Happy New Year! It's rather hard to say that, knowing that the holiday cottage business, along with others, is facing a not so happy start to 2021. Hopefully, when the Great Escape begins, as it surely will, we'll see the welcome surge in demand that we experienced last July to September. If this is the case, then now is the time to ensure you're prepared for it and ready to reap the benefits.
The January issue of the Holiday Homefront contains some beneficial articles on all aspects of holiday property marketing and management that should lead to you creating a healthy task list to complete before the spring and a return to business is upon us all.
In the meantime, keep your marketing going. As last year's lockdown proved for so many, it is a false economy to cut back on advertising your properties now. While people may not be booking, they are looking and preparing shortlists of favoured holiday properties to rent the moment they know it will be safe to do so. Trying to set up new adverts once the demand for bookings increases will be a little like starting a Grand Prix from the grid's back row. You'll have a lot of catching up to do.
Anyway, enough from me. Here is the summary of all the articles we felt we should draw to your attention. If much of this is stuff you are already doing, then that's a big reassurance you are doing things right. But I bet there will be some golden nuggets that will lift your marketing or property management standards to a higher plane.
If the summary is of interest, click on its blue title to read more.
So, wherever you are in the UK, let's hope tiers will soon be falling and guests aplenty will once again be filling your calendars.
My Favourite Holiday Cottages
The Homefront Format: For those new to The Homefront, we summarise each article to which we would like to draw your attention. Where there's a link to the article itself, we will embed it in the title - click on that to read more.
Section one covers information that will be of interest to all holiday property owners and managers.
Section two is intended for subscribers advertising their cottages on My Favourite Holiday Cottages. If you'd like to advertise your property on MFHC, click here to see what you get.
Click here If you would like to subscribe to The Holiday Homefront. It's free to every UK holiday cottage owner or manager and published once a month.
Section 1: News and Advice for All Holiday Cottage Owners
Here is our 'Six of the Best' list for January 2021.
It's a long read – but one that will reward those any starved-of-bookings owner scratching their heads right now.
If you are wondering how best to position your property to survive the ongoing impact of COVID19 – and emerge victorious, nicely set to make the most of the great escape when it begins, then this article from Rental Scale-Up is for you.
Another in-depth read from Rental Scale-Up. It's full of positive and workable ideas, possibly quite a few that are already familiar. However, I'm willing to bet that there will be something new in it for you to take on board and get ahead of your competitors.
For those cottage owners yet to start using it, or those dabbling their toes in the water of this powerful marketing tool, this is a useful introductory guide to help you maximise the impact of using Instagram to market your holiday cottage. Sections include:
- Why should you use Instagram?
- How to get started
- What to include
- Features that help
- How to use Instagram to promote holiday cottages
The Essential Vacation Rental Property Manager's Cocktail Book
This E-book provides a delightful little selection of holiday cocktails from Rentals United. Guests will need to provide the ingredients, but it could be a fun relationship building thing to share with your guests before they arrive! Don't forget to offer cocktail glasses! Alternatively, get this free copy for your holiday or summer nights in the garden.
We haven't been able to find a download link on their website – but if you'd like a copy, email us, and we can email you a copy.
This is our favourite blog of the month from all those published by Schofields Insurance recently. We like it because it focuses on what do at MFHC: Drive interested party traffic to your website to enquire and book from there. This article is a comfortably jargon-free explanation on ways to achieve a similar result using social media.
At the height of last summer's lockdown, there were many cleaning accreditation standards appearing on the scene. The two most popular were the AA's Covid Confident and Visit Britain's Good to Go schemes. We featured both of these at the time along with cleaning schedules adopted by some of the larger agencies such as Sykes Cottages and Air BnB.
The 'Safe Clean and Legal scheme differs from the other two schemes as it involves having your property vetted by a fully trained assessor.
While this might entail more work for you, it's fast becoming the scheme most trusted by bookers (and quite possibly insurers) – as well as Which Magazine which has it at the top of its poll of cleaning standards.
Our thanks to PASC for drawing our attention to this. Check it out!
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.
Section 2: Advice to My Favourite Holiday Cottage advertisers on MFHC site developments and ways to further enhance their adverts.
