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Inaugural Destinationaire Award winners announced

Worldwide: The five winners have been announced for the inaugural Destinationaire Award, which was launched last month by the host of the Slick Talk podcast, Wil Slickers.

Over 40+ nominations for the first ever Destinationaire Award were received, but every nominee was very much deserving of the title “Destinationaire”, according to Slickers. As the nominations trickled in, he said that he knew that this was going to be a pivotal moment for the Destinationaire concept seeing that there had never been a word for the concept, until now.

The winners were chosen by extensive research and time of vetting through their companies’ social media, websites, guest reviews, listings on other platforms, branding, and representation of the hospitality industry.

Slickers said: “A Destinationaire is innovative and creative in service of others. A Destinationaire is selfless and leads selflessly. A Destinationaire knows how to tell a story. A Destinationaire builds trust and confidence with guests and staff.

“A Destinationaire masters the art of first impressions and experiences. A Destinationaire knows their stuff and puts safety as a top priority. A Destinationaire builds direct brand loyalty and provides value.

“The definition of a Destinationaire is a person who is wired to create remarkable experiences that are anticipated and shared,” he added.

More than 13 industry partners and sponsors teamed up in order to put the prizes together and help promote and nominate in their networks, including I-PRAC CEO and founder, Chris Maughan, who provided the first prize.

Slickers said: “The year 2020 hasn’t been an easy year for any of us in the hospitality industry and all that were nominated for this award didn’t make selecting a winner any easier!” 

Michael Goldin, director of operations at NoiseAware, Deborah Labi, founder of Have You Got, Jill Mason, CEO of VR Scheduler, Cliff Johnson, co-founder of Rented Inc, and Richard Vaughton, co-founder of Yes Consulting, were all volunteers to help select their top five winners that they thought were the best fit for the Destinationaire Award standards. Slickers was the head judge who made the final call on the selections. 

Slickers said: “We had a little over a week to take all nominations and to go through every single aspect of who they are and how they represent themselves and the industry. I spent more than just a few of those nights staying up and looking at every website, social media page, reviews on every platform etc to ensure that whoever won would be a true example of the Destinationaire concept and set the tone for next year.

“This was no no easy task as everyone nominated does amazing work in our industry,” he added. 

The final winners were as follows:

1st: Tim Andrews with Ovo Network

2nd: Ellie Paget with Homeslice Stays

3rd: Bob Garner with Casal Dei Fichi

4th: Robin Craigen with Moving Mountains

5th: Jessica Hinton with Barefoot Vacation Rentals

Tim Andrews from OVO Network won first prize [Credit: Wil Slickers]

Slickers said: “All were nominated for amazing reasons and again, it wasn’t easy to get to this conclusion. Each winner represents amazing uniqueness and a true hospitality heart and spirit.

“They showed selflessness in their leadership, amazing storytelling through branding and on other media platforms, and put trust and confidence along with safety at the forefront of operations while maintaining great guest experience. Congratulations everyone for fabulous work and doing what you do!

“As hard as this was, I love how this showed the amazing depth our industry has. Including all nominations to the finalists, it truly showcases the beautiful representation of hospitality.

“I am truly honoured to have had the opportunity to put this together. I am already working on changes for next year and can’t wait to see this grow,” he added. 

Wil Slickers

To come from the award, the Destinationaire Club™ that was announced as part of the prizes for the top five winners will also include all nominees. According to Slickers, the club will be a “shared community from around the world that drives discussions to better each other, their communities and the industry”, that includes an online forum and a private club podcast with a deep dive on industry topics.

News Articles

How to make sure your vacation rental isn’t a scam

Scammers are getting more sophisticated, but Airbnb and Vrbo offer protections

(Illustration by Katty Huertas/The Washington Post; iStock)

Jennifer Austin had no reason to believe the vacation rental she booked on Vrbo was a scam. The photos of the home in Oro Valley, Ariz., featured a cozy living room with overstuffed furniture, a widescreen TV and a bathroom with designer soaps — all located in a “close-knit community.”

But the listing wasn’t what she expected from the photos, says Austin, a retired software salesperson from Westford, Mass.

“It was a trailer,” she says. “And it was in a trailer park.”

When Austin checked in and discovered the problem, she asked for a refund. The owner pushed back.

