Practical advice on running a holiday rental property or holiday let
In a crowded holiday lettings market, how can you make your property stand out from the crowd?
Boy am I busy at the moment! And loving every minute I have to say. But when you are a service provider it’s often the case that you dedicate so much time to managing your clients, you don’t find the time to look after your own business. Do you find that with your holiday rental and the home where you live? You put so much time and effort into your holiday let business, your place of residence doesn’t get a look in! I bet some of you can identify with that, even though you don’t like to admit it.
Right now we are writing content, developing websites and brand strategies for clients, and running their social media channels. It’s been so busy we had to decline an invitation to speak at the VRMA European Conference in Amsterdam this March. There’s always next year! Are you going? I’ll be writing on the conference for my next article.
As busy as I have been, I always have time to collaborate with Vacation Rental colleagues around the globe and I wanted to share some of the content here on our Rental Tonic blog. Enjoy, and I promise we’ll be back to regular writing very soon!
How to Market your Vacation Rental to Business Travellers
If you haven’t thought about attracting the business travel market, it’s about time you start. The business travel market is worth 1.2 Trillion dollars and there was a 57% growth year on year in 2016 for business travellers using Airbnb and HomeAway to book accommodation.
I spoke to vacation rental software experts, Lodgify about what owners and managers need to do to attract the business traveller.
Why Guest Experience Matters
I had a super interesting conversation with Jonathan from property management and guest experience experts Vreasy on why the guest experience matters so much in today’s market and what you can do as an owner or manager to build a more memorable vacation rental business.
If you want to achieve full calendars and happy, repeat guests, you need to read this article on the guest experience and start considering if your standards are high enough to entice guests back for more.
Top 10 Tips for Family-Friendly Vacation Rentals
In 2015, according to the ABTA Consumer Survey, 38% of British consumers took a holiday with their immediate family, and 20% took a holiday with their extended family, that’s grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc. In terms of global figures: family holidays represented around a third of the market, that’s 115 million annual holidays!
So if you have space, and you don’t mind welcoming children to your holiday home, you need to think on how to furnish and market your holiday let to attract families. Family holidays can take painstaking organisation and lots of patience, so when a family finds the perfect accommodation, they repeat book time and again. Don’t leave it to chance to attract families to your holiday home, read this article and make it happen!
Why Holiday Homes Don’t Make A Profitable Property Investment
Ok, Ok. I know. But if it’s decision time and you are not sure whether to buy that second home as an investment or not, there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration before splashing out. This articles covers some of the cons of owning a holiday home.
And if you are in the decision-making process, please do get in touch with our Rental Tonic team. We’re always happy to give your a virtual assessment on your vacation rental business plan.
How to Convert Enquiries into Bookings for your Holiday Cottage
Your holiday home is one in a million. Or should I say one amongst a million of other holiday homes listed on the likes of HomeAway, Airbnb and my partners for this article, Direct Holiday Cottages. In fact every holiday rental is unique, but as an owner you have to work hard to create a home-from-home experience and to convert enquiries to real bookings, there’s a few things you need to do, to make your property be that ‘one’ in a million potential clients want to book.
How Rich Guest Profiles Can Transform Your Holiday Rental Business
An oldie, but one of my favourite articles. I am a firm advocate for enriching the guest experience, and one of the most effective ways to do so is by profiling your guests and personalising your communication and experience. Check out this article I wrote for Spain-holiday.com on how to harvest guest data and use it to create a rich personalised experienced pre, during and post-stay.
Finally don’t forget our Rental Tonic team is here to support you in the creation of an enriching guest experience and in developing all of the marketing tools and resources you’ll need attract to your ideal guests.
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.
High season is over. You’ve said farewell to the last guests of summer, and brushed away the final grain of sand from your doorstep. You can breath a sigh of relief… Hang on! Don’t relax just yet. You’ve got work to do to get your holiday rental ship shape and ready for this year’s autumn/winter season and for the coming year’s spring/summer bookings.
If you want to run a successful holiday rental business, there’s no sitting on your laurels after high season. Now is the time to plan, update and maintain contact with your valued guests. So, what’s next?
Depending where your holiday rental is located you might have 4-6 weeks turnaround between the end of the summer season and the all important half-term school break. Many families choose to catch the last rays of sunshine in the October half-term.
If you have a family-friendly holiday rental, this will be a key week for you, which if prepared well, can be the start of some valuable family repeat bookings.
Here are some ways to put your family-friendly holiday rental in front of potential half-term guests.
- If you have your own holiday rental website, write an article, or listicle, for your blog on the Top Attractions/Activities for Half-Term in your area and share it like crazy
- Promote special half-term offers on the advertising portals you are using
- Use your social media profiles to shout about the reasons why spending half-term in your destination is fab, fun and family-friendly
- If you don’t already, start to connect with family-friendly specialists via social media and tag them in your ‘Things to do’ and ‘Promotional’ posts. Make the posts fun, interesting and shareable.
