Marketing Vacation Rentals for Fall

teaching new renters to trust
Now is the time for marketing vacation rentals for fall breaks, and to create excitement about your location and the things your guests can do at this wonderful time of the year. The kids are back at school and things are generally quieter and more tranquil in most locations; rental rates are lower and it’s a great time for a vacation. Capturing the interest of potential travelers is key to creating interest in your property so here are a few ideas to get your marketing plans off the ground.

Fall Colors
Your niche ideas will be mostly location dependent and none more so than fall color attractions. This can attract international visitors if the locale is well-known for nature’s autumn spectacle. Of course, you will need amazing photos to whet the appetite of visitors but they need a little more to get them to choose your place over another, so offer self-guided driving tours and planners to help guests plan their vacation.

Canoeing/kayaking and other watersports
If your place is on the water and you have a canoe or kayaks, this is a great opportunity to offer an activity break that includes the gear. Stand-up paddle boarding is another popular sport and I’ve seen some great promotional packages where owners have organized a yoga instructor to come along and do some SUP yoga instruction. Just think outside the box a bit and come up with something a little out of the ordinary to attract water activity junkies.

Golfing Breaks
You can’t beat the fall to get some amazing golf in, so talk to your local course managers and see if they will offer vouchers for your guests. This could be a 2 for 1 deal; a free golf cart rental, or a Dine and Play offer. If your area has several courses then offer something like a 3 day stay and play package that gives access to different golf courses. Don’t forget that many fall guests vacation mid-week and this is when prices are lower and golf courses are needing players so you may get some very good deals set up.

Hiking and Biking
It’s not enough to just say ‘hiking and biking trails nearby’ on your listing. If you are blessed with marked trails then offer walking and cycling maps; detailed itineraries that show places to see, and to stop for refreshments or photography opportunities. In short, over deliver in attracting your fall guests.

Crafts, Antiquing and the Gourmet Trail
Guests who are looking for short breaks in the fall don’t generally bring children, and they are usually of an age that enjoys exploring local areas and byways.  They have time and money to spend, so help them to plan by offering lists of places to go.  Create Craft and Antique or Gourmet packages – for example in an area of wineries and restaurants, create a list of tasting rooms and places to eat.   Guests who are on short breaks don’t have a great deal of time to plan their outings when they arrive so appreciate help in maximizing their time.

The more help we can give our guests when they are planning a vacation, the happier they will be, and the more appreciative of your efforts.  Take some time to think about marketing vacation rentals for fall and you’ll be rewarded with more reservations.

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Family Friendly New England Beaches

A recent travel survey asked respondents to pick their favorite family friendly New England beaches. Picking a favorite is hard, since some travelers are looking for killer surf, while others seek solitude, and still more want warmer waters or a spectacular view. Here are the beaches travelers chose as their top faves, and what each beach has to lure you into a visit.

1. Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Old Orchard

Old Orchard is a festive town, loaded with crab shacks and souvenir shops. It boasts a 500-foot wooden pier jutting into the beautiful, chilly Atlantic waters, which has been rebuilt three times over the years after Mother Nature had her way on the treacherous Main coastline. Though many shops and restaurants cater to summer tourists, the town manages to retain its quaint heritage.

Old Orchard is a seven-mile stretch of beach with everything from bustling business to residential areas. Palace Playland is the seaside amusement park here, built in 1902 on four acres of beachfront property. This old timey amusement park entertains tourists, while fourty-odd restaurants cater to their every culinary whim, from clam steamers to pizza, prime rib to Greek, Chinese to karaoke bars, and Italian to Mexican. Of course, many of Old Orchard’s restaurants serve the traditional local delicacy: lobster and clam cooked every way you can conjure up.

