Boosting Vacation Rental Bookings in the Off-Season

Boosting Vacation Rental Bookings in the Off-Season

Of the many challenges that vacation rental owners face, increasing bookings in the off-season is perhaps one of the most vexing. While the off-season is the perfect time for vacation rental maintenance, upgrades, and personal use, not having a steady rental income can be quite stressful. But the low season does not have to mean all doom and gloom for your rental property. It does mean, however, that you’ll need to step up your marketing efforts and change your strategy a little. Here are a few of the steps you should consider taking if you’ve been struggling with boosting your vacation rental bookings during the off-season.

Examine Your Target Guest

 

Your target guest during peak rental season is likely not the same as your target guest during the low season. It’s quite possible that you may not even know what kind of guest you need to be targeting to get more off-season bookings. But there’s quite an easy way to figure this out – simply look at who’s booked your property in this time frame in the past. Who your target guest is will help you make the right marketing and advertising decisions.

 

Adjust Pricing & Minimum Stay Requirements

 

Reducing Property PricingAre you pricing your property properly considering the season and demand? Lots of vacation rental owners struggle with finding the best rates for their properties. Low demand can make the pricing process that much trickier. To get a better feel for what the going rate for a rental like yours might be, take some time to peruse the listings on sites like VRBO or Airbnb. Find properties in the same area, with the same number of bedrooms/bathrooms, and that have comparable amenities. Take a look at the pricing of those properties that have a reservation calendar with an admirable number of bookings. With that information, you can determine which adjustments you need to make to your low season prices.

Consider Specials & Packages

 

Offering specials is a great way to entice potential customers to book your vacation property. You may want to provide a discount for weekday stays or offer a free night with stays of a certain length. Lodging packages are another effective way to get guests book with you. If there are special events or activities in your destination, consider offering free tickets with bookings. You may want to investigate forming a partnership with the organizers of these events so you can get a link back to your website (which will get even more eyes on your rental). Local business are another great possibility for partnerships. You may be able to secure discounted services or goods for your guests.

Show Off on Social Media and in Email Newsletters

 

Social Media Icons on a SmartphoneIf you’ve set up social media accounts for your vacation rental property (which hopefully, you have), you can easily keep previous guests in the loop. This means you’ll be able to let all of your friends or followers know about any discounted rates, specials, or packages you’re offering. In addition, be sure to let everyone know about special events and festivals in the area. By highlighting these specials and/or interesting events, you’re giving potential guests a reason to consider taking a vacation to your destination.

Email newsletters are another wonderful option for staying in touch with previous guests. These, too, can be used to provide information on your off-season discounts and local attractions. Many rental owners also offer their previous guests incentives for referrals. These incentives can be anything from discounts on future stays to gift cards.

Start a Retargeting Advertising Campaign

 

Retargeting, also referred to as remarketing, is an effective way of re-engaging the attention of previous visitors to your site. You can choose to set up a retargeting campaign through search engines as well as through certain social media sites. Individuals who have been on your website before will then see advertisements for your property when they visit other websites or when they’re on their own social media account. This type of advertising campaign keeps your property front and center to those people who have previously shown an interest in it, which makes them more likely to come back to your site to make a reservation.

 

Change Up Your Listing

 

Man Changing His Property Listing OnlineIt’s always a good idea to keep your listing on vacation rental sites up to date. This is especially important in the off-season. Take some time to change up your property photos so that guests have a clear idea of what your rental or the area looks like in that particular season. Also, change the verbiage of your listing to address off-season activities or events. Of course, don’t forget to mention any packages or discounts you’re offering. Include that information in the listing as well as in the headline so potential guests see it immediately. As an added bonus, updating your listing regularly can help it to show up higher in search results on certain sites.

One other change you can make to your listing, if you haven’t already, is to enable the instant book function. Most guests prefer to have the ability to book their vacation rental with a single click as opposed to having to wait for their booking request to be approved. This action can also help to get your vacation property listed higher in search results.

