Attracting International Travellers

Tim Boughton, General Manager,

Tim joined in 2003 as Technical Director, leading technology improvements which allowed us to automate the publishing process and back office systems for our customers. More recently he ran technology across all HomeAway’s European brands with development and testing teams in the UK, France and Germany. In 2010 Tim took over as General Manager of and now runs a 35-strong team in Hammersmith (moved to London Victoria in May 2011). Previously to HomeAway, Tim worked as a technology consultant - delivering internet-related projects with PA Consulting to clients in the UK. Tim has a Masters degree in Engineering from Cambridge University.
When I joined the majority of guests were from the UK. But as we grew, we needed to look for new sources of enquiries for our owners. We knew that by building an international network of sites we could attract more visitors from overseas and now the proportion of guests from overseas for Holiday Rentals owners is more than 40%.

We’ve been able to bring hundreds of thousands of new enquirers to our owners through these sites. First launched our Spanish site in 2006. It was a lot of work in terms of web building, and translating the text. There were over 20,000 words to be translated on the site. We used linguists at the University of Bath to help.

Some background to the international sites

In 2007 we undertook a massive project to launch 8 new language sites across Europe in 3 months. As well as the international sites we have created, we are fully integrated with Abritel, FeWo-Direkt, (the Number 1 sites in France, Germany and the US). We enabled every Holiday Rentals owner to have a basic listing on those sites as part of their subscription package.

We also have native owners joining us in our new sites in Spain, Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands. There are 3,000 local owners on and growing. Recently the HomeAway group launched Brazil, Mexico, and Canada and just last week our Australian site went live.

Also in the last 12 months, Owners Direct began allowing its owners to buy upgrades to our French, German and US sites.

Why did we build an international network? It works. The graph shows the tremendous growth we’ve seen in Spanish enquiries over the last 4 years. The story is very similar for Italy, Portugal, Netherlands… and even stronger for Germany and France.

growing source of enquiries

When do different nationalities book?

Be sure to adapt your marketing efforts to target different nationalities during their peak booking season.

The graph shows the relative volumes of enquiries from British enquirers by month for a typical year. In recent years the proportion booking later in the year has increased but January is still our busiest month.
When do they book?
Relatively, the Spanish book much later – in June/July for their August holidays. July is the busiest month.

When do they book? (2)
This gives you two bites at the cherry – if you don’t book your available weeks to the British in January, then look for late-bookers for stubborn weeks amongst the Southern Europeans.
Make sure your listing on the Spanish, Portuguese and Italian look good during the summer months.
I’ll give you more advice on this later.

When do different nationalities want to stay?

What’s also interesting is what weeks different nationalities want to book their holidays in. What I’m showing here are the dates for which UK enquirers are asking to stay. The regular spikes are the common change over days.

But you can see the pattern of demand through the year – clearly peaking at the UK school holidays of Spring Half-term, Easter, Whitsun and the Summer holidays in July and August.
October, November and early December are not popular – except perhaps for retirees.
When want to stay?
The Spanish have some key weekends in the first three months of the year with many bank holidays.
They show big spikes in demand at Easter and the August holidays (less in May, June)
When do they want to stay? (2)

When do they want to stay? (3)
The French have some structured holidays where different zones within France have holidays at different weeks in Winter, Spring and Summer.

When do they want to stay? (4)

Where do different nationalities want to go?

It’s also interesting to see what destinations are the most sought after in different countries? What I’m showing here is what are the top performing regions in each market in order of importance. The figures on the right are the % of enquiries that the destination receives relative to this group.
First, for British holidaymakers, the demand is quite widely spread as you would expect for a nation which travels abroad a lot. Spain, France, UK (relatively recently in the top 5), Italy, Portugal. We list Canary Islands separately because it’s so popular for British enquirers. Then US, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey (growing rapidly) and Croatia.

Top destinations, British travellers
Next, if we line up Spanish enquirers against that list…
For Spanish holidaymakers, the demand much more tightly focused, with nearly 60% interested in local inventory in Spain. Next up is Portugal, then UK a strong 7%. Note also that USA and Malta are relatively higher placed compared to the UK.

For Italian holidaymakers, the demand a bit more spread, 36% for Italy but Spain, France, UK and Greece are all. Note also that Malta is relatively highly placed compared to the UK list.
If you need help understanding which markets would suit your destination, give our sales team a call and they can look at this data for your region in more detail and suggest which cross-sell is for you.