2. Ogunquit, Maine

Ogunquit1

If Old Orchard is small, Ogunquit is comparatively tiny. The name means “beautiful place by the sea” in the indigenous Abenaki language. It sits at the junction of the Ogunquit River and the Atlantic, blessed with three and one-half miles of white, sandy beaches. The Ogunquit Playhouse is their summer theater, featuring music performed by Summer Stock, also known as Straw Hat Theater. The Playhouse is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Along the rocky cliffs of Ogunquit winds the 1.5 mile Marginal Way, a walking path overlooking the ocean. Ogunquit is an excellent beach for boogie boarding, with waves large enough to thrill children yet tame enough to be safe. The northern end offers lighter crowds. Visiting the tidal pools is popular here, where the waters are chilly year round. Bakeries and lobster shacks await the hungry Ogunquit visitor.

3. Kennebunk Beach, Maine

Surf on Owl Point

Kennebunk Beach features several distinctly different beaches, including Gooch’s Beach with its exciting wave action, Mother’s Beach with a playground and calmer waters, and the rocky yet spectacularly beautiful Middle Beach. Cleaves Cove Beach is more secluded with lots of scenery but no facilities. Goose Rocks Beach features soft sands ideal for walking and trolley access, but no facilities.

Boating, kayaking, white water rafting, golf, and skiing keep visitors merrily occupied in between lush meals prepared by local chefs using the bounty of fresh Maine seafood and produce. Kennebunkport is home to New England’s only five-star, AAA five-diamond restaurant: The White Barn Inn.

Breakfasts here consist of locally harvested blueberries cooked in fat pancakes and smothered with Maine maple syrup. Lunch is a hearty bowl of clam chowder, and dinner is a yummy Maine lobster. For snacks (and to take home and brag about), check out some Maine saltwater taffy and harbor candies. Get reservations for summer dining plans, as restaurants fill up quickly.

4. Hampton Beach, New Hampshire

Hampton Beach

This small town does summer in a big way: providing 80 free summer concerts, fireworks displays every week (16 total), a sand sculpture competition, the Miss Hampton Beach pageant, the Seafood Festival and national acts constantly at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom. If you want an action-packed vacation, Hampton Beach is perfect for you.

Hampton Beach has the distinct honor of scoring perfect in the water quality department for the past three years, and it’s one of four beaches that made “Superstar Beach” by the National Resource Defense Council for its safe environment and cleanliness. Ocean Boulevard is where all the action is, brimming with shops and businesses along the boardwalk. Nearby, residents and visitors enjoy 63 oceanfront acres of saltwater fishing, whale watching, and picnicking at Rye Harbor State Park. Odiorne State Park offers boating, fishing, hiking, biking, skiing, and picnicking along the rocky ocean shoreline.

5. Narragansett, Rhode Island

Naragansett

Nestled along the Pehaquamscutt River and Narragansett Bay, Narragansett isn’t as small as the first four towns on this list, and offers several beaches to enjoy. North Town Beach is the only paid beach in the area, as it’s the only one that doesn’t receive operational support from the government. Scarborough State Beach, Roger Wheeler State Beach, and Salty Brine State Beach are state-funded and charge only for parking.

Scarborough beach is separated into a north beach and a south beach, and offers lots of convenient facilities, including a boardwalk and observation tower. Salty Brine is situated in Point Judith, the southermost point of Narragansett, and is shielded by the breakwater which protects the port of Galilee. Hence, the waters here are the calmest of all Narragansett’s beaches.

Nearby Fisherman’s Memorial State Park is 91 acres of fun, featuring a real military fort. It was named in honor of Rhode Island’s many lost commercial and sport fishermen. If you tire of the endless offerings of clam and lobster along the New England coast, Narragansett is a great place to grab something a little different. Sample some of the unusual yet yummy flavors at Brickley’s Ice Cream, and have them serve it up in one of their fresh, homemade waffle cones. Or, sample some classic French cuisine at Basil’s Restaurant. For a flair of Portugal and Spain amidst an array of American dishes, spend an evening at Spain of Narragansett.

Did you expect more of the beaches in Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard to make the list? Many did make the top ten. Coast Guard Beach and Marconi Beach in Cape Cod cam in at numbers seven and nine, respectively, and Aquinnah Beach in Martha’s Vineyard rounded out the top ten.

