HomeAway Secure Messaging Update – Lodgix Changes – Part Two

In Part 1 of our series on the new HomeAway Secure Messaging Platform we reviewed what data and formatting can be sent to a guest who inquiries through HomeAway.   In a nutshell, ONLY plain text will be allowed.

Many Lodgix subscribers have customized HTML response templates that are used to respond to HomeAway inquiries.   On Wednesday, August 2nd those templates will no longer be used.   Instead a standard text template that we provide will be used.  The default text can, and should, be edited.   Only merge tags that do not contain HTML will be available within the text template.

  1. Click on the Text tab to edit the contents of all emails sent using text only.  This is only required for HomeAway.   Responses to inquiries from other sources will continue to be sent using full HTML.
  2. In the standard text response for available properties, the HomeAway or VRBO is used to drive the guest back to the listing.
  3. Make sure to SAVE your changes.

How Do I Edit the Text Responses for HomeAway?

Open the Email Templates page at settings > templates > email

Within that list look for all templates that are assigned to the inquiries component:

The templates highlighted in yellow below are the most important:

It is important that you visit the inquiry settings area of lodgix here:

http://staging.lodgix.com/system/inquiries/items/setup

To determine:

  1. if autoresponders are turned on or off for your account.
  2. and if autoresponders are on, then note which templates you have set to make sure those templates are edited.

If nothing is done, and if you are using a custom template, Lodgix will continue to respond with the full HTML in your template to HomeAway inquiries.  In that event, HomeAway will strip all HTML elements until the response meets their guidelines.   Those responses will appear somewhat broken to the guest as much of the referenced content will be blank, as it will have been stripped by HomeAway’s filters.

HomeAway Secure Messaging Update – Background – Part One

HomeAway recently announced that they will be moving to a secure messaging platform.    This is not a Lodgix initiative, we can only code our platform to make the changeover as seamless as possible for our users.  I do feel bad however for those who use HomeAway as the primary source of their bookings, as the whole platform has become must more restrictive and expensive over the years.   Hopefully more and more of you will take up the challenge to become less dependent on listing sites.  Having too much, if any, reliance on any listing site is a recipe for failure.

Summary of Changes

Initially the HomeAway Secure Messaging Platform will affect inquiry responses only.

Before (current):

  1. HomeAway provides guest email address in the inquiry feed.
  2. HomeAway allows HTML in the inquiry response.
  3. HomeAway allows URLs to 3rd party sites in the inquiry response.
  4. HomeAway allows property manager contact information in the inquiry response.
  5. HomeAway allows attachments in the inquiry response.

After (on or soon after August 7th, 2017):

  1. HomeAway will no longer provide guest email address, instead they will assign a temporary pass through email in the form of xxxxxxxx-xxxxxx@homeway.com
  2. HomeAway will NOT allow HTML in the inquiry response.   Text responses ONLY.
  3. HomeAway will NOT allow any links to any websites except their own website in the inquiry response.
  4. HomeAeay will NOT allow a property manager to include their phone, email, or website address in the inquiry response.
  5. HomeAway will NOT allow attachments in the inquiry response.

Line breaks are supported so that HomeAway can format a response – Tables and other formatting (bold, italics, etc) are not supported.

Recommendations from HomeAway for Property Managers:

  • Create a text-only response template for HomeAway inquiries
  • Populate the text-only template
  • Update automatic responses to remove urls, email addresses and phone numbers
  • Remove embedded images, including logos
  • Update verbiage that directs travelers back to website and/or special offers
  • Remove attachments
  • Perform a test inquiry to view inquiries and responses

Impact on Lodgix Subscribers:

  1. Ability to quote within an inquiry response will be very limited as none of the pretty HTML tables we supply can be used.
  2. No logos, no graphics, no images will be allowed.
  3. Potential guests can only book at HomeAway.
  4. No more automated ability to sell other inventory when the inquiry is for a property that is not available.
  5. No more deep links into your website to provide more information or reference a FAQ.
  6. No more use of the email signature in your inquiry response.
  7. No more no response followups to HomeAway inquiries.

