Are Big Businesses Putting The Squeeze On You?

In a recent survey of more than 3000 small businesses in the leisure industry we asked the question …

What are the two or three things that concern you most in your business?

Not really surprisingly two of the top three were about customers namely …

  • Not enough customers
  • Not a regular supply of customers
  • And followed by … not enough time to do everything

But a number of replies were concerned about the way big businesses use their size, budgets and influence to put the squeeze on small businesses.

So is competion fair?

Big v small 1






One of the replies was from Nick Marshall who with his wife Lizzie has been running holiday rentals for nearly 25 years and owns Cairns Holiday Homes in North Queensland Australia.

Nick has seen lots of changes in this time and none moreso than the effect the Internet has had on his business and no doubt on many other small businesses

Here’s what he had to say..

Dear Cliff.

Thank you for the feedback regarding the effect of large corporate interests taking a huge bite out of holiday rentals for doing little more than listing properties.
This was bound to happen. The internet, in its early days at least, offered a far cheaper method for small businesses to potentially be seen. The only way that small business could advertise in the mass media was through the traditional media of the press, radio and tv. For most of us that meant small ads in the classified columns or, at much greater cost, taking out an ad in the weekend travel pages of a national newspaper. 
Twenty five years ago that was costing me nearly A$300 per week. In Australia the “rivers of gold” as the Fairfax newspaper group’s weekend advertising columns were known was decimated by the swing to the internet and the rise of eBay and many other alternatives. Not surprisingly they took action and bought a site called Ozstays which became Stayz. 
That site had been started as a listing site for holiday homes and apartments in 2001 but soon started listing hotels, motels and resorts – probably because the founders realised that the more listings they had, the more they could sell the site for. Stayz was purchased by Fairfax for about $12 million in 2005 and then sold to Homeaway for around A$220 but that included more than A$150 million of debt. Even so, it was a very good return on investment. Homeaway, which has grown by a string of worldwide takeovers, was after the 50,000 odd listings and gross margin that exceeded 56% in 2012.
None of this should surprise but I really do not see how these very large businesses can survive with their present business model. They are all actively trying to separate the supplier from the customer until after the booking has been made. 
Unfortunately, the majority of holiday homes do not have a brand name (such as a hotel might have). Customers are taking a real risk when they book a home without the opportunity to talk to the managers or the owners. 
The large sites like Homeaway, those operating under its name and AirBnB are expecting the public to trust their own brand name. Unfortunately, problems are happening ( trashing of properties, theft, prostitution etc) because none of these corporate sites are able to check out their clients. Flipkey is, I think, in a slightly better position because of its association with TripAdvisor which is the giant in customer feedback for all things to do with holidays.
Sure, these large listing sites do now attempt to verify ownership but their whole model is based on the owner or manager providing all the details of the property (copy, photographs, calendar data) when they list. 
Homeaway recently passed 1 million listings worldwide and AirBnB has around 600 thousand listings.
With the amount of debt these corporations are carrying, there is no way that they can support their customers by providing a service that answers questions about individual properties. By preventing the pre-booking connection between the customer and the owner or manager, they are essentially saying  “Trust Us!”
I do not think this will work because trust is breaking down everywhere at the moment. This provides an enormous opportunity for home owners and managers to get off their butts and build their own websites which will better serve their customers. 
Of course, it is very hard to have a one property site which is going to be seen because the gateway is Google and there are only so many page one spots. Having said that, there are still many home owners who are not making use of Google Local for Business to be seen. 
Property owners have to get together with other property owners in the same region or even the same suburb in large cities. Some areas already have well run websites specialising in that area. Support them.
Getting a good domain name is not as hard as it might seem. A name containing the name of the suburb, the village, the town, the region or sub-region or region is often available. Building a wordpress website is the easiest and least costly part. The hard bit is keeping the website updated and running an interesting, relevant and useful blog on the site to build up authority. 
It is hard work and very time consuming. The days of list and forget are over – unless an owner wants to spend thousands more for elevated listing positions. It takes commitment and contribution by the owners to make it work.
Those who don’t take the plunge now will be lost in the listings. There is a wealth of good advice on the web – Matt Landau and Heather Bayer for example. This subject was touched on at the  Vacation Rental World Summit this year. The cost of the webinar recordings is a small price to pay for the great advice offered.
The web is about doing it yourself rather than expecting others to do it for you.
Yours sincerely,
Nick Marshall
Some pretty insightful words from Nick not only about the effect of large businesses but also about the difficulties businesses of all sizes face in the rental property market, and some advice to owners and future owners of rental properties.
We also heard from Christopher de Hrussoczy-Wirth, Kitsilano Cottage, Vancouver, Canada who sees the financial clout big businesses have on the industry and how they infliuence local government, and from Uwe-Dorte Bockwoldt of Tyll’s Dive, Roatan, Honduras who says that much of the solution is in their own hands.
Christopher wrote … 
First would definitely be the incursion by big captial into the highly successful realm of residential based accommodations industry. The folks behind the vast infusion of capital into the directory listing and booking parts of our industry are ill suited to support and cater to the actual needs of what started out as a bunch of Mom & Pop operations. We really don’t want or need corporate types telling us how to run our businesses. Yet their deep pockets have given them a strangle hold on a segment of the accommodations industry that is now being victimized by its success.