Blue skies and swimming pools might be the primary draw for guests visiting your holiday rental, but if you want to attract low-season bookings, you need to paint a four-seasons picture.
Even if your destination enjoys year-round sunshine, show potential guests what your holiday home looks like dressed up for Christmas; how locals celebrate New Year’s Eve and Easter, or what your ski destination looks like in the spring and summer months, with flowers blanketing the ski slopes.
Just after summer season ends, start to populate your advertising listings and website with autumn/winter seasonal photos and quirky mentions of what guests can expect during this time. During, or just after the Christmas period, you can start to add seasonal photos and descriptions for spring and summer next year, and so the cycle goes on.
Of course you will always focus on your high season, but adding a touch of four-season magic, could be just what your holiday rental needs to secure those low season bookings.
Keep in touch
If your guests leave your holiday home happy. Having had a positive holiday experience. Keeping in touch via email marketing is not just a courtesy, it’s a very impactful way of getting them back for another stay. Repeat guests provide the best ROI (return on investment). You don’t have to spend a lot of marketing budget on them. In their case it’s time and effort, over budget. Plus they often reflect your ideal guest profile, which means they are likely to stay loyal and recommend you to their friends and family.
When the busy holiday season is over, get in touch with your guests. Tell them what they can expect out of season. Use an early bird discount for next summer to get to them to fill out a post-stay survey, keep them up-to-date with your latest offers and articles, and of course, invite them to follow you on social media.
Review your holiday rental marketing
Better the devil you know? Not when it comes to spending your hard earned holiday rental income on marketing. At the beginning of each year, or at the end of each advertising contract, you need to decide what provides the best ROI (return on investment) and ditch what doesn’t perform.
Stay on top of new platforms, investigate local portals focused on your destination and develop your own holiday rental website and social media profiles. Perfecting your self-promotional channels will ultimately provide a better ROI and more credibility for your holiday rental business.
Focus on the audience
We’ve already discussed adapting your holiday rental marketing to attract families during half-term, but you can also target couples looking for a quiet break, retirees looking to get away for the winter, or group activity bookings: golf, hiking, cycling, etc.
Remember: consumers like added value over discounts, so think about offers that will make them feel as they are getting extra:
- Special one month winter stay prices
- 14 days for the price of 10, or 7 from the price of 5
- Long weekend special promotions
- Weekday rates for weekend stays
Maintenance check: fix and replace items
On to the boring stuff. I know, I know… But keeping your holiday home updated, clean and fresh, and with a full inventory, is an essential part of your holiday rental business.
Here are some of the spot checks and updates you need to do after the busy season ends:
- A lick of paint will freshen your place up and make it feel like new
- Buy new bed linen and towels. After a season of lotioned up guests, your sheets and towels will have seen better days
- Give the cupboards a clean to get rid of unwanted breadcrumbs, coffee stains and sugar granules.
- Stock up on complimentary items, such as coffee, tea, soaps, toilet paper and washing up liquid, etc. Make sure your new guests won’t be left short.
- Make a recce of utensils and cutlery: Recently, an owner mentioned to me that when she came to clean up after her last guests of the summer, she had no teaspoons left! You should be keeping check throughout the season, but after the last guest has left, make sure you restock all kitchen utensils and cutlery, ready for new guests, new season!
- Maintenance check: Check all your kitchen appliances function properly, light bulbs don’t need changing, the toilet flushes and there are no dripping taps.
- Bathroom and kitchen fungus: With so much usage during high season, areas such as the bathroom might need a touch up. Make sure all surfaces, tiled floors, showers, etc. are cleaned and free of mildew and if you’re feeling up for it, why not reseal the bath and shower edges, so everything looks sparkling new.
- Wash down your patio and terrace: If you can invest in the rental of a jet washer to bring out the original colour of your patio and get rid of all the dirt in between the tiles, go for it!
Write a list of things you could have done better and action them for next season!
Changeovers, marketing and advertising, guest communication, post-guest surveys, maintenance, and security. Now is the time to evaluate how success your holiday rental business was this year, and what you can do better for the coming season. Need help bringing all this together to create a holiday rental success? Rental Tonic is here to help!
Finally… Give yourself a pat on the back. Yep go ahead, you deserve it!
Working in the holiday rental industry and living in a tourist destination I have a high tolerance level to holidaymakers, but this summer season we have had some particularly bothersome renters, who would annoy even the most patient of neighbours (like me!)
Holiday rental owners have a responsibility to protect both the communities they live in and the local neighbourhood. And let’s face it, nobody wants the nightmare of turning up to do a changeover to find a wrecked home, after some particularly disrespectful guests have left their mark.
If you want to create a successful and long-term business out of your holiday rental property, you definitely don’t want to fall out with your neighbours. To ensure your renters love your neighbours as much as you do, there are a few things you need to prepare and communicate before they arrive. After all…
Happy guests + happy neighbours = a perfect combination!
