Getting bookings for holiday rental properties this year is harder than ever, especially if you are relying on visitors from the UK (the Dutch seem to still be travelling, where do they get their money from?!)
However, by looking at all the enquiries that people listed with us receive it is clear that there are a few things you can do to dramatically increase your enquiry rate – without spending any more money. Voila, some suggestions!
1) Some holiday rental sites order properties according to when they were last updated (your property moves to the top of the list when you update it). If you are listed on one of these sites, update your property very often! You don’t need to make big changes, just one word will do. You don’t need to be property number one on the list, but being on page 1, preferably quite near the top, makes a big difference to enquiry rates.
2) Get your personal website translated into the language of the country where the property is found. Lots of people stay in their home country for their annual holiday. You should also advertise on the listing sites that the ‘locals’ use eg pour-les-vacances.com in France.
3) Small locally focussed sites will often get better results than the corporate websites offering listings of properties around the world. Look around, there is almost certain to be one for your area.
4) Don’t choose a listing site BECAUSE it looks beautiful – there is usually little connection between what a site looks like and how many enquiries it will get for you. Anyone can pay a few hundred euros for a nice website design but it doesn’t improve the enquiry rate. Sites like vrbo and pour-les-vacances are not very beautiful but both have a good reputation in certain markets. Of course, if a site gets you lots of enquiries and looks nice as well, no problem!
5) Personal recommendations of successful sites are hard to come by because most people listed on one keep it to themselves so they don’t get increased competition. (Hint: you can use the alexa rank and google page rank of a site as a very broad guide to how popular the site is. Look for an alexa score less than, say, 1,000,000 for a local site or 100,000 for a worldwide site, and a google page rank of 3, or even better 4+.)
6) Compare yourself with the enemy. Re-read your advert as if you were looking for a holiday yourself, then read those of your competitors. Compare your prices and facilities – are you sure you are offering value for money (especially if you have held your sterling prices steady while the pound has fallen). Would you book your own holiday rental?
7) Small (sleeps 2-4) properties appear to get much more enquiries than larger places, especially those properties that are suitable for a couple travelling without children. Perhaps bigger families can’t afford a holiday this year? Funny thing is, prices are often similar for the smaller properties, presumably because of the higher demand. Would your ‘sleeps 6′ property be better marketed as a ‘sleeps 4′ property?
8 ) Properties with eye catching photos get the most enquiries, by quite a considerable margin. Your first photo (on the main listings page) is the most important and needs to entice the visitor to want to see more. Some of us are no good at taking great photos (me included) but keep trying, getting the photo right can make a very large difference. Morning and evening sun are often the best times to take outdoor photos. This is quite possibly the most important point of all – if your pictures are no good, you won’t get many bookings!
9) Throwing an advert on a website with just a few sentences of text, no availability schedule and one or two poor photos will not get you enquiries. It’s much better to advertise in less places and spend time getting the advert right. Sell the dream, as they say, starting with an attention grabbing sentence. I know several owners who are constantly monitoring and updating their ads at least once a week and always striving to improve their listing. This effort might sound like a waste of time but it makes a very big difference to the number of enquiries received by these owners.
10) Be honest and exceed expectations. One of your goals is to have people come back the following year or recommend your property to someone else – this is much the easiest and cheapest way to get bookings. This won’t work if you have tricked people into coming in the first place with a deceptive advert.
Now, all I need to do is find the time to apply some of these suggestions to our own gite adverts and I’m sure they will work for me as well! Meanwhile if you have any suggestions of your own please share them with us.