Add Amenities

 

This last suggestion for boosting vacation rentals is also potentially the most expensive. However, if your vacation property is lacking certain amenities that are common in other rentals in your area, this could seriously impact your income. While properties without all the bells and whistles can certainly do well in a popular destination spot during the high season, they will be at a disadvantage in the off-season. That’s not to say that you need to shell out a significant amount of money to upgrade your property. But it’s important to be mindful of those things that your guests want in a vacation property, regardless of when they visit. There’s lots of competition out there and during the low season, the small things can mean the difference between you getting a booking or a potential guest booking elsewhere..

 

How Do You Boost Your Off-Season Rentals?

 

Have you found an amazing technique to bring more guests into your vacation rental during the low season? Let us know in the comments. We’re always eager to learn more about the different ways vacation property owners succeed.

If you have questions about marketing your vacation rental, give us a call at (720) 336-3939 or contact us online. We look forward to speaking with you

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Vacation Rental Owners Ask: How Do I Get My Rental Keys to My Guests?

Vacation Rental Owners Ask: How Do I Get My Rental Keys to My Guests?

New vacation rental owners often find themselves wondering “How will I get the keys for my rental property to guests if I’m out of town?” Obviously, if you’re using the services of a property management company, this isn’t an issue you’ll have to worry about as the management company will take care of it for you. But if you’re one of the many vacation rental owners who handle all the ins and outs of your property on your own, you’ll more than likely face this scenario. Thankfully, there are several options that are available should you need to get keys to guests when you’re not around.

Lockboxes

 

Lockbox for KeysIf you’re looking for an easy and affordable way to get your keys to your guests, a lockbox is the way to go. With a lockbox, you can choose the combination you want and change it at your discretion. So when guests depart, all you’ll need to do is change the combination settings on the box. Most often, lockboxes either offer four- or ten-digit combinations. Those with combination wheels are usually the most affordable. However, guests may leave the wheels aligned to the combination, which can pose a security risk for your home.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about using a lockbox, though. If you live in a Homeowners’ Association (HOA), check the rules and regulations for anything about lockboxes as they may not be permitted. It’s often a good idea to install the boxes somewhere out of plain sight as they can signal to burglars that your home is empty. Finally, make sure the boxes are easy to use for guests. For instance, will the guest be able to easily access the key if it’s dark? Is the box weather-resistant? Harsh weather conditions can sometimes prevent lockboxes from functioning properly.

Keyless or Smart Locks

 

ResortLock Keyless LockFor something a little more high tech, you may want to consider installing keyless or smart locks at your property. As you might expect, the more technology your door lock uses, the more expensive it will be. Some keyless door locks feature just a standard keypad with resettable combination functionality. On the higher end, though, you’ll find door locks with Bluetooth, their own related apps, remote unlocking capabilities, and much more. The market for these types of door locks is increasing so you’ll probably see even more available options in the coming years.

Of course, there are some things to consider when it comes to keyless or smart locks. How is the lock powered and what happens if there’s a power outage or the battery dies? Not all guests will have a smartphone or will want to download an app for their vacation. Smart locks might not work for all of your guests. Finally, how much money can you spend on a smart or keyless lock and still have it make financial sense for you? If you won’t be making use of the lock very much throughout the year, an investment of a couple hundred dollars or more might not be worth it.

The Kindness of Others

 

If the above options won’t work for you, you can always see if a friend or neighbor can deliver your rental keys to your guests. Some vacation owners have also used their cleaning company or apartment front desk staff to help out with this task. While it will depend on how accommodating these individuals are, we recommend using these means on a very limited basis or as a last resort. If you’ll be using your cleaning company or other individuals who you employ, don’t forget to compensate them for their time.

 

Alternative Solutions

 

Keycafe LogoDoes your vacation rental have a garage and a keypad to access it? If so, you can easily provide your guests with its passcode and leave the house key inside your rental. Other vacation rental owners have taken the step of hiding their property’s house key in an outside location, like in hide-a-key rocks, under planters, etc. However, we do not recommend this strategy as it can be quite risky security-wise. Another option that’s starting to pick up steam is Keycafe. With Keycafe, you deposit your keys in one of their locations and provide the code to your guests. Then, when your guests pick up your keys, you get a notification. Presently, there are only Keycafe locations in select cities throughout the United States. But, we’re guessing that this company will continue to expand.

