable? Anthony's response: You can’t fix stupid. If I told you no green eyed person could stay in this house on the lake, you’d be upset. It’s like that. Everyone wants the same thing and be able to book a place without worrying about anything. Debi brought up Krhea’s comment that it’s weird when people say they “don’t see color”. Anthony said it would be like “I don’t see women. I see everyone as a man”. We just want to go to a booking platform and book. Debi mentioned her picture on her listing websites that says “all are welcome here, no matter your…..” Anthony recommends to look at stock photo site PEXEL. Stock photos of everyone. His point is, use these pix of diverse people with your listing, which is a GREAT idea. Anthony just got goosebumps. Wanting to reach different travelers, he went to groups on Instagram - black people travel a lot. Anthony talks about spouses of military being 95% women; he looked at their Pinterest and came to a realization of how to market: PINTERIST! Anthony talks about how hard he’s working on the company, and said he’s acting like it's one of the 20 hour deployments he knew of from previous military assignments, to work on At Ease while he's a full time marine. Deb asked about the meaning of “walking when black”. His answer was that you have different concerns depending on the situation, like if you're in a mall, high end store, there are eyes that automatically come to you about shoplifting. Traveling while black, you can’t wear sweatshirt and hoodie, and at work while black, is it ok to let hair naturally grow out or is is non professional or not serious. He went to a golf thing, one of the guys had an NBA mask, but none of them are basketball athletes, one of the ladies asked if they were from the NBA, even though most were not exactly athletic anymore... Talking to his kids: Anthony tells them to be aware of what's going on. If it’s negative, figure out how to get out of the situation. The one thing that can protect you is education. You have to be aware of the situations you’re in. Strive to be an American first, who happens to look like that. LINKS: https://www.facebook.com/ATEASERentals/ At Ease Rentals
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C L Reed (under-represented hosts series)
50:48C L Reed is one of the many hosts of color and an entrepreneur who has expanded from her first room rental to now hosting her own 3 properties and co-hosting several other Airbnbs. She shares with Debi how she initially got started via her daughter's prodding. C L discovered that her home was exactly in the right spot for skydivers, and she has hosted skydivers from all over the world. She found her niche and works it with professional skill! C L expanded into Facebook, which is how Debi and C L met. See the Links at the end of the show notes to join her Facebook groups. She also published a book: "Short term rental success stories from the edge", also at the end of the show notes. CL offers that as a Black host, she has not experienced overt prejudice. Her photo is on her Airbnb profile and she believes that if a guest has any issues with her race, they would self-filter and simply not choose her listing. When it comes to traveling, CL pointed out how vulnerable a woman traveling alone can be, and that women of any color must be diligent about their safety. She gives several examples. Add to that being of a minority race, the discussion expands into recognizing a basic inherent fear that Black people live with, of which White people are unaware. We appreciate her woman's perspective which brings additional depth to the conversation. Hear another Hosts of Color interview, this one with Kevin Rhea. LINKS: www.asuitecbnbs.com (951) 599-8123 (PST) California, USA Social Media: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ASUITEC/ Pages: https://www.facebook.com/groups/InlandEmpireSTR https://www.facebook.com/groups/PSSTVRCOMMUNITYNETWORK https://www.facebook.com/groups/strhomesharehosts Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/asuitecbnbs Twitter: https://twitter.com/aSuiteCollab Tumblr: https://tumblr.com/asuitecollaboration Amazon: Author, CL Reed – Short Term Rental Success Stories From The Edge To Book A Suite Collaboration's Short Term Rental Listings: www.asuitec-bnbs.com www.ps-iluvubnb.com www.airbnb.com/h/ps-memories
Kevin Rhea (under-represented hosts series)
39:03Debi Hertert of HostingYourHome interviews Kevin Rhea ("Krhea") of Portland, Oregon, a fellow member of Host2Host. Debi reached out to Krhea because he is one of the few hosts of color in the Portland area, and he is kind, candid, and willing to teach. Debi is starting this series on Hosts of Color to further her own and her listeners' understanding of the issues involved. Krhea claims title to being the proud father to a wonderful daughter, lucky husband to an incredible entrepreneur wife, cyclist and founder of Portland Velo Cycling Club, photographer, real estate investor and 20+yr resident of Portland, OR. Krhea says his wife is an impassioned traveler who has used Airbnb and VRBO a lot. In his previous career of performance shoe designer, Krhea traveled over 200,000 miles a year but always used hotels. A couple of years ago he and his wife visited a Seattle Airbnb and had a great experience. She had been encouraging Krhea for some time to consider having an Airbnb in their home, and with some "negotiating" after the Seattle trip, they remodeled their basement and began hosting on Airbnb. They instantly had bookings in the Portland