In this blog post, we wanted to see the story behind a successful vacation rental business. We wanted to know exactly how our managers take an idea or a concept and use Kigo to help make it a reality.
To do this, we spoke with Ron and Debby, the owners and managers of Sunwise Bonaire Rentals, to see how they started their business and how they grew it into a successful enterprise. We’ll be looking how their website converts guests, how they market their properties and some of their plans for expansion.
We spoke with the owners earlier this week:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in the vacation rental business?
Debby and I have a long history as official real estate brokers in the Netherlands. Due to the crisis in the Dutch and global real estate markets we decided to go to the Dutch Caribbean to set-up a business on a small tropical island (19,000 inhabitants). We found out quickly that the simple things that we were used to, keeping promises, honesty, maintaining a high level of service and transparency towards both clients and guests, are the key to any successful business in the tourism industry. Although advising buyers and sellers of real estate isn’t exactly the same as renting holiday homes to tourists, the basics are the same!
Where do you operate and how many properties do you manage?
On Bonaire, one of the three islands in the Caribbean, part of the Dutch Caribbean that officially are a part of the Netherlands as a ‘special municipality’ since October 10th, 2010. At the moment, we manage 24 accommodations on Bonaire. We try to keep it small, to be able to maintain our high service level and good occupancy rates.
Who are your target customers?
Customers come from everywhere as well: we host a lot of US citizens, but obviously also Dutch and other tourists from everywhere around the world, that like diving, snorkelling, windsurfing and kitesurfing. We’re now seeing a lot of Germans that previously would go diving in the Red See, that come to the Caribbean now, because Egypt might not be the best place to be at the moment.
How have you geared your site and business towards them?
Our site is in English, as most people that we target are at least English speaking, but we also do a lot of SEO towards the Dutch tourists.
What do you find difficult about being a vacation rental manager?
To be honest: nothing! Especially on a cosy small, sunny island like Bonaire. We love the pre-holiday communication with our guests. We never send them automated messages, we always make it personal from the start. We show interest in the reasons they come to Bonaire, and try to advise on choosing the right accommodation accordingly. It’s always nice to see tourists step out of the plane with a smile on their face, despite the often very long flight, saying: “you must be Debby!”. That’s because of the personal conversations we already had with them through e-mail or by phone. Bonaire has a small community, and therefore, solving problems (like power downs, full septic tanks, broken fridges or air cons) can be solved rather quickly.
You seem very committed to providing a personal service - how do you manage that with numerous bookings?
By keeping our portfolio rather small. As said, we have 24 accommodations just two of us to run them. Kigo helps us to be able to make quick calculations, sending (personalised) quotations, fast and accurate communication (statements) with the owners. That really saves a lot of time, so we can use that time to maintain the high service level that we are used to providing.
What is the biggest challenge you have overcome with your business?
Well, it’s not really a challenge, but it surprised us when we came here, the normal things that we were used to back in Europe, like social media, a good, responsive website, SEO, being on time at appointments, things like that, that they are not important here on Bonaire. And although on some levels it’s as if you step back in time 20 years, people seem to forget that our business, the tourists, come from countries that do have all these things and expect and appreciate them wherever they are!
The challenge for Sunwise Bonaire rentals was how they could maintain a high level of customer service and quality as they grew. With just two people to manage a growing number of properties, they wanted to still be able to dedicate time to knowing their guests and applying the business principles that they knew keep people coming back.
The solution they found was to use Kigo to automate the day to day tasks of their business. Running the bookings, inquiries and reservation calendar. They were able to be secure knowing that guests could find out information, book and reserve. This gave them the time to then do what they do best; provide great service to their guests. You can see from their website how they are now able to devote their time to providing a unique experience for each person that visits their site.
The story of how Ron and Debby at Sunwise Bonaire Rentals were able to use Kigo to do more of what they love is what inspires us. We want to give property managers the freedom and the security to do exactly what made them choose vacation rentals, even as their business is growing around them.