Discover how Daniela Derin, a holiday rental owner in Marbella, Spain, capitalized on the trend of digital nomads during the pandemic. From forming a unique community during lockdown to attracting remote workers with sunny balcony views, Daniela shares her secrets to success. But what happens when flights disappear and her business is left in a precarious position? Find out in this intriguing episode of the Direct Booking Success podcast.

In this episode, you will be able to:

During the pandemic, our community thrived. We brought our in-person community online and built connections with digital nomads and leisure travelers alike. We sell a lifestyle, and people want to be a part of it. – Daniela Derin

Today’s esteemed guest, Daniela Derin, brings to the table a blend of European charm and business acumen. Her journey took her from the beautiful landscapes of Italy to sunny Marbella, where she has been managing a thriving holiday rental business with her partner. With 90 apartments in their portfolio, Daniela’s focus is on community-building and fulfilling the evolving needs of her guests. Recognizing the rise of remote working and digital nomads, she has proactively adapted her properties to cater to this new market segment. Always ahead of the curve, Daniela gets high praise for making her guests feel right at home, remarkably, no matter how far they are from their own.

Connect with Daniela:

Instagram: @marbella.holidays

LinkedIn: danieladerin

Facebook: Daniela Vincenzo Marbella & Skol Apartments Marbella

WhatsApp: +34649999867

Website: skolapartmentsmarbella.com

The key moments in this episode are:

00:00:08 – Introduction

00:01:19 – Origins of the Business

00:06:11 – Shift to Online Platforms

00:09:27 – Building a Community

00:12:25 – Embracing Tourism

00:16:07 – Importance of Data Booking Strategy and Having Your Own Website

00:17:01 – Dealing with the Pandemic and Existing Guests

00:19:46 – The Rise of Digital Nomads

00:23:48 – Marbella’s Success and the Benefits of Tourism

Sign up to the Free Direct Booking Success Summit 2023: https://directbookingsuccesssummit.com/

Show notes are available at: https://directbookingsuccess.com/podcast/

Follow Jenn on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/directbookingsuccess

Join the Marketing Hub Free Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/marketinghubforholidayrentals

Sign up for the free masterclass – The 4-step framework for a profitable direct booking sales engine: https://directbookingsuccess.com/masterclass


00:00:32 - Jenn Boyles

Hello and welcome to another episode of Direct Booking Success Booking Success Success podcast. I'm Jennn Boyles, your host. And today I have with me Daniela Derin all the way from Marbeas, Maine. Hi Daniela, how are you today?

00:00:47 - Daniela Derin

Hi Jenn, I'm very well. And thank you so much for having me today in your very successful Direct Booking Success Booking Success podcast.

00:00:55 - Jenn Boyles

That's great. No, I'm glad you're here. So let's start with your background and how you came to get into this business and what you are doing down in Marbella.

00:01:07 - Daniela Derin

Well, at the moment we run together with my partner Vincenzo 90 apartments in this beautiful building you can see behind me. And our origins are in the United States. In fact, we started in the last century, 1998, when all bookings were Direct Booking Success of people walking into our office asking for a month rental or a week rental. And the people that were kind of booking in advance would pick up the phone and say, well, book me something. But they couldn't see the actual thing until they got here because real estate and holiday rentals in Marbella have always been connected in the sense that when the holiday season comes, like July and August or Easter, we would rent for holiday what we had available for sale and it hadn't sold. So people really never knew where they ended up staying, but they always knew it was something in the center and something near the beachfront. And that was just good for 98, 99, 2000.

00:02:13 - Jenn Boyles

So the places that you had for sale, you would rent them out for holidays in the summer months?

00:02:23 - Daniela Derin

Yeah, or during Easter, anytime, sometimes even at Christmas, somebody would walk into the office and say, I'm here for the week, what do you have? And say, okay, this one, this one, the other one. Because, I mean, it's only a week in real estate, it doesn't really make a difference selling a place now or in a week or two or three weeks. And it was kind of socially accepted. And then I think it was not until 2010 that we set up a website. We actually put pictures well, actually, let's go back before that email came. Email came, and digital photography, so we could send an email with a picture of the apartment and then a website came so we could put pictures on the website so people could see if they like them higher, lower, morning sun or afternoon sun. This is olive oil.