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Best Ways to Enhance Your Guests’ Experience

Best Ways to Enhance Your Guests’ Experience

Your guests’ experience in your vacation rental will play a large part in your rental’s reputation and success. So it’s essential that you take the time to ensure that your guests have wonderful interactions with you and your vacation property every step of the way. While some vacation owners only focus on what they can do for guests during their stay, it’s important to remember that pre- and post-arrival time frames can be significant elements of the overall guest experience. When you strive to provide a smooth and enjoyable experience for your guests, you’re more likely to enjoy positive reviews and higher occupancy rates. Here’s a quick look at some of the steps you can take to enhance your guests’ experience from start to finish.

In General

 

As you might expect, the quality of your vacation rental impacts guest experience. That’s not to say that your rental has to be outfitted with only the most expensive finishes and furnishings, but everything should be kept in good working order and anything that’s not in good condition should be replaced. In addition, your property should be thoroughly cleaned before each arrival so that guests walk into an immaculate home.

Utensils in a Vacation Rental KitchenWith regard to amenities, you don’t need to pay an arm and a leg for the latest and greatest appliances or gadgets. However, you should spend time thinking about what amenities will make your guests feel most at home. In the kitchen, small appliances like toasters, coffee makers, slow cookers, and microwaves are good additions (as well as all the utensils, dishes, and cookware they might need). Guests also appreciate pantry items like herbs and spices, hot chocolate, and tea. Entertainment options like TVs, DVD players, gaming consoles, and board games are crowd-pleasers. And travel size toiletries and hair dryers in the bathrooms are also thoughtful provisions.

Consider including any items that will make your vacation property stand out from the rest as well as those items that you’d like to find if you were staying in a rental like yours. Above all, focus on making your vacation rental a clean and welcoming retreat for your guests in order to provide them with a high quality experience.

Pre-Arrival

 

Your Listings

 

Listing Site for Vacation RentalsWhether you have your vacation property listed on multiple sites, you have your own website, or both, take a look at how your home or condo is depicted. Are the property descriptions accurate and compelling? Are your pictures up-to-date and do they highlight the best features of your rental? Have you listed all of your property’s amenities? Do you regularly update your property’s availability calendar? If guests inquire via these sites, are you quick to respond? All of these things will impact the quality of a guest’s stay.

From the get-go, inaccurate reservation calendars and poor communication build a terrible foundation for positive guest interactions. When it comes to the quality of your listing, potential guests are going to make snap judgments about your property based on its pictures, description, and list of amenities. How well these items correspond to what your property is really like will play a part in guest satisfaction once they arrive at your property. It’s crucial that you maintain your availability calendar, respond quickly to all inquiries, and provide a reliable property listing.

 

Booking

 

Once a guest decides to book your vacation home or condo, how straightforward is the process? Regardless of which site your bookings are coming from, the process should be easy to understand and simple to complete. Don’t forget that in many instances, guests prefer to have the ability to book and pay for their reservations online with a credit card.

 

Guest Communication & Services

 

After your guests have booked your property, it’s a good idea to have several emails set up to be automatically sent to them. Many booking platforms and listing sites make it very easy for you to schedule custom emails, if you haven’t already. These emails should confirm their reservation and include information like check-in details, directions to the property, owner/manager contact information, and anything else that will help your guests start your vacation with ease.

You may also want to consider partnering with local companies who offer things like grocery delivery and other guest services. This way, you can give your guests the opportunity to have these items taken care of in advance of their stay (possibly at a discounted rate), which will ultimately help to make their vacations more enjoyable.

On Arrival

 

Welcome Basket in a Vacation RentalGuests should arrive at your vacation home or condo full of excitement and their first impression of your property should only serve to prolong this feeling. As previously mentioned, it’s critical that your rental is not only clean but also, that everything in it works as it should. Why stop there, though, when it’s easy to go above and beyond to exceed your guests’ expectations? Welcome baskets are fantastic additions that do a nice job of wowing guests. They don’t need to be huge, expensive affairs, either. A simple basket that includes a few local items that highlight nearby businesses or regional flavors is a thoughtful gesture that guests will appreciate.