Maine fared exceptionally well with travelers in the Family Friendly New England Beaches survey, with some squishy sand breaking up the rocky New England coastline to delight sunbathers and surfers alike. The only complaint most visitors gave these stellar beaches was cold water — which there is unfortunately no way to avoid in the northern Atlantic.

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3-Steps to Successful Vacation Rentals

Booking a vacation rental can be a frustrating time, and since I’ve been in ‘guest’ mode this week looking for last minute availability for an August vacation as well as a winter Bahamas break, I’ve experienced it first-hand. As well as this, as an owner of a busy rental agency, we are hearing exasperated voices regularly as potential guests voice their irritation at not getting what they want, when they want and at the price they want, so I’m seeing both sides of the coin at the moment and wondering how to make a truly successful vacation rental.

Our got-to-have-it-now society is changing the game. Customers have higher demands, greater expectations and less patience. They want accuracy in rates and availability, a quick response to enquiries and their needs addressed with an attentive level of customer service. And…with a lot of choice available, they will bail very fast if those needs are not met.

So, what do you do?

It’s simple really. Follow the 3-step mantra that successful vacation rental owners use:

Be Responsive

Reply quickly to any communication.  Use telephone if you can because that’s a great reassurance to your guests.  I was back and forth with an owner of a Bahamas vacation home this week, and when she called me to clarify a few things, it was a seal-the-deal moment.  If I had been unsure of my choice, her simple act of picking up the phone confirmed we had made the right decision.

Guests don’t want to be kept waiting for answers to questions and will quickly move onto another option if they don’t get a speedy response.  If you snooze, you lose!

Be Proactive

Try to be one step ahead of your guests’ requirements.  When I booked my 2014 Exuma vacation yesterday, I had all sorts of questions about car rental, flight schedules and housekeeping arrangements.  Before I asked, I was sent a comprehensive document that included all the answers.  Now that was proactive service.

Be Customer Focused

We all have busy lives and don’t want to spend time on unnecessary paperwork so make sure your booking process is streamlined.  With so many booking engines available, as well as the easy availability of electronic agreements requiring simple digital signatures, there is no need to have your guests faxing or mailing in agreements.  Making the process easier will become more important as competition grows.

I wasn’t able to find a Florida location unfortunately, due to inaccurate calendars, a general lack of response and some pretty poor customer service from agencies, so we’ve decided not to go now.  I am sure there are owners out there who could have benefited from the business.  Perhaps a few of them will read this and up their game.  It’s time to get real in this business.

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“No One Told us there were Fish in the Sea!” – Travel Experiences

A 2011 travel survey by tour operator Thomas Cook and the ABTA (the Association of British Travel Agents) listed a number of outrageous complaints vacationers had made to their travel agents about their travel experiences.  While most of these will make you laugh and wonder at the nature of people who make what seem to be frivolous complaints,  it’s worthwhile considering how their expectations could have been better addressed before they got to the complaint stage.

  • “I think it should be explained in the brochure that the local store does not sell proper biscuits like custard creams or ginger nuts.”
  • “It’s lazy of the local shopkeepers to close in the afternoons. I often needed to buy things during ‘siesta’ time – this should be banned.”
  • “On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food at all.”
  • “We booked an excursion to a water park but no-one told us we had to bring our swimming costumes and towels.”
  • “The beach was too sandy.”
  • “We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as yellow but it was white.”
  • “We bought ‘Ray-Ban’ sunglasses for five Euros from a street trader, only to find out they were fake.”
  • “No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled.”
  •  ”I was bitten by a mosquito, no-one said they could bite.”

 

I spoke with a guest recently about a lakefront location they had booked, and were disappointed that the lake bed was rocky and one of their children had cut his foot.  The listing had mentioned there were rocks but it wasn’t enough – “the owner should have provided detailed information on where the rocks were located to prevent injury”.

It’s easy to say that travelers should be responsible for finding out location information on their own, but the best recourse is for owners to share what they know in the most comprehensive way possible.  Let them know if there are bugs or fish in the sea; describe local customs and cultural differences, and what they should expect to find on a restaurant menu.  If there are hazards they may encounter in the local area, whether it’s a security or a safety issue, give a warning.

