As the year comes to a close, when we pop the bubbly at midnight we will be celebrating a year of growth and accomplishment here at Luxury Simplified Retreats. This past year brought significant change and exciting opportunites - from adopting a new booking software system to help us maximize occupancy for our property owners, to adding 4 new properties to our luxury portfolio, and doubling our annual reservations. Here are some of our best moments from 2017. We also look ahead to the new year and the adventures awaiting Luxury Simplified Retreats.New Software
We experienced significant growth - much more than expected - in 2016. As such, the first item on the agenda for 2017 was to upgrade our management and booking software to scale with our growing business. We began the implementation process in January and by May we had gone live with the Escapia system. The system has incredibly robust accounting modules for our homeowners, easy booking capabilities, up-to-the-minute integration of calendar updates between popular booking sites (Airbnb and VRBO), and the ability to synchronize with an external communication portal which allowed for much simpler and more streamlined guest management.
We blew last year's figures out of the water and received more than 1,000 total reservations in 2017 - more than doubling our figures for 2016. This is largely the result of increased focus that was made to marketing our properties in the most effective way possible. From vibrant and targeted social media campaigns, to increasing inquiries for 2nd ... even 3rd stays by previous guests, even optimizing our listings to appear at the top of search results, including VRBO, AirBnb and other third party platforms. With the expertise we've built over the last few years comes increased visibility and a greater amount of bookings - and we can't wait to top this figure again in 2018!
With more booking reservations and properties to manage, we have increased our full-time staff in 2017. Moving into 2018, we now have two dedicated Guest Relations Managers, each with a focus on downtown Charleston or Folly Beach vacation rentals, respectively. In addition, we hired a Systems Manager who has helped us maintain our Superhost status on Airbnb, allowing our Charleston vacation rentals to appear at the top of search results over others. Our diligence and attention to detail has paid off and we will be listed as Premier Status on VRBO in the first quarter of 2018! Gaining premium status on both platforms means guests can rest assured that they will have the luxury rental experience they expect ... every step of the way!
Over the last year, the vacation rental market in downtown Charleston has been on everyone's radar. With the City of Charleston proposing new zoning restrictions and regulations surrounding short-term rentals in the latter half of the year, we kept a close eye on any changes that may affect our existing portfolio and our downtown homeowners. And at the beach? We saw growing opportunity within the Folly Beach rental market and shifted our focus to this area of Charleston's barrier islands. As a result, we welcomed 4 new luxury vacation rentals into our portfolio and secured another 7 coming online in the new year. By April 2018 our portfolio on Folly Beach will have tripled in just 12 months!
What’s In Store For 2018
After years of discussions, the city is slated to finalize their deliberation over short-term rentals regarding which areas of Charleston will gain legal status and in turn who might gain eligibility to rent their property. This could mean positive changes for us as a company and our homeowners. Each and every one of our downtown Charleston vacation rentals are already legally zoned in the Accommodations Overlay, and as such, their eligibility as a rental will remain. As more stringent and enforceable rules on illegal vacation homes come into play it may mean a decreased supply of vacation rentals, and conversely a greater rate of return for our homeowners.
To continually provide top notch service and experiences for our guests, we are in the process of developing our very own Concierge packages which will be available for guests to bundle into their stay. These Charleston experience packages will allow our guests to see and experience the very best of Charleston, taking their stay to the next level and creating memories that will last a lifetime, without having to plan it all themselves.
Also in 2018, we will begin our latest vacation rental build project in downtown Charleston (in the trendy Upper King District), and complete the build projects on Folly Beach. In addition we are starting on a new journey in the Bluffton, SC market in the new year. Stay tuned to find out more about this development and when we expect to break ground!
Looking back, 2017 was a BIG year for us and we couldn't be more proud of all that our team has accomplished. We already have plans to make 2018 even BIGGER. And, as always, we will continue to provide the best service for our home owners and guests. It's a great time to be a part of the Luxury Simplified Retreats family.