west hills. Krhea describes his experiences with guests and Airbnb. As a host, he had no problems at all with any of his guests. Part of that might be that he made a point of having a picture of himself and his (white) wife on the listing so that guests could decide if they accepted that or not. He made a point of shaking everyone's hand when they arrived. He had nothing but great guests and connections with them as a host. But he gives us a tiny glimpse of what it feels like to be a black man traveling. As a traveler, he describes having car trouble and traffic, and having to call their host along the way to explain their late arrival. But despite the phone updates, upon arrival at midnight, he found himself unable to knock on their host's door, solely because of his color. Even though they had perfect guests, Krhea and his wife stopped hosting. Why? Several blatantly racial incidents were reported in the press that made them wonder whether Airbnb was doing enough to protect under-represented guests from these situations. His reaction was to withdraw altogether from the platform. Although Debi and Krhea didn't discuss the specifics, some high profile examples include a neighbor calling the police when a black traveler showed up at the Airbnb next door; A host canceling a reservation with "One word says it all: Asian"; and a research study that found a complete difference when various last names were used in reservation requests. Airbnb has tried for years to eliminate discrimination but it is hugely complex. Most hosts would likely be truthful in saying they are not racist, or feel racists. We may view our hospitality as being excellent, but is it enough to just feel like we are being welcoming? How many hosts have any idea of what goes through their guest's head when the guest has had a lifetime of bad experiences? We hope that this series "hosts of color" can be an opening for some hosts. The goal of the Hosts of Color podcast series is to help teach those hosts who are receptive, and possibly to reach some hosts who don't yet understand. Debi recognizes her own limited understanding of the universe of racial issues and is using these interviews to learn for herself. LINKS: Color of Change: This is the largest online racial justice organization in the country. Airbnb's "Project Lighthouse" is trying to eliminate discrimination, working with multiple groups such as Color of Change, AACP and others. Host2Host is the Oregon-based non-profit trade association "for hosts, by hosts". Hosting Your Home is the website for the podcast about hosting with Airbnb.
Debi and Rob vs the Pandemic
25:12The pandemic and short term rentals in Oregon. In mid March, 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic began impacting short term rental reservations in Oregon. Airbnb saw its global reservations drop like a rock. For three months, the pandemic has basically eliminated the STR market. Debi and Rob Hertert of Hosting Your Home use this episode to talk about how the pandemic is affecting them personally and other hosts they know. Debi and Rob are very concerned about the small towns on the Oregon coast. The towns are desperate for money but cannot sacrifice the health of their citizens. Visitors can partially mitigate this conflict by spending most of their time at the vacation rental or outdoors. They can wear masks and distance themselves when patronizing businesses. When hosts look at their Airbnb income reports, they look at graphs that have mostly dropped to zero. Those who depend on the hosting income are in a very difficult position. The more debt on the home(s) the worse the problem. And in the pandemic environment, the home sharing type of listing sadly disadvantages hosts who share space within their home; neither party is likely to want to share the same space. Debi mentions Host2Host, the nonprofit trade association that serves the host community in Oregon. Host2Host now uses Zoom for weekly "virtual coffees" and for monthly educational meetup webinars. The myriad of financial victims is spelled out in countless other articles but Debi mentions here the groups known as "DMOs", or Direct Marketing Organizations. These include Travel Portland and Travel Oregon among others. They are (were) funded by a tourism tax that is levied in addition to occupancy taxes. So the far reaching travel marketing that brings tourists to Portland and Oregon isn't happening at anything like the previous levels. Portland uses the STR occupancy taxes to fund affordable housing. That has also dropped to near zero for the past three months. It all seems like too much. But - as Brian Chesky, Airbnb's CEO, said recently on an outreach call, people love to travel. They are reluctant to travel right now, but they will travel again. It will definitely come back if hosts - and Airbnb - can survive beyond the downturn. Just before we recorded this podcast episode, the civil unrest beginning with Minneapolis flamed into being and is cause for all of us in the hospitality industry to improve lives, lessen burdens, and share opportunities. Debi is going to try her best to learn more and share through Hosting Your Home. Links: Host2Host.org is the Oregon-based nonprofit trade association serving STR hosts. Membership is open to anyone. You can hear about how it was created: Host2Host is About to be Born! Airbnb's new cleaning protocol is a big change for STRs. Airbnb has over the years worked on inclusion. Their latest effort is "Project Lighthouse"
FabStayz and Drag Queen take over Portland!
