Insider Tips To Extend Your Rental Season

This post was written by Volo for Tripping:

I distinctly remember worrying about the looming slow season when I began my career in the vacation rental business. I worried about it before peak season even began. Like most people, everything I have I worked really hard for and the thought of losing money on my investment, and possibly foregoing my new career, was scary.

The truth is that a well-positioned vacation rental home, with a thought out marketing plan, should reap rewards. Regardless of your situation, it is possible to increase your revenue substantially by extending your season into the shoulder months, or creating a new one completely.

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How to extend your booking season

1. Have a game plan! Define your plan 3-6 months prior to start of your slow season so you have enough time to attract the right guest(s).

2. Should you find a tenant? Retired couples are great candidates for 6-8 month leases. Ensure you are crystal clear about the lease duration when it is less than one year.

3. Is there a market to continue renting your home out nightly or weekly? If so, assess your rates and reduce your minimum stay requirements to 2 or 3 nights. Also provide reduced rates for weekly and monthly stays.

Many travelers are growing to appreciate less traveled times across the globe. Fall seasons, for example, see lower traffic and have milder, but equally beautiful, weather. Lower prices don’t hurt, either.

4. Promote the advantages to staying at your home in the off season. What is there to do nearby? What is the weather like? Be generous with the attraction information and add photos of events, scenery and your home during those months.

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5. Suggest off season getaways on your website. Mountain towns are known for their winter months, so I suggest that my local clients create summer and fall getaways packages. For example, guys mountain biking trips, girl spa weekends or even Olympic Park adventure trips.

Partner with local businesses for discounted gift certificates to create really unique and tasty (literally- include restaurants coupons!) experiences for your guests.

6. Understand life events. Graduation, both high school and college, can draw travelers in June. Wedding are booming in the fall, a shoulder season for most locations.

How can your home accommodate these groups? Vacation rentals can certainly be a more affordable housing option than a hotel, so be sure to suggest it as such. Provide groups with flexible check-in and departure days if you normally regulate them.

For one reason or another, you might be looking to extend your booking season. If you market your home appropriately, and price it well, you can certainly increase your revenue with a little extra effort.

Southwards

I love hearing Cori’s stories of her evolution from travel. In many ways, this story reminds me of myself, green to owning a vacation rental. I dove in, scared but with vision, and knew that only I could make my dreams come true.

Like Cori, because we braved those first steps, I too now have a career that allows me to travel, spend more time with my two amazing kids and meet incredible people, whether they are guests or clients.

Thank you for the blog, Cori!

La Boca barrio, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

La Boca barrio, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This blog is written by Cori M. Hildebrandt | Volo Blogger, Globe-Trotter & Therapist

I was beyond shaking, I was convulsing, and the Argentine sitting next to me probably thought I was having a seizure.

This was the first time in my life that I felt fear. Down to the core, center of my being, primal fear. I was afraid for my life. I was alone. I had been numb from all of the sadness and loss over the past months. All of a sudden, I snapped the hell back into feeling!

I was landing, languageless, in less than an hour. I had been “researching” for a few months, and realized ALL I really had was a two night hostel reservation. How was that the only thing that came out of hours and days of reading and researching? Hmm.

Oh, I had a return ticket home in 7 months flying out of Bogota, Colombia.

Once my feet hit the airport floor, I realized that this was it. Get with the program, Cori! I do not have a choice, but to figure things out. I have NO ONE to turn to here in Argentina. This is all me, only me.

After getting to my hostel, I sat in my room and cried. I Skyped my mom and cried. I Skyped my friend Abby and cried.

I bought food at the corner shop but brought it to my room because I could not bear the idea of eating alone at a restaurant or café. It felt weird.

I wrote in my journal, read a whole travel memoir, and slept. This was my first 30 hours in Buenos Aires.

My current hostel was small and quiet, with no communal areas. I knew I couldn’t stay here. I needed connections, friends and I didn’t want to be alone anymore! So, I mustered the courage to venture out around the Palermo neighborhood to scope out other hostels.

