Renting out one or multiple vacation homes is no walk in the park. You will have to compete with professional, established hotels and resorts while also meeting the high expectations of your guests. The success stories of other owners, as well as any extra tips and advice about running a vacation rental business, can really help you achieve this.
Most questions revolve around how to gain as many bookings and regularly returning guests as possible, while preferably still keeping the marketing expenses low. How can you hit these targets by efficiently marketing and renting out your property?
It doesn’t matter if you own a luxury apartment in the Bahamas or a small-town vacation home in the countryside – we’ve put together a variety of useful tips and advice that can be a guide to any type of vacation rental owner.
Tip 1: Use multiple marketing channels
There are many different marketing channels that you can and also should use to acquire new guests. If you are planning to target a wide audience of travelers, you shouldn’t limit the marketing of your vacation rental to only one channel. By making use of multiple ones at a time, you can increase your visibility and also your chances of achieving higher booking rates.
List your vacation rental on booking sites
When you’re ready to tackle the marketing of your property, the first step is to consider where your guests actually go to look for a vacation rental home. The digital age has long since caught up with the vacation rental industry. Whether it’s for rest and relaxation or business – these days most travelers book their accommodations online. You should also use this to your advantage and place a listing for your vacation rental on the most popular booking sites for your destination.
For example, HomeAway, Booking.com, and Airbnb are a few of the biggest household names. Of course, if you want to tap their full potential, you advertise your vacation rental on multiple sites at once. Though it’s important to not lose sight of the added service fees that come along with this – especially if you want to make it work with a small marketing budget.
Market your vacation rental on social media
Additionally, the world of social media is also at your fingertips, ready to exploit for marketing purposes! Are your guests currently able to find you on popular social media platforms? If they are, this provides a great opportunity for you to connect and share with them on a more personal level. What’s more, they’re completely free of charge.
Nowadays, almost all people of varying age brackets are on Facebook, for example. This makes it the perfect platform to reach new guests and stay in contact with old ones. The latter will also be more likely to decide to return at some point.
Visual marketing is an essential component too, particularly in the vacation rental industry. Therefore, you should consider showing off your home on Instagram. If your guests belong to a younger target audience (such as millennials), this channel is very effective and highly recommended.
Build your own vacation rental website
Besides the options mentioned so far, building your own vacation rental website is also definitely worth considering. This has the undeniable advantage of gaining independence from booking sites and the commissions or fees they charge. Moreover, you will be able to receive direct bookings through your personal website and you can manage all of your other channels in one place. That will ultimately save you a lot of energy and time.
Of course, the goal is to increase the visits and the bookings you receive on your vacation rental website. That’s why you should also always link back to it on your listings and social media and accept online credit card payments.
Tip 2: Optimize your listings on booking sites
Most likely, you’re already using a booking site such as Vrbo to market your vacation rental. But are you really making the best of your listings? Have you ever tried rewriting the title, offering instant bookings, asking your guests for reviews or uploading professional photos? All of these factors can have a significant impact on the positioning of your listing and the number of incoming booking requests you’re receiving.
Even just a slight change can often optimize your HomeAway listing or considerably improve your ranking on Airbnb which will, in turn, increase your booking rates.
Tip 3: Create a brand for your vacation rental business
You should view your property as a five-star hotel. Give your vacation rental business its own brand and personal trademark style which provides real recognition value to your guests. Start out by giving your rental business a brand name and designing a logo. Then you can integrate this style into all other areas of your business as well: your website design, business cards, emails, coffee cups, towels, flyers, invoices, rental agreements, etc.
Above all, your vacation rental brand should be tailored to your main target group. So, get to know your guests in order to really understand them.
Who has booked your accommodation most frequently in the past? Which type of guest should you target and how can you appeal to them? For instance, you could market your vacation rental specifically to the elderly, young couples or families. Every target group has different preferences, needs, and characteristics. You should familiarize yourself with these and integrate them into the design of your brand.
Don’t let your guests forget where they stayed once they return the keys. Rather, aim to develop an emotional and personal connection with their whole guest experience of your vacation rental. Your own brand will help you do just that and make you stand out from the crowd. If guests remember you for a long time, maybe they’ll even decide to book a second holiday with you in the future – or recommend your property to their friends. It always pays off to create a memorable impression amongst their collection of holiday snapshots.
