When your busiest time of the year comes to an end, it might be tempting to think there’s nothing left for you to do with your vacation rental business. You may believe the demand of going on vacation has gone down and assume that you won’t receive as many reservations. However, you just need to adapt to receive off-season bookings.
Every vacation rental has a different off-season due to location and local seasonal demand. While a ski cabin in the mountains may recognize the warm summer months as off-peak, a beach vacation rental is likely to be less popular in the cooler winter months.
As a vacation rental owner, it’s your job to define exactly what time of year your low season takes place, and implement your off-peak marketing strategy accordingly.
Check out these 10 important tips to boost reservations and those all-important bonus bookings in the off-season.
1. Define your low season
When does the low season start for your accommodation? When does your high season start? Do you have a mid-season? The answer to these questions will depend on the location of your property and the guests you host.
A vacation rental in Aspen, Colorado, will get most of its bookings during the winter months. In this case, the low season will start the moment the snow melts. On the other hand, for a tourist home in Florida, the situation will be the opposite: the arrival of summer will mark the beginning of the high season.
Your task as an owner is to know and clearly define the low season dates for your accommodation, because only then will you be able to implement an effective strategy for those months.
2. Adjust off-season prices
Airline tickets decline in price during the off season, and so do hotels, therefore your vacation rental ought to do the same. By adapting to the current circumstances, your vacation rental will be more appealing when guests are searching for accommodations.
Make sure to get your pricing level right for off-peak bookings. You don’t want to cut prices for weekends if you already have plenty of interest, but expensive rates could deter guests from even browsing.
So how do you set off-season rates? Remember that you don’t have to rely solely on your own judgment when setting prices; start by looking at the competition. Check out what your competitors are offering by looking at vacation rental websites and listing sites for properties in your area, or perform a quick Google search to find other vacation rentals nearby. You could also look at online travel agencies to compare the cost per night of staying in a nearby hotel for that time of year.
3. Lower your minimum nights
Not only will you need to adjust the rates, but you also need to lower the minimum night stays during off-season travel. For example, if your vacation rental has a seven minimum night stay, change it to two or even allow guests to stay for just one night.
Making your booking terms and conditions more flexible can also boost your inquiries. Perhaps some travelers would like to go on a weekend getaway? Or a last-minute trip?
4. Offer promotions
By offering your guests added-value deals such as three nights for the price of two, or a whole week for the price of four nights, you might find you’re able to fill much more of your calendar than you originally thought. You can also include a percentage in a discounted deal such as “30% off”. This way it will be more appealing for travelers as they know they are getting a better deal. Moreover, it’s a great way to market your vacation rental.
Special deals are a great excuse to contact past guests or follow up inquiries that did not turn into bookings. After all, everybody loves a bargain!
5. Identify potential guests
Look at your past bookings and define the demographics of guests who prefer an off-season break. You might find it’s a mix of seniors who want to escape the crowds of high-season tourists, couples looking for a romantic fall weekend getaway, or groups of active adults wanting to enjoy outdoor pursuits without the summer heat (or winter snow!).
Once you know who your off-peak target market is, how can you make your property appeal to those guests? Think about it: if you have a six-bedroom family vacation home, couples are unlikely to book it, fearing they are paying too much for all that unused space. So consider closing off most bedrooms, then re-advertise your vacation rental as a one- or two-bedroom home at a cheaper rate.
6. Be aware of public holidays
Bear in mind that there are actually vacation days during the low-season. In the US, Thanksgiving is a time when families reunite and celebrate. In 2021, over 53 million US citizens traveled to celebrate Thanksgiving. If you have a spacious property with a full kitchen and living area to suit a large family, your rental will be at the top of every traveler’s wishlist.
Additionally, according to data revealed by HomeToGo, 34% of U.S. travelers said they were planning overnight trips for Thanksgiving 2022, while also revealing that the best time to book vacation rentals for Thanksgiving is mid-October, so be sure to have your listings and rates prepared before then.
In the UK, for example, school kids have one week off in October. In 2023, it will run from Monday 23rd October until Friday 27 October in England and Wales and from Monday 16th to Monday 23rd in Scotland. During this time families like to go on a break with their kids whether on a staycation or even abroad. Therefore, you actually have a peak season during your off season.
7. Give reasons for guests to stay at your property
Give guests a reason to go on vacation, and more importantly, to stay in your vacation rental home. Include activities travelers can do nearby, such as hiking, mountain biking, or fun activities such as pumpkin picking – suitable for all ages! If you are situated in a city or an area where there aren’t as many things to do, offer your guests great restaurants, bars, cinemas, bowling alleys, etc.
Research local events and festivals going on in your area, and think outside the box with this one! Does your town hold an Oktoberfest celebration? Whatever you come up with, you can bet there’s someone out there looking for the perfect place to stay. Be sure to include these in your listing when advertising during the off-season.
Let potential guests know about things happening near your vacation rental through a series of carefully composed emails and gauge interest with your existing network using posts on social media channels.
8. Update your vacation rental home and website
Take this time to reflect on your business and analyze how you are doing. Did you get as many reservations as expected? If not, why not? How can you improve in general and for the next peak-season? Carry out an end of year review of your vacation rental. Take advantage of this time by updating your website and vacation rental property, whether you need to do a renovation, buy new furniture, or simply add some new decorations.
Promote features that would appeal to your out-of-season guests. Think of outdoor images that show fall leaves or a light dusting of snow, and interiors that highlight a cozy log fire, spice-scented candles, a selection of board games and books, a fall wreath on the door or some hot chocolate warming on the stove. Make sure you add comfortable duvets in the bedrooms and scarves and hats by the front door.
9. Activate instant bookings
Bookings for accommodations during the low season tend to happen at short notice, usually because travelers find flights at an irresistible price and decide to buy them on the spot. In fact, during this time, many vacation rentals see a significant increase in last-minute bookings.
If you want to take advantage of this trend, it is essential that you are willing to accept instant bookings. The tight time frames of these trips make guests value speed more than usual: if they see that they will have to wait for you to approve their request to stay in your accommodation, they are more likely to choose another.
10. Start planning for the next season
Preparation is key when it comes to managing your vacation rental’s peak season. Any task you can complete in advance will minimize the inevitable workload you will have to manage when the time arrives. Low season is the ideal time to prepare for the arrival of the next high season.
If your vacation rental has a high demand in the winter, such as a cabin or ski chalet in the mountains, it is very likely that you will start receiving bookings in the fall: take this into account when preparing and promoting your accommodation.
On the other hand, if your property is located in a beach destination, you can start pursuing bookings from March and April if you are in the northern hemisphere, or September and October if you are in the southern hemisphere.
First of all, remember that managing a vacation rental during the high season can be very busy. For this reason, we recommend that you try to get as much work out of the way as you can before it starts.
One of the best ways to reduce your workload is to automate as many tasks as possible, such as synchronizing your listings on vacation rental platforms, managing calendars, and messaging your guests.
Lodgify is vacation rental management software that lets you do all of that and more in one place. This way, you can enjoy more free time and save up to 20 hours of work a week, knowing that your property is actively generating income for you.
Sounds good, right? Lodgify offers a 7-day free trial, or if you prefer, you can request a product demo with one of our specialists. Get started today!
By following our top tips, you’ll soon be on your way to securing more low-season bookings. Don’t forget that the key to attracting out of season guests is creativity and flexibility – what can you provide that your competitors can’t? You can always update your listing descriptions depending on the season to reflect just what your guests can expect to do, see and experience!