The Boost Hospitality Podcast is back for another season! We are now in Season 7, and we are currently on the thirteenth episode! Today, I’ve invited Chris Maughan of i-Prac to talk about ways to increase your direct bookings.
Chris Maughan of i-Prac talks about how to increase direct bookings
Chris is the founder of i-Prac. He’s been based in the south of France, and he’s been involved in the rental industry, for nearly 20 years in 2014, he will tell this story. He had a family Rocco in Cannes in France spent over 15,000 pounds on holiday on a book in for it to be a fake. Now with a heavily regulated industry is the one that we’re in, there needs to be something done about this. And Chris started AIPAC 2014, after that experience, and what he’s trying to do is he’s trying to create a platform for guests and hosts to have a safe place where people could make a booking, check their validated and have a peace of mind.
He’ll go on to talk about a lot of things in this episode, but I want you to go and check out www.i-prac.com. Go and check out the work that they’re doing. And if you’re not yet involved, please do reach out to them. Have a discussion and see if it’s worthwhile you putting your property on their service and their website. I think that it’s amazing the work that he’s doing, we had a great chat. And I’m looking forward to seeing what he achieved over the next few years. He’s got an ambitious goal that he’ll tell you about. And also let you know how you can find out more about the work that he’s doing and what i-Prac is.
Now, Chris is going to be speaking at the same event as me in one month; we are going to be in London for the more direct bookings conference. You can go and check out more by checking out the show notes. But we’re both going to be talking I’m going to be doing a talk all about email marketing, and how GDPR should not have scared you off from doing so. And Chris is going to be talking about rental fraud and how by displaying confidence in your property, you will increase your direct bookings.
What would you say is your company’s superpower?
I’ve asked to be consumer protection from it. We do a lot of different things, but I think consumer protection has to be what we do there. If that is a superpower, we consumer protection. I promise built on so certainly consumer protection.
In the past year, what is your favourite purchase under 100 pound or euro?
This is quite a strange one, but I would say it’s a key finding alarm because I’m terrible with keys. And I’ve got this alarm for less than it was about 65 euros and you get six of them, and you attach them to the keys.
Do you have a favourite podcast at the present moment?
My favourite podcast I would say is Waking up Sam Harris. I mean, that’s basically for private passion because I’m big on you to know, personal development and biochemistry and this type of thing. So his podcast goes right into how the brain works.
I’ve been doing meditation for years. Some people call it meditation; I call it sitting in silence, collecting your thoughts. Meditation is this big buzzword now. But I think just sitting in silence is only as good as anything to do to take control. I’ve tried his app, and he knows everything about it. He knows all the techniques. He’s good at what he does.
What is the one big tip for you to pass on about how to increase direct bookings?
Display credibility and confidence. If you haven’t got that, then your conversion rates are just far too low. Without promoting obviously, I practice so much of the solution. That’s what is the best solution out there because it’s the third party. And as you know, when anybody can speak well about their own business or their property or their services, it’s when other people come in and do it for you. And with reviews, reviews were very popular back in the day, but fraudsters quite easily create them. So the only way now is by giving all of your details. Just to a third-party verification system and saying, check me out and then show me a verification. So for me, that’s the only way is by showing your credibility through a third-party verification platform.
How does rental fraud work both ways for the guests and the host?
Let me start with the consumer first. The consumer they’re booking properties through people they don’t know. So whether it’s from a booking platform or direct, let’s talk about direct. When you’re booking somewhere, that’s when the problem can come because you’re paying in advance for a property that you don’t know exists. So that’s where the consumer can be affected because they don’t know if the property is going to be there when they arrive. So that’s from the consumer point of view.
As far as the host is concerned, hosts are coming to a different level now because I think since the growing point of Airbnb, is that now this home-sharing platforms, sometimes not so many people renting the whole house, but inviting people they don’t know, into their own home. Fifteen years ago you would have said you were mad to think that was going to happen when you but it’s happening, and it seems to be people are making a lot of money out of it, people are travelling on the back of it. And that’s one area where people are coming into the orders all and theft is happening; identity theft is happening.
They’re taking control of certain aspects of that property that you know, so there’s the stuff that’s going on within the property. Also, when you’re renting the whole house is you don’t know who’s going in. So even though you’re interested in taking that 5000 pounds a week or 2000 pounds a week booking that’s the main interest but who’s going in your property.
And what we found with some of the research was done with i-Prac is that sometimes the fraudsters are actually renting legitimate properties, entering the property under the normal circumstances, taking the photographs as they would get all of the relevant information, they would need to create a listing on that property, and then checking out through ordinary circumstances. But then what they’ve done is they’ve created their new fake listing, which they will then throw on somebody else’s platform and start renting out as a fraudulent listing.
That’s one of the reasons how we get with the verification process of fraudsters when we can Google, verify where the photos are on the web. You can see whether honest photographs are being used in various other listings and we can find out whether that owner is aware of that to know whether it’s a fake listing or not. So there’s a lot of there’s a lot goes on behind the scenes, but I think that’s the main areas of where consumers and hosts can get to experience a level of fraud.