Tip 4: Encourage your guests to return
The acquisition costs of return guests are far lower than those for new visitors. They already know about your vacation rental and don’t have to find you online or offline first. Therefore, this type of guest is also the most profitable for your business. So, don’t forget to remind your guests to return again after their first stay at your home.
A strong brand is only the first step though. The goal is to be remembered by your guests for as long as possible and make them feel like a second stay will be worth it as well.
But what can you actively do to achieve that? Firstly, of course, you have to ensure that all of your guests have a positive, pleasant experience while they stay at your place. Otherwise, the chances of them booking the second time around are already null and void. However, beyond this, the key to success is actually to keep in contact with your guests, even after their stay has already ended.
Apply an email marketing strategy
Email marketing is the perfect way to refresh the memory of your former guests. That’s why you should consistently send them emails and encourage them to enjoy their past experiences again.
But be careful – only send quality content to your guests that will actually interest them. Also, never bombard or overwhelm them with emails. They should not feel like they’re being spammed by you with cheap ads. Instead, you could create a friendly newsletter that links to interesting articles about activities and events in the region surrounding your property.
Offer special discounts for a second stay
Want to know the one thing you should definitely include in your email marketing strategy? Discounts and special offers for returning guests. If visitors have already had a great experience once, this presents a big incentive to relive that for a second time. Additionally, putting a deadline on the offer can also be very effective. It will give your guests a sense of urgency to not miss out on a great bargain deal. All of this together will increase your chances of scoring another booking from them.
Use social media to build a personal connection
Even though email marketing can produce fantastic results, it is still more or less a one-way street when it comes to communication. That’s why directly connecting with your guests should be the next step. As mentioned before, you can use social media as a tool to communicate with your guests in real-time and on a more personal level. This provides you with the opportunity to learn more about their own opinions and preferences. Using this information, you can adapt your vacation rental and the content you put online even closer to your target group. These efforts will surely pay off and motivate your guests to return for a second or even third stay!
Tip 5: Offer the right prices and rates
With the right pricing strategy, you can really maximize your profits. In order to set your rates, you should have a look at the prices per night that your competitors are asking for. Consider not only vacation rentals with similar amenities in your area but also comparable hotels. You should continuously adapt your pricing according to them and the trends of your immediate market.
What are their pricing strategies? Do they have a minimum stay policy? Do rates fluctuate according to the days of the week? Are the prices adjusted according to peak and off-season? Are there any discounts for longer stays? These are the factors you should take into consideration (as well as supply and demand) to flexibly adapt your prices and rates.
In addition, you can also take advantage of special holidays or events to offer strategic discounts to travelers. This is also a smart way to keep up your bookings during the off-season.
If you’re just starting out, however, it is always advisable to set your own rates at a lower price initially. This will boost your bookings in the beginning and you can always adjust them again – once you’ve gained more experience and collected those all-important positive reviews.
Tip 6: Use the right tools to manage your business
Even if you only own one property, managing a vacation rental business on your own can be a time-consuming and stressful endeavor. In particular, if you are using multiple booking channels to market your property. If your goal is to maximize your bookings, you are probably planning on listing your home on several different booking sites. However, that can make it hard to keep track of all of your booking requests and online payments at once. During peak season when things get very hectic and busy, you might even have to deal with accidental double bookings or being forced to decline requests.
Of course, everyone wants to avoid mishaps like this at all costs. Otherwise, you might end up with grumpy guests, complaints and negative reviews. The good news is that there are many easy and free tools you can use to simplify, plan and automate processes and tasks.
Start using a channel manager
An easy solution to avoid any sticky situations would be to start using a channel manager. Using this type of solution will enable you to integrate and connect to all of your external channels and manage them in one place. It also automatically synchronizes property data, such as descriptions, pictures, availability calendar, and reservations. This ensures that your listings are consistent across the board and that any potential guests will only see relevant and up-to-date information about your vacation rental.
As the industry is expanding, vacation rental owners are becoming more and more knowledgable on how to run a successful short-term rental business. These six tips are just the beginning, but using them wisely can help you market your property cheaply and easily to receive more bookings, encourage more repeat guests and simplify the overall management of your website and listings.