23:52We had an AWESOME photo shoot in Portland, Oregon directed by FabStayz founder Robert Geller, featuring airline flight attendant Danny Lee Cabrero as drag queen “Liquor Mini”, named after the little booze bottles on planes. It could not have been more fun! Robert was working on a publicity campaign for FabStayz and wanted it to be fun and attention getting. It worked! Danny visited 10 locations dressed in flight attendant drag, and photographer Carlos Camarena caught it all. The greater Portland area, with its supportive trade organization Host2Host, is the principal launch city for FabStayz. The PR campaign is soon to be released! Some highlights of the day: Michelle Boyle’s Tiny House Village in Sherwood, where Danny was definitely larger than life. Nectar, a friendly marijuana dispensary Blue Star Donut shop in Multnomah Village, where Danny’s blue dress was a color match and the donuts were delicious Danny doesn’t drink but still made a splash at the Sasquatch Brew Pub in Hillsdale Olympia Provisions Melty & Meaty food truck at Pioneer Courthouse Square Travel Portland’s Visitors Center Powell’s City of Books - the largest independent bookstore in the World! Sunset was at the eTukride at the end of the Tillikum bridge FabStayz’ mission is serving LGBTQ travelers by connecting them with hosts whom Robert terms “Fab Allies” All hosts list on his platform with the specific understanding of acceptance for all and fostering welcoming inclusive accommodations. FabStayz travelers know ahead of time that they do not need to explain or justify or do anything but enjoy being on vacation. When Debi asked Robert and Danny if they’ve ever been discriminated against during travels, Robert gave a nuanced answer that is helpful to understanding the issue. He also mentioned the site “Destination Pride” that gives travelers an acceptance measure of a city they are considering visiting. As FabStayz continues to evolve Watch for the addition of bed & breakfasts, inns and properties such amenities of spas and wedding facilities. Poised for continued growth FabStayz has been featured in over 40 articles, blog posts, tv podcast appearance. Not to be missed is the FabStayz demo video starring drag flight attendants Danny aka Liquor Mini and Esme Russell filmed on location at Tampa International Airport. Totally campy and so much fun! The demo video features launch destination: greater Portland, Oregon. You can also read about FabStayz press coverage. Making your listing more inclusive: Robert invites listeners to look at his listing and consider “stealing” his first few lines that include his pronouns (just tells prospective guests that you are aware of pronouns as an important issue) and include an image of a poster or welcome mat with accepting language. He correctly notes that most guests don’t read everything in our listings, so put it in as a picture! Robert and Danny met each other through a “chance” discussion that Robert had with his hairdresser, and everything just clicked. In addition to Danny’s work as a flight attendant, in his fun but important side gig as “Liquor Mini”, he has helped raise over $500,000 for the Wings Foundation to support flight attendants in need. He is now also the Resort Director for Vacaya, an international LGBTQ travel agency that leases entire cruise ships and resorts. In that job Danny gets to show the world the charismatic leader he really is! List of all links mentioned in the podcast: FabStayz LGBTQ listing site FabStayz 2019 podcast episode with Hosting Your Home Host2Host, the Portland-centric STR non-profit trade association Danny Lee Cabrero’s FaceBook page Portland Photographer Carlos Camarena’s podcast episode with Hosting Your Home Tiny House Village Nectar dispensary Blue Star Donuts in Multnomah Village Sasquatch Brew Pub in Hillsdale Olympia Provisions food truck Travel Portland visitors center Powell’s City of Books Robert’s personal listing showing example of inclusive language eTuk Tours Destination Pride, the LGTBQ international rating guide Wings Foundation Vacaya, the LGTBQ travel extravaganza provider
HYH-52 “The Airbnb Way” with author Joseph Michelli
