Turning Straw and Timber into Cold, Hard Cash

With vacation rentals, location is everything. Except for the little luxuries, like upgraded kitchens, a water feature (or three) or a luxurious master suite.

Positioned right on the water, on a reef, with a private pool with a view, I wasn’t sure there was anything that could be done to improve the front yard of my property, which ran directly into the clear waters of the South Pacific Ocean.

Until, a friend said two words.

Hanging Bed.

I lit up at the thought. Because drought can be an issue, I envisioned an aluminum roof, terra cotta like the house, as an additional rain catchment.

But, as often is the case, the locals know best. My manager proposed we make it look like a ”bure,”—a traditional Fijian home with a thatched roof. Not only is it a striking look from the house or from the water, it also makes for a much cooler spot than my idea would have.

Of course, it’s one of our major draws, something that guests rave about, and often, a reason to book.

Sometimes, you need a fresh set of eyes to look at your property. See where money might be leaking out.

My gardener, Ganesh, proposed a sandscape by the pool. Even though we’re absolute ocean front, Fiji is mountainous, and we are 30 concrete steps from the sand, and even then, the sand is rocky.

Now, amongst the palm trees, there are blue wooden chairs where you can enjoy the cool ocean breezes, the sand between your toes, and the indoor/outdoor sound system. No one else has anything like it.

Maybe you have a condo, and can’t get as creative with the outdoors. I was consulting at a condo last week. The owner had decorated it with a designer. The place was absolutely gorgeous. I was brainstorming ways to increase off-season bookings. I found my inspiration in the large storage closet.

Massage tables are only about $200. We can get two, have them in the storage, and masseuses can come without the hassle of dragging theirs out of the car and into the building and then in the elevator, through the door. They are already there. Since we are providing this perk, the masseuses will give a discount.

During weeks that are slow, November to February (except for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays) we’ll offer a free couples massage if you book a week’s reservation. The owner will only pay a negotiated, discounted rate if the week is booked. If not, there’s no cost, only the cost of the tables. When things start heating up in March, we’ll remove the promotion. And guess who gets to try out the masseuses! The owner!

You’ll discover lots of ways to add value to your vacation rental that don’t cost very much.

Hammocks: In colonial Mexico, where the walls are solid, large bolts with hooks are inserted into walls in almost every room, and a light hammock hangs on one of the hooks. When it’s time for a siesta, just drape it over to the other hook, with the perfect place for a nap or a read.

Sound: Our guest’s happiness level went up when we added an indoor/outdoor sound system in Fiji. If you can’t do that, get a mini speaker for each bedroom. You can get ones with iPhone docking stations, where it will charge at the same time. In the last condos I decorated, we got those for all the rooms, then I bought a $5 cord that allowed each one to be used with the headphone jacks of any MP3 player or phone.

Design: Thoughtful, fun, creative design will go far. Not only will it get you noticed in photos, but it will make precious vacation time spent in your home more enjoyable. Which leads to happy reviews. Which leads to more guests. Use magazines as inspiration. Stop and think, ”Is this feature magazine worthy?” It does not have to be expensive to please the eye.

Wannabe Chef Tools: Whether they cook a single meal at your place or not, people like to dream that they’ll create local, healthy, flavorful meals while on vacation. Help fuel that dream with every appliance you can get your hands on.

Small luxuries, that will stick in the memory for guests, will greatly enhance your vacation rental. It leads to higher occupancy and more vacation rental income for you.


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