Vacation rental properties can be cash cows, and regardless of where they are in the world, they’re guaranteed to sell themselves for at least one season each year. But how do their owners keep them profitable the other 9 or 10 months?
Try implementing these tips to keep your vacation rental in demand all year long — and make a killing in the process.
Learn from the Past
Start by going over your last five years’ worth of guests, noting how many were in each group, how many rooms were used, lengths of stays, and individual stats like ages and genders. Information like this will make it easy to pinpoint your property’s busiest and slowest rental periods, as well as the types of people who rent it most and least.
You should also make sure to make note of how your renters found you: via your website, referral sites, personal recommendations, etc. That way, you know where to concentrate all your future promotions and ads.
Know Your Competition
Visit hotel and B&B referral websites to see what their rates are during the off seasons, and to see any fluctuations they might have in stay requirements, included amenities, and incentives. When you know what you’re competing against, you don’t risk dropping your rates too low or keeping them prohibitively high. You should also make note of a few perks you could add to your own rental to make it more desirable, like free parking or prepaid ride share and taxi rides.
There’s a lot more you can do besides lower your daily rates to make your vacation rentals extra appealing. For instance, you could shorten the minimum stay requirement, offer big mid-week stay savings of 30 or 40 percent, or plan longer-term bargains like “rent for three nights and get one night free” or “kids stay free.”
Large vacation houses will likely deter those who just need two or three rooms for their group. To boost sales among this demographic, consider downsizing your rental by closing off a few rooms during certain slow times so new guests can enjoy the spaciousness of the common areas without having to worry about paying for unnecessary bedrooms.
Make three lists of repeat customers, one-time renters, and prospective renters who never quite made it to your place but definitely showed more than a passing interest. Then compile short, warm email messages for each group. For recurring guests, cite some personal anecdote culled from their past post-visit comments and express how much you look forward to seeing them again. Do something similar for one-timers, making your message as upbeat and personal as possible. For the group that never quite made it, offer to answer any questions and invite them to visit soon. Make sure to include one or more savings deals in all these emails, or mention local attractions that might pique your guests’ interests based on what you know about them.
Offer returning guests extra vacation deals for any referrals they make that end up booking with you. These incentives can range from 10 to 15 percent off a future booking of three nights or more, a free cord of firewood, discounts on boat or snowboard rentals, and basically anything else that saves them money on their visit and enriches their experience. Just be sure to clearly spell out all the conditions of the deal so no unpleasant misunderstandings arise later on.
Getting to know your guests is more than just good PR; it lets you create packages that cater to their unique interests. For example, if you know a guest is a sailing enthusiast, offer them two free tickets to a local boat show if they book during that week, or entice confirmed foodies with a gift card to a popular nearby restaurant if they stay with you during the off season. Any packages that show you actually listen to your guests and remember their preferences are sure to be winners every time, especially during an era when personalized customer service is on the decline in many industries.
Hot Tub Hoopla
Although hot tubs are frequently associated with wild parties of the 20th century, a recent study by TripAdvisor found that these communal barrels of bubbles rank among the top five most desired amenities at rentals throughout North America. They are especially attractive to romantic couples but make a welcome addition to all guests, especially during the colder months. Even better, the investment cost of one is usually recouped in just a few months of brisk business during peak season.
Contact your local Chamber of Commerce or scan a neighborhood newspaper or website to find a few organizers of local events. Offer to mention community events on your website and include special deals for attendees who stay at your rental. This not only increases your revenue, but it also builds relationships that could be mutually beneficial for years to come.
Add a blog link to your website with attention-grabbing titles such as “Secret Winter Wonderlands You Don’t Want to Miss” and “Fall in Love With Autumn and Save Money On Your Vacation Rental.” Make your destination even more exciting by including a list of local and nearby museums, sporting events, and concerts/dance shows. Make your town — and in turn, your rental property — a go-to place that has something for everyone no matter when they might visit.