The year coming to an end is always a time for reflection. Thinking back over the past 12 months, the vacation rental industry as a whole has seen tremendous growth, numerous acquisitions and consolidations, plus a plethora of new restrictions and regulations all around the globe.
In terms of your vacation rental business, the end of the year is an opportune moment to analyze your business and determine what is working well and what needs tweaking and polishing. With both online and offline factors to consider, you can get your short-term rental up to scratch with our year-end review checklist.
Inspect amenities and appliances
Everything in your vacation rental has a certain life expectancy. In general, short-term rentals see more wear and tear than their long-term counterparts. Your job as the owner and host of your property is to ensure everything is in perfect working condition for your incoming guests.
Take this year-end opportunity to inspect the major items at your home. From big appliances such as fridges and washing machines to smaller amenities like towels, sheets and pillows. There are recommended timeframes you can follow for these types of vacation rental renovations, but sometimes it simply requires some common sense and scrupulous attention to detail.
Scrutinize your website
A lot can change over the course of one year, so ensuring your website is up-to-date and still relevant is not only important for managing guest expectations, but also for keeping up with Google. Reviewing your website as the year comes to a close will ensure you leap into the next season fully prepared for a new influx of guests and good reviews.
Scroll through your photo gallery, are your vacation rental photos still an accurate representation of your property? If you’ve performed any upgrades, added any amenities or even changed the color scheme of one of your key rooms, it’s time to add the photos to match.
What about your property description, are you converting visitors into bookings your website? If your answer is no, use the New Year as an opportunity to enhance your website content to make it more effective at driving online reservations.
You also need to take a look at your vacation rental website SEO. The Google Freshness algorithm loves updated content, so it’s no wonder this can help your website to rank higher. Carry out a NAP audit and make sure your business name, address and telephone number appear in the footer on every page of your website. Re-evaluate the meta descriptions for your different pages – could you optimize them to include more keywords? Not forgetting of course keyword research itself – are there different terms you should target for SEO in the coming year? Identify exactly what it is your target guests are searching for and tailor your website content and SEO to match.
Review agreements with external partners
The end of the year is also a great time to review any existing partnerships, agreements and contracts you have in place with other businesses or external vendors and ask yourself: what are they bringing to your business?
Evaluate which of these are a meaningful and positive addition to the way you run your vacation rental and end any contracts which do not fulfill your needs. You may, in fact, find that there are certain gaps which require the contracting of new services and, therefore, the creation of new contracts for the start to the year.
Check for flaws in the workflow
Look back over your guest reviews from the past year and highlight any pointers that could be improved. Perhaps travelers noted your slower-than-average response time, a missed point on your cleaning checklist, or worse yet, a cancelation due to overbooking.
The new year is an ideal time to reassess your processes to resolve any flaws that could affect the smooth running of your business. For some, this could be a case of automating more in order to be more efficient. Using tools such as Zapier – which can integrate with your existing software – you can set up automatic invoices, text messages and much more. For others, it could mean enlisting the help of a vacation rental software in order to do the basics, such as show real-time availability and synchronize calendars across multiple channels.
Reassess OTA listings
It’s no secret that advertising your property on OTAs is a fantastic way to get thousands of travelers eyeballing your offerings. However, if you’re on multiple sites and only a couple of them bring in bookings, consider removing your listings from the less successful sites in order to focus more on your website to increase the percentage of direct bookings you take.
Cutting the least lucrative sites loose will allow you to stay as organized and focused as possible for the coming year. Most vacation rental owners and property managers use their own website plus a maximum of three to four external listing sites to maximize bookings and increase occupancy.
Plan your promotions in advance
The start of the year is an optimal time to plan your marketing strategies and any promotions or special offers you wish to run. Reflect on your numbers and results from the past year: which months were strongest for bookings, and which could’ve done with a boost? Seasonality shapes a lot of businesses in the vacation rental industry, and you can aim to tackle the low season by offering money-off deals at certain times of the year.
An obvious idea is to plan a Black Friday campaign, but you can also think about setting up special prices to specifically target your low or shoulder season, or launch campaigns aimed at specific traveler groups and guest types.
Year after year, social media channels are increasingly gaining traction, especially in the travel industry. It’s important to stay connected with your past, current and future guests via apps like Instagram and Facebook in order to build a brand for your vacation rental business and have potential travelers engage with you on these platforms.
Dedicate some time to the planning of your posts – sometimes it’s much easier to set aside a few hours to program a month’s worth of content than to do it ad-hoc when you get chance. Planning in advance will also ensure that you maintain a schedule of regular posting which can boost engagement rates.
Define three improvements for the next year
A new year signals new beginnings, so it’s also a good opportunity to set some achievable business goals for the 12 months ahead. Based on your findings from analyzing your overall vacation rental over the past year, define three key improvements you can make to your business. This can take into account your property itself, the marketing tactics you put into practice, the bookings you wish to achieve. In fact, sometimes it’s easier to draw up a shortlist of all the key milestones or goals for the coming year and pick a small selection to swear by.
Entering the New Year equipped with ideas and improvements can help you to plan in advance and set the bar for an even stronger 12 months! We’ve outlined a handful of pointers in this article which you can put into practice in order to assess your business before heading into the next year. What else will you do to make it the best yet for bookings?