Hoteliers and vacation rentals have slowly started opening their doors to a more competitive market than ever before.
No matter whom they catered to previously, the COVID-19 impact has meant that every hotelier and vacation rental is welcoming any guest who can add revenue. No audience preference – just bookings. For guests, it has meant a wider choice and heightened expectations for cleanliness, service, and a good deal.
Your marketing efforts need to make a bigger impact than ever before. Here are a few tips to sustain and grow your vacation rental business beyond this pandemic.
Focus on the domestic audience
With borders closed to international travel by most countries, travelers looking to escape the stress of the pandemic are looking closer to home. Take time to understand this audience better and be smart about attracting them. Review your distribution mix and list on your rental on the most frequently used national channel. Offer amenities and services that make the deal sweeter. Take lead from national and regional tourism boards that are promoting the destination – piggy bank on their messaging.
Within the domestic audience, don’t forget the staycation segment. Make a holiday memorable even those who choose not to travel beyond the city borders.
Be competitively priced
Take heart in the fact that your competitors are in this with you. However, this also means that the market is more competitive than ever before. Monitor your competitors’ rates closely and ensure you are priced within their range.
Talk up cleanliness
Making sure you take health and hygiene seriously, and communicate it actively is critical. As experts around the world are still trying to understand this virus better, properties and people must do everything to ensure the highest hygiene standards are always maintained. Health policies need to be strengthened to facilitate social distancing and keep both your staff and guests safe.
Consider measures such as self-check-in and check-out, online payments, etc. to ensure contactless service.
Emphasize your perks
To entice people away from their homes, highlight perks of your vacation rental property that they may not experience in their own house such as smart devices, gym equipment inside the house, exceptional views, spa, large bathtub, etc.
Be aggressive with promotions and offers
Special offers and discounts are great ways to influence and motivate travelers to book with you. Consider offering discounts based on the date, and the length of the stay. This can target both early and last-minute bookers, as well as anyone looking for accommodation. Promote your discounted prices in your listing title and description. Leverage the school holiday periods by attracting families to stay at your vacation rental property.
Update your owned channels
Keep your website, listings, and other owned channel such as social media updated with the latest news from your property – what services are available, what facilities are shut, health and hygiene guidelines, etc. Clear communications removes any doubt for guests looking for the right accommodation.
Ramp up social media marketing
Social distancing has turned more and more people to social media to stay connected, informed, entertained, and inspired. From organic posts to paid ads, social media is a cost-effective marketing platform that offers highly targeted reach. Social media is a great way to keep your guests updated as things change rapidly in response to the spread of the virus. Post regularly on your social media platforms wherever your target audience is the most.
Connect via emails
Consider reaching out to past guests through emails to encourage them to make reservations. Email marketing is a great way to reach your past guests to invite them again. Consider creating special codes that guests can use if they’ve come from this channel to increase commission-free bookings.
Be flexible in your cancellation policy
With things changing rapidly, a flexible cancellation policy is something your guests value more than ever before. To make the most out of the situation, it is crucial to allow flexible cancellations, since this can be a determining factor for guests when booking a rental.
Adjust your minimum stay
Reconsider your minimum stay to take advantage of domestic travelers who are only able to get away for a few days. While normally you might have a policy of seven days minimum, more short-term guests now are preferable to no guests at all.
Be more inclusive in your policies
As you do everything to get booked and remain booked for longer periods, become more inclusive in your policies. Perhaps you could consider allowing pets as more families are considering holidays and need to take the family pet along. Child-proof your vacation rental and tell prospective parents considering their holiday options about it.
As the world adapts to life with COVID-19, take time to reflect on what’s working in your marketing plan, what can be improved, and how travelers perceive your messages. Use empathetic language whenever possible. How you interact with consumers during stressful situations can make or break your brand reputation. Be prepared to pivot your plan based on what your data is telling you. Only then will you find an effective marketing mix to win the hearts of travelers.