By Marilyn Noble
Vacation Rentals by Owner
Most experienced travelers know that you can book flights, rent cars and make hotel reservations, all while never leaving your desk, just by logging on to various Internet travel sites. You can book a vacation home anywhere in the world that same way.
A visit to www.vrbo.com opens up a host of options for travelers who want the convenience of a home away from home, and the experience of living like the locals.
The brainchild of Dave and Lynn Clouse, the Arapahoe County-initiated website contains over 9,500 worldwide listings that include everything from houseboats in Sausalito to a tipi in New Mexico to villas in the Italian countryside. Of course, visitors can find the more traditional ski condos and beachfront homes as well.
The process is easy for vacationers. You pick a destination, look through the property listings and then click on any that appeal to you. Each property has a page containing all of the pertinent information—amenities, rates and activities, as well as pictures. You call the contact number, and make the arrangements. Since you’re dealing directly with the property owner, it’s a much more personal experience. Most of the owners are happy to discuss nearby attractions, what kind of clothes to bring and where to find the best local restaurants.
Renting a vacation home is attractive to families traveling with children, large groups of friends or even to couples who would like a romantic getaway that offers more privacy than a bed and breakfast or hotel. And in many cases, the cost per person is less than you would pay for a hotel room and meals in restaurants.
For homeowners, who pay an annual fee for each listing, vrbo.com provides a way to advertise their properties at a reasonable cost. The website provides a way to create, host and promote a page on each property that is kept updated by the owner, so the information stays current. According to Clouse, some of his clients found that keeping their vacation homes booked all the time necessitated buying other properties that they could use themselves.
“For some of them, they’ve been so successful that they end up buying more and more properties. It just mushrooms,” he said. “In fact, for the most part, our advertisers love us.”
Like most good ideas, the business was born of necessity. The Clouse family owned a ski condo in Breckenridge and wanted a way to rent it out when they weren’t using it. They tried a more traditional route by advertising in the ski magazines, but found that to be expensive, with spotty results. With his background in travel and technology and an interest in the potential of the Internet, Clouse decided to put up a website and see if it could become a viable business. The first year, 1996, they listed 10 properties without charging for the service, because he wanted to prove it could work. Eventually the “project in the basement” turned into a full-time job, and Clouse and his wife both quit outside jobs to run the business.
“We really are a virtual business,” said Clouse. “We have 13 employees, all of whom work from home. We don’t have the overhead of a traditional office, and we’ve always believed that a business should be self-supporting. If it wasn’t going to fly on its own, we weren’t going to do it.”
So far, the concept is working. Over half of the company’s business comes from referrals. From the beginning, Clouse made sure they had links all over the Internet and that they were listed on all of the major search engines, which is what drives renters to the site. The rate of growth has allowed them to make improvements to the site; last year they added a calendar that gives vacationers the option to check availability online, and next year they plan to add a guest book so that renters can leave comments about the individual properties.
For more information, [http://visit www.vrbo.com].
Illusions Entertainment Services
If you ask Rob Scroggins what he likes best about his business, he just smiles. “It’s all good,” he says. Scroggins began Illusions Entertainment Services in 1985 after a career in stage management, lighting and sound design with dinner theaters in Dallas, Houston and Denver. The Centennial Company, which specializes in outdoor events and concerts, provides soup-to-nuts event management.
Need a venue? Scroggins will find one. How about talent? He can book it. He can also provide lighting, sound, security and stage management.
Scroggins has provided his services for events as diverse as City with a Heart-A Jazz Affair, the AT&T LoDo Music Festival, Littleton Summerfest and Celebrate Colorado Artists. While he’s worked with many local non-profit groups, his favorite events are those sponsored by city governments. For the past several years, Illusions has been a part of July Fourth celebrations in Commerce City and Golden, and they’ve handled production duties for Buffalo Bill Days in Golden for the last nine years.
“I enjoy building relationships with people that we can work with year after year,” he says. “And it’s fun to see people enjoying what we’ve put together for them.”
According to Renita Koenig of the Commerce City Parks and Recreation Department, Scroggins has been a big part of the success of the city’s events and celebrations.
“We have a very diverse community to reach, and Rob has been really helpful in getting a wide spectrum of entertainment for us,” she says. “He’s got great access to local and national acts, and he’s very accommodating in finding what we need.”
In the world of special events, the unexpected always happens, and one of Scroggins’s many talents is smoothing over the rough spots. There was the year the headline group was late because the bus broke down and they were stuck in Pueblo. He had to convince one of the earlier acts to stick around for another set, and the pyrotechnics crew to hold off just a little longer on the fireworks. The band finally arrived, went on stage with no sound check and played a shortened set, but no one in the crowd realized there had been a problem.
Scroggins enjoys bringing together groups of musicians who otherwise might never play with each other. Last year, Rusty Young of Poco sat in with the Rockin’ Jake Band, who was the opening act. Another time, he recruited Danny Seraphine, the former drummer for Chicago, to play for a nonprofit fundraiser, along with a group of local jazz musicians.
“When you can create those moments in an event, they can be magical,” he says.
For the most part, Scroggins enjoys working with musicians.
“We always try to make things as nice as possible for the bands, and most of them are very appreciative,” he said. “Once in awhile you may have a bad experience with a group, but they’re usually few and far between. The people that have been on the road for awhile are usually great to work with.”
One reason for his longevity in a tough business is his dedication to handling the details. “You can always have things go wrong. The weather can be bad, there’s a scheduling conflict and the crowd doesn’t show up; it can be any number of things that are outside anybody’s control,” he says. “But if it’s a situation that I’m responsible for, it will be done right. That’s one of the promises I make to my clients.”
For more information about Illusions Entertainment Services, call (303) 738-0192 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.