Another concern that is escalating is the prospect of increasing local government regulations, mostly being driven by major hotels who see our industry as a threat to their bottom line.


Uwe-Dorte wrote … 
Hi Cliff
Have enjoyed your tips and hints.
The travel and tourism industry is very competitive and as small businesses we are invariably stretched for time and in many cases don’t have the necessary skills to compete with bigger businesses.
As a very small business, The ups and downs during the year can be concerning. We are aiming to get a a more steady flow again. 
We do not need to be crazy busy, but need steadiness. We are building it up getting more and more repeat divers. 
We are sliding down our rank in Tripadvisor. We do encourage new divers to make a review. But having so many repeat divers coming several times a year for years, it is hard to expect them to continue putting on reviews after each visit. The bigger shops have bigger turnover and many more people writing reviews.
Am afraid I am not promoting what we do good enough.
So many thanks to Nick, Christopher and Uwe-Dorte for their feedback and to the many otheres who took time to reply to us.  It is very much appreciated.
Cliff Chapman
If your businesses is being affected by “Big Business Practices” then we would love to hear from you.


What to see, plus the best bars, hotels and restaurants

Outside Oktoberfest, the Bavarian capital is a graceful city – green in summer, atmospheric in winter, and buzzing with great museums and bars year round.








And for links to great places to visit, where to stay and what to do visit us at 

Affordable Places To Live in Europe

Not Just For Retirement, These Are Great Places To Live …  

Europe’s Top 5 Affordable Retirement Havens


Imagine the smell of freshly-baked croissants wafting through the air, or the satisfying swallow of wine made from grapes grown just down the road. Perhaps you muse about living on a sun-drenched Mediterranean beach or tucked down a cobbled lane savoring the cosmopolitan delights of a history-rich city…

A retirement in Europe is a dream for many folks. And it can easily be a reality. If it’s culture, history, and variety you’re after, Europe has it all, and at a cost much lower than you may think… Over the next few pages we explore the five best low-cost options for enjoying your perfect European retirement.

Each of these countries contradicts the dated view of Europe as a continent for the wealthy retiree

Read more

France: Pleasantly Affordable, Great Quality of Life

By Barbara Diggs


You didn’t expect France to be on this list, did you? Many people can never believe the land that gave the world the likes of Versailles, Chanel, and the term haute cuisine could be anything other than prohibitively expensive.

Don’t let France’s glittering reputation blind you. France is a wealthy, First-World country, but the average French person only makes about $30,000 per year. Outside of high-glamor zones like Paris, Provence, and the sun-soaked towns of the Riviera, the cost of living and real estate can be surprisingly reasonable…yet the quality of life remains very high.

Read more

Spain: Sunny, Affordable European Living

By Glynna Prentice


Warm, sunny days by the glittering Mediterranean, cool nights at an outdoor café, lingering over dinner until the wee hours, mouthwatering paella, mounds of fresh seafood, succulent roast lamb (and flavorful wines to accompany them), rich, ancient culture, hilltop castles, and vast stretches of countryside just made for hiking and cycling. Spain invites you to wax lyrical over its many charms and its laidback lifestyle. Here, having fun is expected and hanging out is an art.

And these days, that appealing lifestyle is very affordable. Spain has long been one of the least-expensive countries in Europe. And today, with real estate prices at their lowest in decades and the euro weaker than it’s been in years, Spain is a downright bargain, whether you’re looking to live here full- or part-time.

Read more

Malta: The Best of European Island Life

By Gigi Griffis


Ask any expat why they upped sticks to relocate to the tiny Mediterranean island nation of Malta (all 122 square miles of it—not a whole lot bigger than Nantucket) and the same three reasons keep cropping up: sea, sunshine, and the friendly and welcoming population of English-speaking locals. I encountered all three in abundance on my journeys through this captivating island chain. And having traveled throughout Europe, I can honestly say that Malta fits the bill for an ideal retirement destination.

In Malta, you’ll find abundant sunshine even at the height of winter. Valletta, the nation’s scenic capital and adorned with historic buildings, is renowned as the warmest capital in Europe—and with less than 7,000 inhabitants, a highly manageable one, at that. Even in January, you’ll still find temperatures in the 60s F, rising to the 80s F during the glorious summer months.

Read more

Italy: A Passion for Apulia

By Steenie Harvey


It’s understandable why many Americans regard Italy as expensive. I would, too, if I’d ever been foolish enough to pay $20 for an ice cream near Rome’s Trevi fountain or take a $120 gondola ride in Venice.

Thankfully, I spend far more time outside “tourist Italy” than in it.

Venture beyond the country’s big-ticket destinations, and you’ll likely be amazed at how inexpensive it can be. It’s not a case of compromise either—just like art treasures, history, and luscious landscapes, good living is everywhere.

