tips on where and how to advertise a holiday rental villa cottage or gite, advertising lettings, holiday property
The ever-changing landscape of holiday rental listings sites is a very real and present issue for many holiday rental owners and managers. Continually changing payment structures and the suppression of booking and client data has left many frustrated and with the feeling we have little or no control over our holiday rental businesses.
One group of owners decided enough was enough. They would no longer be reliant on the fat cat listings sites, instead launching an independent listing site that supported both owners and guests.
Welcome to OwnerHolidays: the listings site with a difference.
I spoke to founding member Nigel Goodwin from Self Catering Accommodation Newquay about the idea behind OwnerHolidays and their plans for the future.
What is the idea behind OwnerHolidays?
Fundamentally it’s a holiday rental listing model that will bring guests and owners back together again. But perhaps it’s easier to say what it’s not!
It is not a booking system, but can interface to booking systems. It is not an agency, but can interface to agencies. It is not an owner website toolkit, although it can interface to owner websites. It is not a review system, although it may eventually have a simple review system and links to TripAdvisor, or similar review systems. It does not manage availability, although it can extract availability from other systems via the iCal interface.
What we have created is an advertising listing website with excellent links to all the tools that create a total holiday management solution. It is open and will interface with a multitude of systems.
The model is purely subscription based. As soon as you move towards a commission structure you have to find ways to stop guests making direct bookings with the owner. The owner loses control of their business and the guest feels the loss of human contact and authenticity.
Fundamentally it’s a holiday rental listing model that will bring guests and owners back together again.
How is OwnerHolidays funded?
To date we have managed to self-fund the project 100%. However, it’s likely that in 2017, in addition to revenue coming from listing subscriptions, we will be looking for external funding. We are looking at the possibility of a Crowdfunding campaign as our objective is to create a platform that is funded and run by owners and develops organically.
It’s called the ‘long tail’ business model. It takes time to grow, but eventually becomes a giant and avoids the problem of repaying loans or dealing with impatient investors.
Allied to this is the importance of owner involvement throughout the process. We do not see owners as pure revenue generators, our values are directly aligned to their needs.
The OwnerHolidays model will offer significant shareholdings (at least 50% over time) to owners. I hope this will provide the incentive for owners to collectively promote the site and make it work. It’s also protection against the danger of the company selling out to the global OTAs.
We will be working with legal experts to draw up a charter and shareholder agreement which will preserve the cooperative nature of the business.
It’s important to make clear that although owners will be at the heart of our business, there will certainly be a structure in place that will allow the management team to focus on the development and make unrestricted business decisions. It will not be a democracy, but it should be a win-win situation for all involved!
We do not see owners as pure revenue generators, they are at the very heart of this company.
What are your next steps?
We launched the venture in August 2016, and rolled out the OwnerHolidays website in September. We initially presented the model to a small focus group of owners, many of whom are members of the forum LayMyHat. Bouncing ideas off the group and ways to improve on the launch model. In fact we have matured a lot in only a few months, moving towards the way we envisage the site for the future.
Our current focus is on marketing and advertising for the website, growing our presence in the sector and increasing the number of properties listed. We understand that we now need to develop our presence through digital marketing and we are relying on the collective help of owners to kindle our viral growth.
Our goal is to have 10,000 properties listed by the end of Quarter One 2017, and we’d love to have 100,000 by the end 2017. We’re asking all owners to come and join the revolution!
We are relying on the collective help of owners to kindle our viral growth.
As owners we understand that OTAs have the distinct advantage of massive marketing budgets. We are certainly under no illusion that this will be an easy ride, but we have a marketing strategy in place for 2017 with a heavy focus on promotion to potential guests. With this in place we are confident that by the end of the year our owner supporters can expect to enjoy enquiries and bookings from their advertising on OwnerHolidays.
We are also building an interface to agencies so their multiple properties can be listed. We are in discussion with five agencies and working on the interface for those initial partnerships.
How can owners advertise on OwnerHolidays?
If you sign up before the 16th January 2017 it will be free to advertise for the first year! Just head to the sign up link on the OwnerHolidays website to add your property. The offer is also open to agencies with whom we can build an agreement within the forthcoming agency model.