“She said, ‘You should have known it was a trailer,’” Austin remembers. “She refused to refund us. She got really nasty and threatened to sue me if I posted a bad review.”

Situations like Austin’s probably won’t be the last. A Philadelphia woman recently found out that her home was fraudulently listed on Airbnb when a family showed up to check in.

It’ll be a busy year for vacation rentals, with demand up 5.5 percent from 2022 and average daily rates projected to rise almost 2 percent, to a record $278 per night, according to AirDNA, which tracks Airbnb and Vrbo performance. With more rental units flooding the market — AirDNA’s 2023 outlook forecast a record supply of 1.4 million listings in the United States and a 9 percent increase in nights listed from last year — there are bound to be a few scam rentals, experts warn.

“Scammers know you’re looking for a great location that’s available and affordable,” says Phil Foxall, owner of TNP Vacations and a 27-year law enforcement veteran. “They’re preying on your emotions to con you into stealing your money — and your vacation memories.”

I know a thing or two about vacation rental scams; fraudulent rentals keep me busy as a consumer advocate. But I’ve also been living in vacation rentals almost full-time for the past five years. I’ve stayed in all kinds of places, including a sparkling new Vrbo rental in Cape Town, South Africa, that came with daily cleaning service and an “eclectic” apartment in Athens that reeked of cigarettes. (I checked out immediately and received a full refund.) I’ve fortunately never fallen for a listing that didn’t exist.

So how do you know whether the place you’re looking into is a scam? Here’s a checklist to go through before booking your next rental.

Did you fully read the listing?

Right? But read carefully. Austin booked a “manufactured home,” which can sometimes mean a trailer. The listing should have offered a clue, prompting her to ask a few questions, such as, “What kind of manufactured home?” (Answer: It’s a trailer on wheels.) And, “Can you tell me about the neighborhood?” (Answer: It’s in a trailer park.)

Fortunately, Austin’s case had a happy ending: She disputed the charges on her credit card and received a full refund.

Do they want you to wire money?

“Be wary of properties that ask for payment via wire transfer or prepaid debit card,” warns Michael Sheridan, an associate professor in Temple University’s tourism and hospitality management department.

Some vacation rental owners will ask you to skip online platforms such as Airbnb or Vrbo and make a direct payment in exchange for a lower rate. But then you’ll forfeit the protections of those platforms. Both Airbnb and Vrbo offer service guarantees if the rental isn’t what you expect. But once you send money by wire or through a service such as Zelle, it’s gone.

Is the price too good to be true?

If you find that a rental costs hundreds of dollars less than the other homes in the area, chances are it’s a scam. Ryan Dame, co-owner of Casago vacation rentals, says if you see a rental that looks like a steal, you may be about to lose your money. “If the price is too good to be true,” he says, “it likely is.”

Do the photos look fake?

If the interior looks like a spread in Architectural Digest, that might be a clue.

Vacation rental owners sometimes add unnecessary photos of bathroom amenities or a wine bottle with two glasses on a table. That can be a warning sign, because they add nothing to the listing.

Also look for a clear exterior shot of the property. Bottom line, says Connor Griffiths, CEO of the Canadian vacation rental company Lifty Life: “Be wary of properties that have photos that look staged or fake.”

Does the description read like a bad translation?

If your vacation rental description contains misspellings, typographical errors or bad grammar, you may be looking at a fraudulent listing, industry watchers say.

“If there are spelling or grammatical errors in communications or the lease itself, it may be a red flag,” says Craig Stevens, CEO of Shore Term Rentals. Although it’s rare, listings like these may be a sign that the rental doesn’t exist.

Did you read the reviews?

Reviews by past guests are one of the best ways to prevent a scam. “Be careful of those without reviews,” says Paul Becker, owner of Bluewater Vacation Homes.

That may indicate that the rental isn’t what it appears, especially if the price is significantly lower than those of competing properties. If you see two or three reviews that use the same language to describe their stay (“a hidden gem!”), they might be fake.

Does your listing appear on only one platform?

It’s a good sign if a listing shows up on multiple platforms, especially Airbnb and Vrbo, the two major vacation rental sits. Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace may be sketchier. You can find whether your vacation rental is listed on other platforms by checking HiChee, which also shows you where to find the lowest rate.