It’s also a good idea to provide a printed informational packet/binder. With the informational packet or binder, address all the need-to-know items concerning your property. This may include house rules, local regulations on things like parking or trash disposal, security system how-tos, your wireless internet password, local contact information, and more. Don’t forget to cover things like nearby hospitals, doctor’s offices, grocery stores, banks/ATMs, and other places that are useful to know about. You may also want to provide information on local restaurants, activities, and events.

Last, but certainly not least, make sure that your guests will have access to a contact person 24/7 during their stay. Most likely, their contact person will either be you or a property manager. Regardless of who it is, though, they’ll need to be on-call for any customer service issues. Providing a rapid response to any problems that arise will go a long way in keeping your guests satisfied and showing them that you value their vacation time.

Post-Departure

 

Emails Received on a SmartphoneAfter your guests leave, there’s still one more step you can take to enhance their guest experience: send them a follow-up email. This email will give you a chance to express your thanks, ask for an online review, and to rectify any issues the guest experienced.  Keep the email short, sweet, and heartfelt. Consider offering a discount on future bookings or other incentives to encourage their return. Make sure to ask your guests if they enjoyed their stay. If they did, ask them to leave a review on your website, Google, Facebook, or a listing site. If they didn’t, take the time to get more information from them so that you address the problems directly. Showing that you care about their experience and want to remedy the issues at hand can work to prevent negative reviews and even entice some guests to return. You can check out our article on optimizing online reviews for even more information on the steps you can take to automate the process and increase the likelihood that your vacation rental will get good reviews.

 

The All-Around Experience

 

Guests will be able to tell when you’ve taken the time to ensure that every step of the booking and rental process is easy and enjoyable. Ultimately, this consideration will result in higher guest satisfaction and more reservations. So while it will take some time to get your processes perfected, it will benefit both you and your guests.

If you have questions about marketing your vacation rental, give us a call at (720) 336-3939 or contact us online. We look forward to speaking with you!

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What’s the Most Effective Way of Marketing a Vacation Rental Property?

What’s the Most Effective Way of Marketing a Vacation Rental Property?

Vacation rental owners face a number of challenges and usually, chief among them, is that which comes with maximizing rental revenue and occupancy rates. Frequently, these issues arise because vacation rental owners are having a tough time marketing their properties. We’ve heard the same question repeatedly from our clients, “What’s the most effective way to market a vacation rental property?” And while we wish we could provide a simple, straightforward response, anymore, there just isn’t one strategy you should follow to ensure vacation property success. Instead, the most effective way to market vacation homes and condos depends on incorporating several different types of marketing techniques into one comprehensive strategy.

Build Your Brand

 

Elevate your vacation rental into something beyond just a home or condo by creating a brand for your property. While this may sound like a grand undertaking, it really only involves a few steps. First, give your vacation home or condo a name.To guests, properties that have names come across as having more personality than those that don’t. In addition, repeat or referred guests will have an easier time finding your property online when it has a specific name. Try to find a descriptive name that captures what’s special about your property (Mountaintop Manor, Lakeside Chalet, etc.). Before you commit to a name, do a quick internet search to guarantee your chosen name’s uniqueness.

 

Set Up a Website

 

Computer Showing Website Creation PlatformOnce you’ve got your name picked out, it’s a good idea to set up a website for your property. There are a variety of platforms out there that make setting up websites quick and easy. Website hosting is also very affordable, with many plans costing just a few dollars a month. In order to get your site showing up in search results, take the time to optimize it for search engines. If you’ve never dealt with search engine optimization (SEO), we’ve put together a vacation rental SEO guide that covers just about everything you should know.

 

Set Up Social Media Accounts

 

Social Media Marketing App for Vacation RentalsSocial media accounts are another important element of your vacation rental brand. You can use Facebook and Twitter to show off photos of your property, events in your destination, and much more. Facebook is also great for advertising and getting reviews. Set up a Google My Business page for your vacation home or condo, too. This will ensure that your property shows up in local map search results. Plus, if you get Google reviews for your property, they’ll show up in these search results as well. Having these types of accounts makes it even easier for guests to find your property online.