New Website Design
1. This month, we are beginning the process of completely redeveloping the MFHC website. We have a whole host of issues to address, which will improve the user experience and increase traffic to the site. It's not going to happen quickly though - our developers estimate that it could take the better part of a year to complete.
First steps: The Survey. While we may know an awful lot about holiday cottages, we aren't assuming that we know precisely how everybody thinks when they look for one to book. Equally, we want to be sure that our adverts feature the most essential information to help owners attract more visitors to their property's website to book and enquire from there.
So, before we start redesigning pages, we are undertaking some crucial market research. We'll be approaching owners and people who use the site to book, to find out two things:
1.What they like and don't like about the current website and its adverts.
2. To listen to suggestions for other ways to improve the site from content to appearance and layout.
If you are a subscriber, we will be sending you a survey to secure your opinions. It only contains three questions incorporating tick box answers, plus opportunities to add further feedback and suggestions.
Unless you want to write a suggestion-filled essay, it will only take you about two minutes to complete. The benefit to you is that you influence how MFHC will better promote your holiday cottage in the future.
Please do take a couple of minutes to complete the questionnaire when it arrives. As an appreciation of your support, we'll be offering a review of your website - looking at ways that you can update it to increase its search engine rankings and attract more site visitors. We usually charge £150 for such reviews - complete the survey, and we'll do it for free. Just remember to add your name and address at the end; otherwise, all submissions are anonymous.
Redesigning the site won't happen overnight. Our web developers tell us that it will take the better part of a year to research, plan, design and build it properly. The current site was created to handle 20,000 visitors a day. This number has recently been exceeded on a couple of occasions, causing the website to run slowly. We can't allow that! The new version will therefore have a much greater capacity and page speeds. All input from subscribers and users will be very welcome: We are listening!
We continue to widen the list of search categories that bookers can use to find a suitable holiday cottage. The latest additions include:
- Walking Holidays
- Cycling Holidays
- Fishing Holidays.
Earlier ones for those who haven't updated their listing in a while included:
- Games Rooms
- Railway Cottages - for those accessible by rail or close to a heritage railway
- Electric Vehicle Chargers (One day we'll take EVCs for granted as we do with dishwashers and Wi-Fi today, but right now it's a feature). NB: We also rank at the top of Page One for Eco Cottages.
The best way to stop potential bookers from looking at your cottage is to leave the availability calendar in your advert empty. Feedback from people who have used the site to book cottages is quite blunt: If a cottage has a blank calendar, it means the owner is too lazy or disorganised to look after it. If your advert displays the MFHc Calendar, the lesson is:
KEEP YOUR AVAILABILITY CALENDARS UP TO DATE
UPLOAD A LINK TO THE AVAILABILITY CALENDAR ON YOUR WEBSITE. Instead of our generic calendar, your advert will then display your calendar instead. It'll be up to date as often as you update your own site's calendar. If you have online booking,e.g. SuperControl or BookaLet, this will enable you to get bookings straight from your advert (No fees or booking charges - any payment goes directly from your guest to your bank account.)
If you need advice on how to do this, please EMAIL ME. Send me the link address and I'll upload it for you.
Promoting Short Breaks
We want to promote weekend and mid-week breaks to boost bookings outside the (usual) school holidays. To do this, we are welcoming guest blogs on the theme of 72 Hours in [insert location name], describing all the attractive things to go-see-do in your area. If you'd like to guest-write a blog, we'll make sure it features your property as a recommended place to stay with a link to your advert. Click here to request further information and guidelines, and you could be a centre-piece in a blog attracting 3-5,000 readers a year.
Testimonials of Clean
It's been good to see on-the-ball owners displaying testimonials in their adverts with content that praises the property's cleanliness. The good news is that this does appear to positively impact the number of click-throughs to a property's website, meaning that such testimonials are influential.
If you have feedback from guests praising your property's cleanliness, you should undoubtedly log in to your member's area and upload them. If you need advice on how to do this, please Email Me. Even if you don't have testimonials referencing cleanliness - upload a recent positive one every 2-3 months as the older a testimonial gets, the less effective it is.
That's it for darkest January. Let's hope the news will be a little brighter next month.
Onwards and Upwards!