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Whereas rental clients booking a high season vacation may book months in advance, reservations for the shoulder and low season are more of a last minute decision.
The people who book a property in low season often have different needs from the high season family crowd. Whereas summer renters are looking for sunshine and water activities and will spend much of their time lazing on a beach or dock, boating and swimming; fall renters may have very different thoughts on what makes their vacation special. Knowing who your target market is will help you to plan a strategy to capture that elusive shoulder season market.
In the high season, it may be sufficient to simply list the property and to reasonably expect that people looking for a property have a good chance of finding yours. Out of season, you’ll need to attract those renters who may be searching on the internet to find a particular activity, event or attraction. Your text should take this into account.
1. Look for events and activities to promote
Research what is going on in your area in the way of arts tours, fall and winter festivals, craft shows, and other outdoor events. Get in touch with your local Chamber of Commerce and work with them to promote your accommodation in conjunction with their marketing packages. The popular areas will have something going on every weekend so you just need to piggy back on the promotion that is already underway.
2. Price competitively
There can be such a disparity between what renters are prepared to pay for a high season week in a vacation rental property, and the out-of-season rates, that it is tempting to buck the trend and price too high.
It is important to apply a rating that matches what your competitors are charging (providing they have realistic rates). With a large number of similar properties competing for the low season market, it is unlikely that potential renters will give your property a second look if your rate doesn’t reflect the current trends.
3. Price for smaller groups
Think about pricing for a smaller amount of people. Applying a rate for a maximum of say, 4 people, then adding an additional per-person fee up to your accommodation maximum, would make your property more accessible for smaller groups. There are fewer family groups in the low season, and more couples looking for a getaway which is why the smaller properties tend to do better during this time.
4. Identify outdoor activities
Target out of season visitors with the outdoor activities appropriate to the season. Hiking and cycling, canoeing and kayaking are some of the more popular fall activities but don’t forget to market to photographers and artists if you are in an area of spectacular scenery. Golf is another area where you could target enthusiasts, listing the courses in your area along with any seasonal offers they may have on the go. If you are not sure, check your local papers, or contact the courses directly.
5. Offer a Geocaching Package
If you have never tried geocaching then give it a go before developing your vacation package. This is a fast growing outdoor activity requiring little skill other than the operation of a GPS unit. Checkout how many caches are in your area by going to www.geocaching.com. Your weekend package can include the loan of a GPS pre-loaded with the co-ordinates for a dozen or so caches, a driving map of the area with an itinerary to follow, and a log book to record the caches.
6. Promote Romance
Renting a cottage for a weekend is a wonderfully romantic getaway. You just need to get the message out and describe what makes your property appealing for couples. In you a wood burning stove and a hot tub, you are well on the way; if not, then you will need to create a feeling of romance and ambiance in your web photos.
7. Offer 3 nights for the price of 2
This works really well since there is little cost involved in offering a third night free and it is seen as a good value offer. If your weekends are already booking well, then use this offer for mid-week breaks. Use variations on the them: book 2 weekends and the third at 50% off is a great one for encouraging returning guests.