25:17What company comes to an author’s mind after writing bestsellers about Starbucks, Zappos, Mercedes and Ritz-Carlton? Airbnb! Joseph Michelli became highly interested in the company and authored a book "The Airbnb Way". Joseph identifies the ways in which Airbnb engages with customers and builds brand loyalty. He includes both the view from inside the company and the view from the individual hosts who provide hospitality to millions of travelers each year. “The Airbnb Way” is a unique publication that is overdue - few businesses have been as disruptive as Airbnb and much of their positive impact has been under-reported. Debi Hertert met Joseph virtually in 2018 as Joseph began work on his book. She introduced him to many highly experienced Airbnb hosts, some of whom are included in “The Airbnb Way”. Joseph reciprocated a year later, when the book was finished, by coming to Portland as the featured speaker at the Host2Host event “HostFest 2019”. In addition to being an author, Joseph is a TEDx speaker. A hundred hosts got to enjoy his presentation, and you can get a sense of his thoughtful voice in this podcast interview that took place the day before the event. Host2Host is a non-profit trade association based in Portland, Oregon. It serves the short-term rental hosting community with a goal of speaking with one voice for the community of hosts. Several hosts who are mentioned in the book also appear in HostingYourHome podcasts. One of these is April Brenneman who is featured in one of the very first episodes of the HostingYourHome podcast, "Josh's House in the Trees" You can check out the links below, including one for a trip giveaway to San Francisco that is good through December 16, 2019 Joseph’s business website: www.josephmichelli.com Book contest through December 16, 2019: This is a trip giveaway to San Francisco, no purchase necessary, at https://www.airbnbway.com Host2Host "The Voice of the Host" short-term rental website: Host2Host.org
STR Advocacy Done Well - with Mark Rockwell
27:58Short Term Rental (STR) advocacy Short Term Rental (STR) advocacy is difficult and time-consuming. But if you want STR regulation that is informed and fair, you need to work. It's very easy for local government to spring into an over-regulated model, being saturated with negative news, so be proactive! There is no single regulatory model that works for every municipality or jurisdiction, nor is there a single model that all STR hosts will embrace. A city like Lake Oswego is completely different than a vacation destination resort area. The "Social Model" In his work in STR advocacy, Mark distinguishes between what he calls "social model" listings and "business model" listings. He used this language to help commissioners understand: He explained it as the difference between having the owner living in the home, earning money to offset taxes and maintenance, versus the owner being absent and expecting high returns. Lake Oswego opposition to STRs had two big concerns. First was the impact on long-term housing, and the potential for loud parties. Mark was frank about not wanting to live next door to a house that had loud parties all the time. He is also mindful that STRs, unchecked, can create financial incentives that would adversely impact long-term housing. He told the City they could mitigate both of these problems through his proposed requirement of having the owner live in the home. The written word is important The City planning bureau surveyed the entire City for their thoughts about short-term rentals. Surprisingly, a little over 50% of the responses were positive. Mark notes the even higher approval from those who have used Airbnb in their travels. I see this as a good sign. It shows that as more people use the Airbnb model of travel, they become less fearful of it in their home towns. All in all, the success Mark had in Lake Oswego, a wealthy and probably somewhat conservative city, shows that advocacy can work in what might seem like an unlikely place. One of the most important tips Mark brought up for STR advocacy is the need to be able to clearly communicate your ideas in writing. When he met with City officials he also left them with a document that explained his rationale and concerns. We will definitely follow his example and add this simple reinforcement when we meet with City officials. See the actual regulations at www.lakeoswego.city/short-term-rentals Mark is also a business coach and professional EOS implementer. You can contact him at [email protected]