Top destinations with Italian travellers

So it’s all very well me telling you how great our network is. But how does it work and how do you make it work for you?

When you think about your listing as an international listing, it’s important to consider two parts.
There is the structured data (for example photos, facilities, rental rates, availability calendars) which are automatically translated and published across the network without you having to do anything special or different. Customers of HR automatically get translated across the 11+ sites currently in the subscription package. Customers of ODHR who pay to upgrade get the same across French, German, US.

The free text (for example property description, location description, rental rate notes, availability notes and further details) is a little different since it’s harder to translate. We give you options as to how you want to translate your free text so that you can customise your listing as you like it.
This is where you can target your listing to different audiences if you want to attract those customers.

You have three options for translation of the free-text on your listing:

1. We have started a new automatic translation programme (which we are testing currently) – which will give everyone a basic translation of their free-text (for free) into all of our major languages. This gives travellers in those markets a much better experience than no free-text at all. It uses Google translate to translate the content automatically (by machine). We know it’s not perfect, but Google’s translation technology is the best in the world and we’ve tested it against many other options. It should be seen as the best “basic” way to get a translation.
Please see Mark Davis’s presentation on Search Engine Optimisation to see more about how to optimise the free text for translation. You can opt out of this if you don’t want it.

2. If you speak the language then we recommend you to do the translation yourself (or get a friend who does). This way you can customise exactly what you say in each language and can target your listing at the different audiences. It’s free to edit your text in 8 languages on Holiday Rentals.
Eg. include special holiday dates for each market

If you want to keep the listings "focussed" on different markets then use the free text to give different rates/holiday periods/instructions on payments for the different markets.

3. If you want a professional quality translation and upgrade in a specific language, then we can arrange for your listing to be translated by a native speaker of the target language for a small fee. You may not get all the customisation you want, but you can be sure the listing will be easy to understand.

How Google Translate can work for you

Every HomeAway property advert allows you to list the languages you speak. However you may still get enquiries in languages you don’t speak. If you don’t speak the language but need to find out how to handle an enquiry, we strongly recommend you use Google Translate.

For those who haven’t discovered it yet, go to: 

..and copy and paste your email enquiry into the box, hit 'Translate' and you will get a usable translation.

How we market your property?

We invest a lot in building and growing our network. We have 780 employees worldwide, working in different countries to grow and develop each site. Behind the website are real people and they care about making our sites popular and appealing to the audience in each market.

What do they actually do to drive more enquiries?

Monthly newsletters targeted at the local holidaymakers
Local PR in each market and local advertising eg. Iberia in-flight magazine, El Mundo
Number 1 sites in many markets that we actively optimise for search engines

International reviews

Handling international holidaymakers

What does it actually mean to have international guests book and stay in your property? There’s a lot of misconceptions. There are probably fewer stereotypes than you might imagine. It’s easy to be put off up front but we suggest you go into this with an open mind. Try it out and see which travellers are best for you and your business.

There are some key things you must consider when marketing your property to international travellers:

Time zones
Make sure you turn your phone off at night if you don’t want SMSs and phone calls at night from the US or Australia…

As we’ve already seen, make sure your listing is customised for the languages you want to attract
State the languages you speak on your listing, so you get more enquiries you can understand
Use Google translate to understand any foreign ones in languages you don’t...

Try to accept as many currencies as is practical – but be clear about any exchange rates you’ll use or bank transfer fees they may need to cover.

Payment practices vary by country – but use bank transfers where you can and Paypal (though expensive) is a good option in Europe.

Have a rental contract and welcome pack in your guest’s native language.

Also consider supplying power adaptors in case they forget.

We offer reviews on most of our international sites too – so your guests can help you to attract more guests from their countries. Ask if they’ll leave a review in their own language as well as English and start developing a reputation. Good reviews drive more booking enquiries.

In summary:

International holidaymakers represent a growing part of the market and can help you get more occupancy
Keep an open mind about cultural differences
You might need to adapt your approach/processes to make it work for you
Target specific nationalities to suit your destination and property
Customise your listing for those markets
Choose the level of exposure which is right for you
Make their stay welcoming
Get foreign-language reviews
Copyright, March 2011