La Casa Fitz Roy became my home in Buenos Aires. It was a bit of a dump, but I returned to it time and time again for the social vibe, friendly familiar faces, its close proximity to the subway, and cheap rates.

Over bottles of wine and European cheeses in the courtyard, surrounded by people from all around the globe, it was at La Casa Fitz Roy that I felt the pulse of being a sola traveler for the first time.

It was here that I began to fall in love with the freedom, adventure, and plethora of folks from all over the world that would define my 7-month trip in South America. It was here that I experienced a new sense of universal connection.

Cori’s Previous Post: 5 Tasks Of Life

 

Want Independence From Listing Sites?

From discussions on-line in vacation rental boards, with clients, to my own personal thoughts, I’ve noticed an acute desire for owner independence and more control than what traditional listing sites allow.

Unless you pay a premium fee, your vacation rental may not see top search result placement on the big vacation rental sites. Airbnb, for example, lets their algorithm determine if you are featured on page 1 or 100 (which is largely undisclosed but does include ad completeness, photo’s and reviews).

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The arguments for independence are based on incorrect information regularly provided, inadequate brand and business control, lack of home visibility, and fee’s. Commissions per booking are increasing across the industry, which hurts owners. Booking.com charges 15%, for example.

Despite the conversation around this topic lately, I don’t think these companies are bad. They help me book a lot of nights! There are certainly opportunities, but many are run by great people who are receptive of feedback. I love the folks at Tripping and I love the way the executive team from HomeAway communicates with owners on platforms like Linkdin.

I do understand the want/need to establish some independence (or complete, for certain owners).

I have developed brand-on websites for my rental homes, in conjunction with marketing on large vacation rental sites. Because of this, I have been able to achieve 100% occupancy during the SLOW SEASON; I urge my clients to do the same.

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For those without the budget for customized website design, WebChalet has great templates, built in reservation and payments options and is owned by two great people! Did I mention they only charge $15/month?

The problem therein lies the issue of traffic; you are just one property in a very big crowd of competition.

If your brand isn’t exceptionally attractive, you don’t have a base of guests and/or if you don’t have a detailed marketing plan, you may have to rely on big vacation rental listing sites at first, or continually, for traffic.

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SEO (search engine optimization) can surely help your independent web site’s Google placement (think key words in URL/descriptions and blog for frequently updated content), but is becoming increasingly more difficult as competition grows.

Due to the nature of this task, I’ve heard a lot about ‘marketing co-ops’, if you will, for vacation rental owners.

Essentially it’s hyper-local rental site, or directory, that links travelers to independent website of homes with a consistent standard.

The co-op is for vacation rentals NOT those represented by a manager. Strictly homes that are run by owners who desire to create a marketing network that draws more traffic, a business standard in the industry and ultimately shares the best of the area. I think it’s an interesting idea for Park City.

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Maui Owner Condo’s does a great job of this and My Palm Springs Getaway is off to a great start, too.

Managers have an advantage; they refer guests to a different home should the one of inquiry be booked. A local co-op allows owners to run their business successfully, on their own terms, and also become comfortable referring (and receiving) guests from our competitors.

I’ve literally emailed home owners (with similar properties to mine) when I have been booked. 80% of the time I get zero responses back. I was handing them a booking!

Why would I do that, you might ask? I’ve met up with said owners, at later dates, and they asked!

I’ll tell you; those guest will come back to me because I was helpful and integral in planning their vacation… long-term profitability in this business is about being hospitable from the start (regardless if they are your current customer or not). This has proven itself over and over for me.

Any way, a co-op network seemingly also creates a platform for on-going discussions about the local industry between owners; trends, problems, wins and how to improve our guest experiences overall. In the end owners are all on the same team- all wanting to create exceptional guest experience, interaction and have a profitable hospitality business.

Do you want to be independent from listing sites? If so, would you consider joining a local marketing co-op for vacation rental owners? I’d love to hear what you have to say!