FabStayz LGBTQ listing site, with Robert Geller
32:32Debi Hertert of the Hosting Your Home podcast talks with FabStayz LGBTQ Listing Site founder Robert Geller, about his exciting, new STR platform. Robert has 10 years of experience with his gay travel company "Outings and Adventures". Through his personal Airbnb hosting experience and Airbnb travel, he saw a real need for a travel platform that would be respectful and safe specifically for LGBTQ travelers. He's inviting hosts to register, with the agreement that those hosts will be allies of LGBTQ travelers and make them feel welcome. Robert listed some impressive statistics for the volume of LGBTQ travel that are included below in the show notes. Robert expects the platform to be fully launched by June, 2019 in time for Gay Pride and the large amount of travel that goes with it. Hosts are invited to register at FabStayz.com during the beta version. FabStayz has a process for incorporating Airbnb listings into the FabStayz platform. Hosts pay a subscription price to FabStayz to be listed and attract bookings. 2:00 - 6:00 Robert talks about his gay travel company startup that followed a corporate job layoff in 2008. He started the company “Outings and Adventures” initially to offer activities for the LGBTQ community outside of a bar. They did paddle boarding, kayaking, tree climbing, sushi cooking etc. It morphed into the travel company and now they do things like a riverboat bike tour on the Moselle river!. He is also an Airbnb superhost and traveler. With “air quotes”, Robert said the first “adventure” wasn’t very adventuresome. It was attending the very first showing of the movie Sex in the City. He could only get 10 tickets, but those first 9 email addresses have grown into a travel company with 8,000 email addresses and 10,000 Facebook likes. 6:00 - 20:00 What was the origin of FabStayz? His experiences as a gay Airbnb host showed him the need for a hosting/traveling environment that is safe for both parties. His description of these experiences are compelling. He saw an opportunity to elevate the experience of the guest and host for LGBTQ travel. He knows that many LGBTQ travelers wait with anxiety to learn how the host might respond to an exploratory email such as “my partner and I”...waiting and wondering and worrying. Robert doesn’t want this to be the way it is. FabStayz is an LGBTQ brand, not a gay brand. Often a gay brand is hyper-sexualized, and FabStayz is not. Imagery, language etc on the platform speaks to everyone in the community, fun and uplifting. FabStayz is aligning with visitor bureaus and the LGBTQ chambers of commerce all over the country and are being well received. 20:00 - 25:00 An “Ally” is defined on the FabStayz website as a person who helps this cause. Debi mentions that crossing cultural gaps is difficult. Not everyone knows what to say or how to reach out. She asked about an educational component. Robert also points out that this is an opportunity for hosts to differentiate themselves to market to this community. He stated that LGBTQ travel accounts for $200 billion spent per year, 77% of the LGBTQ community have valid passports; and often travel to a Pride event outside their home community and stay an average of 4 days. 25:00 - 29:30 So how does FabStayz actually work? Robert describes how in beta, people can go to FabStayz.com and register there. The site hasn’t even launched yet but has support from the LGBTQ community of every ethnicity. Every "acronym" and ethnicity is represented on his staff, helping making decisions. What happens when you register? You are asked which platforms you are listed on, with Airbnb being the preferred platform to begin with. They discussed the possibility of direct bookings, as well as VRBO. 29:30 -32:00 When are you going to launch? Robert feels like they are just weeks away. Beta 2 is even more beautiful than Beta 1. For sure, Robert wants his FabStayz LGBTQ listing site to be fully launched by June, 2019 which is Pride month. It will be a great story to share around the world! LINKS: www.FabStayz.com
HYH-49 Meet Tyann Marcink!