From then onwards it will cost just £50 per annum, per property, with small discounts for agents advertising multiple properties. We want to avoid the dangers of having one or two large agencies dominating the website, so a level playing field will be designed into the pricing structure.
At Rental Tonic we wholly support this admirable project and sincerely hope that the team achieve their goals for 2017 and beyond. We’ll keep you posted on their progress, but recommend you head over to claim your free year’s subscription before the 16th January 2017.
The holiday rental landscape is growing at a rapid rate. Worth in excess of $100 billion dollars, it now sits proudly amongst mainstream travel accommodation. In the US alone, over 40% travellers have stayed in holiday rental accommodation.
As our industry grows, technology platforms and booking partners launch channels to streamline the work of the holiday home owner or rental manager, and the landscape of advertising portals is constantly changing.
To run a successful holiday rental business in today’s market takes commitment and perseverance. It will always be a work in progress: marketing channels grow, the market becomes ever more competitive and your guests demand more. Yet if you get down to the core of the business, there are still fundamental elements, that if you get right, will prepare you to compete with the best.
Know your ideal guest
‘Ideal guest’ seems to be a buzzword in the world of holiday rental marketing at the moment, but our Rental Tonic team have been working with clients for many years to identify and create successful holiday rental businesses with the ideal guest in mind.
Taking the time to identify your niche market and defining your ideal guest are essential elements within your marketing strategy, which help you create a holiday rental experience targeted at guests you want staying in your holiday home.
It’s also more effective and less of a strain on your marketing budget, when you communicate your proposition to a smaller target group. And importantly, it’s far more enjoyable to connect with the one person who is going to book and love your home, over any other.
Tip: When you have a good idea of who you want to target, it becomes much easier to create the story around your holiday, and create a home that will attract your ideal guests time and again.
The prime objective of any owner is to develop a holiday rental business that enjoys full calendars, ideally based on a high percentage of repeat bookings.
Why repeat bookings? Less marketing expenditure and work to fill your calendar. And guaranteed happy guests.
It doesn’t matter whether your holiday home is budget or luxury. If you don’t fit it out with good quality furnishing and equipment, and update and maintain the property on a regular basis, you will be chasing new bookings every season. If you want to create a serious income generator, it’s time to inject sensible quality into your holiday home.
Good quality doesn’t have to mean expensive. You will need to invest time, over money, in finding furnishing that will be comfortable and withstand wear and tear.
Tip: Tight budgets can go further when you think on your feet: add a mattress topper and good quality pillows to an economical bed; scatter comfy quality cushions on your sofa and adorn your walls with lovely destination photos and tasteful artwork. Coffee tables can be expensive, but two attractive side tables will give your guests some space to put their coffee down, and to add a lamp.
Do you ever scroll through your advertising channel to see what your competition is up to and then get despondent about how they achieve such a professional look? It’s no big secret. It’s all in the staging…
Holiday rental staging and good photography are essential in creating an enticing presentation for your holiday home and ultimately will maximise your booking opportunities.
Good staging and photography will paint a picture so entice, a guest can imagine themselves in the scene; as if they are living the experience already.
Another essential reason to maintain a good level of photography is to maximise the opportunity to be seen in listing search results. In most cases, a percentage of your quality score is based on posting a decent volume of images.
TripAdvisor statistic: Travellers are 150% more engaged with listings that have more than 20 photos than properties with only a few photos.
Don’t compete on pricing
The first and only thing I want to say on the subject of pricing: never compete on price.
Do not enter into a price war with the local competition, there will always be someone prepared to beat you on price. If you have followed the previous steps: set up a quality holiday home, know your niche market and ideal guest and have taken the time to create a compelling story, then you should be able to step out of the price war and charge the rate for your holiday home that meets YOUR expectations i.e. covers costs and somewhere down the line generates a profit.
Tip: Price should be based on three principles: running costs + location + quality. It’s really very simple.
Placement? It’s a jungle out there….
In today’s holiday rental landscape there are a myriad of portals to choose from. The likes of the giants, such as Holiday Lettings/Trip Advisor/FlipKey, Airbnb, and HomeAway/Owner’s Direct, will be a necessary evil when you start out and need to get immediate bookings, but ultimately your long-term goal should be to become independent, before they gobble up your profit and run your business how it suits them; taking away your client interaction and sitting on your booking payments.
