September 12, 2017

Tips To Maximize Vacation Rental Bookings During The Off-Season

September 12, 2017

Tips To Maximize Vacation Rental Bookings During The Off-Season

The weather is cold. Your city is sleepy. Everyone is back to the daily grind. Who wants to come to your vacation rental then? It's a common problem in Airbnb management: what to do during the off-season to keep your vacation property booked, to keep yourself busy, and to keep your income flowing.

Although it's easy to spout off a quick answer like "Lower your prices!" and "Run some specials!", it may be time to step back and ask yourself some questions before tackling this slow-season challenge.

Do You Need a Vacation?

If you've been working day and night to keep your peak-season guests happy and all your rental units running smoothly, you might want to think about taking a break. By taking your vacation during the off-season, you won't lose as much income and you may be able to snag some sweet deals yourself. Taking the time to relax and take care of yourself can revitalize yourself for a new and more positive outlook when you come back.

This may also be a good time to make any necessary updates and renovations to your rental units so that you can hit the next peak season full speed ahead as well. Updating your rental unit, adding amenities and making sure everything is in working order allows you to charge premium prices during peak seasons as well as low seasons.

When Exactly is Your Off Season?

Although most people think of spring break and summer vacation as peak vacation season, your particular market may have more nuances in terms of peak season, off season, and that period between the two, known as the shoulder season.

It's important to understand all the factors that contribute to the supply and demand in your particular geographic area. School and holiday schedules certainly contribute, but consider things like weather patterns and special local events that can drive demand higher during typical low-season times.

Do a little research on online booking sites and hotel booking sites to see how their prices fluctuate from week to week. Look at community calendars to see what events tend to bring a large number of people to your area or the surrounding areas. If you've been in the rental business for a few years, take a look at your own history to see when you have been busy and when you have been slow.

Who Is Your Ideal Low-Season Guest?

The important factor in answering this question is that this guest may be completely different from your ideal peak-season guest. You may find that vacationing families with lots of children make up the majority of your peak-season guest list. However, you may be more appealing to the single business traveler during the off-season.

Analyzing your past guest bookings can help you narrow down your low-season target audience. See what type of guests booked your rental, how many people typically came during the low-season visit, and how many days they stayed on average. Once you have this information, it will be much easier to create effective off-season marketing packages.

How Much Should You Drop Your Price?

Adjusting your pricing during shoulder seasons and off-seasons can be tricky. If you don't lower them enough, you'll still have vacancies. If you lower them too much, you'll be missing out on available profits.

As you're researching your personal off-season periods as well as your low-season guest profile, start recording whatever pricing information you have available. Take a look at what the competition is charging as well as how much they drop their prices from a percentage standpoint. Don't forgot to check hotels, campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, and other lodging options in your area.

Airbnb management tools are available that can make suggestions based on particular algorithms. Check out tools including BeyondPricing. Other third-party companies offer to-the-minute price adjustments for a fee.

Understand that adjusting your prices can be a bit of a trial and error exercise. Keep good records while you play with your prices and see if you can find your sweet spot over time to maximize your earnings in the future.

Can You Loosen Up Your Rules?

During peak season, you can often impose stricter rules such as longer minimum stays or fees for cancellations. However, you may be able to increase your low-season bookings if you are willing to relax those rules during the less-busy travel seasons.

Consider allowing single-night stays or last-minute cancellations. You may want to offer a "free night" for booking two nights or some other special deals to encourage weekday bookings.

Anytime you're willing to relax some house rules like allowing pets or even smoking in certain outside areas of your property, you will increase the likelihood that someone searching for a rental unit will find your property.

Think about what areas you are willing to compromise on and which ones you are not. Balance the added work against the added income to make the best personal decision for your own rental unit.

Can You Offer Extra Amenities?

If you'd like to keep your prices more stable, you can consider adding extra amenities during your off-season to attract more bookings.

