It's that joyous time of year again. Folks all over are celebrating the holiday season, longing to escape the rigors of everyday life and spend precious vacation time with family and friends. Over the holidays, families will sit together and fantasize a break from the cold. "Where should our next vacation be?" HAWAII is on everyones bucket list and Kauai, the most majestic of the island chain is hugely popular for both authenticity and adventure. So after dinner, you gather together. One of your millennial says, "Hey, let's Airbnb it". One of the older folks says, "Why not VRBO (Vur-bo) it". These corporate names have become synonymous much like Xerox & Krazy Glue back in the day and the more recent verbalize, Google and Uber. Deep publicly traded pockets mean an abundance of commercials and advertisements, thus consumer familiarity. So what is next my friends? The laptops, smartphones and tablets come out and the search for Aloha begins.
Do you want a home with a pool? How about beach front? Try searching Kauai Vacation Rentals Pools or Kauai Vacation Rentals Beachfront. Maybe you research the best towns and are led to Hanalei, Princeville, Kilauea and Poipu. Or (and this is when it goes downhill), you can simply go to VRBO, Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, Homeaway and other outsourced giants. BUT WHY??? Think about this. Uber is the worlds largest taxi company yet they have no fleet, Facebook the most popular media owner creates a small percentage of their actual content if any, Alibaba the most valuable retailer has no inventory and Airbnb/VRBO the worlds largest accommodation provider, owns no rental real estate. Ok, perhaps they own a some units. I would not want to be called to task if they did, but my opinion is, they do not own any on Kauai. Essentially they are brokers just like us and our fellow agents. The only differences are:
1- Kauai agencies answer the phone almost immediately or call you right back. We need not consult anyone to provide an honest and accurate answer to your questions. You need not make a payment without speaking to us directly. VRBO and Airbnb allow no contact whatsoever by phone or personal email until you fork up a non refundable deposit.
2 - Corporate giants outsource customer service in the Philippines and India, taking jobs away from the very folks they solicit and look to profit from.
3 - Kauai agencies own homes on Kauai - They do not. (Just an opinion)
4 - Kauai agency employees live on Kauai. They have families, children in schools, work hard, answer calls after hours and truly care about your vacation.
5 - Kauai Agencies offer a complete experience and provide complimentary Concierge Services so that you do not bear the responsibility of planning your own itinerary. We will weed out the cheesy stuff and provide authentic experiences, hikes and little known gems to visit, most of which is free. Well...maybe a little cheese. Everyone needs at least one Luau in their life.
6 - Kauai agency employees have been in the homes, are familiar with the neighborhoods and can pretty much answer any question thrown their way without consulting a cheat sheet.
7 - We personally have vacationed in many rental homes on Kauai and understand the leap of faith visitors take when putting trust in our recommendations. The publicly traded giants just want commissions and fees. When a home is not available, their alternate suggestions are generated by keywords and programming, and are void of human elements.
8 - Kauai agencies must be accountable. Reviews affect reputation and a local agency's success depends on your opinions. Having your expectations fall short would be detrimental to their good name. House Of Dreams Kauai has over 200 five star reviews, comically most are on VRBO. They were acquired back in the day when VRBO was just an advertising platform. At that time, owners and potential travelers were allowed to converse openly and guests booked directly with the agency or homeowner. Now phone numbers and email addresses are hidden or censured to protect the corporate giant's economic interests. Here's an interesting fact. Back in the day, anyone can go on VRBO and post a review on a home. This meant good or bad, an owner was stuck with it. Now that VRBO has a vested interest, owners now have an option to invite a prior guest to write a review. Without that invitation, most guests will be unable to post which pretty much insures positive reviews only. Again, to whose benefit is that, certainly not yours.
9 - If you rent on VRBO, Airbnb or one of the other giants and have a bad experience, they simply blame the owner. They use the homeowner as a shield and likewise a individual owner renting without representation can have anonymity behind the giant's corporate veil. Just check out the nightmare stories on the Facebook page, "Say No To VRBO Service Fee", a group with over 5,800 current members. Another interesting fact is, the County of Kauai mandates all licensed Transient Accommodations must have their TVR or TVNC Permit #, Tax ID and 24/7 Emergency Contact phone number prominently displayed in all advertisements, yet VRBO and Airbnb have denied allowing phone numbers, putting all Kauai accommodations at risk for non compliance and possible revocation of a homes permit. Airbnb mistakingly recognizes the Tax ID as a phone contact and blocks that as well. In a recent conversation with a VRBO rep, I was told, the legal department is working on this. That was back in April of 2018. Still no resolution.
10 - What if you show up to Kauai and the home you paid for does not exist or is double booked? Sure, VRBO/Airbnb offers to book with confidence or protect your investment but you are still left stranded with no accommodation and the loss of multiple airfares. If you rent on these sites, make sure to insure your airfare!!! Kauai agencies do one thing and one thing only...every day. It is all we do and mistakes are rare if any. On a personal note, this bloggers rental agency has never had a booking mistake in 12 years, yet we have rescued dozens of folks who rented online and experienced these very situations. Some of the nightmares were homes in disrepair, homes double booked, bookings from scammers when VRBO was hacked years ago. That one actually happened a few times. Folks paid in full only to find out the person they sent money to was not the owner. I believe it was shortly thereafter when VRBO implemented their new policy which is called "Book With Confidence".
11 - Lastly the major difference...FEES, lots of FEEEEEEEEEEEES. Service Fees, Management Fees, Administrative Fees. A recent click on a $499 service fee for a home on VRBO said, "This helps HomeAway provide a safer and more secure booking experience, coupled with 24/7 customer support throughout your trip". With call centers in India and Philippines, and probably most if not all customer service agents having never stepped foot on Kauai, it is unlikely your call will result in satisfaction. In addition to traveler fees, they charge the homeowners or rental agencies processing and booking fees. The result is, you will pay anywhere from 6% to 20% more than if you book directly with a Kauai Agency or accredited homeowner.
Expedia's stock, parent company to Homeaway/VRBO has risen from under $13 to over $150. Call me jealous. Clearly, double dipping works for them but nor for us. Why not save your hard earned money and help support the collective existence of Kauai. The people here will welcome you with open arms and share The Spirit Of Aloha with you and your Ohana.
So the bottom line is...?
Don't be fooled by the industry giants. Take a moment of your time to reach out to a local agency or homeowner. Almost any owner/manager of a Kauai rental on VRBO or Airbnb can be directly found if you either Google the name of the home or TVR, TVNC # in the listing description. If that does not work, try searching the owner's name or management company. I assure you, the experience will be pleasurable from your initial inquiry till the day you check out. Kauai is a small tight knit community, one where integrity and reputation are paramount. Having worked directly with almost all vacation rental management and realty companies on Kauai, I can truly profess, your trust in either House Of Dreams Kauai or one of our friendly competitors will be mutually rewarded with lasting memories of Aloha.
And yes, I did use Google as a verb...I'm guilty too.
E pili mau na pomaika 'i ia 'oe...(May blessings ever be with you)