00:03:17 - Jenn Boyles

And has it always been in that building?

00:03:19 - Daniela Derin

It's always been. Well, in this building, two buildings on one side and two buildings on the other side. This is Central Marbella Beachfront, and we are very niche, niche, niche in our location, right? Yeah. Riches are in the niches. This actually comes from real estate. Marbella is divided by the high streets. So you have the street to the beach and the street to the mountain. And the street to the beach has always been our location ever since we were doing real estate.

00:03:56 - Jenn Boyles

Wow. So you're a real insider. And is Marbella your hometown as well?

00:04:01 - Daniela Derin

No, I'm from Italy. I'm from Triesta, in the north of Italy. In 1996, I was bored in the summer, so I went up to London to improve my English and do some time abroad. After three weeks, I bumped into Vincenzo, who is from the south of Italy and was love at first sight. And we traveled Europe together and ended up in Maria a couple of years later.

00:04:28 - Jenn Boyles

I see. So you were coming as a tourist at the beginning as yeah, yeah.

00:04:34 - Daniela Derin

And after spending a winter in a T-shirt, I decided that this was my place.

00:04:41 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah. I don't know if you know, but I spent a winter in Marbella. I lived there for six months, and it is the tanned I've ever been because I was swimming up till now, in the outdoor unheated pool. I was just up the hill from Portobenus.

00:05:01 - Daniela Derin


00:05:01 - Jenn Boyles

On that side of yes, it is. For me, coming from North America, from Canada, and then being in the UK, it was slightly unreal having good weather in. Like it was hard for me to wrap my head around. Why is the sun still warm? I was expecting more rain, although when the rain came, I have never seen rain like that.

00:05:30 - Daniela Derin

Bucket full.

00:05:31 - Jenn Boyles

Well, that's it. It was a mini flood for like 1015 minutes and then it's gone again. So it's really a different atmosphere with the weather. But it was really enjoyable and lovely to be in the sun and swimming outside in December. So I can picture your area and how you're from the high street down to the beach, aren't you? And those areas?

00:06:02 - Daniela Derin


00:06:02 - Jenn Boyles

So we started in the last century. Email came in, websites came in, and then what happened next?

00:06:11 - Daniela Derin

And then channel managers and PMS came in, and it was like, wow. We only started using them because, of course, Airbnb was the new kid on the block, and we all wanted to be on Airbnb because it was fashionable to be on airbnb and TripAdvisor and booking. And we felt kind of, wow, we're there, they're having us, so it means we are worth the while to be up there. And the first years were actually good. We started to get more people, especially in the low season, thanks to the channels, to the OPI, really. So we were pretty happy with them. But then, of course, pandemic came and the walls showed their true pace. I don't know how you say that in English.

00:06:55 - Jenn Boyles

I think that's great.

00:06:57 - Daniela Derin

And we saw what's behind that. They're a big enterprise. They don't care about anybody, they don't care about us, they don't care about the guests, they only care about money. They could be a bank, really, or any other big enterprise. So we really started to cut them off. I mean, we have never been over probably 15, 20% Ota bookings. We've always been around 88% Direct Booking Success Booking Success because the bookings that come through portals, we then convert them to Direct Booking Success because once you come to Marbella, you just keep coming back and coming back and coming back. I mean, this is where we thrive on. We have 65% repeated guests that come year after year, twice a year, three times a year. I have a lady with a son, I think she comes five times a year. And the majority of them have been coming for many years. So we know them, we see the children grow, some children even get married here. And we also help them organize the weddings. So yeah, it's a really close community between repeat guest owners that come a lot on holiday and us, because we live here. So we kind of keep this community together. I don't know how we got here, but anyway no, but I think so.

00:08:17 - Jenn Boyles

Great descent, if you're living there, you can keep that community. And you've realized that the guest experience and treating your guests like friends welcome them back because it is a destination, isn't it? And a 65% return guest rate is amazing.