There is a supposition in psychology that states:

The meaning of communication is the RESPONSE you get. 

The response you get to a communication is more important than what you think you communicated.  Although we could argue that both parties have equal responsibility for accurate communication, as a vacation rental owner it really is your responsibility to communicate your message in such a way that the other person will understand it in the way you wanted them to understand it.

Any silly complaints you’ve received as an owner?

 

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6 Bizarre Disney World Attractions that No Longer Exist

We recently asked our vacationers, ‘What’s the best place to take your children before they turn 18?’ Well, the results are in and there are a few surprises!

1.Walt Disney World— Orlando, Florida 70.9%

2. Grand Canyon National Park — Arizona 69.9%

3. Niagara Falls — Niagara County, New York  55.7%

4. Yellowstone National Park — Yellowstone, Wyoming 54.4%

5. San Diego Zoo — San Diego, California 46.0%

6. Time Square — New York City, New York 42.7%

7. Pearl Harbor, Hawaii 42.4%

8. Yosemite National Park — California 41.7%

9. Great Smokey Mountains National Park — North Carolina/Tennessee 38.2%

10. National Mall — Washington, D.C. 36.9%

Personally, I think Alcatraz should have made the list – you know, show the little rascals where they’ll end up if they don’t make the right decisions in their adult years…

Disney World really is the happiest place on earth, and as a result it’s the top destination choice for families with children under 18. If you’re a frequent visitor or went there as a child yourself and now want to take your own fairy princesses and princes, several surprises might await you. Over the years, many Disney attractions have mysteriously disappeared into the ether of the Magic Kingdom…

Let’s take a peek at some of the bizarre Disney World attractions of family memories past:

Snow White’s Scary Adventures

Disney Blog 1

It’s actually not much of a surprise that the Snow White’s Scary Adventures attraction no longer graces the grounds of the Magic Kingdom — because those adventures were scary, no, outright terrifying. Just as Snow White herself was the first Disney princess, this attraction premiered on the opening day of the Magic Kingdom, a true original. Initially, however, Snow White didn’t even appear. You had to battle the witch yourself, and the encounter seemed to end with you getting killed by that haggard, cackling shrew. Good times!

Perhaps realizing that something so terrifying, which didn’t even include the featured princess, was a bad idea, the ride eventually got a makeover, making it softer and friendlier, with no dying at the end. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to hold much interest either, so the ride closed up shop in May of 2012.

The Mickey Mouse Revue

Disney Blog 2The Mickey Mouse Revue was just kind of creepy. In 1971, when it first premiered, it was still fairly cool, because animatronic characters were amazing. Besides, everyone loved seeing their favorite Disney stars singing their favorite Disney songs. By 1980, however, Mickey and his Revue were no longer avant-garde. They lost their sparkle, they needed an upgrade. So Disney World shipped them off to Tokyo Disney instead, and took the time to review the whole singing thing.

Today, the arguably more advanced and more polished Mickey’s PhilharMagic stands where the mouse’s Revue once reigned supreme. The music is definitely better, as long as you can forgive the pun in the name. Most people can and love hearing their favorite songs from their favorite characters, and the PhilharMagic makes a great place to rest and relax when you’re tired of standing in line for a while.

The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
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If you’ve never participated in this attraction before, you might look at it and semi-logically assume that it had something to do with ET, even though there’s no relation whatsoever. That’s likely because your mind understandably wants to ignore everything about that big, neon sign right in the middle of the ride’s name, letting you know that it involves “TERROR.”

1995 was a big year for all things sci-fi and alien-inspired. Disney wanted a piece of the extraterrestrial action, and created what was actually a pretty amazing theater-attraction. ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter took place inside a theater, where viewers sat in comfort — until they realized that an escaped ET was quickly coming after them. At the time, it was actually a really thrilling experience, owing to some amazing effects. By the time 2004 rolled around, however, visitors to Tomorrowland were a bit jaded, so now they get to enjoy Stitch’s Great Escape! instead. Really, though, isn’t Stitch just another escaped alien?

