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.