Whether you are new to the holiday property rental market or consider yourself an ‘old-hand’ at renting your holiday home, you will inevitably have felt the repercussions of the current economic climate. Factors such as Brexit, the weakening pound, the renaissance of the ‘package’ holiday, and increasing competition from other property owners who have decided to rent out their home to help with costs, are all influencing bookings for private holiday homes. Therefore, it is now more important than ever to ensure that you are proactively marketing your holiday rental property to ensure that you maximise the opportunity to secure bookings and fill your availability calendar.
Here are 10 tips to help you to generate more bookings:
Identify your target market
As with any product/service successful marketing depends upon correctly identifying the target market and holiday home rental is no different. Essentially you need to work out exactly who your property will appeal to. For instance, if your holiday home is in the middle of the party capital of Ibiza – San Antonio, it will be unlikely to attract a mature couple looking for a relaxing peaceful break! Likewise, a home that is off the beaten track will be more suited to visitors that enjoy hiking or getting back to nature than meeting the needs of a young couple or a lively family.
So, carefully consider the attributes of your holiday home such as the location, facilities both within the property e.g. swimming pool, balcony, number of rooms/bedrooms, and externally i.e. restaurants, bars, clubs, golf course, family theme parks etc. Then with this knowledge work out who your property will appeal to, identify where to find your audience so that you can communicate/advertise directly to them, and develop your offering to match their needs.
Always bear in mind that you should not alienate sub-markets when focusing upon the key audience. For example, if your property is near to a golf course then marketing rental of your home to golfers during Spring and Autumn will no doubt yield a good return of bookings during this period. However, your holiday home may also appeal to non-golfers or the partner of a golfer who does not play him/herself to enjoy the surrounding scenery or other amenities near to your property. Therefore, focus your marketing efforts upon both markets i.e. rather than purely promoting your holiday home as being near to a golf course, also sell the benefits of the stunning scenery and tranquillity which your property benefits from or the nearby health spa.
Focus upon and develop a niche for your holiday property
Once you have defined your target market then take a long look at the facilities that your holiday home can offer that customer profile to satisfy their requirements as a holiday destination, and make your property more attractive to them than the competition – create your own ‘niche’.
For example, if you are focusing upon families then ensure that you provide and advertise family desirable facilities/equipment such as a cot, stair gates, high chair, toys and books, bottle sterilisers, DVDS or videos and of course ensure that if you have a pool area or balcony that it is 100% ‘child proof’. In comparison if you have an upmarket holiday home and are targeting the ‘luxury’ end of the market then ensure that you focus upon desirables such as bedroom and bathroom linen of the highest standard, fluffy bathrobes and slippers, free Wi-Fi, state of the art TV and surround sound systems, daily housekeeping and/or in-house catering (as an option).
Research your competition and consider your own holiday rental property in the light of that.
It is important to know your market, but it is equally as important to know your competition. Look objectively at your holiday home, its location, what it offers visitors, the price you wish to ask and then consider objectively if it sits well in the market place? Is it competitively priced – are you charging too much or too little in comparison to similar properties? Does it require an external or internal (or both) facelift or renovation to bring it up to par with other holiday homes in the area? Does your holiday rental property have any advantages or drawbacks in comparison to the competition? – know these and how to exploit or overcome them in your marketing campaign.
A picture paints a thousand words
Perhaps the most important part of marketing that will help you to get more bookings for your holiday home is advertising your property using the very best quality images. Good photography is the key to effective advertising.
Research has consistently shown that advertisements/websites for holiday properties with the best quality, and plentiful display, of photographs achieve a higher booking rate. Potential guests when looking for a holiday rental property will be drawn to good photographs that present your property and its location in the very best light – your photographs should be the enticement that they need to read more and to make that booking!
Your photographs should be the key selling point for your holiday home and holiday experience. When browsing your advertisement or website potential customers should be able to envisage themselves sipping a nice cold drink sitting beside the pool at your holiday home, or watching the sun go down from the terrace before strolling out to experience the very best local cuisine. Your photography should prompt these thoughts and visions – a psychological phenomenon called ‘anticipation happiness’.
If you are personally not great at the art of photography, then hire a professional photographer as this element is the absolute key to you maximising booking opportunities so it cannot afford to be done to anything than the highest standard.
Take both internal and external shots of your holiday home, photos of any views from the property, and of the local area and key selling points such as that great bar around the corner, or superb fish restaurant a short walk away. Ensure that the images match the season in which you wish to promote rental of your holiday home i.e. if it is suitable for a family sun holiday do not take shots in the autumn or winter.
If possible, make a short video production of your holiday home as many potential guests back up their holiday research with a look on YouTube – they could find your place here instead of your competition.
Always use a lead photograph that is a total attention grabber
Once you have a set of photographs that will really sell your holiday rental home to your target audience then you need to ensure that the lead photograph i.e. the FIRST image that any prospective client sees within your advertisement/website page shows your property at its best and will help it stand out from the crowd.
Whether your property has the most amazing infinity pool, a stunning facade, views over the sea that are unrivalled, whatever the best feature of your holiday home use this as your lead photograph. Make sure that this lead image is a real scene stealer, an attention grabber that will make a potential customer look no further than your property.
It is good advice to remember that some people using the internet to search for a holiday destination will search on ‘images’, rather than ‘web’, so always ensure that your holiday rental property jumps off the page in a google search and tag all your images appropriately to ensure Google indexes your photographs.
