“It’s very personal”: How Experiences can Create Synergies with Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals are an excellent distribution channel for tours, activities and experiences in certain markets. However, the partnerships formed are very different to those with hotels

Reading Time: 4 minutes 13 seconds

Vacation rentals are a booming market. This has been driven by changing traveler habits through the pandemic. With the collapse in international travel and differing Covid restrictions to wade through, consumers have switched to domestic travel. Drive-in markets, particularly on the east coast of the United States, have seen a surge in bookings.

Rentals can be an excellent source of guests for tours, activities and attractions. People will always be looking for things to do while in destination. They can also be a great way to smooth out the shoulder season. However, they require different processes than working with hotels. Rentals are much closer in the way they work to smaller tour operations than a hotel would be.

“Our average client probably has 120 vacation rentals under management,” Matt Loney, president and CEO of Xplorie says. “That is still above the median. I bet across the US, they’ll manage about 50 units. At 50 you’re probably talking about a husband and wife team, and maybe they’ve got one or two reservationists who help them take incoming calls and guest issues and things like that. 

Arival 360 | SAN DIEGO 2024

30 September – 3 October 2024

Insider Pro Access Members Save 20%

THE event of the year for solutions-focused In-Destination Experience
creators and sellers

Save up to $660 with the Spring Savings ticket

Learn More

“It’s very like tours and attractions. For the smaller ones it’s very operationally heavy. A lot of our partners will be worried about the guest locking themselves out of a unit or the toilet. If you’re asking them to help you move your product, it’s not worth it. I think it’s about understanding that the rental model is actually very similar.”

Xplorie enables vacation rental managers to offer tours and activities to their guests. They are active in 45 U.S. markets, most of which are leisure focused, secondary destinations with online travel agencies less active, according to Loney. 

Rental Managers Want Experiences to Build Guest Loyalty

“It's very personal”: How Experiences can Create Synergies with Vacation Rentals Ben Finch Arival
Occupied nights are often more important than room rates for rental managers — Brock Kirk / Unsplash

“It’s very personal dealing with a property manager,” Karen Piscitelli from Explorabout, a startup OTA for vacation rentals, says. “Just the fact that you’re staying in an established home already providing such an authentic experience. They’re also often advocates of everything that’s in the community.”

Leisure markets see a lot of repeat business. People that visit will fall in love with the area and return time and again. That is an opportunity for owners and managers who want their guests to return. One of their priorities is building loyalty, and, for them, providing activities is one of the best ways to do so. The business is often more about increasing occupied nights than increasing room rates.

This loyalty can be achieved not just through helping their guests have something to do while in destination, but can also be a method to manage problems and complaints. Loney says that providing a trip on a local tour or to a waterpark can be a much better solution than a discount in case the air conditioner breaks, especially for a family. The guests are much happier, and more likely to return. It is about differentiating the experience from one that you would receive in a hotel.

The demographics are also different to those found in hotels. For Xplorie, customers are usually multi-generational families. Loney says they are seeing the post-pandemic prediction of grandparents traveling with their children and grandchildren occur. Explorabout’s guests are more likely to be in the 40 to 65 age range.

Less Commission, More Marketing

“It's very personal”: How Experiences can Create Synergies with Vacation Rentals Ben Finch Arival
Help managers provide a better experience and you become part of the solution — Eric Ward / Unsplash

Because vacation rentals work in a way that is closer to a small tour operation, providing commissions may not be the best way to sell through them. The owner may not have time to upsell because they’re trying to get the gutters cleaned, and may think they won’t earn enough through commission alone to make it worth their time. “What rentals want is: can you help make my guest experience better without it taking a lot of time and money?” Loney says.

To use them as a distribution channel, operators need to make it as easy as possible to help the owner attract guests. This may be achieved by providing links through reservation systems and content to a rental’s website, rather than fliers that would litter the home. Providing content and links for email marketing is another method that may be useful. These will show potential guests what they can see and do in the area. 

Loney says: “If you can help provide a better experience and if you can be part of that solution for them, they will bend over backwards to help drive business to your activities.”