00:08:40 - Daniela Derin

Unless we kill them, they will keep coming back. Because I always say that Marva has something for everybody. You can have a meal for 15 euro or for 15,000 euro and every step in between our guests, couples, families, they like the sea, they like the sun, they like good food. We also tell them where to go and eat and how to have the best experiences. There are a lot of activities they can do, like fun and surfing, kayaking, walking, cycling. It's a very kind of relaxed holiday compared to the area where you stayed north of Puerto Venous. I mean, Puerto Venos is only 6 km away. 600 km away is a whole other world, a completely other type of guest. I mean, ours are like residential. They like to go out, they go to the port here, have a drink. We don't have a group of youngsters. It's just basically families, singles, couples. And it's great because they all know each other. You have the bunch of people that come in June, the other bunch that come in September and they know each other as they hang out with each other. So it's amazing. I know what they want and they know what to expect. And if you look at our reviews, the majority of them say it's safe, it's easy, it's secure. And they're always there if we need anything. So yeah, this is our thing. We were always given them what they wanted and always kind of flowed with the time. If somebody was asking something different, we start to give it to them. For example, when we started, the apartment had no air conditioning. Then we started to turn on the WiFi. There was no WiFi. There was WiFi. Any other new trends like the remote workers and digital? Nomads, I mean, we're always the first to jump with the new trend.

00:10:38 - Jenn Boyles

So you said you've got 90 units in the building. How many are there in total?

00:10:44 - Daniela Derin

About 300.

00:10:45 - Jenn Boyles

Oh, wow. So it's huge.

00:10:47 - Daniela Derin

Yeah. Okay. It's huge.

00:10:49 - Jenn Boyles

And are those other ones, are they habited by owners full time? Most of them, yes.

00:10:55 - Daniela Derin

Some of them are empty and they don't rent them out. I mean, then people that can afford to keep the units and lolly come on holiday won't be what they want. Some of there are remnants, residents, I would say about 40% of the building is.

00:11:07 - Jenn Boyles

And how have you? This isn't something we talked about before, but I'm curious to know how you've kept that relationship between those who are outside of your business, those that are living in the building permanently with the guests. Have they always been happy that there's guests coming in, new people every week or every couple of weeks, or have there been any issues, any friction there?

00:11:30 - Daniela Derin

No, not at all. Because as I've said, they are very good, respectful guests, so that the residents are very happy. And if you live in Marbella Center on the beachfront, you're born with tourism. Tourism has been coming here to Marbella since 60. Yeah. So anybody that comes to Marbella, they are prepared. I mean, if you don't like the noise, you have to live up on the hill.

00:11:56 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah, I'm learning more and more about the groups of people who are known, not in my backyard. I think people call them NIMBY's or, you know, the minute they hear about short term rental or Airbnb, they get all up in arms. They don't want it in their area for what I consider probably a lot of misinformation. However, it's interesting to hear your point of view that that has been the way it's been from the beginning.

00:12:25 - Daniela Derin

Yes. Because down here, it's a tourist city. Without tourism, Marbella wouldn't be what it is. I mean, the real estate business is very important. Foreign investment is very important. There are some very good restaurants. Yes. All those places make sense because of the tourists. Marvaja is a destination per se. I mean, you say Marvaea in Canada and they know it. You say in South America, in India and Australia, everybody has heard about it. Okay. People are used to putting up with tourism.

00:12:59 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah, yeah. And welcome.

00:13:03 - Daniela Derin

Yes, absolutely. Because, I mean, if you're bright enough, you understand that they pay for your living. They bring a lot of yes, yes. Good.

00:13:15 - Jenn Boyles

All right, let's go back to when Airbnb came in and you went into the Ovas but you were still keeping 80% Direct Booking Success, were you, in this time?

00:13:26 - Daniela Derin

Yes, because they were always repeat guests and then always word of mouth. For example, talking about Canadians, I said that before. The first couple came in 2012. And then they start bringing more couples and more neighbors and more neighbors. And this last winter, we had nearly 80 Canadians and we have a lot of Irish. 60% of our guests are from Ireland and they talk to each other, especially the Irish. We have families. We have grandparents, parents and children. Like, three generations is the norm. They take three or four apartments and then they tell the neighbor and the neighbor the next year brings the family. So this is how we go. Word of mouth between the repeat guests. Got it. And multigenerational travel, which I think is amazing. Yes. I never traveled with my parents. I mean, I travel with my children. I never traveled with my parents.

00:14:23 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah, no, it's different. Especially when you're looking at three generations traveling together. You need different things for the different generations, don't you?

