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Fast efficient mobile websites for Vacation rentals

By William May
Published: 05/23/14 Topics: Comments: 0

We are just going to go out and say it, "Our new mobile website, for smart phones, is by far the most comprehensive, beautiful and functional mobile website ever."

Yes, other lodging managers have built mobile websites, but no one has built anything like this" Said, Salman Arshad of Redstone Systems.

Redstone Systems, creator of HelpBook.me software for the Inn, Resort & Vacation Rental industries just added this new mobile website capability. While that may not sound earth-shaking it is actually evolutionary - the first efficient, effect and persuasive mobile websites for smart phones.

Redstone started by studying hundreds of mobile websites for Inns, Resorts & Vacation Rental management.

Joseph Romain, Creative Director said "The variety was astounding, as was the lack of features. None of the websites had all the design and foresight necessary to book unique properties on a smart phone."

Some websites had nice graphics, some had adequate photos, showed property amenities or maybe a map. But none of them made properties shine. And none made it easy to envision what the guest was getting if they rented that particular property.

"Let's face it, smart phones are a 'very small piece of paper' on which to write a graphic novel so to speak, "Said William May, project manager. "The other websites look like someone just jumbled things together from scratch without enough fore thought."

"So we started from scratch. To figure out how mobiles should work and then do it, rather than copy what others had done"

The Redstone Advisor Board includes many experts in graphics, video and other commercial creative arts. Their input commanded the staff to start with a clear goal, and have every aspect of the website support the mission.

HelpBook.me mobile websites are, first and foremost, places to advertise and promote properties. To show their beauty and benefits. So HelpBook mobiles use full size photos, logos and graphics.

But they must also streamline the ability to select and book properties online. Other websites often taken the viewer back to a properties primary website - but those are impossible to se or use on a smart phone.

So HelpBook mobiles are fully featured and allow guests to book homes online, with full security using the payment system from Istay.net.

Best of all, HelpBook mobiles are fully deployable from a back-end database driven system. Once necessary data - such as photos, descriptions and amenity lists are secured - regular websites can be created in hours.

Then, that same data is used to create HelpBook mobiles sites in very little extra time. The fundamentals of good graphic and website design are followed, making the websites easy to use - but also impressive and persuasive.

Booking hotels and other lodging is said to be growing at a fast pace, and now all Redstone HelpBook.me properties have the ability to persuade, facilities and complete bookings for Inns, Resorts & Vacation Rentals online.

"No other company can do it as fully, as impressively and as fast as our software," notes Arshad.

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Redstone Systems is an affiliate of the Vortex Organization that provides services, training and support for unique Inns, Resorts & Vacation Rental management firms, and administration for lodging networks such as Goldener Resorts, Sunspot Vacation Rentals, Varoom Cooperative and more.

HelpBook.me is the best lodging management software that you can not buy. The system is only available for use by members of the Vortex Organization.

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Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0365 – 05/23/14

Government Officials Driving Tourism Economy Away

By Ron Lee
Published: 06/01/12 Topics: Government Comments: 0

Businesses, Chambers and tourism groups in every destination throughout the United States are spending money to grow their tourism segment of their economies.

That is a wise move.

Tourism is a clean, responsible industry that brings in visitors anxious to shop, attend events, tour attractions, rent lodging, and pay the taxes that go with them.

Manufacturing, distribution and other market segments sometimes seem more attractive to civic leaders, but those businesses are hard to attract, require years of courting and subject towns to intense review and - for many - rejection. Plus, big industries can leave town far quicker than they arrive, dumping lots of people out of work. Like it or not, Vacation Rentals are here to stay.

All destinations will have some luck and attract some visitors with good advertising, promotions, public relations and business participation.

Trouble is, however, many will fall short of their potential. Sometimes what the area offers just doesn't compare well with other desirable destinations. But another big mistake is when local government officials fail to offer what consumers want. Today, that one big thing is tourists who ask for, and even demand, access to good, clean, upscale vacation rental homes.

For at least a decade, the vacation rental industry has been exploding. Even during the recession the number of visitors who demand to stay in a house or condo instead of a hotel room has continued to climb.