What’s really interesting is the fact that Disney has done away with several similar attractions. For example, you can no longer experience Horizons, Mission to Mars, or Flight to the Moon.

The Magical World of Barbie

Barbie and Disney have over the years enjoyed a very rich and lucrative relationship. Barbie has, after all, represented every single Disney princess in existence, usually with several outfit variations. For a brief period, Barbie also held court in the America Gardens Theater in Epcot. That makes sense, because Barbie is an American institution, after all. Unfortunately, watching an impossibly perfect blonde bombshell dance and sing in an even more saccharine version of “It’s a Small World” didn’t really appeal to most visitors.

Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

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Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride will live in infamy. Even now, long after its untimely demise, people dream about its return. It lasted from 1971, an original in the Magic Kingdom, until 1998, and up until its last day people railed at Disney to save Mr. Toad. It’s no wonder, either.

The attraction was a dark, thrilling ride, and at Disney World, there were even two separate experiences. The creeping quality of the ride as it took you through Toad’s Hall helped lull you into a false sense of complacency, which fell to pieces when riders would suddenly speed toward a particular obstacle — or a jalopy from the other track.

Perhaps because it was a cult favorite or perhaps because it lost its appeal, Mr. Toad died. Today The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh stands where it once creeped out visitors of all ages. Well played, Pooh.

The Kitchen Kabaret

Disney Blog 5

If Kitchen Kabaret looks familiar but you don’t remember seeing it live, you’re probably having flashbacks to Beauty and the Beast. After all, foodstuffs, or at least kitchen utensils, that can talk, sing, and dance are Disney specialties. Kitchen Kabaret was pretty innovative, though: it informed little viewers about the joys and excitement of healthy eating all the way back in 1982.

It even enjoyed a pretty long run, because during this particular era, anamatronic creatures were still in vogue. The hokey vibe wasn’t, however, so in 1994, Kitchen Kabaret became Food Rocks, the same shtick with a hard rock edge. That didn’t last either, and today Soarin’ replaces melodic entreaties to eat healthy.

Some of these attractions probably needed to go, just by virtue of being terrifying to children and adults alike; others created a hole in the hearts of the people who enjoyed them, especially Mr. Toad.

Do you have any memories of these vintage Disney destinations? Any others we missed?

 

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How to Save Money and Have an Unforgettable Vacation

How to Save Money and Have an Unforgettable Vacation

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Hiking and Camping the Grand Canyon

Our blogger Kendra is on a road trip across the United States. Check back here for weekly updates on her trip. Today she writes about hiking and camping in the Grand Canyon.

 

grand canyon hike

I’m not unfamiliar with hiking. I lace up the boots occasionally and go for a two or three hour hike, so I thought hiking and camping in the Grand Canyon would be a bearable challenge. Here is what it ended up being:

We arrived at the Grand Canyon later in the day and went to the Backcountry Information Center, to get a camping permit. We came unprepared and luckily there were two spots left at the campsite Indian Garden. We started down at 4pm. This bad planning came in handy as the sun barely hit us on the way down.

The walk down had plenty of liquid with water stops every mile and a half. It was hot. I have never sweat as much and was soaking my shirt in the water wells the whole way down. It was breezy near the top, but the lower we went the hotter it got.

We kept passing people on their way up who looked like zombies. They were completely drained and as I happily galloped downward I had a feeling I would be looking a lot like them when I was on my way up.

We were welcomed into the campsite by a deer. The Indian Garden campsite was gorgeous, but by the time I got there I could barely enjoy the surroundings. I was wayyy to tired. The ranger at the Backcountry Information Center had recommended going the extra mile and a half from the campsite to Plateau Point to watch the sunset. When we got to the campsite the only thing I wanted was sleep. After putting down all the gear and drinking plenty of water the walk, seemed worth it and it sure was. From the plateau you can see the setting sun, the Colorado River, and jaw-dropping rock structures.

grand canyon plateau point

That night I had bad dreams galore, imagining I’d be stuck in the Grand Canyon forever. I woke up in a sweat at 4am. My nightmare mind decided we had to leave as quickly as possible before the Grand Canyon consumed us. It may have been a little overdramatic, but getting out so early meant we were out of the sun on some of the way up. The hike up was rough and I can guarantee that I looked worse than all those people I took pity on the day before.