For instance, if you look at your guest history and see that many couples book your rental unit during the off-season, you may be able to create a romantic getaway package with coupons to cozy restaurants. Consider working with local event planners to secure complimentary or reduced fee tickets in exchange for advertising on your listing. Negotiate a group ticket price if you're willing to buy a larger amount of tickets and then pass those out to potential guests over a period of time.

Off-season may be a great time to upgrade your rental unit with items like a hot tub or jacuzzi. First, you'll probably have some downtime to complete such an installation without losing much business. And second, having something like that on your property will be an added bonus for those looking for a way to relax without spending a lot of extra money.

Can You Reconfigure Your Property?

If you have a large property with multiple rooms or floors that are attractive to large groups during the peak season, you may consider reconfiguring your property for low season. 

For instance, you could close down some of your bedrooms and offer the remainder of the home to individuals or smaller groups of people. Or, you could offer different floors to different customers at the same time if your rental unit provided enough privacy, security, and access to private bathrooms and kitchen areas.

Who Can You Invite In Your Network?

The only thing better than target marketing to the right groups of potential guests is to tap the people you already know.

Check out your previous guest lists and create a special deal or package just for them. Then, reach out and invite happy guests back with an offer that they can't refuse. If your place is a location that people enjoy coming back to year after year, this can be an effective marketing solution.
The other way to market using your previous guests is to simply ask them if they'd be willing to pass along a limited offer to their friends and family. Hopefully they can forward the special deal in an e-mail with a personal endorsement of your rental unit. Be sure to thank them with a special gift to express your appreciation.
Once you've contacted previous guests, move onto those people who sent you a question about your place but never booked. Perhaps the dates didn't work out the first time around or something else came up that required different vacation plans. Often, a reminder of your rental can trigger new plans. By offering a special deal or simply a personal invitation to those potential guests, you may be able to fill some vacancies.
Have You Updated Your Listings?
The slower periods of the year are great times to catch up on all those house-keeping items that get passed over during the peak-season. Take some time to update all your listings on vacation rental websites. Sometimes, these online sites will update their amenities lists without notifying their users, which means that you could offer an amenity that has not been properly checked off. This can easily resulted in missed opportunities.
You may also want to post some pictures of off-season-specific activities to increase interest. For example, add photos of a couple snuggling by a bonfire during the autumn or friends enjoying cross-country skiing on your property.

Be sure your calendar is up-to-date. This simple task can help your listing rank higher during searches. Some online sites will give you ranking credit for updating your calendar if you simply open it regularly.

Be sure to use your listing space to advertise any special deals or added amenities so that potential guests see your specials as soon as they pull up your listing. In addition, take the time to add local events occurring over the next several months in your listing.

Is It Time To Add More Avenues?

Besides listing your vacation rental on popular sites such as Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO, check out some of the niche rental websites that have popped up in recent years. Sites that market directly to pet owners, business travelers, triathletes, and the wealthy high-class audience all exist.

What Traditional Marketing Can You Do?

Take a page out of the traditional marketing textbooks, and think about how you can reach your potential guests.

Consider writing a blog post about what visitors to your particular area might want to do on vacation during an off-season month. Position your location and your rental as a best-kept secret to appeal to those looking for something a little different or for a great deal.
Piggyback on others who are trying to draw people to the area for events. Contact organizers of festivals or conferences to see if you can co-advertise in their materials or be listed as a lodging provider.

See if you can develop relationships with large corporations who might be looking for an unusual place to offer a visiting executive, important customer or key supplier. If your place is big enough to host events, you might want to see if local businesses looking for a unique venue for a business meeting lunch or retreat would be interested.

Consider contacting local photographers if your property offers visually appealing spots. They may be asked on occasion to find a setting for a particular photo shoot, which can bring you some extra income during off-seasons. Be sure to charge appropriately for personal or corporate use.

The low season periods don't have to be ones that you dread each year. Use the time to take care of those important things you have been putting off. And enjoy meeting the challenge of trying to find new ways to increase your bookings during this time.

If you have more tips, please share with us in the comment section below. And, if you need help with your vacation rental during the off-season, contact us!



Tagged: airbnb management