Let us start with a cheery note. In the gardening calendar, February is the first month of spring, nicely illustrated by the profusion of flowers such as snowdrops, daffodils and primroses which are already blooming in the narrow Devon lanes surrounding our offices.
Despite the continuing lockdown, there appears to have been a spring awakening in the holiday cottage business, with a big upsurge in demand for dates since July and August. So, while your property currently resides in a state of lockdown emptiness, now is the time to ensure that it is prepared for what looks like being a busy summer. Preparation also includes updating your adverts and calendars to ensure you have the best chance of acquiring more bookings.
As always - having read an article in The Homefront, if the title is in BLUE, click on it to view the full version.
If you have always wondered how to place your holiday property on Google Maps, click this link to find out how – and get started. It's free to do. Bookers say it is very reassuring to find a property listed on Google maps. The only difficulty you may find is that Google will only post the PIN code you require to activate your listing to the property's address where the map pin will be located. If you don't live nearby, this means having to warn housekeepers to retain the letter and not assume it is just another piece of junk mail from Google to be disposed of! Alternatively, make a note now, to apply for a Google Map listing about a fortnight before your next visit to your property. The Google card should be awaiting your arrival.
There's more than just having a pretty holiday cottage to generate 5-star reviews and repeat bookings. While stunning reviews and repeat bookings make marketing your holiday cottage a lot easier, they do require some work and planning. Ultimately though, these benefits derive from building an excellent professional relationship with your guests based on respect and integrity. They must feel that you always have their best interests at heart in giving them a memorable, care-free and rejuvenating self-catering holiday with people they love.
A 'relationship' doesn't mean striving to be best buddies with guests and sending birthday cards to their children. It means the things you do to show them you want them to have the best possible holiday when they book your property.
Read it to discover twenty-five ways to go about building professional guest relationships and see how many you do already.
This absorbing article offers some useful insights into ways to convert Lookers to Bookers on your website. The best part of getting bookers from your website is that you have immediate and direct contact with the booker, allowing you to build a good relationship with them right from the start. This, we say quite unashamedly, is exactly what you get when advertising your property on My Favourite Holiday Cottages.
If you are advertising your property with Airbnb, this is a very helpful article from Rental Scale-Up explaining Airbnb’s introduction of price mark-ups to benefit from better multi-choice cancellation options. They are a good step – but it does have cost implications! It appears to give owners greater protection against cancellations, but will it make it harder to attract bookings when other properties around you continue to offer full-refund options? Read the article and decide for yourself!
A quick and easy way to brainstorm a marketing plan for your holiday rental using a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) - a great starting point to define the best ways to help you identify changes to the way you market your property and improve your rental income.
This article debunks the theory that social media is a complete waste of time – unless of course, you don't do social media correctly (and there are an awful lot of impatient people out there with bad habits).
If you don't want to offer credit cards, and many owners fall into this category, look away now. Consumer-orientated advice sites are recommending that people should only pay for holidays by credit card. Property cancellation policies notwithstanding, credit cards offer a greater likelihood of people being able to get their money back from their card company should their holiday be cancelled by pandemic-related occurrences.
Given the current surge in enthusiasm for holiday cottages right now, this may not be an issue, But, looking into whether you can accept credit cards may be worth looking into, especially if the pandemic continues for a while yet. We are not saying that you definitely should accept payment by credit card, especially if you only have a small turnover, but just keep it in mind if your calendar remains disconcertingly empty! The link in the title will take you to one such 'Don't Do This' article telling people what not to do when booking a holiday in 2021.
Website Update: Have Your Say! (But Say It Now)
To ensure the new site design for My Favourite Holiday Cottages will be a big advance on the existing one, we are inviting you to complete a 2-minute tick-box survey. It's your chance to influence the changes we'd like to make. YOU can tell us what you don't want to be changed, what you would like to be improved and suggest new ideas of your own. It only takes about two minutes to work your way through three sets of questions, each requiring tick-box answers. Nothing strenuous!