1. Vet your guests
Part of our duty, as conscientious holiday rental owners, is to vet potential guests before confirming a booking. We have a responsibility to protect our industry; to stop holiday rentals gaining a bad reputation, by allowing unruly guests to stay in our local communities.
The type of guest you allow to rent your home, should depend on where you live, the type of property you own and the community you represent. If you live in a small complex or urbanisation, where a high percentage of residents are owners or year-round renters, it doesn’t make sense to accept a group booking of young party animals. That’s just not great for community spirit!
2. Share community rules and regulations
This summer a group of young lads stayed in our urbanisation, who decided to swim naked while young children were in the pool (including mine!); brought bottles of alcohol (no glass allowed) to the pool, and proceeded to get drunk every day by the pool, break furniture by using it as floating goal posts, and generally cause quite some havoc. Funnily enough, the other holiday guests didn’t want to use our pool and probably wouldn’t want to return. So, the owner who allowed this group to book their home, probably affected future bookings of other owners in the urbanisation. Vet your guests!
Your contract should include the main community rules that visitors must abide by, such as swimming pool etiquette, parking and noise pollution. And reiterate those rules on arrival in your welcome information. You can set out the information in a friendly and comfortable manner, rather than as a schoolmaster laying down school rules.
3. House etiquette
Guests will respect you and your property a whole lot more if you create a guest-friendly etiquette list. You could even create a fun list and frame it. Include green rules on water and air con usage, and a little reminder that you enjoy a happy coexistence with your neighbours and want to keep it that way!
There are friendly and fun ways to impart rules, which don’t put your guests off for future bookings! Here’s one I created a while back for an article on preparing an eco-friendly holiday rental.
4. Encourage them to meet the neighbours
I have a great relationship with my neighbours and am always happy to help visitors with anything they need to know about the house or neighbourhood. If you let your guests know that your neighbours are residents, it might instill a little more respect in how they treat the community, instead of arriving with the idea that this is a ‘pure’ tourist complex, where everyone is in ‘holiday mode’.
5. Highlight the law in your area
If guests know that a neighbour or community has the right to make a complaint against them for untoward behaviour, they may think twice about stepping out of line. New holiday rental regulations in Spain mean a community can complain to the police about a renter’s behaviour and the owner has the right to give them 24 hours notice to leave.
6. Guest ratings
The introduction of guest rating systems hasn’t been received with the greatest of enthusiasm by owners. Many of whom don’t have personal, face-to-face interaction with guests. However, over the long-term, if a guest profile can be rated based on how they treat accommodation, it could save you from having a bad guest experience. Something we definitely want to avoid.
I received a five star guest rating this summer, during a stay in Cornwall, and was so delighted to receive it, I was eager to continue to be a great renter in the future. Just as an owner feels when she receives five star ratings from guests.
Maybe I am feeling particularly disgruntled about having my peace shattered this summer, and, of course, I don’t want you to put your guests off! But the experience made me realise that responsible owners must take action to protect our communities and the reputation of our industry.
Before I go, I came across Noise Aware, a nifty little device that sends you a noise violation alert if your guests exceed the noise limit during designated quiet times. It’s noise protection for short-term and vacation rentals. What’s not to love!
Dive bombing by Elliot Moore
Rental Tonic has been working with holiday rental owners since 2012. Yes, we’ve been around that long! During that time we have built-up a resource portal focused on how to build a successful holiday rental business.
We have coached many of you, built your holiday home websites, worked with you to create advertising descriptions that WOWed your ideal guests, and showed you how to successfully stage and photograph your property.
Now as we move into our next phase, growing into a brand new kind of holiday rental coaching business, we want to share the moment with you.
In fact, we want YOU to be part of that moment. To help make it happen.
We are super excited to be creating brand new content modules, tailor-made to help you develop a business delivering full calendars and happy guests!
Over the summer we’ll be fine tuning our content. To do that, we need your help. We know our business inside out, but in order to support your holiday rental needs, we want to know your business inside out too.
Talk to us about your business
So I would like to invite 7 holiday rental owners or managers to talk to me about their business, to help us understand and create solutions to your biggest challenges:
What support do you need to help your holiday rental business grow?
And what do you struggle most with in your holiday rental business?
In return for sharing your challenges with us, I will give you a FREE 30 minute marketing review. Then I’ll share ways on how to make quick and easy improvements that WILL make your advertising more successful!
I only plan to speak to seven owners, so don’t delay in getting in touch. Don’t forget you will benefit from a free coaching session!
Shoot me over an email to email@example.com to help us create the next generation in holiday rental marketing training. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!
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.
I know many owners here in Europe are preparing to welcome their first holiday rental guests of the season as the Easter break begins. The old adage “first impressions count” is never more important than when trying to run a holiday business, so why should a holiday rental be any different to a quality hotel? Guests have the same needs; they may be stressed out from finishing up at work, tired from the journey, possibly with over excited children, and all they want is to arrive and find everything perfect so they can get straight on with the job of relaxing and having a good holiday. Read more