In the first couple of years you should be testing the water with the international portal sites, and getting regional coverage from some of the smaller destination-focused portals. Use forums such as www.laymyhat.com to get advise from owners who have tried and tested the market.
Tip: Whatever channel you use, your holiday rental must be instantly bookable.
Copy that creates that WOW factor!
Anyone who knows me, knows I am a bit of a content freak. I have been travel writing and blogging for many years, and I can say unconditionally that getting your headline and description just right – or incredibly wrong, can have a huge impact on holiday rental enquiries.
Of course, if you’ve done your preliminary work and know your niche and ideal guest, writing exclusively for them is much simpler than trying to please everyone within a 500 word description.
Tip: Stop focusing on your accommodation. Become the local expert – create local experiences.
Learn how to create WOW-FACTOR copy and achieve full calendars and happy guests. Click here to grab a copy of our FREE 7-Point Checklist to WOW-Factor Copy!
Happy holiday experiences
So far, so good. You’ve got the bookings. The guests have arrived. Now you have to ensure they have a happy holiday experience. One that they want to share and replay.
Of course, if you’ve worked out your ideal guest credentials and created a quality rental, it’s reasonable to assume they’ll enjoy your accommodation. Perfect scenario, they’ll be leaving with long-lasting memories of their holiday experience.
Here you have a part to play.
Two of the biggest motivators for choosing holiday rentals, is authenticity and connection. The way you interact with your guests, even before they’ve arrived is like gold. It can be the make or break of a booking. If you think about the success of Airbnb. It’s actually the guest/host interaction that makes its proposition special.
During their stay, your guests will appreciate how much effort you, or your manager put into making their stay just perfect. It will be the icing on the cake, the part of their holiday that gives them a warm, cuddly feeling inside.
Tip: Nothing is too much for the ideal guest. Help as much as you can. You may want to consider adding a concierge-style service to your business.
What do we want? Listing independence. When do we want it? Now!
No longer is having your own holiday rental website a question for debate. The consolidation of the global listing sites has lead to a controlling and costly marketing landscape.
The only way to survive is to strike out for independence. Creating a content rich website, which shows you for the local expert you are, and creates a platform for personal connection with travellers and guests.
Your social media channels should then become a natural extension to your holiday rental website, where you can freely engage with guests, media and the industry.
A good social media strategy will help you build a community of people who have a common interest in your destination. Where you can share stories, and ultimately earn the trust of potential guests. Studies have shown that people need to “see” your brand as many as 7 times before they will consider doing business with you. This makes social media an important asset in your holiday rental strategy.
Reviews and reactions
In today’s market, guest reviews are at the very heart of travel marketing. They can tell a traveller everything they need to know about accommodation, activity or transport mode, to help them make more informed decisions. So we recognise how important reviews are to our travel business, but it’s not just about getting five star reviews and publishing them.
TripAdvisor statistic: 70% of guests say that seeing a management response to a guest review influences where they stay.
When you reply to a guest review, you aren’t just interacting with that guest, you are also engaging with the hundreds, even thousands of people who read your reviews and your reactions.
The mother of all things. The icing on the cake. The reason for living… OK maybe that’s a little exaggerated, but as an owner it’s ultimately what you should be aiming for.
If you’re working hard to achieve all of the above, then your repeat bookings will start to follow. But if you want to go a little step further to achieve those, then how you interact with guests and clients post-stay is as important as your interaction before and during their stay.
Email marketing, post-stay surveys and guest profiling, are just three of the ways you can stay on top of client preferences, dislikes and key dates i.e. anniversaries, and create perfect personalised marketing actions to attract them back.
Tip: Research shows that personalised promotion is 9x more effective than generic marketing, so don’t follow the crowd. Don’t try solely to compete on generic advertising listing sites. Consider your ideal client, communicate to them, be local, and make it personal.
So you own a Spanish villa that spends a large part of its life sitting empty? I’m sure you don’t need us to tell you how lucrative it could be for you to rent it to holiday makers while you are not using it, or even while you wait for a suitable buyer.