“With vacation rentals, the most important thing is to make sure you’re booking with a reputable company,” says Jessica Hinton, owner of Barefoot Vacation Rentals. “When booking from a large platform like Airbnb or Vrbo, there are many protections.” That includes relocating you to a new rental or reimbursing you if something goes wrong.

Did you double-check the website address?

Scammers are getting more sophisticated, says Steve Weisman, a professor at Bentley University and an expert on white-collar crime. One ruse involves creating a site that looks like a legitimate platform, then demanding payment by wire.

His insider tip: Find the owner’s name and check online with the tax assessor’s office for the city. “See if the name matches that of the person you are dealing with,” he says.

What if your rental isn’t what you expected?

If you check into a vacation rental that doesn’t meet your expectations, you have options. First, notify the host immediately that you have a problem and try to resolve the issue. If your host won’t help you, remember that both Vrbo and Airbnb have published guarantees that your rental will be as described.

Vrbo’s Book With Confidence Guarantee says that if the property is “materially misrepresented” in the listing, it will help you book a new reservation. Austin, the traveler who checked into a trailer, could have invoked the guarantee.


Airbnb’s rebooking and refund policy says if the listing contains a “material inaccuracy,” such as an incorrect home type or the wrong number of rooms, it will assist with rebooking a reservation.

Travel insurance generally doesn’t cover a material misrepresentation, but as a last resort, you can dispute your credit card charges. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, you’re protected for goods and services that you didn’t accept and that were not as described in your agreement.

The Lady with Tools in Her Pocket

By Lynn Effinger

March 8, 2019


At first glance, Jessica Abrego looks like many other attractive young ladies one encounters all over our valley. But assuming she is just another pretty face, like many assumptions we make on a regular basis, belies all that makes her quite unique. You see, Jessica is a refrigeration mechanic in the Air National Guard where she has served for over thirteen years. She is also an aspiring entrepreneur whose energy, enthusiasm, passion to succeed, and desire to be recognized for her accomplishments are driving her to succeed.

But let’s take a step back for a moment to share why Jessica is so driven. She was born in 1987 in Oahu, Hawaii to parents who had previously served in the United States Air Force. Prior to Jessica’s birth, both of her parents were addicted to drugs, and they never quite lost the habit. Her father, a narcissist, who was very abusive to her mother and at times had an extremely violent temper. Her mother, while also using drugs, was still a “rock” to Jessica and her two siblings despite the debilitating effects that drugs and an abusive husband had on her physically, emotionally and mentally.

With many difficult and even frightening experiences throughout her youth, Jessica found escape through school and by playing sports, especially excelling in paddling and special forces (JROTC) in high school. She was on the Aiea High School State Champion paddling team, winning a trip to Tahiti to compete there. Since she was still in Hawaii, paddling, as you would expect, was an important sport on the Islands. By playing sports and competing at a high level, Jessica was able to build her self-esteem and self-respect while gaining a stronger sense of family than she experienced in her own home. Because her parents certainly couldn’t put her through college, and she was not able to afford to pay for her own higher education, Jessica decided to join the Air National Guard at the age of 18, signing a six-year contract, which she continues to renew. Her father was also a refrigeration mechanic in the Air Force before he was booted out due of his drug abuse. Jessica hadn’t learned much about the trade from her father but was intrigued with his handiness and his ability to fix almost anything. When she joined the Air National Guard, she knew that becoming a refrigeration mechanic was the natural thing to do.

Being a young, attractive woman certainly presented challenges for Jessica while serving in the Guard. But she persevered and gained the respect of her peers in uniform along the way. She says she became known as “The ‘Lady’ with tools in her pocket.” You will soon learn how her mechanical nature and experiences are paying off in a big way today.

Jessica got married to a United States Marine when she was only 19 years old while stationed in Hawaii. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, while the young couple had two daughters together, they came to realize that they were not right for each other and were divorced several years ago. The “good news” surrounding the divorce is that they continue to raise their girls equally and show no animosity towards each other, which is very healthy for the girls. Aurelia who is now 10, and Audrey, who is 9, are just one year and a day apart in age. Fast forward. Today Jessica Abrego is the president of Barefoot Vacation Rentals, a thriving property management company that grew out of Jessica’s vacationing in Puerta Vallarta and staying in a vacation rental there. Shortly before this trip, Jessica purchased her first home, a small house off La Serena in Temecula, using her VA loan. When she came home from her trip, she decided to begin renting out that home as a vacation rental with no idea how much one could make by renting out your own home.