So it is surprising to find small communities, who beg for tourists, then kill the industry by disallowing vacation rentals, making it ridiculously expensive to get permitted, or making them impossibly difficult to get approved.

They implement overzealous regulations and requirements that they would never impose on long-term rentals or full-time residents. What is good for the goose is good for the gander - as the old saying goes. So, if leaders believe that vacation homes must have new standards for health and safety, then why do they not require them for everyone? Failure to do so is just old fashioned hypocrisy.

On a recent trip to a beautiful Washington State Destination, a review of city and county rental regulations revealed a lack of insight by elected officials.

A clerk at the county office said, "We don't have any rentals in many areas of the county and it's surprising because some of the areas are so beautiful." she then paused and added, "Or maybe that's because vacation rentals aren't allowed there." Duh.

The geography of the area is gorgeous. The land is pristine and beautiful, with cute villages, attractive shops and periodic festivals and events. Agriculture is big business with products esteemed worldwide.

There are a number of conventional well-kept motels and cottages. But there are also properties that have seen better days and detract from the scenery. Many appear abandoned. They are not shabby chic, they are just plain shabby.

New home developments have been stymied by the economy, although some recent additions bode well for demand. Peeking out among nicely kept homes, are houses and cottages that have seen better days. Many of those, as well as some of the nicer second homes, sit empty year round, even during the busy summer season.

The reason?

City and county officials have made short-term vacation type rentals illegal, or permits difficult to get. The up to $750 annual special use permit is one of the highest known in the country and requires begging neighbors for permission, and having the kind of inspections that would cause long-term rental home owners to go ballistic. With the inspections and other nonsense they require, costs can exceed many thousands of dollars.

And for what reason?

Like most areas, the reasons cited are that vacation rental homes "could" get used as party houses. Or that "Tourists drive cars through the neighborhoods and sometimes the trash isn't taken out to the street on time." complained one person at a county "scoping session."

No one wants trouble in their neighborhoods, but these possible issues never materialize. Some neighbors even say they "do not want people in the area that I don't know personally." Supposedly, "It destroys the character of the neighborhood", whatever that means.

There is no right in the Constitution that you must know and like your neighbors. But it is a foundation of American liberty that owners have a bundle or rights related to their real estate, including the right to right them out. So much for freedom.

In jurisdictions where rental permission is more easily obtained, but just as rigorously policed, and where owners must engage a competent local manager or management firm, problems do not happen.

The County even caved into neighbors in one desirable neighborhood who don't want "to have different neighbors each week," as the County clerk explained. Fear of problems is valid, but refusing entry to visitors feels a lot like simple xenophobia, the "fear of others."

A local real estate leader, who wished to remain anonymous, said, "You know the reasons for the lack of vacation rentals is regulations, don't you? Most people just won't spend the money to see if their neighbors will allow them to rent." How come the expensive applications fees are non-refundable, if the permit is denied? Looks like just another shake-down by officials.

Communities who enacted vacation rental prohibitions years ago, are seeing the light and revising laws to allow vacation rentals in all residential areas with proper permitting; and the requirement that properties be occupied within reasonable rules.

Doing otherwise scares away visitors. Consumers have decided they want to stay in vacation rentals and no amount of meddling in the free market by officials will dissuade them. Take away vacation rentals and they are sending visitors elsewhere, while local shops, restaurants and attractions lose out. It is not just home owners who lose.

The cities and counties where vacation rentals are allowed gain fee income; shops, events and attractions do more business; additional jobs are created; and tourism taxes flow.

Let's hope that officials in counties and communities, all over the country, wake up and stop killing the tourism business they so desperately need - by giving consumers what they want - many more vacation rentals.

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Author: Ron Lee – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0212 – 06/01/12

Sponsor: VRAI – As a fast growing industry we need your help and support. Join today to learn, share and promote your properties. – VRIA.org

Glorious Days on Washington State Beaches

By William May
Published: 05/15/12 Topics: Comments: 0

With winter still ebbing, the arrival of spring and even summer like conditions reminds us that the long days of sun and fun are upon us. A quick trip to the Coast of Washington State reveals that 80 degree temperatures are not here yet but the bright beating sun surely is.