We are sorry that we cannot run to a cash prize but, as a reward (if you want one) we'll prepare an SEO report that identifies the specific changes you should make to your website that will improve its Search Engine rankings and increase visitor traffic. For the uninitiated, SEO stands for 'Search Engine Optimisation'.
If you implement all the recommendations, they should result in more bookings because more people will find your website on Gooogle, Bing etc. We usually charge £150 for something like this, so it ought to be a valuable reward for your opinion.
How should we change (or protect) your adverts? Take our short survey.
We have been running three slightly different surveys for different types of MFHC site user. The response so far has been very pleasing – and helpful. It's not too late to add your own views. Please click on the relevant link:
3. Click here if you used to advertise on MFHC (and might do again one day, if only you...(insert suggestion)!
New Stuff For MFHC Holiday Cottage Advertisers
Here's another way to drive more potential bookers to your advert. We published the first of a series of UK walks and cycle paths created from disused railways. These are great for encouraging weekend or midweek breaks out of season – especially in spring and autumn when nature's takeover means they can be a profusion of colour. Read our first blog on The Hudson Trail in East Yorkshire.
If you have a holiday cottage near a similar type of trail and would be interested in writing a blog article about the trail, then we'd be happy to publish it. Let us know, and we will send you some useful guidelines (and do all the proofing when you submit the article). The article can include a link to your advert as a recommended place to stay. Email Rick with your footpath/cycle path suggestion.
Bookers Respond Best to Recent Testimonials
With the growing upsurge in people planning and booking self-catering holidays, now is a very good time to update your guest testimonials.
We've been running a survey amongst people who regularly book holiday cottages to find out what will encourage them to use a site advertising holiday cottages.
We'll be incorporating a lot of their feedback in helping to make MFHC even more user-friendly. In the meantime, here is something you could – and should – do now. Add one or more recent testimonials. Bookers LOVE positive and RECENT testimonials. We've noticed this in the stats as well. Cottages with up-to-date testimonials get better results than those that don't display guest feedback or - worse still - have old and therefore out of date testimonials. The message is: Add 1-3 recent reviews to your advert and then top it up once every 2-3 months with another choice testimonial. If possible avoid posting reviews already on Trip Advisor or Booking.com as they own the copyright to them.
Calendars - Important!
Please keep your calendars up to date! It's quite clear from stats that if your calendar is not up to date, it means one of three things:
- People won't respond to your advert because they don't want to waste time enquiring about a date that may already be booked.
- Some people do respond to it and waste your time because the date is already booked.
- People in our focus groups tell us that an 'un-kept' calendar means and 'un-kempt' holiday cottage.
Good news: If your own website displays an availability calendar (and which is up to date), it is easy to set up a link to it within your advert. If the link connects to a Direct Booking function, e.g. SuperControl, Bookalet, FreeToBook Etc., it allows you to get bookings directly from your advert - with NO booking fees or commissions!
Whichever option you choose, you'll get a lot more interest in your property if you keep your calendar up to date.
If you want a reminder on how to log in and make changes to your advert,
Email Rick here with a contact number and he will be happy to talk you through the process.
WE ARE HERE FOR YOU
As you know by now, we pride ourselves on our ability to respond to and help all our advertisers. If you need any help, advice or want to suggest how we can improve on the site, all you have to do is get in touch.
If you don;t receive the Homefront every month, Click Here if you would like a free subscription. It's free to every UK holiday cottage owner or manager and published once a month.
Improve Our Town, County and Location Descriptions
Read the description of the place which you can find above and below the list of properties. If you think we have missed anything that will appeal to visitors from viewpoints to attractions. Email the details to us, and we will update the description for you. Additional information could help the page rank higher on search engines and attract more potential bookers. Here's how to find the correct page:
For Counties: https://www,myfavouriteholidaycottages.co.uk/insert county name
For towns: https://www,myfavouriteholidaycottages.co.uk/insert county name/insert town name
For locations: https://www,myfavouriteholidaycottages.co.uk/insert location name
Use a forward slash / as shown in the examples.
Well, that is it for our first foray into spring. If you have any questions about any of our recommendations or need assistance with your advert, then you should know by now that we always stand ready to help. Just ask.
Onwards and Upwards!