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The 4 Fundamental Truths of Vacation Rental Marketing
It’s 2020, and despite a global pandemic slowing business and leisure travel around the world, the vacation rental landscape has never felt so competitive. Travelers wary of hotels and shared spaces during a pandemic have accelerated the move toward vacation rental alternatives, with Airbnb, VRBO and Booking.com being the main beneficiaries of this shift. The vacation rental economy is now an $80 billion global juggernaut with predicted growth at nearly 10% annually for the next 5 years. So how can your vacation rental or vacation rental business stand out in such a fast-moving and crowded marketplace? By executing on the 4 fundamental truths of vacation rental marketing, any vacation rental or vacation rental business can be made to rise above the noise and maximize its market share:
1. It’s Survival of the Fittest out There, so Bring the Best Product to Market.
If I’ve learned one thing after participating in the growth of the vacation rental market over the last decade, it’s that it is a cutthroat, Darwinian ecosystem out there. You know the maxims… only the strong prevail, you have to evolve to survive. Well, they’re true! In order to survive in today’s vacation rental marketplace, you need to continually bring the strongest product you can to market.
Generally, travelers are looking for two things: a great experience and great value. Give them both! Here are several ways that you can improve the strength of your vacation rental “product” with improved guest experience and value:
1. Interior design is your first weapon to attract guests to your listing, so invest in high quality furnishings (especially beds and mattresses!), appliances, entertainment systems and kitchen equipment. Repair or replace tired furniture, appliances or kitchenware.
2. Do not defer maintenance! All it takes is one bad review about a leaky roof, or broken AC to turn away business. Keep the property looking its best with routine maintenance and an excellent cleaning regimen.
3. Provide unexpected amenities to delight guests. The addition of welcome baskets, a free bottle of wine, sports equipment (bikes, bocce, tennis racquets etc…), or free tickets for local activities are just a few ideas to boost guest satisfaction and result in great reviews.
4. Customer service is a key component to guest satisfaction. In this business it’s important to be available to answer guest questions and address concerns promptly. Inquiries should be responded to within minutes of their receipt, and problems at a property should be addressed immediately. Having a great rolodex of on-call handymen, plumbers, HVAC technicians will go a long way toward keeping guests happy and your property running smoothly.
2. We Are a Visual Culture. Your Photos are the Most Important Asset you Have.
Your photos are the first and most important way that prospective guests will experience your listing. Once they have filtered search results on Airbnb or VRBO by location and price, prospective guests will instantly start clicking on the nicest photos. Simply put - THE NICEST PHOTOS WIN THE MOST BOOKINGS. So invest in your photos like your livelihood depends on it… because it does.
Yes, the latest iPhone or Samsung phone has a bazillion-pixel camera and makes everyday people feel like Annie Leibovitz or Ansel Adams. But it’s still not good enough to maximize your property listing’s potential. Trust me - you still need to hire a professional photographer! Use an established real estate photography service such as iMoto , or find a photographer that specializes in real estate photography. For just a couple hundred dollars invested in professional photos, you could reap many thousands more annually in bookings earned through the increase in guest clicks.
3. Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket. Employ a Multi-Channel Listing Strategy.
Is it a pain in the neck to create and maintain property listings across multiple sites? Yes, no question about it, but you’re going to need to get over it and put in the hard work if you want to maximize your revenue. Airbnb and VRBO are the clear leaders in the vacation rental Online Travel Agency (OTA) market, and every vacation rental property should be listed on both of those platforms without hesitation.
A truly successful marketing strategy needs to go beyond just these two leaders. Booking.com, and Flipkey have rather nascent but rapidly expanding rosters of users and should be added to your multi-channel strategy. Other niche sites such as furnishedfinder.com , which caters to traveling nurses and professionals, can be another great marketing complement for properties that cater toward a monthly-rental demographic.
4. Build Your Own Website, Control Your Own Brand.
Yes, the OTAs may be responsible for a majority of your booking leads, but you are in a sense also beholden to them and prisoner to their terms of service. Every vacation rental property manager - whether they have 1 property or 100 under management - needs their own website to serve as the foundation of their brand and an alternative booking platform to the OTAs. Why? Here’s a few great reasons:
It’s easy to get lost in the hectic pace of today’s travel landscape and to wonder where the future is headed for the vacation rental industry. The great news is that the future for the vacation rental economy is bright (and lucrative) - $80 billion and growing kind of lucrative. One can reasonably suspect that new innovations in OTAs and related technology will continue to impact and change our vacation rental market, and that we will be forced to continually adapt to new practices to continue to perform well in the market. But whenever things start to seem too fast or too overwhelming in this business, I find these four fundamental truths of the vacation rental business to be a powerful, centering force around which any new evolutions can be adopted.