I’d like to say there are some positives as a result of this change, but it’s only purpose is to drive ALL bookings through HomeAway to assure that HomeAway gets their service fee.  They believe they are becoming a booking platform and are no longer a lead generation platform.   On our end, it takes a simple process and makes it complex while limiting your access to data which is rightfully yours.

In our next installment, part two, we will outline the changes that will launch on Lodgix on Wednesday August 2nd to support HomeAway Secure Messaging.

New Trigger Condition Now Available to Automate Sending of Digital Signature Requests

Lodgix now integrates to a variety of different booking channels including Airbnb, HomeAway, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor.  These channels have no mechanism to collect a signed digital signature on a rental agreement.  That creates a problem for property managers that require a signed rental agreement with every booking, regardless of where it originated.

Currently every invoice without a signed rental agreement would have to be use our manual digital signature process to request that the rental agreement be signed.

However today we launched a new trigger condition that will automagically detect invoices without a signed rental agreement and send out a preset signature request to the guest.  Here how it works:

In order to configure a trigger that requests a guest to sign a rental agreement for HOMEAWAY reservations only , please use the follow configuration:

Invoice Status “changed to” Unconfirmed
Rental Agreement “Equal To” Not Signed

Don’t apply the trigger to the following channels: EXPEDIA, BOOKINGCOM, AIRBNB, LODGIX

(We’ve added a new channel (LODGIX), so manual and online reservations made on Lodgix can be excluded from the trigger.)

The only reason you might want to exclude certain channels is if your rental agreement contains rate specific data in it, which could vary from channel to channel.  Or perhaps you have different rental agreements depending on the channel.   In an era where property managers are now expending to many different channels, we always advise to keep your rates, fees and rental agreements as simple as possible to assure that only one rental agreement is needed and can be easily used across all channels.

I recommend every one make use of this new feature to assure that signed rental agreements are in place for all reservations, regardless of channel.

Lodgix Airbnb Integration Has Launched

READ THE DOCUMENTATION!!!

Our integration to Airbnb has launched.  It may still require a bit of tweaking in the next couple of weeks (July 2017), but we felt it was close enough to warrant it going live.

Airbnb REQUIRES that a new Airbnb account be established for the integration.   Lodgix will then populate your new Airbnb account with the property data on Lodgix.   THERE IS NO WAY TO USE YOUR EXISTING AIRBNB ACCOUNT.  Once the new account is populated, your Airbnb account manager will migrate your reviews to your new account.

Initially Lodgix will be charging an additional 1% on every booking originating from Airbnb once integrated.   This fee may be reduced, capped or eliminated in the future.  However right now we really have no idea as to the support costs that will be required to maintain this channel.

The integration setup and settings page can be found at:
Settings > Channel Management > Integrations > Airbnb tab

 

 

 

Search by Tags Added to WordPress Rentals Search Widget

Lodgix publishes a WordPress plugin to sync Lodgix inventory with a WordPress website.   Within that plugin there is a rentals search widget.

The rentals search widget can be used by guests to search for properties and  narrow down the search results. Property managers can optionally choose to search by:

  1. Location
  2. # of Bedrooms
  3. Price
  4. Pet Friendly?
  5. Amenities

and now, Property Tags!

In the past the amenities field could be customized in Lodgix.  However this caused a lot of problems when integrating to various channels. Custom amenities would be entered and then the property manager would submit a support request wondering why their custom amenities weren’t being displayed on HomeAway, etc..

HomeAway (and all other channels for that matter) do not allow custom amenities to flow through into their platform, therefore we can only map an existing set of amenities to the amenity list provided by the channel.   As a result we removed the ability to add custom amenities and instead standardized on the amenity list provided by HomeAway.

However this left a void as many property managers do have unique amenities and in many instances they would like those amenities or attributes searchable by a guest when booking on their website.

Search by Tags

Tags are entered in the Edit property > “Tags” field with Lodgix. They are delimited by space or comma as before. If a tag must contain spaces or commas, for example “king bed”, it should be quoted using double quotes.

 

 

 

 

Withing the WordPress widget settings in WordPress,  please select the option to “Search by Tags” to have each tag show up as a search criteria within the rentals search widget on your website.