Listing Sites

 

Listing Site for Vacation RentalsIf your property isn’t listed on the major rental listing sites (VRBO, HomeAway, Airbnb, etc.), now’s the time to create those listings using the property name you previously devised. Many factors on these sites will affect how successful your listing is at attracting guests. First and foremost, your destination and its market saturation can negatively impact your property’s visibility. For example, major metropolitan areas can have thousands and thousands of vacation homes and condos available for rent. Getting your property to stand out and rank higher than all those other rentals, will take time and effort.

Listing sites take several criteria into consideration when ranking vacation properties in their search results. Most of these have to do with how good of an experience potential guests have with your listing. Best practices include:

  • Giving guests the ability to book online
  • Responding to guest inquiries in a timely fashion
  • Keeping the availability calendar up to date
  • Using high quality property photos
  • Having good and current reviews
  • Providing an accurate and engaging property description
  • Verifying your property’s location on the map

Content Marketing

 

Person Writing a Blog Post for Vacation Rental WebsiteContent marketing is one of the more effective marketing strategies out there for the travel industry. Essentially, with content marketing, you’ll need to write articles about your property or your destination and then post them on your website and social media accounts. The key to great content marketing is research. You’ll need to take some time to research what your target audience is interested in and what they’re looking for online. Topics will obviously depend on your destination but may include things like events, seasonal activities, festivals, transportation options, restaurants, and lots more. If you’ve put together a quality, SEO article, search engines will notice and your article will rise in results rankings, which will get more organic traffic to your website. Infographics and videos are other great content pieces that appeal to a wide variety of audiences.

While search engines love quality content, so do guests. Your content will lay the groundwork for developing customer relationships and establishing your brand’s personality. And, the more frequently your content pieces come up in search results, the more brand recognition you’ll develop. If potential guests come to identify you as an authority on the area, this makes them more likely to trust you and to consider your rental when thinking about their next vacation.

Keep in mind that content marketing will take time. You won’t see results immediately as you’ll need to wait for search engines to find your content and index it. But the results from your efforts will be long-lasting, which is what makes content marketing quite affordable and cost-effective.

Email Marketing

 

Emails Received on a SmartphoneEmail marketing is a cost-effective and useful strategy that can help to maintain occupancy rates throughout the year while also keeping previous guests engaged. Most email platforms that are out there have free and low-cost versions that will more than pay for themselves. Emails make it easy for you to stay fresh in the mind of your previous guests and to continue building on your relationship with them. In addition, emails are a great way to encourage repeat business through things like discounted rates, last minute deals, and reward programs.

An added bonus of email marketing is that you can easily see how well your messages are being received. You’ll be able to see how many people opened your emails, how many clicks they get, and more. You can also use custom campaign parameters (snippets of code at the end of your link URLs) to better help you see how users are interacting with your site once they get there. When you know what messages are resonating with your audience members, you can tailor your emails to suit their interests, which will result in higher open rates and an increased potential for bookings.

How’s Your Marketing Strategy?

 

As the online marketplace for vacation rentals continues to evolve, property owners must adjust their marketing techniques accordingly. Currently, the best and most effective way to market your vacation rental property is by using a combination of marketing strategies that work together to increase your property’s online exposure, develop its brand reputation, and increase the organic traffic to your property’s website. With these items in place, you can look forward to getting more booking and more rental revenue.

If you’ve got questions about marketing your vacation home or condo, we’re here to help. We offer full-service marketing packages that can get your property seen online. To get started, give us a call at (720) 336-3939 or contact us online.

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Why Email Marketing is Key to Increasing Occupancy

Why Email Marketing is Key to Increasing Occupancy

All vacation rental owners will, at one point or another, struggle with low occupancy rates. Frequently low occupancy rates are seasonal occurrences but things like economic downturns and unfavorable weather conditions (no snow in a ski resort town, for example) can also result in low occupancy. The challenge that vacation rental owners must face is how to maintain occupancy rates throughout the year in order to maximize profitability. Though frequently overlooked, email marketing is one tool that often plays a key role in increasing vacation rental occupancy. When vacation property owners develop a comprehensive email marketing plan, they’ll have an easier time ensuring that their rental is receiving consistent bookings.

