After nearly a year of uncertainty and economic turmoil, it may seem like there’s no end to the madness. However, despite the circumstances and the hard hit on the vacation rental industry, many owners are still finding ways to adapt and push their businesses forward.
Take a look at how these vacation rental owners managed to succeed during the pandemic and use them as inspiration for your own business:
Creating Their Own Website
Vacation rental owners who decided to launch their own professional website during the pandemic found that it helped them to captivate new clients and take ownership of their brand.
When asked what tools and strategies helped him to overcome the pandemic, Sergio Castaneda from Jungle House responded the following: “Creating our own website and listing on all OTAs has helped get our name out there, as well as word of mouth after providing top hospitality.”
Creating a vacation rental website is the most efficient way to position yourself in the market and to gain instant online credibility. Not only will guests feel more comfortable booking with you, but they’ll also perceive your brand in a much more positive light. And while many owners are not even aware of this, a vacation rental website can help you rank higher on search engines like Google and stand out from competitors by using SEO.
Accepting Direct Bookings
Countless vacation rental owners have noticed that accepting direct bookings has led to more business because guests are looking to save money on third-party fees. By having a bookable website, past guests are likely to come back in the future and new guests will be more inclined to book with you as the costs will be lower.
Using a property management software like Lodgify is one of the easiest ways to accept direct bookings on your website. Elisabeth Perez from Brightwaters Vacation Rentals says, “When I first started using Lodgify, direct bookings were the third driver of bookings. By the middle of my second year, direct bookings overtook online travel agencies to be the second driver of bookings. And now, in my third year, direct bookings are the first driver of our bookings and revenue!”
Accepting direct bookings will allow you to maximize revenue by saving on commission. Jay Floersch, owner of Casa Flourish, states that “more than 70% of our bookings are directly booked. We’ve been successful enough to have built a second property.”
Vacation Rental Renovations and Upgrades
During the peak of the pandemic, many owners opted for upgrading and renovating their properties in order to prepare for the future wave of travelers. While low occupancy is never a good thing, these owners decided to make the best of it and started taking their rentals to the next level. Whether they installed winter upgrades like a fireplace or an outdoor shower for the summer, these additions made a big difference in attracting guests once restrictions started lifting.
Elisabeth Perez says that they’ve “upgraded amenities to attract more guests and provided more comfort by increasing internet speeds, switching to Smart TVs, and installing UV light filters in all A/C units to kill bacteria.” She adds that she wants guests to feel safe, with all of the comforts of a home.
Adapting to New Audiences
Along with 2021 travel trends comes the need for adaptability. While your vacation rental property might have previously revolved around international guests, the changes in travel and restrictions have made it necessary for owners to switch up their strategies in terms of marketing and pricing.
We have found that vacation rental owners who were open to changes in their target audience ended up increasing their bookings more than those who didn’t. That said, knowing and researching what these new types of travelers need, such as setting up an office space for workationers, is vital to the success of any property.
Castaneda adds that they have “increased flexibility as now you will receive inquiries from all different types of travelers; those wanting a few nights away from their home or those still traveling for work. Occasionally we also receive guests looking for a long-term stay. You have to be open to different audiences and learn to adapt to the market.”
These new traveler trends can actually make your life a whole lot easier as a vacation rental owner. Stephanie King from The Woods – Ocean Grove says that: “We are now focused on attracting long-term guests since less turnover is better to reduce the spread of the COVID. This also allows us the time in between bookings to conduct thorough cleans. We have implemented a two-night minimum stay on the weekend and three-night stays during holiday periods. We have found people are wanting to stay this long anyway, as they have been unable to travel during the year and are making up for lost time.”
Raising the Overall Standard
Whether they started using autoresponders to be in touch with guests at all times or prepared welcome baskets, finding ways to enhance guest experience during the pandemic was a successful strategy for many vacation rental owners.
Deborah Horn has gone above and beyond with her customer service. She says, “I have extended my care with extra gifts for the little family members. If the kids are happy, it’s most likely that the parents will be as well. Originally, I had only focused on the parents or adults. The pandemic has made us raise the bar on everything and I think some of these things will be for the better. I know by the smiles on the little kids’ faces when their parents send me photos upon arrival that I won’t go back to ignoring the entire family’s interests and just considering a few.” Horn adds that she texts guests to ask about their interests in order to send them some information upon arrival.
Learning about the Industry
When asked what positive changes their business has experienced, Alexandra Scicluna from Valletta Property Rentals replied that they’ve focused further on training and participating in several online seminars and conferences. Instead of losing hope during months of “down-time”, many owners opted for expanding their knowledge on the industry. With many free resources available online such as guides and eBooks, there’s always something to learn.
Other vacation rental owners like Stephanie King have leaned towards social media groups. She says that what has helped her overcome the pandemic is “being part of a Facebook community with other hosts, as well as networking with other local businesses.” She adds that, “The pandemic gave me the gift of time and space to think about my rentals and strategize for the future.”
According to a survey conducted by Vrbo, “77% of travelers say they’re more likely to book a rental with a flexible cancellation policy”. Because many guests fear that restrictions will go back up, they tend to avoid vacation rentals that have strict cancellation policies.
Perez explains that they’ve done a few things to beat the difficulties of the pandemic. She says, “We’ve allowed greater flexibility for cancellations with no penalty, added a cleaning fee (which previously had been built into the nightly rate), and allowed for longer stays.” Floersch adds that his business has been successful “by granting flexibility to our guests with “worry-free” bookings.”
Here’s What They All Have in Common
All of these vacation rental owners have one thing in common – they’ve invested in property management software with features like a channel manager and website builder. A channel manager syncs your calendars, rates, and bookings from the top online travel agencies like Airbnb and Vrbo onto one centralized dashboard.
A property management software like Lodgify allows vacation rental owners to build their own bookable website with professional templates, automate messages to ensure the best customer service, schedule tasks for different team members, generate financial reports, and manage everything from a single platform.
King says that “since joining Lodgify, we now have 50% of bookings being directly from our website, with the other 50% split between two other platforms. Our bookings were up more than 70% in the last quarter of 2020, compared to the previous year.” Many like Castaneda also say that the software has improved their branding. He adds: “Lodgify has definitely helped us create a brand for ourselves, instead of just being another listing on Airbnb or VRBO. This definitely makes an impact in that your customers almost feel a sense of pride staying at your home!”
While success nowadays might not mean the same thing as it did in 2019, it’s still extremely important to celebrate the small wins. What we can all learn from these stories and techniques is that despite the difficult circumstances, it’s crucial to always adapt and maintain a positive outlook.