Marketing your vacation rental and booking more guests is always the goal, but what does that really take? What should we be doing in addition to being part of Online Travel Agencies(OTA)? Let's dig into 13 vacation rental tips for getting more booked guests.
1.Using a commission-free booking engine
Look for a commission-free booking engine that’s also mobile-friendly; mobile devices account for a significant share of travel research and booking, with Euromonitor estimating that 1 in 4 travel bookings will be on mobile by 2024. Mobile usability will maintain the competitiveness of your channel.
Ensure the booking process is limited to two or three steps and includes a rate checker so consumers can compare prices from your website to increase conversion rates. That way, you keep them from leaving your site to rate shop on OTAs, and you also give them a reason to book by showing that you have the best rate.
2. Build an eye-catching user-friendly website
Your website is often the first impression potential guests have of your property. Go the extra mile and use eCommerce best practices to improve the user experience and encourage travelers to book direct. Ensure you use high-quality images and videos to showcase all your rooms and amenities and provide a modern and seamless experience to encourage travelers to book. Use bold, colorful call-to-action (CTA), like “Book Now,” on every page, and include FAQs to answer any last questions.
3. Utilize a variety of rate plans
Incorporating a variety of rate plans as a part of your revenue management strategy gives travelers more options and flexibility to choose what best suits their needs (and helps you better manage occupancy). Consider offering Earlybird, Flexible, or Non-refundable rate plans through your booking engine to encourage direct bookings.
Another way to attract various segments and increase direct bookings is through split inventory. Split inventory is when lodging operators combine various room types, sold as a single unit. This gives travelers the opportunity to customize their experience, which can lead to an increase in direct bookings, revenue, and guest loyalty.
4. Include upsells and add-ons during the booking process
Let guests personalize their stay as much as possible using add-ons, upsells, and packages integrated into your booking engine. Offer things like parking, transportation, spa passes, or tours during checkout so that travelers can pick and choose what best suits their needs. These extras help differentiate your website from OTAs and result in additional revenue for your property.
5. Leverage digital marketing
This is where boosting direct sales can get a bit tricky. Instead of relying on OTAs for their marketing muscle, you’ll have to run hotel marketing campaigns yourself. Begin by looking at your property management system data to identify guest segments most likely to book direct.
Once you’ve identified your guest segments, choose which channels make the most sense for your audience.
Metasearch engines are a great place to start, as they target users with the most intent
Search engine marketing (SEM) and retargeting can help boost your website’s visibility fast
Social media campaigns on Facebook or Instagram have great segmentation capabilities for reaching niche audiences
Search engine optimization (SEO) efforts help to improve your website’s performance and ranking on Google and other search engines
Email marketing helps to keep upcoming and past guests engaged and informed about your property and perks
Remember that marketing requires consistent testing and optimization to see what works best. It’s all about continuous improvement!
6. Give guests channels to communicate with you
During the discovery phase, travelers often have a lot of questions about a property’s amenities, rooms, location, and more. To help answer these questions fast, build trust, and encourage the likelihood of a direct booking — invest in guest messaging tools that can be integrated into your website.
Messaging platforms allow you to send and receive messages from various channels like chatbots and messenger for business and manage everything through a unified inbox. This way, you can manage questions across channels fast and streamline the booking process. You can also use AI or pre-programmed chat tools to eliminate the need for human intervention.
7. Create a sense of urgency
As a final nudge, use messaging on your website that creates a sense of urgency for travelers. For example, you can test out flash sales or limited-time offers to see if conversion rates increase. Try sending these types of sales out via email to drive traffic, or else use a banner at the top of your website with a unique discount code. These types of promotions are great for when you need to fill occupancy fast and should not be used all the time.
8. Don’t just sell a room, sell an experience
Travelers today are looking for more than just a place to stay, they want to find an accommodation provider that fits the experience they’re looking for. Our lodging report identified a shift from amenities to experiences as a major trend and advised lodging operators to break away from the amenitity mentality and focus on efforts to enhance the guest experience and satisfy travelers’ social, environmental, and econmic needs.
You must clearly define how your rooms, amenities, and values line up to deliver a unique experience and communicate this across channels to drive more direct bookings. For example, if you have a small lodge nestled in the mountains, showcase how you offer a shuttle to the ski hill, an après-ski happy hour, and a rooftop hot tub to end the day in. The more you lean into your unique experience the higher likelihood you’ll find a loyal customer base who return time and time again.
9. Lean into loyalty
Your past guests are a gold mine when it comes to rebooking. Re-engage past customers using an email marketing campaign with compelling discounts and offers. Also, if you don’t have one, consider launching a loyalty program. Travelers respond well to these programs, and you’ll learn much more about your ideal guest profiles. Your loyalty programs don’t have to be complicated, with points and redemptions — it can be as simple as promising “Members Only” rates.
10. Get active on social media
Social media is a fantastic way to strengthen and promote your brand and build relationships with past and potential guests. Choose what channels to invest time and effort into based on your guest demographics, and run social media ads to drive more direct bookings. Ensure that you create CTAs on your social profiles that link to your booking engine to streamline the experience.
Encourage social content sharing around your property by creating hashtags and building “Instagrammable” spots to encourage guests to post and share photos. You can then reshare content posted by guests. Nurture and engage with your community online and make occasional offers or exclusive packages for your followers.
11. Participate in events and tradeshows
Connections are everything in the hospitality industry and can be vital in securing steady direct bookings via local tourism bureaus and other hospitality professionals. Consider attending tradeshows to network and educate attendees about your brand and offerings. At these events, you’ll also learn valuable insights into industry trends which can help spark new ideas for your property. By taking the time to learn from others, you can make your hotel more appealing to guests and, in turn, increase direct bookings.
12. Personalize, personalize, personalize
Guest profiles within your PMS can contain detailed information, such as birthdays, anniversaries, and special requests. You can use this information with guest messaging software to build guest relationships and offer personalized services, special discounts, and deals during their stay.
For instance, say one of your guests recently visited your property for an anniversary trip and noted that they have a gluten allergy.
Imagine the guest’s reaction if you were to send a text that your restaurant has recently expanded its gluten-free options and is offering their room at a discounted rate for their next stay. Personalized service creates lasting customer loyalty and encourages repeat visits.
13. Implement a reputation management process
From OTAs to online directories and community forums like Yelp, travelers have various platforms to rate and review your property. Your future guests will likely visit some of these sites when researching your property.
Establish a system and a process to collect and manage reviews. Send a quick message post-check-in to ensure guest expectations are meeting reality and conduct any necessary service recovery at this point. At the end of a guest’s stay, send an automated survey to collect feedback and end the process with a link to your review sites.
Ensure that you inspect your listings on OTAs and directories and respond to reviews when you can. A personal, well-tempered comment from the owner or manager looks good to guests and improves your brand’s perception. Those same guests are more likely to visit your website and book there.