For holiday home owners and their guests, the spread of the coronavirus is naturally going to have an impact on bookings for 2020 – whether through actual infection or the fear of it.
We’ve looked at some of the trends and lessons arising from the SARS epidemic which caused similar, though not quite so widespread trends and share them with you. They should help you to mitigate the impact of the virus on your holiday lettings business.
The most significant downfall in bookings are last-minute bookings for dates within the next 30-days. This is the average time that people assume the virus will be at its maximum. By late spring the weather will be warming up, and the one thing Covid 19 does not like is warmth. So, by all means, post last-minute discounts, but do consider putting greater emphasis on attracting bookings for the summer and autumn.
Thank God for the Countryside!
The hardest-hit accommodation businesses are in urban areas with high population density. People sub-consciously or otherwise, feel safest if they can be somewhere where they can choose to be alone if they wish to do so. Countryside walking and deserted beach holidays are likely to be the most popular. If you’re in a remote or rural location, reflect that within your marketing – holidays in splendid isolation anybody?
Drive-To Beats Fly-To
Environmental trends aside, drive-to destinations are considered to be a safer bet than fly-to locations. Many people feel that the highest risk of coming into contact with Coronavirus carriers is during travel. So, holidays that avoid airports and sitting in crowded planes fall in popularity.
Holidays, where people can travel in relative isolation from door-to-door to live in accommodation away from the company of strangers, hold a greater appeal. Again, something else to emphasise in your marketing.
By the way, you can encourage people not to fly by inviting people to sign the ‘No-fly in 2020’ pledge, which should lead to more people booking a UK holiday. Click here to for further information.
Don’t Cut Back on Your Advertising!
When bookings are down, it is natural to look for options to reduce expenditure, and variable costs such as marketing look like easy targets. Evidence from the SARS epidemic suggests that the biggest losers in terms of bookings after, as well as during the outbreak, were those who cut back their advertising budget. By reducing your advertising, you are only going to get fewer bookings offsetting any savings you may have made.
What’s more, businesses that had cut back marketing were not in a position to take advantage of the upsurge in holidays booked once the epidemic was on the decline. This is because people were approaching properties they had previously discovered while the epidemic raged and saved for future reference.
Many people will continue to look for holiday cottages during the outbreak and save them on a shortlist so that they are ready to send out an enquiry when it feels safer to travel. Ensure you are advertising on sites that, like My Favourite Holiday Cottages, allow potential bookers to select and save a shortlist of their favourite properties.
If you’ve cut back on advertising for ‘the duration’, then you could be losing out on this valuable source of bookings in the medium term.
Spread the Word: Let Your Recent Guests Do the Talking
One other marketing activity you should do is to be more pro-active in getting reviews from recent customers and posting them on your website and adverts as soon as possible. Seeing a recent guest testimonial in an advert is going to give others a greater sense of confidence that your property is a safe place to visit.
By the way, be aware that reviews posted on sites like Homeaway and Tripadvisor cannot be uploaded elsewhere as these companies own the copyright to those reviews. Invite people to send you feedback, or to suggest other sites on which you advertise to post a review. Include a link to the correct page on the site to make it easy for them to do so. If you have a visitors’ book, ask your cleaner to take a photo on their mobile of the latest reviews and email them to you.
Advertise on Sites with A Web Link
Look for sites to advertise your cottage that contains a weblink to your site. Then, ensure you display information about some of the measures you have put in place to reassure potential bookers that your property is going to be a safe place to holiday. Emphasise the lengths you are going to ensure your property is properly cleaned and sanitised, the activities they can enjoy away from the crowds. If you have what would otherwise be known as ’rainy-day facilities from board games to games rooms, draw attention to those.
Take Advantage of Gaps in Your Calendar
If you do end up with gaps in your calendar, then use this opportunity to do some useful extra maintenance work – deep cleaning carpets, touching up some paintwork or even a proper photoshoot to replace images that were taken 4-5 years ago.
If you’d like some very handy tips on how to prepare a property for a photo shoot, then we have a free-photo guide that we’d be happy to send you. It's packed with ideas for preparing and presenting rooms that tick all the guest appeal boxes.
To request your free photoshoot guide email Rick: email@example.com
Finally, if all else fails, why not decide you need a little self-isolation of your own and book a holiday in your cottage in one of your gap weeks!
Holiday in it: Kill three birds with one stone: staying in your cottage will give you a chance to see it from a guest's perspective: you'll be surprised at hoe many things you find you want to mend, improve upon, change etc. Allow time todo some work on implementing the changes you feel are required to enhance its appeal to guests. Improving the experience will increase the number of repeat bookings you enjoy.
Invite the Media: In addition to having a lovely holiday cottage - come up with some other newsworthy angles that make it a desirable place to stay: relating to its facilities or location. Then issue invites to journalists to come and stay for a short break on the basis that they write about it. NB: Ensure it is in a good and clean condition!!!
Other reading: How to Sanitise Your Holiday Home
If you would like to advertise your holiday cottage with My Favourite Holiday Cottages, The standard rate is £88.08 (March 2020) with discounts from 5-50% if for multiple cottages or £30 if you include a link back to our website. Click here to read more about the benefits of advertising a holiday cottage with us.