What will it look like for the holiday cottage business when cometh the dawn of a new normal world?
In particular, what trends will occur as people start to think about booking self-catering holidays once again? What will they do? Where will they go?
My Favourite Holiday Cottages has put together a few thoughts on how the recovery might look and what holiday cottage owners can do to be ready for it.
This first article looks at some easy-to-do things you can do now to keep the bookings coming in during the current lock-down period (and beyond).
The second article will dwell more upon the ‘new normal’ – what potential bookers will be prioritising once the pandemic ceases to be a fear factor.
Action This Day!
During World War II, Winston Churchill was in the habit of sending memos to his chief of staff entitled Action This Day! Given the present war footing on which we stand in our battle against Covid 19, It seems like a good place to start to minimise opportunities lost.
The first rule, as in all trends, is that if you don’t spring into action until it’s clear that people are booking holidays again, you’ll miss out on bookings. By the time you’ve rebuilt your advertising, ramped up your social media and updated your website, your property won’t feature in the initial surge. Actions you take to promote your holiday property after the lock-down ends won’t deliver the same level of returns as those that you put in place NOW. You need to be ready.
In some ways, recovery has already begun.
- People are using their enforced leisure time to dream and plan their next holiday. We’ve noticed an increase in the number of people creating a private shortlist of properties to enquire about. If you’re not advertising on sites that allow bookers to prepare a shortlist, then this is one opportunity going begging.
- People are booking for 2021 on the assumption that by the summer of next year, it will be safe to return to the coast and countryside.
Our Top Ten Tips For Successful Bookings
To ensure your cottage appeals to the early bird market, holiday property owners are advised to:
1. Ensure their availability calendars are extended to at least December 2021.
2. Display rental prices through to early January 2022.
3. Add a short statement to the effect that your property is taking bookings for 2021 (or earlier if appropriate).
4. Review all your adverts - including those you may have cancelled - and update them accordingly with similarly worded statements. Don’t forget to review and bring up to date any adverts that you are re-activating.
5. If cashflow is crucial, consider offering an early bird discount for bookings made no less than twelve months before the date of arrival.
6. Ensure you continue to maintain – if not expand – the ways you market your holiday property – from adverts to social media.
7. Review your terms and conditions. Make them explicitly clear as to the basis on which bookers will be entitled to a full or partial refund in the event of a force majeure, e.g. in the event that an official government lockdown ruling is in place during the dates booked, then full refund will be given. In 2020, many owners have incurred losses from people cancelling bookings as far ahead as August and September.
It’s worth saying what refund entitlements there are if a guest chooses to cancel their booking, as opposed to the booking needing to be cancelled as a result of your property having to shut down to meet government requirements. Don’t forget to include any entitlements a guest may enjoy, such as the option to defer dates, and the rule applied if their subsequent choice of date is for a different price band. Do they pay the balance – or will you refund the difference?
Make your terms fair – but clear.
8. Do a Photoshoot. If it’s been a while since you last whipped round with the camera, or your photos feature leafless and wintery trees, then May is a glorious time to take advantage of the emptiness of your cottage and fill it with flowers for a photoshoot. If you’d like a copy of our document full of tips for preparing a property for a photoshoot, then click here to email me and I’ll send you a free copy.
9. When it’s safe to do so, book a couple of nights in your holiday cottage and play at being critics. List all the things you love and the things that could be better – or need fixing. You’ll be surprised at what you find! Many of them will be subliminal – but you’ll find you get fewer little niggly complaints and an extra star in reviews.
10. Still got an unhygienic, tired, tatty and much-thumbed House Directory? Throw it out! Replace it with an electronic version that you can email guests a week or so before they arrive. This way they can spend a week planning their holiday as well as arrive knowing where key appliances, switches and WiFi codes are. BIG plus points - especially as it’s much less of a problem to update them. This final tip might not earn you a booking – although you might like to mention this in your website, but it will go a long way to helping with repeat bookings as your guests’ will be loving your care and attention well before they arrive.
"We took advantage of a gap in our normally busy calendar to enjoy a long weekend in our holiday cottage. We’ve always taken great pride in its appearance and had always enjoyed nothing but happy reviews. So we were surprised at finding little things that we could easily do to improve the quality of our quests experience. These included sealing a draft in the family bathroom, purchasing a new knife sharpener and oiling a squeaky door. We have actually had more repeat bookings as a result!"
Click here to read our second article on the way people are behaving in the way they will choose and book holiday cottages in a new post-pandemic era. It will be what our politicians are already calling the ‘New Normal’.
If you would like to add your own suggestions as to ways holiday cottage owners could attract more bookings at this time, then click here to email them to me. If they are appropriate, I’ll upload and credit them.
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