So it is time to plan your summer at the beach. Vacation Rental managers are not yet sold out but will be soon. To get your choice place get off the couch and make that call today. Or checkout the wide range of properties on any of the websites offered by the Vacation Rental association such as WashingtonCoastVacationRentals.com.

The need for sun protection wasn't on the packing list and what a mistake. Thursday at Ocean Shores dawn brought calm, little wind and a great many visitors out on the streets, in the shops and restaurants and driving, walking and riding bikes on the beach.

"This is the earliest crowds we've seen and it’s a happy site for shopkeepers, "Said Jennifer Sturm who along with her husband Michael operate a unique Gift shop "Flying Cats" located on the Point Brown Boulevard, one of the main drags leading into town.

"The town is lucky to receive visitors year round and business is always good, but summer is when the crowds swell and our shop is often so packed the customers jostle each other around the merchandise," said Michael.

Washington coastal waters often feature big frothy waves but this week the water was calm and fishing boats from Westport Harbor trolled up and down not far off the beach.

Just weeks before, razor clam digging had been in high season and that too brought a steady stream of cars down the roads leading to the South Beaches including Westport Washington as well as to the North Beaches, how to Ocean Shores, Copalis Beach, Moclips and other small enclaves.

Lu Ann Kolten, owner of Beachy Day Vacation Rentals in Westport reports, "The winter was good this year other than a week in January which brought us our first deep snow fall in many years.".

Patrick Kolten, Lu Ann's husband and a native of France said, "I get every morning and find myself beaming along with the bright sunshine. We have many cabins, homes and condos ready for visitors if they call early."

To make reservations for late spring, memorial day, summer and later you can see beach rentals from the WashingtonCoastVacationRentals.com.

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The Vacation Rental Association (www.Vrai.org) is a not-for-profit association of vacation rental owners, managers, suppliers and others who support the industry. VRA sponsors numerous local websites. In Washington State those include WashingtonCoastVacationRentals.com, OceanShoresVacationRentals.com and WestportVacationRentals.com.

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Author: William May – Manager, Goldener Resorts
Blog #: 0207 – 05/15/12

Sunspots Compares Renting Long Versus Short

By William May
Published: 08/16/11 Topics: Comments: 0

Across the globe major change is taking place. Thousands of long-term rental homes have switched. They now only accept short-term vacation rentals.

The reason is simple. Vacation Rentals are safer, quicker and can greatly increase income. Plus owners get to use the home whenever they like and make money when they do not.

Trouble with Long-Term

Long Term Rentals sound easy but they are more difficult. Here are some of the reasons:

  • Tenants are often lower income.
  • Rental Agents are no help long-term.
  • Laws give renters control of the property.
  • Long notice is required to inspect the house
  • Tenants can require costly repairs.
  • Tenants can stuff in extra family members.
  • Causing greater wear and tear.
  • Move In-Outs, are harsh on the property.
  • Property Managers collect rent only and
  • Seldom inspect homes or evaluate tenants.
  • Bad tenants can trash the home
  • And no one knows for months.
  • Tenants can skip out on rent
  • Or refuse to pay for months.
  • Evictions take many months
  • Requiring Lawyer & Court costs
  • Long Term Horror Stories

Stories of long-term Tenants who trash homes, don’t pay rent, can’t be evicted and then actually sue their Landlords are everywhere.

Those are virtually unheard of in the Short-Term market. Good Vacation Rental Managers collect rent in advance, deny occupancy to non-paying or troublesome guests, inspect homes frequently and provide quick onsite service.

Property owners love having their home carefully watched instead of infrequently cared for. They use the home when they like. And they get more money at the same time.

Vacation Rentals Benefits

Property owners, who live in desirable destinations, are flocking to the vacation rentals market. Here is how it compares.

  • Guests are higher income & more desirable.
  • Lodging Managers are with you for the long term.
  • Lodging laws protect the property.
  • Guests do not have Tenant rights.
  • They bring only their clothes & food.
  • Vacation Managers inspect homes weekly.
  • Occupancy can be greatly limited.
  • Properties are used less, reducing wear & tear.
  • Damages are infrequent and insignificant.
  • Costs can be charged to the Guest.
  • Guests pay in advance,
  • Eliminating Collection Problems.
  • Guests are required to follow strict rules.
  • And can be evicted immediately.