49:57Debi Hertert talks with her friend and colleague Tyann Marcink about how Tyann got started in the vacation rental hospitality business, and the many hats that Tyann wears. The two spoke in October, 2018 when Tyann participated in the Host2Host Vendor Fair in Portland, Oregon. So listeners will find a wealth of information about vacation rentals, coming from a person who has now spent 10 years in the business and who teaches it in bootcamp workshops. Tyann is also the Community Ambassador for the TouchStay Digital Guidebook product for short-term rentals. Right after this interview, Tyann Marcink spoke at the international Vacation Rental Management Association on the Guest Experience, because it's a passion for her and she knows what she's talking about! 1:45 Welcome Tyann! – She talks about being from a large midwest family and says she began writing a historical romance novel about the family moving from Germany in 1860. One of her brothers just moved into the 1872 rock house built in Missouri – he’s the 6th generation of their family to live in the house! How she got started, and how she copes 4:30 Tyann's hosting story starts in Branson, Missouri. Her aunt and uncle bought a small, 4BR house there to rent out, and did pretty well. Her parents saw the opportunity! They bought several houses there over a few years, selling their commercial real estate property to solely invest in vacation rentals. Tyann signed a contract to have a house built. She had her listing up with floor plans and photos from a model home. And four months (plus one newborn) later, the day it closed they had their first guest! It’s definitely a family affair: she and her family own 16 vacation rental houses and are building more. 8:30 Debi and Tyann talk about how Tyann manages her houses with all the other things she has going on in her life. The housekeeping business that she hires is the key, critical element because she lives a couple of hours away. She talks about the company, what they do, and answers Debi’s question about what it costs. She makes a special point of recognizing and remembering them. One of her housekeepers even makes sure the TV modes are set correctly. She sends him brownies. Vetting guests, security deposits, putting things in perspective 12:30 Vetting guests, security deposits, guest pictures. She may surprise you, but she has years of experience. 15:00 The rare guests who didn’t work out…Tyann’s electronic lock sends her notifications of when the door is opened, and that helped trigger some alarm bells in her head, so she gave a heads up to her housekeeping company. Cigarette and marijuana smoke inside the house, among other things. 20:00 So what happened when Tyann reported the cleaning costs to Airbnb? Debi knows that Airbnb is increasingly supporting the guest, versus the host, even in some egregious situations. But Tyann still says that in 10 years, she’s only had to bill guests cards for damage twice, and the marijuana people. Because of this experience, she stopped taking same-day bookings, which is often an alarm for vacation rentals. Tools of the trade 22:30 Using a Reservation Management System. Tyann avoids using Instant Book on more than one site to avoid double bookings. The Reservation Management System does update every 30 minutes. And she wishes she had used a system even way back when she had only a couple of properties – the system has automated emails that are personalized. There are many good companies providing these systems, with different prices. Tyann uses “Owner Reservations”. She recommends looking closely them to choose the best fit. This varies from a Channel Management System, which pushes out the rates to the various channels such as VRBO, Airbnb etc. These software systems do cost money, but she is a busy mom and business person and values her time. 29:00 So how does Tyann hold it all together? She manages 5 houses, is a professional photographer, has three teenagers, co-teaches the “VR Mastered” bootcamps, and is the Community Ambassador for TouchStay Digital Guidebook, a UK-based company that is now including community information in it's guidebooks. Tyann told Debi that in the case of The Little Elephant company, her line of room décor, she created the painted designs and taught a person how to do the painting, and that person now runs the little business for her. She and Alanna Schroeder of The Distinguished Guest have held three VR Mastered bootcamps. The sessions are 5 days long, only 25 people allowed, and it’s an intense 5 days of hospitality, newsletters, Facebook ads, Social Media, photography. Their participants have varied in experience from none to 10 years. Everyone learns at these camps. TouchStay Digital Guidebook 35:00 TouchStay – Tyann went through the history of the product and described the company as super ethical, and has a great Digital Welcome Book. It’s completely web-based, don’t have to download an app. And after it’s set up, the guests love it and the host can easily print it out and bind it to keep in the rental space. Troubleshooting tips for the TV, coffee maker, good restaurants etc all go into the guidebook. 40:45 Ask for help when you need it! Form a team, don’t expect perfection, value the team. People remember how you make them feel, even if they don’t remember what you said. Tyann spoke at the International Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA) in Las Vegas in October, 2018, a week after this interview with Debi, along with Heather Bayer (Cottage Blogger), and Andy McNulty (Touchstay). The topic was the Guest Experience. The presentation was based on Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages, and practical ways to include all five when interacting with your guests. See the links at the end of the show notes if you want to see what your love languages are. LINKS: Tyann's links: Love language quiz: tyannmarcink.com/love tyannmarcink.com bransonfamilyretreats.com missourihaus.com bookthebankhaus.com nattymedia.com littleelephantcompany.com loveofthegameart.com Other links from the interview: Andy McNulty, TouchStay Digital Guidebook: touchstay.com VR Mastered bootcamp workshops: vrmastered.com Host2Host Portland Oregon: host2host.org Owner Reservations ("Owner Res") reservation management system: https://www.ownerreservations.com/ Vacation Rental Management Association (VRMA): vrma.com Heather Bayer, the Cottage Blogger: cottageblogger.com Alanna Schroeder, The Distinguished Guest: thedistinguishedguest.com