Disability Care Worker to Business Owner: Chillout Like A Local In Australia
Talking Travel with Aussie Chillout - David and Hilary Harris Owner / Manager. I (David Harris) went from being a disability care worker for 22 years. In 2010 I attempted to make a business of short term rental accommodation. This did not quite work out. I had to go back doing salary work as an employment consultant for 2 years from 2013-2014. Above all I wanted to be my own boss. Accordingly I left work to manage my own business in 2014 and I have not looked back. On 22 February 2018 it went from our personal names to Aussie Chillout. So that I could move forward getting direct bookings. It also gives the opportunity to social media marketing and blogs. Chillout Like A Local In Australia.
Due diligence has meant that I have been able to purchase 7 modest accommodation properties since 1990 to 2014. At one time or another they have either been our principal place of residence, permanent rentals or short term rentals. People think that you have to have a lot of money to purchase property. I only need a cash deposit once and the rest of properties the equity was deposit. The properties purchased range from $48,000 up to $379,00.
What sector of the travel and tourism industry are you engaged in?
Subsequently we own and manage 7 short term holiday rental properties around Australia in partnership with my wife Hilary. They are in 3 States and 6 Geographical Locations. So it makes life interesting when dealing with 3 different states and 6 councils with legislation and COVID-19. Thus we have a wealth of experience when talking travel with Aussie Chillout.
- Pether Cottage – Talbingo NSW (north west gateway to Kosciusko National Park)
- Coal d’ Vine Cottage – Cessnock NSW (gateway to the Hunter Valley vineyards)
- Coal d’ Vine VIEW – Cessnock NSW (gateway to the Hunter Valley vineyards)
- Condo 105 @ Horizons Golf Resort – Salamander Bay NSW (Port Stephens)
- Manilla Cottage – Manilla NSW (near Tamworth)
- Growder Court 3 – Coolum Beach QLD (Sunshine Coast)
- Midland Haven – Midland WA (30 minutes from Perth)
Chillout Like A Local In Australia.
I have been approached by others to manage their properties as STR but stated that I was not interested. The main reasons being that I don’t want to become a slave to a business and be responsible for other’s properties. Plus, I did not want to go through hassle of getting the necessary real estate licenses and pay GST on property management fees. It is hard enough running a business let alone more compliance. The other reason is that I want a work / life balance and enjoy family & church.
What does your job involve?
On a daily basis as an owner property manager I check bookings, follow up on emails, SMS and OTA messages from guests. Also reconciliation of bank accounts in Xero. SMS to cleaners re: bookings. Arrange repairs and maintenance as required. This is not time consuming.
I find a work / life balance. But if I have time, I do a TO DO LIST. This can be dropped for family and friends and is flexible. I might do improvements on website, SEO, blogs, social media, digital marketing and FaceBook advertising. There is always something to do to improve Aussie Chillout.
If I am doing a road trip, I’ll check the properties and replace items in kitchen, arrange for trades person or handyman re: repairs and maintenance, buy furniture etc.
What do you enjoy most about your profession?
I love talking travel with Aussie Chillout. It is a joy having my own business and being my own boss. Also making my own hours around my life. This is freedom to me. A lot of business you become a slave to a geographical location, such as, a shop or factory. I can do business while travelling and holidaying. All I need is a mobile phone, computer, iPad, internet and WiFi. It is flexible. A lot of processes are automated i.e. instant booking and automated emails / SMS. It has meant that I can travel overseas to places like South Africa, Canada and USA. I can still do business on cruise ships. That is what I enjoy.
Talking travel with Aussie Chillout is my dream job. It is something that I am passionate about.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business/businesses?
The biggest impact of COVID-19 was the cancellations, refunds of $5,700 plus, credit vouchers for future bookings and lack of income from March to May 2020. I had to take the drastic step of ringing 3 mortgage institutions and not making weekly mortgage payments. Other than that, I have been able to pay all other bills.
International travellers and non-essential travellers in Australia cancelled bookings.
Subsequently I could only do essential travellers: workers, students, international visitors trapped in Australia, interstate travellers trapped, compassionate reasons. I had to think outside the box and market differently for social distance stays of 1 and 2 weeks to gain essential stays. As a result it meant dropping the prices but this meant getting bookings where individuals did not state truth of reason for stay and I had issues. I had to deal with police a few times from neighbours dobbing in essential travellers. Furthermore police were very understanding during this time.
Since the 1st June 2020 the bookings are coming back. Great news!
What are the biggest challenges for you in your profession? Chillout Like A Local In Australia
One of the biggest challenges is Online Travel Agents. For example: Airbnb, HomeAway, Expedia Group and Booking.com. Without a doubt they have been very controlling and often favour the guests. They make up their own cancellation policies which favour themselves and guests. OTAs don’t respect the cancellation policies of owners, hosts and property managers. OTAs have suffered under COVID-19 and have had to lay off workers. Maybe they might have more respect for owners. If they did not have owners they would not have a business where they can offer STR accommodation to guests.
I am based on the Gold Coast. So I manage the properties from afar and I have to trust the cleaners to manage my properties locally. Sometimes this is challenging. I have had to make some tough decisions.