Sell the holiday experience with great descriptions
Whist photographs will undoubtedly attract the attention of a browser it is the copy and descriptions that will sell the whole experience and reinforce your images. The copy needs to provide as much information as possible about your holiday home and the experience of staying there and be relevant to your identified target audience and sub-markets.
It needs to be original and compelling highlighting the advantages, strengths and ‘unique selling points’ of your holiday rental property which will encourage prospective holidaymakers to see themselves in the property. Use descriptions that will evoke pictures in the mind such as how wonderful a sunset is viewed from the hammock on your holiday home’s terrace, the feeling of total relaxation sitting in the hot tub after a day’s hiking in the nearby hills, little Johnny happily and safely playing beside the swimming pool protected by guard rails etc. If your holiday home has all year-round appeal, then set the scene for all the different seasons e.g. golfing in Autumn and sunbathing in Summer.
Do not just use the phrase ‘set in a great location’. Accurately describe exactly what that ‘great location’ offers holiday makers as the destination is as important to the vast majority as the property that they stay in. Talk about local attractions, feature recommended restaurant or bars and ‘sell’ the area.
Always remember to provide details of your holiday rental property in terms of how many people it sleeps, the facilities, number of rooms, equipment provided etc.
When you are writing your advert or web copy always think to yourself what would make me want to book this property for my holiday? What makes my property stand out from my competitors? Read your copy back as if you were looking for a holiday yourself then consider if it hits the mark and makes you want to make a booking.
Always remember to include contact details so that potential guests can easily get in touch with you – a landline telephone number, mobile and email address should be given if possible.
The price must be right
This factor is possibly the hardest decision you will need to make and will have a major impact upon securing rental bookings for your holiday home.
If you decide on a price that is too high then you will inevitably suffer with weeks left empty on your availability calendar, too low and you may attract the wrong type of customer or/and your profits will suffer.
To avoid this situation, you need to have done a thorough competitor analysis and to know exactly what the local competition are charging for their holiday rental properties then decide upon a price for your home accordingly.
In your first year of renting out your holiday home do not be afraid to experiment with pricing to ensure you are on or near the mark. Not all holidaymakers are looking for the lowest prices, but human nature dictates that the majority will be looking for value for money. Many people are prepared to pay a premium if they feel that a property offers something ‘extra’ and this can define value for money. Be creative with the ‘extras’ that you offer to make your holiday property stand out from the crowd i.e. use of a car, ‘x’ number of meals provided each week by in-house catering, negotiated discount at a local bar or restaurant etc.
We highly recommend that when you structure your pricing quote an all-inclusive price – including cleaning, electricity, laundry etc. Many guests will prefer not to be confused by ‘add ons’ and like to know exactly what they are paying for, and exactly what they are getting!
Advertise in the right place to ensure more bookings
When considering where to advertise your holiday rental property to get more bookings this really is trial and error – what works for some holiday homes may not work for yours and vice versa.
In your first year of letting your holiday home you will need to test and analyse various advertising mediums to build up a sound understanding of which advertisements are working for your property. To get the process moving in your first year you may wish to consider also using a letting agent. They will of course charge a fee to manage your holiday rental property and you do somewhat lose control over who stays at your home and when.
We recommend that the best way to ensure a steady flow of bookings is to maximise exposure of your holiday home to potential customers by firstly investing in a selection of online advertisements, and secondly having a personal website just for your holiday rental property. This latter strategy would be a second string to your bow once you have tested demand through online portals as having a website built that is fully functional to take bookings can be costly and you may be able to fill your availability calendar by using holiday rental portals alone. Once you have the bookings coming in you can then drop the underperforming strategies.
There are many websites that currently allow you to list your property for free. However, those that only accept paid-for holiday rental adverts tend to be of a much better quality as they will have substantial advertising budgets and therefore will undoubtedly generate and receive high volumes of traffic so will hopefully yield better results for you.
For example if you have a villa in Playa Den Bossa in Ibiza search for the following in Google:
villas in Playa Den Bossa
holiday villas in Playa Den Bossa
Consider advertising on the sites that are listed at the top of the search results, such as holiday rentals, owners direct or holiday lettings. Explore marketing initiatives that have the potential to create exposure or bookings by asking yourself how can you reach your target market? Consider blogging or using twitter to promote your local area, events, special offers etc. Can you advertise on your works notice board/intranet? Participate in forums that are targeted to your area e.g. TripAdvisor – but don’t spam. How can you reach new markets? If the weak pound is deterring UK visitors, then target holidaymakers from other countries who are not affected by exchange rates.
Exceed expectations and attract repeat business
Word of mouth recommendation is a very powerful tool. It should always be your aim to attract guests back to your holiday rental property or to recommend to their family, friends or work colleagues. Encourage them to provide positive reviews of your holiday home on relevant review websites, these reviews always give potential customers the confidence that what you say is backed up by an independent third party. This is the easiest and cheapest way to get bookings.
Encourage repeat bookings with discounts or special offers. For example, if guests provide a positive testimonial or online review they receive a percentage off their next booking, or offer a discount on holidays booked the year prior, or book 3 nights, and get the 4th night free. Aim to increase weekend bookings during the off-season months by creating interesting packages themed around special days in the calendar, or events in the area i.e. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, local events and festivals etc.
Be constantly evaluating your holiday rental property
To generate and maintain bookings for your holiday rental property you must be able to be self-critical and evaluate, particularly if things are not going to plan and bookings are sparse. Be pro-active rather than re-active and stay one step ahead of the game as soon as bookings are not at your desired level.
Read your guest’s comments, what did they like/not like about their stay at your holiday home? Improve your offering based on your evaluations and customer feedback.