As more guests than ever book their trips online and vacation rental industry predictions forecast a higher number of direct bookings this year, professionals in this sphere not only need to be conscious of their online reputation, they also need to know how to manage it.
Before making a big purchase, 91% of consumers check online reviews to get an idea about a product they want to buy. And this includes travelers looking for a vacation rental. They rely on reviews to get insider information about the property, the owners, and the overall vacation experience. When owners respond to reviews, it shows potential renters that the owners are responsive, engaged, and involved. Reviews play a big part in building trust and helping travelers make an informed and confident decision.
Sometimes, the big vacation rental listing sites can dissuade guests from booking any other way – stating it’s unsafe, unreliable or even a scam. However, as an increasing percentage of owners aim to multiply the number of bookings they take directly, they are working hard to create and maintain high levels of guest trust and a solid online image.
Building guest trust doesn’t happen overnight. Some more hesitant travelers require an extra push to feel confident they are booking in the right place. But what about when you’re just starting and don’t have any reviews yet? How can you build trust and establish yourself as a trustworthy business without positive online reviews as proof? If you’re a new vacation homeowner without any reviews, there’s good news: Trust can be built in many different ways, and by implementing these strategies, you can attract qualified tenants, collect reviews, and repeat. When done right, they can even boost your direct bookings as a result!
1. Have a Secure, Bookable Website
Having a professional website which showcases your property, outlines all important details in depth and allows travelers to book your accommodation is one way to get guests on board. Especially those who are window shopping for the best deal between OTAs and owners’ private websites.
But, that’s not where the list of requirements ends. Since 2017, Google has been penalizing all websites that don’t have SSL encryption for the transfer of information. This secure connection – demonstrated by a green bar and padlock in the URL field of a browser – immediately adds another level of protection to any guests wanting to book with you.
It shows travelers that they can be certain their sensitive data, such as credit card details and personal information, are safe from fraud when booking on your site. As a result, this extra security layer on your website will instantly improve its trust levels from a guest perspective.
How will travelers know that their information is safe with you unless you tell them? Without dozens of reviews raving about a safe and secure experience, travelers will need you to tell them (and show them) that you value their money, their time, and their experience. If you use apps and software that help to secure payments, tell guests about it. Some online security plug-ins allow you to display a badge on your website that lets potential travelers know that you’ve invested in software to keep their information safe. Make it clear that privacy and security are a top priority.
2. Respond Quickly
When you start to receive inquiries about the rental, it is important that you respond quickly. Usually, travelers are sending out requests to multiple properties, and many book with the first one that responds. If possible, have notifications sent to your phone so that when someone asks a question about the property you can answer quickly. This is another example of how you can show travelers that you’re quick to respond when there aren’t reviews to say it for you.
3. Spend Time on Social Proof
Social proof is a wide category that encompasses many different facets. Investing time into working on your social proof is a powerful way to drive bookings in the long term.
Everything from social media engagement to guest reviews, credibility badges and media mentions can count as social proof.
To begin, having a strong presence on social media sites will send a clear signal to interested guests that you are taking your business seriously and are up-to-date with how people communicate online.
In the same way, ensuring each and every guest leaves a review of their stay at your home can aid other travelers when it comes to their own decision making. Experts predict that 95% of leisure travelers now read reviews before booking! Some of these testimonials may even appear on your social media sites, thanks to tools like Facebook Reviews.
4. Get Listed by Your Local Tourism Bureau
No matter where your vacation rental is situated, there will be a local tourism bureau who can help advertise your home as one of their recommended places to stay.
Traditionally, tourism boards have tended to promote hotels and hostels as their main accommodation offerings. That said, these days, more and more vacation rentals are seeing success through listing with the local association.
This in itself will be a powerful signifier to any future guests that your business is reputable and endorsed by the local community. The outcome? It will help to increase trust and reservations! Plus, another advantage is you’ll be able to use their badge on your website as, you guessed it – social proof.
5. Get Certified by Your Country’s Chamber of Commerce
Yet another sure sign to renters that your business is credible, authentic and trustworthy is by being listed on your country’s chamber of commerce directory. Whether on a national or regional level, these organizations lend validity to your vacation rental business. In addition to this, a backlink from the relevant chamber of commerce website can also hugely improve your website’s SEO.