Leaving aside hotspots like Capri and Sorrento, the farther south you go, the more prices fall. A quick example: The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Milan is $1,000 and in Florence it’s $700. But in Lecce, a flamboyantly baroque city in the Apulia region of Italy’s deep south, it’s $436.

Read more

Portugal: The Last Bastion of True Old World Living

By Eoin Bassett


Ask your average European to describe England, Italy, or France and they will have an answer—even if they have never been. But beyond its southern beach towns and the elegant old capital of Lisbon, Portugal will have them stumped.

Few folks—not even the neighbors—have a clear picture of this small country. It’s Iberian but not Spanish. It nowhere touches the Mediterranean Sea yet it is in ways Mediterranean.

It’s small—no bigger than Indiana—but diverse, with each region distinct. You’ll spend the afternoon eating lamb in a mountain hamlet where wood smoke wafts from ancient stone homes, and that same evening dine on fresh fish on a sandy Atlantic beach.

Read more

Many thanks to International Living Magazine



EHIC - Travel Insurance


You can use your card anywhere within the ‘European Economic Area’; so that’s all the countries in the EU plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and it also applies in Switzerland. You can find a full country guide on the NHS website.

Travel further afield and there’s no cover under the EHIC scheme, although some countries do have reciprocal arrangements with the UK, like Australia, New Zealand and Croatia, where you can get reduced cost medical treatment.


You’re entitled to healthcare on the same basis as the locals in whatever country you’re in. But this is the ‘basic level of state healthcare’, and as each country’s healthcare system varies, your EHIC may not cover all your costs.

If you’re on holiday in France and need medical treatment, then you’ll usually be expected to pay a doctor or dentist directly, even with an EHIC, but can pick up a treatment form which enables you to apply for a refund. You should then be able to claim back around 70% of your costs, which you can do by calling the NHS Overseas Team on 0191 218 1999. However you’ll need to submit your receipts and treatment form so make sure you hang on to any paperwork you’re given.

In Spain and Switzerland dental treatment is generally not available under the state system so you may well have to stump up. And in Cyprus, while it’s free for a doctor to issue you with a prescription (if you show your EHIC), you may get charged to pick it up from a chemist unless you visit a state pharmacy.

If your EHIC won’t cover the full cost of any treatment, you may be able to claim back the remaining ‘unpaid’ portion of the bill from your travel insurer. Some insurers like Churchill will waive the usual policy excess if the bulk of your bill is covered by your EHIC.


In practice you should be able to claim your free or reduced cost treatment by simply showing your card to the doctor, dentist or consultant carrying out your treatment.

But as your EHIC cover only applies in state run hospitals and clinics, (not private ones), be sure it is the state version you’re going to, and if you ask your tour rep for advice on which doctor or dentist to use, make sure they know you’re going to be getting any treatment using your EHIC.


So which is best to use and when? There’s no hard and fast rules on this but the Association of British Insurers (ABI) recommends that your EHIC is best kept for relatively routine treatment, such as if you need antibiotics, develop toothache or have a scrape that becomes infected.

Even if you don’t need to make a claim on your travel insurance for a minor incident like this, it’s best to let your insurer know that you’ve had medical treatment abroad.

If you’re unlucky enough to need more serious or emergency medical treatment then the ABI recommends using your travel insurance as policies provide not only medical cover, but will often cover other subsequent costs, which can be anything from rearranging your flight home, to having a family member stay on with you and even taxis and transport to the hospital for further appointments.

With some travel policies you’ll also be able to claim back things like the cost of phone calls which can quickly add up and would naturally be excluded if using your EHIC.


You’re covered for travel from the date of your application for up to five years, and if you’re abroad and lose your card you can apply for a provisional replacement certificate by calling the NHS overseas team on 0191 218 1999.

You’ll need to give details including your name, address, age and national insurance number but a temporary certificate can then be issued to the doctor or hospital treating you.


Make sure you apply for a free card on the official EHIC website. There are some commercial sites out there charging fees of around £9.99 a time to supply them, which is a complete con!

Thanks to Love Money News

Cliff Chapman



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For some very compelling reasons including:

  • The proliferation of smartphones
  • All-pervading bluetooth technology in cars and homes
  • And the powerful ability to start a conversation with an audience that’s keen to hear what you have to say or are interested in buying what you are selling.

Listeners can hear you on their morning jog or daily commute, time often spent listening to music, and you have your audience tuned in to what you have to say or promote or sell, even if they only have a few minutes to listen.

Here’s a simple road map for creating a podcast

It can be a bit daunting to get started for the first time which is why the team at Copyblogger have produced this road map for creating a podcast.

Creating great audio content involves many steps and these are the simplest and most effective ways when starting from scratch.

Even if you’re just writing and recording a script and letting someone else do all the production work, this road map will help you appreciate everything that comes together to create a podcast


How a Podcast Is Born [Infographic]

Read more  about why Copyblogger is betting big on podcasting  …


A good hotel can make or break a trip.

The worst hotel in the best place is an unfortunate experience.

The best hotel in the worst place can be a very pleasant experience.

But the best hotel in the best place is something we dream about.

Here are 48 absolutely epic dream hotels.