As a single mom, many of her friends thought Jessica was crazy to rent out the home where she lived with her two daughters. But a year later she had saved up enough money to buy her second home in San Diego. Those same friends have become “believers.” Some of them began renting out their homes in the Temecula Valley with Jessica’s help as the property manager. She now has 15 properties that she manages, including her ex-husband’s home, which she recently remodeled.

Jessica also recently sold her Temecula home, and purchased a much bigger home in Murrieta, which she also rents out. She reports that it is not unusual for her clients to generate revenue that is two times their monthly mortgage cost. She plans to buy a third property in the near future and believes she won’t stop there.

Like their mother, Jessica’s daughters are talented, athletic, and smart beyond their age. They assist her in many ways, including making “how-to” videos for the guests, helping to design and stage things for photos and videos, and even web site design. Jessica says they are her inspiration.

Jessica Abrego has overcome many challenges and adversity in her young life through tenacity and perseverance, as well as through her willingness and ability to “get her hands dirty” to achieve success in the vacation rental business. She is a marvelous example of someone who has a vision, sets goals and doesn’t let anyone define who she is or what she can accomplish. As they say in the Air Force: “Aim High, Fly-Fight-Win. Jessica does, and she is.


On the surface, Jessica Abrego’s vacation rental origin story is a common one. She discovered the magic of short-term rentals as a guest on a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and decided to try renting out her Temecula, CA house in 2015. She immediately fell in love with being an ambassador for her hometown and decided later to purchase a second home in San Diego. Not long after, her friends began asking for her help in renting out their properties, too. A few months into cohosting, Jessica realized she had a business opportunity on her hands and launched her own property management company, Barefoot Vacation Rentals, in January of 2018 and never looked back. 

“I love what I do,” Jessica said. “I feel like this is what God has made me to do. Some days are harder than others, but for me it comes easy. I enjoy hosting people. I enjoy getting to know people. I enjoy taking care of making sure that when someone comes in, they are going to get nothing but a five-star experience.” 

Today, the 32-year-old manages 20 homes in Temecula and San Diego, California and one in Beaufort, South Carolina. Each of the California homes has a clever wine-themed name like Everything Happens for a Riesling and Hakuna Moscato, cheeky nods to Temecula Valley’s more than 40 vineyards. 

The region draws nearly 3 million annual visitors, many of whom come to explore the southern California wine country or attend one of nearly 5,500 weddings that take place there each year. 

Working with her daughters

Jessica estimated she hosts about 10,000 of these guests annually. She does so with the help of a small team: a virtual assistant in Beaufort (who also helps manage the property there) and an assistant in Temecula. She also partners with a few local cleaning companies, a local photographer, a gardener, and a pool technician. This week, she posted her third job opening for a handy(wo)man.

Jessica and her daughters

Whomever she hires will have some great trainers: 11-year-old Aurelia and 10-year-old Audrey, Jessica’s daughters. The girls don’t just “help” their single mom with the business, they work. They take care of office administrative tasks, call Airbnb to handle cancellations, participate in city council meetings, and tackle common vacation rental maintenance issues. 

They even hosted a YouTube series called Girls of All Trades that taught viewers basic home maintenance skills, like replacing broken towel racks. In that tutorial, the girls stand side by side on a chair in glittery shirts and tool belts and explain every step of the process, helping each other and giggling throughout. 

As a bonus, each video also comes with a joke of the week. “Audrey, who cleans the sea?” Aurelia asks. After a few guesses (Octopuses? Farts?), Aurelia reveals the answer: a mermaid. It’s no surprise that grumpy guests are swiftly charmed when the sisters show up in response to their complaints, tools in hand ready to save the day.

The trio’s handy skills came from Jessica’s career as a refrigeration tech in the Air National Guard, where she has served for 14 years. “I couldn’t do what I do if it wasn’t for the military,” she said. The combination of hands-on mechanical skills and experience managing contractor projects has translated perfectly into managing vacation homes. 

Jessica and her daughters

That, and her effervescent personality. She’s open, cheerful, and giggly, traits she clearly passed down to Aurelia and Audrey. Owners in her program describe her as honest, trustworthy, and good to her word. 

Barefoot’s homeowners are also prior military, town residents, and some are elderly – and they all have their own story, Jessica said. “Most are just people like me, all just making by and enjoying the benefits of having a vacation rental.” They know that if they like talking to her as much as they do, guests will, too. 

