As a traveler herself, Steph wanted to bring some of her trips and memories back to her hometown. After spending several years adventuring around the globe and staying in trains, pensions, hammocks, luxury hotels, cabins, campgrounds, and more, she decided to start her own vacation rental business with her travels at the foundation.
“Returning to my home town which had grown and prospered into a tourist area of its own, it was too good not to share.”
After giving it some thought, she decided to launch a cabin business situated in the woods, yet near the beach. That’s when The Woods Ocean Grove came to life.
Like many vacation rental owners, Steph found it challenging to offset some of the work that came with managing a short-term rental. She focused heavily on getting as many bookings as possible, but that came with a surplus of labor.
“It built momentum but was very admin heavy and became a bit of a mess with the occasional double booking and missing some payments.”
She knew that the amount of work produced from these reservations wasn’t sustainable. Steph needed an all-in-one solution to reduce the hours she was spending on managing these bookings. Lodgify was and still is the answer for her business.
Challenges during Covid-19
Covid-19 brought on its own set of challenges outside of the usual obstacles. Like many, The Woods Ocean Grove had to shut its doors to guests for many months during the height of the pandemic.
“Our properties were closed during Covid for six months, so we had no income. However, we thought this was the right thing to do to protect our community, guests, and our own family.”
There is a happy ending to this story, however. This owner decided to use the downtime to improve the property, make renovations, and gear up for attracting quality bookings once they opened up. Much to her credit, the hard work paid off!
“As soon as we re-opened, we increased our prices, and demand was through the roof. The renovation was paid back within three months, and we are booked out back to back, around six weeks ahead of time.”
Steph had a goal of increasing the quality of their vacation rental. By adding features like an outdoor bath and a polished garden, they were able to increase ADR and implement a minimum length stay. Their time spent closed made for better quality bookings when they finally opened their doors again.
Beyond creating a stellar space, Steph found that Lodgify’s reservation management system was the solution she was looking for. The majority of her problems, such as double bookings or missed payments, were a result of manually managing each booking. Beyond the immense labor it took, there was more room for errors. Thankfully, Lodgify’s vacation rental software completely eliminated double bookings and helped to streamline payments so they wouldn’t miss a beat.
“Subscribing to Lodgify has streamlined my process and made everything more efficient.”
What they liked most about Lodgify
Having a means of accepting and managing direct bookings was vital for The Woods Ocean Grove. Finding a reservation software that is easily embeddable into an existing website was at the top of Steph’s list for vacation rental management needs.
“The ability to have a direct booking platform that I can embed in my own website and brand as my own.”
Not only did Lodgify’s booking widget seamlessly embed into Steph’s website, but it also included a secure payment gateway, so she didn’t have to worry about collecting and managing payments from guests. The best part? Steph loved that Lodgify offered some of the lowest owner fees in the industry.
“Lodgify manages all the money. Lodgify fees for owners and guests are so much lower.”
How they got their first bookings
In the beginning, Steph and her team focused primarily on getting bookings. It didn’t matter where the booking was made, and it didn’t matter who was coming.
“The first couple of years was about getting bookings, any booking, bums in beds!”
She listed her property on OTAs like Airbnb and Riparide while also accepting some direct bookings, but throughout the years, and with the help of Lodgify, she’s begun to strike a balance between her third-party bookings and direct reservations.
Other channels that generate traffic and bookings
Like most vacation rental owners, Steph decided to list her property on all the major OTAs but was still aiming to get direct bookings. She decided to take a unique approach and set her sights on direct bookings via social media.
“Social media is my main marketing activity and it directs everyone to the website where guests can book via Lodgify.”
Beyond the usual promotions, she decided to use the power of social media influencers to increase the visibility of The Wood Ocean Grove.
“We invited some influencers to stay and got new photographs taken for our website, which we continue to promote via social media and partnerships with the local tourism community.”
Steph’s goal was to draw in more valuable, longer-staying guests so her business wouldn’t be quite as time-consuming. By targeting her desired audience through social media and marketing, she was able to book the exact guests she desired.
How Lodgify helped them grow their vacation rental business
The culmination of Steph’s efforts and Lodgify’s robust vacation rental software resulted in terrific success. This owner saw an extreme uptick in direct bookings since joining Lodgify, and the numbers aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
“Since joining with Lodgify, we now have 50% of bookings coming in directly, with the other 50% split between two other platforms. Our bookings were up more than 70% in the December quarter 2020, compared to the previous year.”
After years of accepting guests, changing her business strategies, marketing her property, and much more, Steph is now far from being a novice. This expert has plenty of advice to relay to newcomers.
“Know that you are not going to become a property guru overnight. It takes years of hosting and experiencing the good, the bad, and the ugly guests, situations, and reviews to really refine your property and hosting style.”
Beyond patience, she emphasizes the importance of forming a team of professionals.
“Build a good team around you; you will need to call on a plumber, electrician, handyman, etc., quite regularly and usually when it’s an emergency! Engage with others in your community who are better at things than you, such as social media or styling.”
Experience, building a network, putting your heart into it, providing a personalized experience, and using software that simplifies task management are all a part of what made The Woods Ocean Grove so successful.