Insider Pro Access Members can watch Rentals Rising (U.S.): Tapping Vacation Rentals as a Sales Channel for your Experiences with Matt Loney of Xplorie and Ryan Olin of RealJoy Vacations from Arival’s Spring into Summer event

Become a Pro Access member and get easy access to all of Arival’s online events, including Arival 360 Las Vegas, and our complete library of premium research and Arival guides for operators for a full year, starting at just $179 for small operators


Sign up to receive insights tailored for the in-destination industry as well as updates on Arival.

Sign Up
Print Friendly, PDF & Email


already a member?

Lost your password?


Become an Arival Insider

Included in Free Membership

Included in Arival Pro Membership

The Arival on-demand video library archive
Access to the entire library of over 150 video sessions and webinars

Short, digestible research & trends reports delivering insights into our industry, such as The Tour Operator Outlook for 2021.

Arival.travel articles
Topical articles about marketing, tech, operator business and operator stories in all areas of tours, activities & attractions & experiences

Job board access
Find a job from our regular listings, post a resume to the talent network and learn strategies from the job resources articles

New webinars
Helpful, instructional sessions covering subjects such as Mastering Facebook Ads, Grow Your Business and How To Work With OTAs — topics to help advance your business.

Discounts on all Arival in-person events
20% Discount on all Arival in-person events (save up to $300)* based on business type

Arival ProShield – Insurance program
Access to tailored insurance solutions by Granite Insurance is available exclusively for Arival Insider Pro Access Members. Insider Pro Access Members also have access to a suite of resources from Granite Insurance including templates, forms and other informative documents.

Insiders Pro Access member exclusive webinars
Paid membership-only webinars to deepen your understanding of important industry topics.

Job postings & talent directory
Post jobs & connect with candidates most applicable to your business.

Private roundtables to connect, learn and engage
Small, focused and intimate discussions exclusive to Arival Insider Pro Access members.

Full access to Arival’s library of in-depth reports
Up to date, deep analysis of tourism topics ranging from Self-guided Tours to Sales & Distribution Trends and Outlooks, based on the data that defines the industry.

The latest on-demand videos
Over 350+ on-demand videos featuring hot topics in tours, activities & attractions

Insider discounts in digital marketing, tech, e-learning, and more
Save money on additional tools, services and learnings you need to run your business. Exclusive to paid members.

Membership Overview

At Arival, we believe travel can make the world a better place. Our mission is to establish and inspire a diverse community of individuals and companies in the In-destination Industry by providing opportunities to gain insight, share knowledge and build connections. To make it possible for true collaboration, creativity, innovation, and idea exchange to thrive, we are committed to facilitating a welcoming and respectful community for all. This Conference Code of Conduct shares our community expectations and applies to all attendees, employees, exhibitors, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and other participants at Arival- produced and sponsored events. We empower all participants in our community to actively engage in creating a friendly, inclusive and safe environment for all.

Arival’s core values include the following, and create an expectation for conduct at our events and in online community spaces:

We demonstrate a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.
We value integrity and strive to consistently interact with others in ways that are authentic, ethical, and fair.
We are dedicated to transparency, committing to clear, open and honest communication.
We actively pursue and advocate for inclusion, diversity and representation of varying cultural backgrounds, perspectives and ideas

Arival welcomes people from all cultural backgrounds, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, gender (including pregnancy, perceived pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related medical conditions), gender identity, religion (including religious dress and grooming), marital status, domestic partner status, genetic information, age, national origin or ancestry, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local laws.

Accordingly, participants must refrain from displaying any demeaning, harassing, aggressive, or intimidating behavior or materials that would interfere with others’ experience and participation in our community.

If you witness or are subjected to inappropriate or disruptive behavior or have any other concerns, notify an Arival staff member as soon as possible.

Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. Arival reserves the right to refuse entry to or remove any party from any event or community space at any time when participation or behavior create a disruption or hinder the event or enjoyment of the event by other participants. All determinations are at the sole discretion of Arival, and the decision of the Arival team will be final. Severe breaches of this Conference Code of Conduct may result in disqualification from participating in future events. Individuals expelled due to violating this Conference Code of Conduct will not be eligible for a refund or other consolation.

If you have questions regarding this Conference Code of Conduct or its implementation, please contact us at [email protected].