And they do. Barefoot’s five-star reviews recount Jessica’s hospitality the most. For her, “hosting means giving the best experience someone can have,” she said. “You can go to hotels and get a stay there that’s just a standard bed and a kitchen and a bathroom. We want to go above and beyond.” 

A touch of local business

In doing so, Barefoot has partnered with dozens of local businesses to drive her guests to them by offering buy-one-get-one wine tastings, discounts at restaurants and wine tours, and other experiences. 

“I love that the vacation rental business keeps the money with local people,” she said. “We’re not a hotel corporation, we’re not some huge honcho living in Beverly Hills. We are local people, helping local people, coming in and keeping the money local… I don’t send any of my guests to Chili’s. There’s nothing wrong with Chili’s, but I’m sending them to the mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall local taco shop that has the best tacos in town.”

So many of her guests follow her recommendations and take part in the offerings that many local businesses know Jessica before she even meets them. 

It’s not just her guests, homeowners, contractors, and local businesses who get something special out her and her daughters’ magnetic hospitality. One of Jessica’s most profound hosting experiences started with a noise monitoring alert. The guests in her private home, an Afghan family, were playing music too loudly. When Jessica and the girls stopped by to address it, the family graciously turned the music down and invited them in for a traditional Afghan dinner. Later, they taught Jessica and the girls traditional dances in their living room. She told Aurelia and Audrey, “This is the joy of doing vacation rentals. You get to meet people from all around the world, different cultures, different foods, different ways of doing things, but we are all enjoying life.”

It’s time for moments like these that make vacation rentals Jessica’s passion, the why behind what she does. The business grew enough in its first nine months she was able to quit her full-time job by September 2018, freeing up her time to spend more of it with others. 

“I enjoy the freedom that the vacation rental business has given me,” she said. “I work more than 40 hours a week now, but I have the flexibility of when those 40 hours are.” She can work from her phone and her computer wherever she is, which allows her to travel with her daughters.

When they aren’t traveling, Jessica gives much of her time back to the community. She currently serves as the president of the Short Term Rental Alliance of Temecula, educating fellow hosts and property managers as the city considers banning short-term rentals and advocating on behalf of the group. She also raises funds for Door of Faith Orphanage, sponsoring two children monthly and inviting guests to join the cause, and she organized a massive birthday party for 75 foster kids with Royal Family KIDS.

But for Jessica, the thing she cherishes most is the extra time she gets with her girls every day. “The greatest thing is being able to take my kids to and from school. I never was able to do that, ever,” she said. “Now, with the girls in fifth and sixth grade, I can.”

Barefoot Vacation Rentals

Barefoot Vacation Rentals has chosen VRScheduler for its operations management software.

Barefoot Vacation Rentals, a vacation property management company located in Temecula, California, has chosen VRScheduler to help manage its busy operations. They worked with 365Villas to integrate with VRScheduler. They had previously been relying on group text messages to communicate with staff and manage workflow, so they were particularly attracted to VRScheduler’s Master Calendar, Drag and Drop Scheduling Calendar, and Issues and Maintenance Tracking to help streamline their daily operations.

Locally owned by a United States military veteran, Barefoot Vacation Rentals has been managing local vacation rentals since 2015. They always strive to provide a 5-star experience for each of their guests by going above and beyond the standard Airbnb. Each of their homes is equipped with complimentary coffee, tea, water bottles on the bedside, and local honey. Two stemless wine glasses are also available in each home and can be taken home with a quick photo of them posted on a social media account. The Barefoot team loves to travel, share local experiences, and offer great recommendations in the area.

Barefoot also provides semi-annual home inspections and routine maintenance of the 40+ homes they are currently managing. They strive to always have guests feel their business motto: “Life is Truly Better Barefoot.”’

“VRScheduler has been a lifesaver with our growing business and growing team,” said Jessica Hinton, Owner of Barefoot Vacation Rentals. “We are able to properly document, assign, and follow up on our 40+ homes to ensure we stay on top of all recurring maintenance, urgent matters are addressed promptly, and our guests receive nothing but a 5-star experience when staying in one of our homes because we are able to track everything.  Our homeowners also see a great benefit in this program, as they are now able to see the repairs and maintenance being performed on their homes.“

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