What is the one most common mistake that you’ve seen accommodation owners make when they start to list their property online and when it comes to what we’re talking about how to increase direct bookings?
I think they’re too eager to accept the booking. And I think that comes from various points of view when most people who are looking to rent their property, they’re not doing it because they love it. They’re doing it for the incomes. Some of them want to maximise their incomes and do as many rentals as possible. Some choose certain periods to minimise and pay certain taxes and different things. But I think generally, is that they tend to not do enough checks on whether these people are the right people because a big factor is that a lot of people don’t tend to, even in the short term average, I know a lot of people say they do it, but they don’t.
When they say that they take the passport of all of their guests, they do not. Everybody out there knows who’s guilty of it. There is now a technology that can help with that. But that’s a big thing because a lot of these people who have intention to cause damage or not respect the rules tend not to want to go down the avenue of giving personal details and passports and things that because if there’s any damage, then you’ve got the passport of that person, then you can have that concept without the end of it. You could report it, and you could probably find that person through their passport and press charges, so people don’t want to people like to hide, you know, if you’ve got nothing to hide, then you tend not don’t mind to give you a passport or certain information and documents to enter into a rental.
But I think foreigners are like, as soon as they have that money, they feel that that’s the job done. And that’s the era that they make. So they need to continue down the process of getting the relevant documents to verify who they are. And also the biggest part is to cash the caution. None of this I hold the check is this. You have to pay the caution, because checks you know, I mean, we all know the difference in checks. But the day you cash the caution is that when you know that your client is serious about protecting your property and doing the right thing because they know the caution is going to come back at the end on checkout. So make sure you get the right documents and follow the points of making sure that they pay the caution federal visa to the advice I would make sure that people do
How does i-Prac work and how does it benefit from both the guests and for the hosts on how to increase direct bookings?
I’ve been in the industry since 2000. So, back in 2014, our office got a call from the pretty distressed lady who had been busy. She was on the side of the road with three children, husband, and 16 suitcases. And to cut a long story short, we got them to our office; we found them alternative accommodation. But basically what happened was they rented a purse for 15,000 and luxury villa in Cannes 15,000 pounds. And that turned out to be a scam. No way of getting the money back. And they were left devastated.
So where it came for me was I had this family in my office like literally on in front of me. And as a father as well, I see the distraught faces of the three children who had no idea what was going on. The mother and father bickering and understandably because emotions were happening, who was to blame, who booked to bed. But eventually that kind of calm down, we got them set up in an apartment. And two days later, we dealt with this couple and found out exactly what happened.
So as an industry, somebody’s passionate about the industry and looked into it and found out that this wasn’t just a small incident. And I realised that something had to be done that could protect consumers from fraud. And the way to do that was by building i-Prac. It certainly wasn’t overnight.
We had them Six months of research to find out whether there was anything on the market that was doing what we plan to do. We certainly looked at the costings in it, what was the metrics of it? How could it be built? Who would have benefits? How could it benefit?
So there’s a lot that went into that. And then, when we came up with a platform, it turned into that we could protect consumers, but also offer a platform for legitimate operators to show their credibility through the i-Prac approval through and online verification. What it does is your owners and agents can apply to become a member. We go through an in-depth robust application process where they provide an application document plus supporting documents such as passport, bank accounts, emails, proof of ownership, several documents that we need to be able to benefit to be able to verify that that particular owner or agent.
So once we do that, and they pass the approval, they become efficiently i-Prac approved where they get their logo, they get their certificates, they get their online verification system, which is all linked through their ID number, which is in the logo. So from, from the consumer point of view, if they booked through an item number, they’re 100% protected from a property owner or property managers point of view. If they become approved, they can showcase credibility through the i-Prac platform. So it’s the third-party verification.
It’s like Joe from New York wants to rent a two-bedroom house in London from Jun and Jun says, don’t worry about it. You can trust me. Let’s be honest. Joe from New York doesn’t have that confidence. What Joe from New York needs is somebody else to say, you can book with Jun 100% confidence. Here’s why. And this is the reason. And that’s why i-Prac is building that community of people using it to be confident in what they’re booking. And agents and property owners are using it to increase their credibility on the market. And that’s
What part does i-Prac get involved in the booking process?
This was part of our development when we were building it, we have to find a way that could verify the booking, and when you go on To the i-Prac website, you will see there’s a section on there where it says register booking. And when you go to that point on the page, you put in all of the details of the reservation that you have with that number. And you put in the ID number of that member and register the booking. And when you registered, i-Prac receives a copy, the owner receives a copy directly, and also the consumers gets a copy. And that booking then becomes guaranteed under the i-Prac guarantee. If you don’t register the booking that we can’t do they guarantee? It’s not just because you saw an i-Prac member online, I booked it, but there’s no way we could guarantee that. So you have to register the booking, but it’s a 30-second process, but it’s the only way you can do it.
