Friday, March 27, 2009

Marketing Your Vacation Rental to International Travelers

The decreasing value of the dollar in the world market is making the US a popular vacation destination for international tourists. An upside of this trend for vacation home owners is that many of these vacationers rent homes as vacation accommodations. To help you better understand this demographic and more effectively advertise to them, here are the basics of marketing to international travelers.

When & Where

Geography greatly influences where many tourists vacation and international vacationers are no exception. For instance, a beach condo in Hawaii is a popular choice for Asian travelers because of Hawaii's relative proximity. But, foreign vacationers may just want to see famous US attractions. For the most part, they are also visiting:

  • Cities, especially Washington DC and New York
  • Beaches in Florida and Hawaii
  • National Parks like Yosemite or the Rockies
Even if your vacation rental is located in another market, you can still target international travelers for your off season. They have different school schedules and typically more vacation time than Americans, so their trips could extend your renting season.


The top ten countries sending tourists to the US (after Canada and Mexico) are:

  1. United Kingdom
  2. Japan
  3. Germany
  4. France
  5. Australia
  6. South Korea
  7. Italy
  8. The Netherlands
  9. Brazil
  10. Venezuela

Source: OTTI/Mintel

To advertise effectively, try to:

  • List on international vacation rental sites to help reach travelers the world over.
  • Be very specific in descriptions of your area in case travelers are unfamiliar with your market.
  • Promote shopping centers and restaurants in your area when possible. These are the most popular activities pursued by foreign tourists.
  • Minimize miscommunication by using local lingo. For example:
    • "holiday" for "vacation"
    • "self-catering" for "rent by owner"
  • Attract travelers accustomed to different payment practices by accepting a variety of payment methods, such as traceable bank-to-bank transfers.

Each renter has his or her own set of expectations about what a vacation should be like, but, due to cultural differences, you may notice a bigger discrepancy between American and international renters. You might address the following topics to avoid misunderstandings with international or even domestic tourists:

  • Vacationers may visit the US without realizing how important it is to have a car to get around your area. For this reason, you should specify whether or not renters need a car for their trip.
  • They may use the metric system, so try to give distances in both miles and kilometers. For example, if you own a beach condo, explain how long it takes to walk to the nearest beach access point.
  • They might come from big cities with widespread public transportation or small towns where everything is in walking distance, so explain the local public transportation systems in detail. You may also include approximate travel time to nearby attractions and cities.

Once you start receiving inquiries from international travelers, you may keep in mind the following considerations:

  • Remember, for all your correspondence, that your potential renter may not speak English as well as you.
  • An online translation service can provide a rough translation of a foreign-language inquiry for you.
  • Broken-English is not necessarily the sign of a scam, unlike a request for cash back. This is a red flag because asking for cash back is not really a standard practice anywhere.
  • Emails are a good way to do light screening of your inquirers. However, you should screen every renter over the phone before booking.


Flexibility is the name of the game when managing bookings and deposits for international guests. Here are some guidelines...

  • The easiest and safest way to accept payment from renters is by credit card.
  • PayPal accepts transactions in 17 currencies.
  • Your merchant credit card account may calculate currency differences for you.
  • European travelers are accustomed to traceable bank-to-bank transfers.
  • It is acceptable to collect and return deposits in your currency.
  • Untraceable wire transfers, cashier/certified checks, and money orders are used by scammers. Don't accept these payment methods.

Go Global 
If many of your renters come from another country, or if you live in a market popular with international tourists, you may want to start reaching out to them. Effective advertising might result in a longer rental season and more bookings. Taking a few small considerations into account, such as currency conversion and the possibility of communication adventures, you should be ready to go.

Anne Frugé is a staff writer for the Owner Community, a great resource for vacation rental home owners featuring educational articles, vacation rental news, owner polls, monthly newsletters, and a weekly internet radio show by bestselling author Christine Karpinski. Or if you're looking for a vacation home to rent, browse Vacation Rentals on