00:14:31 - Daniela Derin

Yeah, exactly. Which is why this is great, because each of them have their apartment. They can cook and eat and sleep whenever they want, and then they gather together around the pool, or they go to the pool bar. We even have an Irish pub on site. And then down at the beach, they go for fish, then they go for breakfast. I mean, they are together when they want to be together and they are separated when they want to be separated, which I think is the big advantage of a complex versus a villa. Multigenerational travel.

00:15:03 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah, because those grandkids bother their grandparents and they're having a nap.

00:15:07 - Daniela Derin


00:15:08 - Jenn Boyles

Or vice versa, if you've got young grandchildren, you don't want them to wake up from their yeah, no, I think it's a winning formula, really.

00:15:18 - Daniela Derin


00:15:19 - Jenn Boyles

When Airbnb and the OTAs came on the scene, you saw them as an acquisition source, am I correct?

00:15:26 - Daniela Derin

Oh, yes. I saw them as kind of listing us as a brand for being because to begin with, we perceive them as advertising sites. Really? So to be there, of course, they were all coming from America, nice and shiny. And so we saw them as an opportunity to grow as a brand, as a business. And we did. I mean, a lot of people discovered us through booking an Airbnb, and we got a lot of Americans and a lot of Australians, thanks to booking.com and especially expedia. But then, of course, it happened. What happened? And we saw exactly what they were like and they weren't trustworthy at all. So this is why I think it's very important to make, especially the newbies that come into this business, understand that the data booking strategy and having your own website is absolutely key to your goals.

00:16:29 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah. So the pandemic hit, and we all know that Airbnb just canceled bookings, left, right and center, and gave all their money back. And with no communication to the hosts on their platform, how were you able to deal with the Pandemic with your existing guests, your existing Direct Booking Success Booking Success?

00:16:48 - Daniela Derin

Well, the majority of people went home with rescue flights and some of them decided to stay. About 15% of the people stayed. I said they didn't believe in it. Okay, it's just going to be two weeks. We stay here. We stay in the sun on the balcony, especially people. That's because in winter they come. They come for a month or two months. So people that just came, they were here for maybe ten days or two weeks, and I'm not going back. So they stayed here and we all did lockdown together. We were doing shopping for them and kind of keeping each other company, but the rest of them went then summer 2020, we had, like, six weeks of summer, a totally freaked out summer because there were no flights. People were driving down from Belgium. I had people driving down from Prague. There were trains throughout Europe only to come here and get a bit of sun. And then, because I saw that another lockdown was coming, I said, okay, let's do something with it. And when we started closing our farming in the first lockdown, people would dream of me, I always had my laptop. I would sit on the terraces and type replies and cancel bookings. And Vincento was always with me because our children were homeschooling on their own. At home, he would take pictures and say, yeah, you see, you're locked up at home and your mother is sunning herself on the balcony. Which wasn't true. I was working and I started to put these pictures online. Like, if I worked from a sunny balcony, why can't you? So this is how the digital nomad and remote working trends exploded in the Pandemic. Because the following winter, we have, like, six or seven months of lockdown. They came like crazy. And also kind of as a result of the Pandemic, all this community we had built over the years, I brought it online with Facebook and Instagram, and Instagram has boomed for us for both digital nomad bookings and leisure clients bookings. And then two years later, things came back to normal. And I still keep my digital community and my in person community because basically now I keep in contact with them all year long. When they're not here, they like to see what's going on, what new restaurants are opening, if there are new activities, or basically, they like to keep in touch with us to see what we do, because basically all we sell is a lifestyle. Yes, it's like a healthy, sunny, digital nomad lifestyle. This is what we are and this is what we felt, really. And they all want to do it. They all want to be part of this experience.