Budget can be challenging. As a result I need to prioritise and plan capital improvements. Such as, new bathrooms, kitchens, furniture and replacing carpet with vinyl planks. Simultaneously also attending to repairs and maintenance.
Disrespectful guests are a pain sometimes. Plus checking out the competition and marketing properties at a competitive rate.
What do you think are the biggest immediate challenges the industry faces?
State Government legislation rolling out will be the biggest game changer. It means that the short-term rental accommodation sector will become more professional. To this end registering and implementing the legislation will change the industry. Owner hosts that have not been professional in their approach may fall by the wayside and decide not to register. So the owner / managers that are professional will thrive as there won’t be a flood of accommodation on the market.
COVID-19 will have a huge impact on the travel industry. Implementing COVID-19 plans including cleaning etc. In the short-term Aussies will be chilling out like a local in Australia. Especially as international travel to Australia will be restricted until they find a vaccine. Aussies that have made plans to travel overseas or take cruises have changed their plans to travel in Australia. Some states have border restrictions which need to be lifted to encourage tourism and travel again in Australia.
Australian Domestic Flight Travel: Chillout Like A Local In Australia
Qantas and Jetstar will be gradually bring back in flights. Subsequently this will make it easier to travel and stay in short term rental accommodation in Australia again. Similarly travel will resume between Australia and New Zealand as we have got COVID-19 under control. In the meantime we don’t want to open up international travel if it means it is not safe for Australian citizens. Consequently travel and tourism will go backwards again.
Guest confidence in safety and cleanliness of properties and booking again with confidence. Borders need to open and domestic flight travel to resume.
What do you think will be the biggest game changer in the travel industry in the next 12 months?
Online Travel Agents (OTAs) has been hugely impacted by COVID-19. As a result they will have to reassess their business model and accordingly owners and property managers will be more respected. In conclusion owners, hosts and property managers will have to make adjustments over the next 12 months.
Personally the thing that I want to change in the next 12 months is to be less reliant on OTAs. I want to learn and improve website, SEO, digital marketing and social media. This includes FaceBook / Instagram / LinkedIn, blogs and FaceBook advertising. The last 12 months I have had 11-12% of Direct Bookings (phone, SMS, email and website). So the next 12 months I want 30% to be direct bookings. Accordingly this will be a game changer.
What are some of the drawcards of the Aussie Chillout locations?
- Talbingo NSW: one of the most picturesque villages in Australia. Blowering, Jounama and Talbingo Dams are nearby. Two dams you can boat and fish. Great water in creeks and waterfalls. Challenging bush walks through Kosciusko National Park and Bargo State Forest. Interesting towns in surrounding areas plus Yarrangobilly Caves.
- Cessnock NSW: gateway to the Hunter Valley and the 2nd largest vineyards in Australia (Pokolbin and Lovedale). Hunter Valley Gardens, Hunter Valley Zoo, joy flights, hot air ballooning, wine tasting, cheese, olives, chocolate, restaurants, cafes and intriguing shops. Antiques, art and specialty shops. Day trips to Newcastle, Maitland, Wollombi and Port Stephens.
- Salamander Bay NSW: centrally located in the Port Stephens peninsula. Lots of surf and bay beaches, swimming, boating, scuba diving, golf, dolphin and whale watching. Spectacular views from Tomaree National Park. Lots to see and do, markets, restaurants and cafes.
- Manilla NSW: regional town near Tamworth NSW. Country music festival, Namoi and Peel River join at Manilla. Great for swimming, fishing and white-water drifting. Paragliding and gliders, Lake Keepit and Split Rock Reservoir. Lots of interesting day trips and hikes through national parks and state forests.
- Coolum Beach QLD: Sunshine Coast. 15-minute drive from Noosa and Maroochydore. Beaches galore. Learn to surf or go on boat ride. Shopping, restaurants and cafes, Ginger Factory and Bli Bli water park. Easy drive for travelling from Brisbane and Gold Coast.
- Midland WA: (near Perth). Centrally located. Easy 30-minute drive or train trip to Perth. 250 metre from shops, restaurants and cafes. Great location for overseas families visiting uni students. Other reasons to stay include hospital stays for loved ones while getting treatment at Midland Hospital. Perth Hills, historic Guilford and Swan Valley Wineries are places to visit. Go see an Aussie Rules game.
Chillout Like A Local In Australia.
If you could travel anywhere within Australia, what would that holiday look like for you? Talking Travel with Aussie Chillout
Hilary (wife) and I would love to visit places like the Kimberleys and Uluru. We have travelled overseas and in Australia. You can talk travel with Aussie Chillout anytime. Please engage with us.
Of all the 7 properties my 2 favourite places are Talbingo NSW and Coolum Beach QLD. Talbingo NSW: I love nature and walking and exploring Kosciusko National Park. Jounama Creek, waterfalls and Yarrangobilly Caves are some of my favourite places. Coolum Beach QLD on the Sunshine Coast my favourite things to do is go to beach, walk through Noosa National Park and climb Mount Coolum. The restaurants and cafes are fantastic. Noosa is an easy 15-minute drive.
Chillout Like A Local In Australia
This same article is at Travel Monitor. The content above is my own. I supplied the article to Travel Monitor for publication.
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