We’ve seen some amazing good news stories from owners who have turned around their fortunes by embracing holiday rentals as a source of income. For example, one of our owners was on the verge of losing his townhouse to the bank, but with a clever niche-marketing strategy he now consistently gets 30+ bookings each year, bringing in an important income of £25,000 to £30,000 every season. Not only did he save his house from being repossessed, he also paid off his debts, and is now looking for another rental property to buy.
Another of our clients who owns a luxury villa in Spain was struggling to find a buyer when the market crashed, but rather than reducing the sales price and selling for less than it cost him to build the villa, he instead decided to rent it out. He managed to achieve £140,000 worth of bookings after commission in his first year which has seriously helped towards his initial building costs and tax bills. That’s not a figure to be sniffed at!
Obviously any income you make from your holiday rental is taxable, just as your earnings from employment would be. And since 2013 the 17 autonomous regions of Spain have been introducing a licence procedure for holiday rentals, which works to ensure the industry is well-run, professional, and offers quality accommodation for tourists, which can only be a good thing!
Andalucia is the latest region to approve a very simple and free registration system, so that you can get your all-important licence number, which will allow you to use all of the online marketing channels available to you.
The law was approved on 2nd February and the law will come into effect on 12th May 2016, giving owners time to register.
Registering your Spanish villa for holiday rentals is a no-brainer, especially if you advertise your villa online to attract bookings (who doesn’t?). Many owners are too busy to set up and manage their own website and marketing strategies, so just like our clients we mentioned before they work predominantly with specialist rental agencies and listing sites to bring in bookings. But increasingly, these listing sites will only be able to advertise properties that hold a licence number, as we have seen with Airbnb and HomeAway in Catalonia, who faced big fines themselves from the Spanish authorities for continuing to advertise holiday rentals that were not registered.
If you own a holiday rental in another region of Spain, we recommend you read our article, which gives a quick run through of the latest requirements for registering a holiday rental in each region, so you can be sure that you are doing things the right way.
As sure as Benjamin Franklin was about the certainty of death and taxes, we are even more certain that villas with a licence number are going to have a massively out-perform those properties that are unregistered.
Think about it, you will have a massive advantage over clandestine rentals in terms of customer confidence, quality and legality, so you can easily take a lion’s share of the market from guests who will book your place over the unregulated villa next door – he may be trying to avoid the taxman, but that’s a false economy if he doesn’t have any income anyway!
As we mentioned before, there is no need to panic at all about the new Andalusian decree, unlike some tabloid reports it’s there to protect owners and guests alike and it’s free and simple to register.
We are going to be helping a couple of our villa owners through the paperwork as soon as the register opens to see how it all works, then we will report back with as much help and advice as we can offer to smooth the process for you.
Your holiday rental advertising listing is not performing, your bookings are down and you see other holiday homes in your destination with full calendars and happy guests. So why are you not achieving the same success?
Before you throw in the towel, take a good look at your holiday rental listing copy. Content can always be improved and optimising your content and writing copy that resonates with your ideal guest, should lead to increases enquiries and bookings.
We see it all too often on the holiday rental sites; in a rush to get a new rental listing out via as many channels as possible, owners succumb to the urge to write the advertising copy as quickly as possible, rather than taking time and care to do it properly.
It’s a big mistake, and if you are guilty it could be costing you bookings.
I was contacted a couple of weeks ago by a lovely lady asking for some feedback on the website for her property in the South of France. As we got into a deeper discussion about all the challenges she is having to overcome with marketing her holiday let, it got me thinking about the many ways in which Rental Tonic could really help owners with similar problems. Read more
Over the past few weeks I have been running a survey to find out exactly what your biggest challenges are when it comes to running a holiday let business. Read more
Disclosing the exact address of your holiday property is something that causes great debate among the holiday lettings community, and with good reason. Read more
In this holiday rentals case study series we have been talking about how we turned a neglected long-term rental property into a home with good holiday rental potential for families.
If you follow the previous post, you can see how Rental Tonic created an action plan for the Owner to target a specific niche market, and how we took some time over the photography to present the house in the best way online. Once we had enough images it was time to make a start on some advertising… Read more