00:19:35 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah, well, I've invited you to come and speak at the third Direct Booking Success Booking Success Success, which is coming up in less than two months now, October 3 to fifth. And you're going to come and speak about digital nomads and how you've capitalized on that trend of being able to work from anywhere. In fact, I actually know somebody who is in Marbella right now. I don't think they're staying with you, though, unfortunately. But I know somebody who's in Marbella working from Know, which is great, because I think when the pandemic hit and we were all scrambling to figure out what we were going to do, what the future held, you were looking for opportunities, which really, I think, sets you apart from a lot of people. A lot of people were licking their wounds, and for me, this is what's happened. And you were looking to the future and saying, what can I do? Who comes and stays here? And now that we're not in that situation, we're not in the pandemic, and I really hope we never have to ever see anything like that again. But we do have slow periods. We have a low season midweek. Clients come to me a lot of the time, how do I get more midweek bookings? And I think digital nomads, it's not going away. Maybe a silver lining from the pandemic is that what we realize is that a lot of us can work from anywhere. We don't need to be in an office. I was actually a digital nomad before it was popular. I used to travel and work from wherever I was, but I would have to lie to my clients about where I was because it wasn't the same world. They thought that if you weren't in the city and you weren't in the office, that you weren't working in it. We've really proven that not to be true. So I'm so happy that you are coming to the summit and you're going to be talking about digital nomads, because I think this is going to be something that continues. It's post-pandemic now, and people can work from anywhere. So you've kept this up. So are you still seeing the drive for digital nomads for accommodation?

00:21:58 - Daniela Derin

Totally. And not only in the low season, but even now in high summer, people that, for example, could stay one week because they can work from here. They stay two and three weeks.

00:22:10 - Jenn Boyles


00:22:10 - Daniela Derin

So the longer bookings, the longer bookings. And I mean, this is a bit off topic, really, but in real estate we have seen an increase in sales of properties, but not only what I call normal price property, which is below half a million euro. But a lot of properties between two and €5 million on the Golden Mile or in the area of Nuenda Lucia, where you were very wealthy families from Scandinavia especially, that they I mean, all this started at the end of summer 2020, when they saw that there was another lockdown that said, no, we've been at home for three months already. We're not getting locked up again. They came here and either bought straight away or took a year, leaves and then bought the year after. But Marva has now beaten the seasonality. The news came out like three or four months ago across all national newspapers. We are the first destination in Spain to have broken the seasonality, and that is thanks to either relocation or digital nomad. I mean, relocation are people that, for example, the family is based here, and both parents work remotely, and maybe once every other week, one has to travel because they're based in London, in Berlin, in Stockholm, Minoslo. So they go there for three or four days, do what they need to do in person, and everything else is just done online. And the family has an amazing quality of life.

00:23:42 - Jenn Boyles

So are you saying that Marbella no longer has a low season?

00:23:46 - Daniela Derin


00:23:47 - Jenn Boyles


00:23:48 - Daniela Derin

Actually, if you want to come to Marbella, come in winter. Yes. November, December, January, February, February. I have in February the same occupancy that I have in July. In February, I never have a bed.

00:24:01 - Jenn Boyles

Wow. And do you think that other locations can do this as well?

00:24:06 - Daniela Derin

Oh, yes. Relocation has done so much for Malaya because of the quality of life. Because what I was saying before, people want this lifestyle of being outside all the time, eating fresh, healthy local foods. The fish is amazing, and the weather is fantastic. I mean, if people have the courage to take the plunge and relocate to warmer climates, it's such an improvement in life. And I'm not going to give anything out until the summit. In the summit, I'm going to talk to you about a new guest, a new type of guest that emerged from the pandemic, something that I've never seen before.

00:24:55 - Jenn Boyles

Wow. Okay. I don't know what you're reading, so I can hardly wait. I can't wait to see your presentation. That sounds really exciting.

00:25:02 - Daniela Derin

Really exciting.

00:25:03 - Jenn Boyles

But I can see what you're doing there. It's the destination marketing. It's being that local expert along with the people being able to work from anywhere. Those digital nomads? And it's a perfect storm, isn't it? It's a perfect relationship between what you're doing there and creating a community and those who can work from their balconies, like you did.

00:25:30 - Daniela Derin

And a lot of people that were leisure guests, people that were only coming for a week or two weeks, they say, okay, let's give it a try. And they book for a month. In wind fairness, they've got every year. Every year. Every year. A lot of people have commitments at home. They have parents, sisters. How many lives? Yes.

00:25:51 - Jenn Boyles

No, I'm no longer a digital nomad.

00:25:54 - Daniela Derin

It was the four children. There you go. Now, I'm very fortunate because my children are 18 and 20. They're working with us. So now we can be a digital nomad a bit more. In fact, this autumn, we have a lot of travelers books around conferences, of course, but still we will meet.