Balancing Both

In some cases houses should be rented short-term during high seasons, and long-term during slow seasons. Vacation Rentals are adept at both while long-term property managers fail at short-term. They are used to renting the house once every few years, while lodging managers are highly skilled at finding and renting homes weekly.

For properties that need a combination of long and short term stays, a Vacation Rental Manager is the best solution. They can even apply their kind of tight hands-on guest oversight to long-term tenants.

Lots of Service

Sunspot Vacation Rental Managers are expert lodging operators. They find the best marketing and operating program for many types of proper-ties. Don’t take chances. Call 888-628-8989 or visit SunspotResorts.com

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Author: William May – Manager, Sunspot Vacation Rentals
Blog #: 0188 – 08/16/11

Sponsor: Signatours Photo Team – – Signatours.com

Everything Robert Fulgham Learned in Kindergarten

By William May
Published: 11/01/09 Topics: Comments: 0

I stumbled onto an Internet posting the other day that told me it has been twenty years since Robert Fulgham wrote "Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."

That is stunning really because it does, as they say, seem like yesterday. Of course I've read some of his other books and now that I've visited his website (RobertFulgham.com). I see there are others I will have to savor. So should you.

After 22 years as a Unitarian Minister in the Pacific Northwest, Fulgham published that first book and has never looked back. His view of the world is pretty simple or so it seems. As the world accelerates and technology dominates, Fulgham would remind us of the basic, appropriate and mature.

Although his attitude might strike some as youngish or maybe even immature, the stories and ideas he illustrates so well are the basic foundation on which we as humans should strive.

So what would all of this have to do with the somewhat non-universal industry of vacation rentals? Well plenty as it seems. Or maybe I should say it has to do with every business, every career and certainly every calling.


The kindergarten book reminds us all to foster those concepts which are universal in every culture. Things like:

- Don't lie. Always tell the truth.
- Don't hit.
- Treat your parents well.
- Pick up after yourself.
- Say Please and Thank You.

To me it seems like Fulgham’s message might be summed up in the phrase "treat everyone well" or at least try.

I am not sure I have always accomplished that goal but I know I am always aware of it and have always tried. I also know that isn't easy when conflict exists in the world, as it inevitably does. Nor is it easy when others might try to bring you down to their level. An acquaintance who becomes distraught, a customer who is unreasonable or even governmental bureaucrats who steal more and more freedom from Americans.

It would be easy to despise such people but in the end, we have to remember to treat them well also. Even if that respect will not be reciprocated.

VACATION RENTALS & LODGING

So is there anything practical in this blog? Yes I assure you there is. Here are a set of rules for how we conduct our business in hopes that guests, owners and vendors will treat us likewise.

- Be Clear. In advertising, contracts, phone calls, emails.

- Be Fair. It can be difficult to understand unreasonable requests, but we gotta keep trying.

- Be Quick. Get back to people. Take care of problems as fast as possible.

- Be Happy. No job is easy and half the job is simply deciding to go about it with joy.

You can buy Robert Fulgham's Book at Amazon.com.

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Author: William May, MayPartners Advertising
Blog #: 0125 – 11/01/09

Ocean Shores and Westport are Beaches Like No Other

By William May
Published: 08/01/09 Topics: Comments: 0

A truth in advertising disclaimer is required first.

Although I haven't lived in the area in almost 40 years, I must admit that I did grew up in several towns on the Washington Coast. Up until 4th grade the town of Raymond was where my parents lived along with my two brothers and I. After that we moved to Aberdeen the "Big" town some 25 miles up the Coast and it was here that I became aware of a place called Ocean Shores.

Both Raymond and Aberdeen are located on major waterways in from the Pacific Ocean. Raymond on the pristine Willapa Bay and Aberdeen on the equally large Grays Harbor.

From Raymond the drive is an idyllic 25 miles to the villages of Tokeland, Grayland and the Westport Harbor. BeachyDay.com

Located on the ocean south of Grays Harbor and area designate the South Beach for easy categorization. Later in high school my buddies and I would drive the byways of the South Beaches looking for Seattle girls who we were told, were anxious to meet local boys.