Email Marketing is Cost-Effective

Calculator and Expense Sheet

Regardless of your marketing budget, email marketing is incredibly cost-effective. There are a number of user-friendly platforms out there that provide free or low-cost email marketing services. One of our favorite services to use is MailChimp. Their system makes it incredibly easy to design beautiful emails and if you have less than 2,000 email subscribers, you can take advantage of their Forever Free Plan. If your contact list has more than 2,000 subscribers, monthly plans can be as cheap as $10 to $15.

Getting just one booking from your email marketing efforts will more than pay for the cost of your email marketing plan and the effort that goes into it.

In addition, it takes far less of an investment for you to keep previous guests than to find new guests. Sending emails to your previous guests is a great way to keep them on board, because…

Email Marketing is Engaging

 

When your previous guests get regular emails from you, it helps to further establish their guest experience. Essentially, it provides them with an ongoing ‘interaction’ with you and your property. While some of your emails will be sales-based in nature, it’s a good idea to incorporate other elements as well, like local events, changes to your property, exciting area news, etc. These types of emails give your former guests a sense of familiarity with your rental and destination, which can play a big part in their decision to return to your property in the future. If your guests had a great experience on their trip at your vacation property, these consistent updates do a nice job in reminding them of their pleasurable experience.

When you choose your email topics and offers wisely, you’ll most likely increase the number of bookings from former guests, because…

Email Marketing Shows Your Appreciation

Smartphone with an Email Newsletter

Guests who stay in vacation homes or condos and leave feeling unappreciated will most likely never return to that vacation property. As with all consumers, vacation rental guests want to feel that their patronage is appreciated. While much of this feeling of appreciation will come from your interactions before, during, and right after their stay, you can continue to build on it by providing them great opportunities for future stays.

Give your former guests the chance to take advantage of special rates for loyal customers or, if your rates will be increasing, the chance to book their next vacation at the former year’s rates. Consider offering your previous guests a rewards program and if you can, send out holiday greetings or birthday wishes. Last minute deals are another great option for showing customer appreciation.

Again, consistent communication will be extremely helpful in showing how much you value your former guests. You’ll want to stay in touch with them if you want them to stay in touch with you. And even better, you can easily gauge how well your efforts are working because…

Email Marketing Efforts are Quantifiable

When you send out your emails, you can easily establish how many people are opening them, clicking on links, etc. This data is very helpful as work to tailor your messages to your guests. It will give you a good idea of what types of offers and email types are most appealing to your guests. With that information in hand, you can adjust your marketing strategy accordingly. In addition, you can add campaign parameters to your URLs so that you can further track your guests’ interactions with your website using tools like Google Analytics. Campaign parameters are custom bits of code that are appended to your URLs where you can identify exactly which email brought a visitor to your site and that person’s interaction with your site after they arrive. For example, you’ll be able to tell how many pages on your site they visit after arriving, how long they spend on your site, and how many are new users.

Google Analytics of an Email Marketing Campaign

You’ll get the best results when you test different messages and offers and then use that information to further segment your campaigns. How to best segment your email lists will depend on a number of factors. You may find that you achieve the best click-through-rates when you segment by email engagement. Those who open and click on your email may be classified as interested and as such, will receive more emails. Meanwhile, you may want to design a campaign specifically to re-engage those guests who rarely open your emails.

Another option is to segment by geographical location and send only last minute deals to those guests who don’t live too far from your vacation rental.

The options for segmentation are nearly endless, with even more varieties available when you mix and match different audiences. Your testing and retesting efforts will allow you to find the perfect email type and offer for all of your guest types. Although it will take some time, you’ll find that your efforts will be rewarded with increased guest interactions and higher occupancy rates.

 

How Does Your Email Marketing Strategy Look?

 

If you need to build up your email marketing strategy, the professionals at Vacation Rental Marketers are here to help. We offer full-service marketing packages that can take your vacation property to the next level. Give us a call at (720) 336-3939 or contact us online to get started. We look forward to speaking with you!

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