Picture the situation: your vacation rental business is going well, but there’s still room to increase your profits. It’s Friday morning and your calendar is clear for the weekend. You figure, you can just relax and accept the fact that there are no reservations for the next few days. All of a sudden, you receive a notification that someone has booked last-minute. Are you really going to let this opportunity go to waste simply because you’re not ready? Will you have time to clean and prepare everything?
The number of travelers who book last-minute accommodation is increasing year after year. The fact that people can book vacations on mobile phones has significantly changed travel – particularly for adults aged between 20-40. Guests are using their mobile phones more to book vacation rentals, as it allows them to easily plan and compare different accommodation options – especially in the low season. Adding to this surge is the availability of cheap airline tickets, which means ‘planning’ a vacation doesn’t necessarily mean planning but, rather, an impulsive decision leading to a last-minute booking of a vacation rental property.
With all this in mind, it’s obvious that it would be beneficial to attract this growing number of last-minute guests to your vacation rental. However, you can’t accept last-minute bookings by rushing everything and leaving the small details behind. You have to offer the same quality and service for last-minute bookers as you do for guests who booked months in advance. How can you do this without too much hassle? Read our top eight tips to ensure a smooth process.
How to drive last-minute bookings
1. Identify last-minute bookers
Put yourself in their shoes and think about what they expect from their accommodation. It’s clear that if they’re the type of person who wants to book just before starting their vacation, they are attentive to the latest flight deals or simply plan as they go. That means that they also want to be up-to-date with technology and their cell phone, so a good WiFi signal will be crucial when choosing a vacation rental.
This could also mean that maybe they haven’t had time to think of what things they’d like to do or see, or which restaurants they’d like to go to to try the local cuisine. Make it clear on your vacation rental listing that you are a local and will give the best recommendations when it comes to tourist attractions, gastronomy and things to do.
Lastly, it could be that such an improvised trip means they will have to travel at unearthly hours. Perhaps your guests will want to book a place where there is a 24-hour check-in and check-out, or which even has an automated process where they won’t need anyone to be present when they are arriving or departing the property.
2. Adapt your business to their needs
If you want to market to last-minute bookers, you need to see how they search and book their vacation rental: mobile phones. We already know that these types of travelers rely on the latest technology, so it’s no secret that the majority of them want a website that’s easy to navigate on a phone. Make sure your vacation rental website is optimized mobile devices and that loading times are short – otherwise, your potential guests will leave and go to other websites that do this.
Get ahead of the last-minute booking game
3. Have your vacation rental ready every day
Get ahead of schedule with cleaning. Having a clean home is essential, but can be costly when you’re racing against the clock. It’s not only important to deep clean the whole property once a year, but also to change your state of mind. That means, stop thinking that cleaning and preparing a property is something you can do right before check-in, but in fact, is best to do right after check-out. As soon as guests leave your property, you’ll have to change all the beds, towels, tablecloths and so on. As well as this, you’ll need to thoroughly clean all the parts of the house they used (e.g. bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen) and leave them spotless and ready for a quick touch-up before the next guests arrive.
4. Update your rates and availability
If your rates are dynamic (which they should be), you’ll need to update and modify them depending on the time of the year. Make sure your rates are up-to-date on a daily basis, because if someone books last-minute, they shouldn’t have to pay more just because the price was not updated. The same goes for your availability calendar. Make sure it’s accurate and up-to-date not only on your own website, but also on all the other listing sites you use. Having a channel manager in place will help with this, and also to avoid double bookings and confusion for both parties.
5. Have extra copies of paperwork
As a vacation rental owner, if you include maps of the area, leaflets about activities your guests can do during their vacation or even a few postcards, make sure you stock up or have extra copies. Don’t wait for the next reservation to get all these things together for your guests.
Also if you provide your guests with a welcome book, instructions on how to use some household electrical items or even a list of house rules, be sure to print out extra copies which you can store away safely. You don’t want to give new guests a dirty or creased document!
Organize and prepare everything in record time
6. Pay attention to first impressions
Imagine you’re a guest: think about how they would feel when they first enter your home. Is everything in order? Have the leaves been swept from the front entrance porch? Does it smell clean? Is it inviting and welcoming?
Ensure that the entrance hall gives a wonderful first impression to your guests. Make a clear space in your corridor to allow your guests to pass through with their suitcase. Why not add some subtle lighting? Pick some fresh flowers which will leave a nice aroma and a splash of color in the entrance. And don’t forget to clean the door handle – after all, that’s the first thing your guests will touch.
7. Prioritize cleaning what your guests will use
Put all your energy into cleaning and going over the rooms and items that your guests will use most. Dust, clean and mop the bedrooms, kitchen, bathrooms and other communal areas. Ensure the inside of the fridge is clean, leaving plenty of room for your guests to leave their food. Once you have cleaned all the essential spots, air your house or apartment out. You don’t want bleach to be the first thing your guests will smell!
Prepare clean sheets and make sure they smell fresh (and not musty, especially if they are kept in the cupboard). Then, leave soft towels at the foot of the bed so guests know they can use them.
8. Replace everything that guests need to feel at home
We’re not only talking toilet paper (which is of course, an absolute must), but also everything else your guests will need or those special extras you want to offer them. For example, fruits for breakfast, coffee capsules or tea.
Think about what your guests will need in the bathroom, such as hand soap and other toiletries. The best thing you can do is picture their routine at your vacation rental. Think to yourself, what will they need? How can I facilitate their stay? How can I improve their experience in my home? Make a list, and that way, you will only need to go to the supermarket and buy these things every time you have new guests.
With these eight tips, you will be more ready than ever to receive last-minute bookings and to give spontaneous guests the same excellent experience as advance bookers. So, go ahead and start increasing your bookings from this type of guest!