00:26:13 - Jenn Boyles

Great, great. I love it, I really do. And I love to see what you are doing in Marbella. And yeah, I think it's just amazing. If anybody is looking to come to the summit and they want to hear your talk on digital nomads and this new type of guest that has emerged, which sounds really exciting, is there anything else that you can tell people about what you're going to be speaking about?

00:26:40 - Daniela Derin

Well, the title of the presentation is how to attract the Digital nomad, how to nurture them and how to keep them. So I will teach you from A to Zen, what you have to do to thrive with this new type of text, which is the normal digital nomad and the new type of digital. Oh, exciting.

00:27:01 - Jenn Boyles

Very exciting. Well, I've loved speaking today. I want to speak to someone who's been in this business since the previous century.

00:27:13 - Daniela Derin

Now, that is going to give away my age. I'm over 25.

00:27:17 - Jenn Boyles

Yes, I know, but I think you're probably the same as me when you think of the last century. I think of Night, I think of 100 years ago, not just 23 years ago, but no, you've been in this business a long time, and the relationship between real estate and holiday rentals in Marbella is really interesting. And I think a lot of cities could learn from what Marbea is doing. When I hear about regulations coming in and people saying, not in my like how you put know, you have to realize that tourism brings in money.

00:28:03 - Daniela Derin

Tons of money.

00:28:04 - Jenn Boyles

Tons of money.

00:28:06 - Daniela Derin

When I read the statistics about how much money tourists bring in Spain, I don't believe them because they are extremely low. Extremely low. Especially in Andalusia, where we are, which is the south of Spain andalusia has the biggest heritage places of Spain, like Seville, Cordoba, Granada. And tourism is over 50% of the whole thing. Over 50%, yeah. A lot of places could be like this. Lot of places could just use tourism as their main source of income. Yeah.

00:28:48 - Jenn Boyles

And I think a lot of people living in cities that are tourism focused don't understand the financial implications of tourism and how that benefits their lives. So I think it's interesting to be watching what's happening in Marbella and not having a low season anymore. I think that's it.

00:29:11 - Daniela Derin

Best. What's best is to welcome people into your own home and show them your town and show them where to eat, where to drink, how to have the most amazing time, how to have an experience, quality time with your family, with your friends. I think it's the best job in the world, really. And you make a lot of people happy.

00:29:33 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah. And what you're saying is pure hospitality. You're not in it to make a quick buck. You're not in it for heads on beds. It's pure hospitality.

00:29:46 - Daniela Derin

It's passion. It's a passion for people. That's my thing. That's it.

00:29:50 - Jenn Boyles

And it comes across. It really does. So I can't let you go without asking, what does Direct Booking Success Booking Success Success mean to you?

00:29:59 - Daniela Derin

Freedom. The freedom to set our rules into our home. We're not depending on anybody, our policies, a cancellation saying who I allow into our home because they're all individually owned, but I feel them like mine. I have a responsibility for this apartment. So, yes, Direct Booking Success Booking Success is freedom. Freedom to build your business on your own land. Really? That's it.

00:30:30 - Jenn Boyles

Yeah. The OTAs can help you with that acquisition, but they're not the end game.

00:30:37 - Daniela Derin

They're absolutely not.

00:30:40 - Jenn Boyles


00:30:41 - Daniela Derin

Absolutely not.

00:30:42 - Jenn Boyles

So where can listeners connect with you? I'll put some of these links in the show notes. What is your instagram?

00:30:49 - Daniela Derin

My instagram is at Marbella Holidays. My name is Daniela Derin. Facebook, I think, is Daniela Derin from Marbella. And then my email really shot me an email info@marbellaholidays.es. And I am always there, happy to answer any question.

00:31:06 - Jenn Boyles

Yes. And we'll see you at Direct Booking Success Booking Success Success in October. Thank you again, Daniela, for coming on today.

00:31:14 - Daniela Derin

Thank you so much for letting me share my story. And hopefully we've inspired somebody to do some Direct Booking Success.

00:31:23 - Jenn Boyles

I hope so, too. Thanks, Daniela.

00:31:26 - Daniela Derin

Thank you.

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