Less developed than the North Beaches of the Ocean Shores area, these little towns boast a real sea side ambiance and miles of undisturbed beaches. In recent years Westport has become a surfing Mecca. Having grown up in the area and later come to love the warm climes of Hawaii I haven't seen any good reason to venture out in to 50 degree water but surfing has been a boom for the area

Ocean shores is another 25 miles due west of Aberdeen on a pleasant and easy road to drive. BytheseaBythesea.com

In grade school, living just east of Aberdeen my friends and I loved to go up to the highway on Friday afternoon to watch all the crazy tourists from Seattle flock to the beaches. It is through this single road that all travelers must venture to reach the Westport and Ocean Shores destinations.

This was before a four lane highway was built and traffic was stop and go, bumper to bumper all afternoon. The only bad part was even our parents couldn't drive the five miles into Aberdeen in less than about an hour. We were relegated to make the trip late other times, except Sunday of course when the problem repeated itself in reverse.

Ocean Shores, Oyhut, Moclips, Copalis and Pacific Beach compromise the North Beaches with each town differing from the next and all scattered with lodging, camping, restaurants and little shops.

So what was it that all those Seattleites loved about the North and South Beaches so much they would sit in traffic for hours to reach their destination? The answer to that has changed over the years.

Once known for its huge Salmon Charter industry, Westport has seen that business taper off due to over-fishing and governmental limitations. But adventurous visitors can still catch Salmon and Halibut. Or they can opt for whale watching trips now a mainstay of the economy.

On a recent afternoon, sitting on the deck of one of the prestigious new homes at Cohasset Beach in Westport (CohassetBeachCottages.com) I was started to see a majestic gray whale breach repeatedly only 50 yards off shore. I am used to seeing humpback whales in Hawaii but this bugger was bigger and much closer.

Later that day over at the Westport At the Sea Resort I was engaged in a lengthy conversation. As it started we noticed a huge rush of small birds flying just off the Coast headed south. It is hard to explain how many birds there were. Perhaps a thousand at a time rushed past our view of the ocean. Perhaps a thousand every 2-3 seconds.

As our conversation continued, the bird flow never stopped. When we left a half hour later it was still continuing. Deep in the heart of Grays Harbor, just north of Westport, is Bowerman Basin a stopping place for many species of birds on their migration from as far north as the Arctic to the warmer south.

Having grown up in the area I knew something of Bowerman Basin, and anyone who watched the nature channel knows that bird colonies can be enormous. But not until that meeting did I understand there could really be millions of birds passing through my child-hood neighborhood. Did we see a million that day? It is entirely possible.

The South Beaches have the usual beach visitor attractions like restaurants, go-carts and fudge shops. But the best reason to visit there is to enjoy the ocean. In summer it moderates the heat and in winter, throngs of visitors come to watch the storms and get closer to nature. And, I might add, away from the hordes of city dwellers.

The North Beaches are somewhat the same as the South with many visitor attractions but Ocean Shores, in particular is more developed. In the 1960's some ambitious developers bought the entire peninsula that runs south between the Pacific and Grays Harbor. To the existent beauty they added canals running north and South, lakes and a harbor. In the center of town they erected resort like hotels and a golf course. Check out (OceanShores.com)

Although not a golfer myself, I can tell you that my golfer friends love the place. Not too pretentious and apparently a lot of fun to play. A convention center was added in recent years and the city has plans for updating the golf course.

In the center of Ocean Shores is a kind of retail center where you can buy souvenirs and some fancy shops like Fling Cats Flyingcats.com) where you can enjoy a pleasant stroll among sophisticated goods. Plus you will find a wide variety of eats, activities and adventures.

But remember people come to Ocean Shores for the Beaches. Unlike most places in the world, visitors are allowed to drive their cars down the beach which is more firm than that fluffy white sand places you see in travel brochures. And the beach runs for miles north and south. Plenty of room for bon fires, kit-flying and lazing away the time.

On a recent trip to both Westport and Ocean Shores, allowing myself a little bit of time to look around and reflect on my youth I gained a better appreciation for the place. The air is different I think. Crisp and clean and altogether enjoyable. With more time I think I could sit on the deck and devour a lot of books without an ounce of guilt.

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Author: William May – Manager, Sunspot Vacation Rentals
Blog #: 0115 – 08/01/09

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