After getting out, I could barely take off my shoes and socks and change into some not sweaty clothes… it was that bad. My recommendation for people who want to see the Grand Canyon. Drive to the best view points and if you want to hike go to the mile and a half water point and call it a day. You’ll be exhausted enough by that. That way you can sleep, relax, and eat in a Northern Arizona rental, not on the canyon floor.

 

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Movie Inspired Travel Destinations

Movie inspired travel destinations

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An Active Flagstaff Vacation

Our blogger Kendra is on a road trip across the United States. Check back here for weekly updates on her trip. Today she writes about her Flagstaff vacation.

Flagstaff is known as a winter paradise with awesome skiing and snowboarding. Driving there in the summer I didn’t know what expect and wondered if the popular winter vacation spot would have anything to offer. Turns out it had more than I could even imagine.

First thing I noticed when entering Flagstaff was the activity. Bike and walking paths go through most of the city and everyone is out and about enjoying the gorgeous weather and mountain views.

The city was built on the railroad industry and trains still pass through daily. The downtown is sweet with old fashioned stores and signage straight out of the 50s. Flagstaff was on Route 66 and you can still see the imprint the famous highway made.

Right outside of the city is Coconino National Forest which has biking, hiking, ATVing, jet skiing, and swimming if you’re daring. Lake Mary is a gorgeous man-made lake nestled between the pines and mountains. I took a swim and got chilled by the very cold water. Luckily the 90 degree air means you’re dry in minutes. Check out this sunset from Coconino National Forest:

 

coconino forest flagstaff az

Side note: curly haired ladies and gentlemen, get ready for perfect hair in Flagstaff. The dry air means NO frizz! After I figured this out I considered moving!

Another thing to keep in mind when planning activities in Flagstaff is the altitude. Flagstaff is about 7000 feet above sea level. If you aren’t used to that even the most menial tasks can be tiring. On my first day there I walked down a boat ramp to feel the water in Lake Mary (it was cold). When I turned around and started walking up the boat ramp I felt like I was climbing mountain. It takes a few days to get used to the altitude so expect some exhaustion in the first few days of your trip and plan accordingly.

Would you enjoy a Flagstaff vacation? Would you rather go in summer or winter? Next week I’ll tell you about my Grand Canyon hiking adventure which involved a lot of sweat and would have had tears if I wasn’t trying to conserve water.

 

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New Orleans Summer Vacation is a Deal

Our blogger Kendra is on a road trip across the United States. Check back here for weekly updates on her trip. Today she writes on her New Orleans summer vacation.

When I first arrived in New Orleans the first thing I noticed was my frizzing hair, second thing was the relatively empty streets. Other visits to New Orleans had me stuck in a crowd. I would hear street musicians but could very rarely see them. This time it wasn’t hard to see the man unicycling while playing the fiddle.

Early June can be warm, but in New Orleans it means HOT. There are advantages and disadvantages to vacationing in New Orleans for the summer. The disadvantage is the humid heat. The advantage is everything else.

Summer means less tourists and plenty of potential deals. Many New Orleans vacation rentals offer summer deals that run from June 1 to September 30 (excluding holidays and major events.)

A view from the French Quarter lets you see everyone walk by. Summer means less tourists to people watch, which could potentially qualify as a disadvantage, but is way better when you figure in the quiet sleep. The best part of my view was seeing a wedding pass by, complete with the traditional New Orleans second line.

second line wedding

If you are looking for a great time with awesome deals and less people try new Orleans in the summer. Take a look at some of our New Orleans vacation rentals. Have you ever been to New Orleans? In the summer? How about Flagstaff, AZ?

Check back next week to hear about my Arizona experience.

 

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