What would be your pain points at the moment and trying to get more eyes on this at the present moment?
I think it’s just like industry. The actual industry itself doesn’t seem to see the problem is what it is. When we were speaking before going on camera. I didn’t realise the size of the problem until 2014 when I was looking into it in-depth and realised a lot of the problems that were out there. And then with a lot of the research that we’ve done through our articles and media, we’ve realised that this is quite scary that only four out of 10 victims will report it. That’s seven percentage. 40% of the People will be reporting it, and 60% are just putting it down to a bad experience or, or whatever. And that’s scary. But that’s also because there isn’t anything out there that offers anybody to report it. You’ve got action for them. The UK is probably the best, but other countries don’t offer it.
Let’s be clear on the fact that most of the fraud that happens is through direct bookings. There is a lot of fraud that goes on with the booking platforms. And the booking platforms do tend to want to keep it on the Hush Hush. But if the media get involved like today with the one with the BBC, the couple in Berlin? As soon as it goes in mainstream media, then obviously the booking platform like all we want to do more about this to protect it. But we’ve heard victims through the platforms have been brushed aside through booking platforms. It’s nothing to do with us. If you didn’t do the checks, we can’t help you. If you booked off the platform, it doesn’t matter. So there’s a lot of factors that go into it. But generally, most of the fraud that’s happening is through the direct booking processes, people booking directly from Facebook ads and that type of thing.
Like I was saying before, if you want to show trust within somebody who’s booking directly with you, then they’re paying you directly. No platform or brand’s protecting you in the middle. Now you would expect when you’re booking through booking.com, or Airbnb, you would, of course, expect that you’re protected in some way. And you are because of the way that the models work because as the consumer peers, the platforms don’t release the money to the host until the guest arrives.
But that doesn’t help the host. Because it’s sometimes almost they can’t manage investment portfolios when they’re getting a booking in January but not receiving the money till August. This is another problem the direct booking movement is going to do. But the direct booking movement needs to have more protection, because if you’re a legitimate operator wanting to go into the direct booking movement, and slowly come aware from or two years because you can’t do it overnight, because most of these hosts have invested 3 – 6 years of marketing into the platform, and that’s 95% of their income and their bookings. So to turn on and stop the booking is just impossible. That has to be a transition. That has to be a slow transition of generally going from RTS over to direct bookings.
But there is no way. You’re going to have a firm direct booking business. Unless you can prove credibility, you can spend 15 – 20,000 a month on marketing and generate, let’s say 50 inquiries. But if you can’t convert, then 50 inquiries because the end customer doesn’t trust you. And there’s no point spending that money on marketing. Always get your trust factor first, and then you can concentrate on marketing and service.
What are the benefits and tools of i-Prac that hosts can use on how to increase direct bookings?
The key factor is the logo. And one of the key aspects of how it works, If you see how the i-Prac logo is, is you have the i-Prac logo, and there’s a unique ID number in the logo. So every icon logo is unique. There’s no one the same because the ID number changes for each member.
So when you put your logo, fraudsters to can quite easily tip the logo, put it on a fake website, consumer confidence there is there enough to remember. And they’ve created that confidence. With i-Prac, you can’t do that because your ID number is in your logo. And on the website, when you type in the ID number on the search box, then that goes directly to your i-Prac profile. That’s how it works.
So as soon as you put your logo on the site, you not only are you telling people you’re approved, they can check You’re approved by going on your profile and checking all of your data. And the data consists of your name and all of these identifies as approved aspects. So your name, your phone number, your bank account, proof of ownership, the last five digits of the bank account are displayed. So that should match the last five digits of the invoice that they’re sending. We do a lot of the verification so and then after they can prove that that person is legitimate. So that’s why we go into so much detail, to be able to guarantee that consumers can know that they’re protected.
I read that you want a target of 1 million members by 2022. How are you going to it? How do you plan on achieving that?
I’m not going to do it alone. That’s for sure. We’re going to look at a few things. I mean, that’s certainly the way that the industry is going, how it’s booming, in terms of where the direct booking movements coming. And I think just the more mainstream media reporting the problems is affecting the industry, the confidence of the industry on the whole hugely.
So I think so many people are losing a lot of business through not being able to, you know, showcase credibility. So I think we expect that regulation under the direct booking movement is going to believe is that the level of investment that you need to become i-Prac approved is more than affordable against the average that you’re earning on an on a rental for over the year.
So when people may turn on, you know what I’m going to invest in a plasma TV don’t invest in i-Prac approval That will increase More Bookings. And I think once people start to understand what i-Prac does more in the industry, they’ll understand the value and the benefits that they can get out of it. I think that’s key. We’re doing a lot of work next year with the BBC and ITV. So I think that’s going to be quite big for the UK. But we’re also looking at building a bigger team, and we’re creating more offices around Europe. And I think. Generally, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s an achievable goal. But we know that it’s going to be difficult, but I think it all depends on; however, the market changes over to the direct booking movement.
Know more about i-Prac and Chris