6. Start a Blog for Your Destination
As you build your website and manage your marketing, focus on how you can provide value for free. What can you do to showcase your expertise, stand out from the competition, and get travelers to see you as a trusted resource in the industry? Some vacation home owners spend time putting together a comprehensive blog about the area. This helps travelers get excited about visiting the area, and proves to them that you know the area and can help them get to know it too.
When you can go beyond just providing accommodation for your guests, you’ll create many more opportunities to connect with travelers and build your business’ authority online. Writing a vacation rental blog is a fantastic way to achieve this.
If you can attract guests to your blog while they are still in the research phase, you have a much higher chance of converting them into bookings later on.
Your blog has the potential to become the top online resource for everything from eating and drinking to activities and day trips in your area – so use it to your advantage! Reach out to other well-known voices in your location for guest posts to build an even bigger following and boost credibility for your website.
Providing a little bit of information and value for free can help build trust. An informative blog or free download is also a great way to boost SEO and direct more traffic to your listing. It’s a win-win!
7. Plan A Promotion
Another way to attract attention and generate the business (and reviews) that you need is by planning a promotional offer. Encourage guests to be one of the firsts to stay in your rental, and sweeten the deal by including a free amenity, or offering a special such as stay 4 nights get 1 free. You don’t have to offer a discount but you can throw in an incentive to help guests look over the fact that there are no reviews and give you a try anyway.
8. Check (And Double Check) Your Content
Your listing description and web content say a lot about you as an owner, so it’s important to make a good first impression. Check and double-check your web content to make sure it is accurate and sounds professional. Use high-quality photos, write an engaging description, and test your website to make sure it is easy to navigate. Have someone you trust read through your listing and explore your website with a fresh set of eyes. Check to see how the listing looks on a mobile device (since 58% of travelers search for rentals on their phones) and look for minor spelling, punctuation, and content errors.
9. Host A Live Vacation Rental Q&A
Guests use online reviews to help answer any of their questions, so if you don’t have any, you may have to get creative. Hosting a Live Q&A serves a few different purposes. First, it allows guests to see and hear you and get a better idea of who you are. Instead of just a name under the word “owner”, you’re a real, likable, authentic human being that guests can get to know. This makes the entire process a little more personal and makes guests feel more comfortable.
A Live Q&A gives you the opportunity to share your expertise in the area. This information session doesn’t have to be all about your home. Instead, you can use this time to share local information about the area and showcase your local expertise. Finally, a Live Q&A helps to engage with your audience, answer questions in real-time, and open up that line of communication. These sessions can be saved and shared on social media as well.
Not having any reviews is a short term problem. If you focus on building trust and marketing effectively, you’ll have your first official booking (and review) in no time. Until then, focus on human connection and authenticity. Make sure you’re being transparent and honest, and double-check your web content to ensure you’re making a good first impression. This will encourage guests to trust you even without any reviews.
10. Don’t Forget To Connect
One of the main reasons people choose vacation rentals is because they want a more authentic and personal experience. They don’t want to be a faceless reservation number, and instead, want to feel like their vacation experience matters to someone. Staying in a vacation rental allows them to experience the area like a local, and prioritizing ways to connect with guests before they ever book will help foster this personal experience.
Use your direct booking website to share your story. Explain why you chose to offer your home up a vacation rental, and give potential travelers a glimpse into you who you are as a person. This focus on human connection can help travelers feel more comfortable booking with you, even if you don’t have any reviews yet.
One of the best ways to build trust with travelers is to start with transparency. If they don’t have reviews to give them an idea about who you are and what to expect, it’s up to you to give them this information. Make it easy to find your nightly rates, any additional fees, and details about the booking process. Be honest in your listing description and include as many pictures and details about the property as possible.
Ensuring guests trust your vacation rental business – even before they book with you – is essential for nurturing inquiries and converting them into direct reservations. Following the steps above is a sure-fire way to effectively build relationships with prospective guests and increase the likelihood of converting them into bookings!