Marketing Your Holiday Home
With more and more properties available for the self-catering guest to choose from, the importance of a strong marketing strategy has never been more crucial.
A basic search on just one website, namely Holiday Lettings, highlights over 4200 self-catering properties currently available, and with so many options, how will we make sure the guest picks your property for their next holiday?
Every property owner has an endless list of questions to personally answer when it comes to marketing, such as ‘Would I be happy to allow dogs into my property?’ or ‘Will I accept small children into my home?’ and this is where we can assist in guiding you through the process.
There are many different market sectors to focus on within the wider industry. Some owners will try to focus on as many as possible, whereas others will narrow their focus to just one or two.
The Domestic holiday market continues to be the biggest market to focus on for self-catering properties, although the growing number of overseas visitors cannot be underestimated; the UK is now viewed increasingly as a destination of choice for overseas visitors.
Visit Britain provides regular statistics on this topic, and is now consistently highlighting a monthly rise of overseas visitors year on year to the UK. ‘‘During 2015, the UK welcomed a record 13.69 million holiday visits, 1% more than the previous record set in 2014’’ (www.visitbritain.org).
The same organisation similarly highlights the increasing amount of money spent by overseas visitors whilst on holiday in the UK.
So how do we encourage overseas visitors to holiday in your property?
The increasing importance of listing properties on overseas vacation booking websites is therefore vital in attracting this growing market to your property.
VRBO for example is a website that very few domestic customers would use to search for their next break, however this website alone attracts over 12 million holiday searches each month and tends to be the number one search site for self-catering holidays within Europe, hence why we choose to market using such channels.
We are then able to offer direct correspondence in French and German to any native speakers, and for other languages are able to use another larger agency we work with in marketing properties.
The specialist holiday letting agency we work with is a locally based Devon company who market hundreds of properties domestically and hundreds more across Europe.
The support of this agency ensures that the number of domestic bookings achieved is also very high, and by using their various marketing websites, when a potential guest is searching for their next stay in Devon, your property will appear high up within the search rankings on the likes of Google.
A report conducted by YouGov for Homeaway in 2015 highlighted the growing influence of children when a holiday is booked for the family.
The survey of 2,800 children (ages six to 18) and parents in the U.S. and Europe found that when it comes to family holiday planning, children have significant decision-making power and a strong point of view on where to go, what to do and who to bring.
Creating a ‘family-friendly’ holiday destination where a cot and highchair are available, access to toys and outside games as well as a ‘family-friendly’ guide on where to visit locally and what to do with children in all weathers is an essential strategy should the property owner seek to market to this sector.
The description offered to each property therefore needs to highlight why your property should be booked over any other property, not only to the guest paying for the holiday, but importantly, to keep the children within the party happy!
The term romantic getaway is often searched for by potential guests when scouring the web looking for that perfect break.
Who wouldn’t want a romantic getaway to Devon with windswept walks along a beautiful coastal path, followed by a pub lunch or a boat trip or two?
These ‘getaways’ can be marketed especially in the non-peak weeks, when shorter stays should be encouraged. The largest growing break by nights per holiday by a wide margin is for 2 and 3 night stays.
A romantic break to Devon where a guest can escape work at the end of the week and head to Devon before returning to work at the beginning of the next week is increasingly more and more appealing.
Historically a 7 night or 14 night stay was the ‘norm’ and venturing outside of these limits often wasn’t possible. For property owners competing in a far more fluid and flexible industry now however, competing against more and more owners who are offering this type of stay, this type of short break should feature highly on a sensible letting strategy.
In being able to offer an extra special touch such as roses or champagne for that extra-special occasion can go a long way to ensuring that your property is booked.
Obviously not all properties are able to offer bookings to groups, however with larger properties, if there are at least 4 bedrooms, the property description can be used to highlight how the location can work for groups.
Our own experience within the industry has certainly demonstrated the importance of offering high quality accommodation which is pet (particularly dog!) friendly.
Some owners may choose not to welcome pets as part of the booking party, and we recognise that this is not a route that all owners wish to explore when letting a property.
