For most owners, attracting guests in the low season is a challenging prospect. Some areas have large numbers of rental properties chasing a smaller pool of potential guests, so creating a competitive promotion strategy is imperative to appeal to the more limited market. It creates a little more work, but checking out seasonal events to promote can help you target specific markets and increase the rental potential of your vacation home.
I read an article recently by Vanessa Warwick of UK Property Tribes, where she discusses several aspects of vacation rental marketing and describes a matrix she uses to attract guests by creating anticipation. Besides using great photos and video tours, Vanessa suggests “framing written content around your holiday let (vacation rental) that allows the prospective guest to imagine themselves there. “
To do this, start off by creating a calendar that includes all local and seasonal events. So, you may have festivals and sporting events, Arts and Crafts Tours, music festivals etc., as well as long weekends and other special times such as Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, and so on.
The second level of the matrix lists the features – Vanessa call them ‘attributes or assets’ of your property such as “close to hiking trails”, “plenty of golf courses in the area”, “private waterfront with sandy beach”, “public tennis courts nearby”, “four State Parks within 30 minutes, “geocaching enthusiasts’ mecca”. This is a great opportunity to really consider what is in your area that could attract different types of people to your property. Think about what is great for families with small children; young couples; retirees etc., and it may be surprising what you come up with. When I did this exercise for my property, the list ran to two pages and included quite a few features that I had not thought of before because they didn’t interest me personally, such as a local musical venue that offers classical productions in an outdoor theater environment.
Thirdly, create packages for your special events weaving in the features. For example, a golf weekend for Father’s Day offering a discount for a round of golf; free cart hire, or a voucher for a post-game meal. A Lover’s Weekend (which doesn’t have to be on the 14th February) package could include a bottle of champagne and chocolates together with tickets to a production of Romeo and Juliet.
Vanessa suggests creating posts and marketing material around the events that focus on the feature being highlighted, around 6 weeks in advance. Don’t limit this to just describing the event – tell a story that will allow your potential guests to create anticipation of the experience they will have.
Kick off this new year by creating some interesting packages to offer. Find some great images to use – if you don’t have your own, try out Flickr but ensure you check the Creative Commons box on your search so you have the correct permissions before publishing any material. Then use your Facebook business page, Twitter and your blog to promote them and encourage your friends to share your posts. Email your previous guests with a list of the upcoming packages you have to offer and include an additional discount incentive as a thank you for their repeat custom.
In this competitive market it’s not enough to list and hope for the best. Your listing should attract visitors but once they get there, you need to find something to keep them hanging around and to finally reserve. Creating anticipation happiness can be the way to capture more bookings.
Heather Bayer is Director of Owner Community at VacationHomeRentals.com. She has been renting her vacation homes for over 20 years and is author of the book ‘Renting Your Recreational Property for Profit’