Archive for April, 2013

Hot topics via PhoCusWright

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Hillsclouds2

Travel and Social Media: changing minds

Social media isn’t moving the travel needle, at least not yet. True, every travel company needs a social media strategy. Facebook is focused on making the travel vertical big business. How?

Interaction/commentary that is public, Google +, maps, TripAdvisor, reviews, You Tube flash. Lots of content attracts the traveler, quick responses, but still, nothing like the phone call and one on one interaction.

Reflecting on living in Northern California Wine Country

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

I thought about writing yesterday, but in the wake of what happened in Boston, I decided that silence might be the best course of action. And as I reflect on it, I consider living in Sonoma County.

We are like a little country that could carve itself out of the state and sustain ourself. We have agriculture, cattle, fishing, job sustainability, mountains, lakes, parks, the ocean…we’re pretty damn lucky we can live here.

I know I’m fortunate to also work here and not have to commute to the Bay Area to earn a living, and to have raised my family here as well has been wonderful with the good schools available.

I’m taking a day to thank the people who have stayed with us, given us their business, and the long term relationship we’ve established with many property owners, tenants, and guests.

Many of you know our son suffered a traumatic brain injury about ten years ago, and working here has been challenging but so rewarding watching him grow and become an able minded adult, loving and appreciative of his life. We also thank our customers for their understanding with his challenges at times.

As we go about our day today, perhaps we can allow a gentleness to wash through us when our patience runs thin, and our anger begins to rise and remember we do have our lives, with all the challenges that come.

Maintenance at Vacation Rental Properties

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Hillsclouds2sonomacountyvacations.com

It occurs to us that guests may have no clue as to the preparation of a vacation home. Why isn’t something working when the company has supposedly checked the home prior to your stay? How come a light bulb is out where I need it most, or a faucet leaks, or cobwebs are in the corner?

Sonoma County Vacations/Healdsburg Property Management has one of the company’s owners personally inspect and prepare the property. He trouble shoots items such as smoke alarm batteries chirping, light bulbs that are out, overnight cobwebs (yes, they come up overnight due to the agriculture) and hot tub problems.

Even so, a house is just that, and systems fail and break and go out.

No company or property owner would ever want a guest to be without, or be unhappy, but these things happen. Is it fun to be set on having a hot tub and it breaks down? No, of course not. Some companies have written in their procedures and contracts that no discounts are given for systems that have failed. This is typical along the coast or at rural properties.

To get maintenance personnel out the same day, get parts, etc., sometimes isn’t achievable. Every owner or company does whatever they can and whatever is in their power, but for example, when we walk out the door after inspecting, a smoke alarm battery can fail. A dishwasher may start to leak. A bird may have made a nest in the chimney and because we do not make fires, leaving them to burn unattended in a fireplace, we won’t know about it.

Bottom line — we want our guests to be happy. Is it 100% achievable? No, but we keep trying, as I believe all companies and property owners do.

Vacation Rental Policies

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Sonoma County Vacations understands — There are hundreds of vacation rental homes to choose from, just in Sonoma County! How do you choose? Randomly pick one from an online sight? Call a reputable company? Why do they charge cleaning and tax on cleaning? “I’ll just pick one from an individual property owner who doesn’t charge all that, and I can save money” you might think. But what are the risks?

Reviews will tell the story? Not always, in fact, not nearly enough. Review sites are filled with extremes, both ways, negative and positive, and somewhere the truth lies in between. We’ve been reviewed negatively for not leaving spices out (which we never have in twenty years for liability reasons) as well as representing a property that was located on a busy street, even though we have a map, and ask for what the guests needs.

Suggestions? We have a 24/7 emergency/after hours phone and we live within ten minutes of most homes, and never more than 30 minutes whatever the case.

Would you like a walk through on arrival? We’re happy to oblige.
Policies? Payment in full 30 days prior to arrival, with 1/2 down upon reserving. Security deposit needs to be paid by check, secured funds, and returned within 30 days of departure.

Why so long? A security deposit is put down so the property owner has some security regarding utility usage as well as damage, and they need time to get the bills. We never want to keep a security deposit and I’ve personally paid a property owner many times over for small items to keep our guests returning. But that instance where hundreds of dollars of propane is used — I can’t cover that and a guest needs to be charged.

A property management company’s commission is a very small part of the total, and we typically do not have dollars to play with.

I can promise guests we go through every home prior to arrival and do a mechanical inspection to make sure everything is working, and is cleaned.
Coming in summer 2013?
Docusign for guest ease with the contract.
App for smart phones to download and have the house manual, directions, codes, etc.

We’re always looking to give our guests an easier way to reserve, and we have online 24/7 reservation service.

We hope this helps in your choices for reservation considerations.  www.SonomaCountyVacations.com

A Match made in Heaven

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Favorite Alexander Stop?  Jimtown Store for delicious sandwiches and treats.  My favorite lunch:  chicken salad on a baguette, chickpea chipotle and red onions, lots of peppercinis.  Pair with spicy olives, your favorite wine (so many nearby) Hawke Winery, White Oak, Sausal, Soda Rock, and Alexander Valley, and stay at our Jimtown House, in the middle of it all:  http://www.sonomacountyvacations.com/rentals1/jimtown-house.php .

Healdsburg Jazz Festival 5/31-6/9

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Tickets Now On Sale! Sonoma County’s “wine country” again becomes “jazz country” when the 15th annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival takes rolls into town, from May 31 – June 9, 2013 at indoor and outdoor venues around Healdsburg.

The 2013 festival lineup includes a two-day tribute to jazz bassist CHARLIE HADEN, with CARLA BLEY, RAVI COLTRANE and more, plus other headline concerts by CHARLES LLOYD with JASON MORAN, and the FRED HERSCH TRIO.

Other featured artists appearing on our stages include LEE KONITZ, JOHN HEARD, BILL FRISELL, and more. Complete schedule here.

We’re also pleased to welcome SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK® to the list of artists in performance at Festival 2013. The all-women a cappella group celebrates their 40th year on June 9 with a stirring concert of gospel, blues, uplift and world music – it all adds up to Healdsburg Jazz! See press release here. http://www.healdsburgjazzfestival.org