If owners do consider allowing pets, there are certainly an increasing number of visitors wanting to holiday within the UK with their four-legged companions. The sheer number of pet friendly beaches and pet friendly pubs within Devon certainly make it an ideal destination for pet owners to escape with their animals.
There are a number of ways to tap into this sector, such as utilising specialist social media sites to highlight the availability of such holiday destinations, or paying to advertise on specialist websites with a growing number of visitors solely wanting to find a luxury property where their four legged friends are welcomed.
Activity breaks during the recession saw a decline after the preceding five years of growth up to 2009.
They are now becoming increasingly popular again, and whilst walking holidays are the most popular form of activity holiday accounting for almost four in ten activity trips (Mintel), Devon offers a real opportunity for home owners to market their properties to all types of activity break seekers, especially those guests who want to focus their activities along the coastline or on the moors, such as cyclists.
Obviously for this to work well, the home owner may need to invest in specialist security measures such as cycle storage, however the market is a growing one and it would definitely be something to pay consideration to.
The market also used to focus solely on the younger ‘adrenaline junkies’, but in more recent years there’s been growing research to indicate that these style of holidays are becoming more mainstream, attracting more women, over 50’s and also more families. Think Kayaking on the River Dart or coasteering around the rugged cliffs of South Devon….
We would target this sector of the market by again using specialist websites dedicated to such markets and also the use of social media involved with such activities.
Importance of Reviews and How to Manage Them
We’ve all questioned whether or not we should stay somewhere, eat somewhere or visit somewhere based on a review we’ve read about a location.
The process of managing a review starts the moment a guest enquires about a holiday. In offering a personal service, we make instant contact with each individual booker, thereby starting the communication process and encouraging questions prior to the stay.
We then provide a comprehensive information pack before the holiday begins. A name and a discussion, coupled with a number for them to call should they experience any problems, can go a very long way rather than providing a faceless automated management/ booking email.
We would strongly encourage all property owners to ensure that the property being let to a guest is 100% ready before the first booker arrives.
Many owners have over the years rushed to get a property to the market, which has meant that a review has been received which comments on some of the finishing touches being missed.
It’s all very well stating in the follow up to a review something along the lines that ‘‘the shower screen has now been fixed’’, but this review will always stay as the first review for the property.
We also encourage guests to contact us during their stay if they become aware of any issues regarding the property whilst on holiday.
A proactive response in dealing with problems before they appear, and then a quick reactive response when necessary following a guests contact, is crucial in managing the review process.
Year on year, the tourism industry moves on again with the introduction of different building materials and products available, which has meant that a property that was a 5* property just a few years ago, is probably nearer to that of a 4* property currently.
There are some things that won’t be possible to achieve with certain properties, such as the installation of a swimming pool, or moving a properties physical location so that it has a sea view.
There are however, many things that an owner can focus on in order to ensure that a quality product is offered. We will provide advice where necessary to assist any owner, but things to ask yourself are ‘‘what do we like to receive when we go on holiday?’’ How many times do you remember that super comfy bed and mattress, that lovely crisp linen, the well equipped kitchen with a bottle opener that actually works, mugs that aren’t chipped, and so on.
Allowing us to work with you therefore in providing the overall service for your guests ensures that as the letting agent, we have a direct interest in the property being presented to the very highest standards by Moor to Sea Homes, the changeover provider.
As mentioned previously within this document, the industry has witnessed some huge changes in recent years largely due to large companies focusing on the marketing of properties using the increasing power of the internet.
The industry continually evolves as agencies and property owners are continually identifying new ways in which to ensure that the next holiday booked is at their property.
You may be surprised to learn that now, many letting agents use Owners Direct as well as individual property owners, something unheard of when the website Owners Direct, was created. Similarly, Airbnb was originally designed as a model whereby home owners may let a spare room, yet is now routinely used to market whole holiday properties, again by agencies and individuals alike.
There are a few things however that haven’t changed during this revolution, such as the importance of a recognised industry quality rating.
We can work with Visit England in ensuring that a property receives the highest rating available to each individual property we work with. Not all owners opt for such a service, but if necessary the rating and feedback process offered by this body can be particularly useful in allowing guests to have an understanding of the type of property they are booking for their holiday.