Despite economic and political fluctuations across the UK this year, the average occupancy rate for holiday rental accommodation remains strong. According to Serviced Apartment Providers (ASAP) and STR, the UK serviced accommodation sector achieved 81.7% occupancy in 2017 and this isn’t forecasted to fall in 2018. But if you’re reading this as a holiday rental manager, green with envy at 81.7% occupancy you may be tearing your hair out shouting:
“Why is MY occupancy rate so poor!?”
Yes – there are many excuses and reasons as to why you may have a low occupancy rate, from slow season effects to poor weather forecasts, but excuses are not going to increase your bookings. What will increase your bookings is analysing your property portfolio from an objective viewpoint, identifying which areas need improvement and implementing those changes.
Cue the heavy sigh!
Fear not – to help you maximise your time in completing this unenviable task, here’s 13 reasons why your occupancy rate is so poor and what tactics you can use to improve the occupancy rate of your holiday rental homes.
1) You don’t know your audience
It’s surprising how many holiday homes mis-target their audience, which can have a huge impact on occupancy rates. Do you have a clear picture of the ideal customers that your rental property appeals to? Do some research and begin with who has rented your property in the past – what common traits do they have? What did they like/dislike about your property? What did they do on their holiday and how long did they stay? How does this vary season to season?
By asking yourself these simple questions, you can build ‘buyer personas’ -semi-fictional representation of your audience – which can guide you in both your marketing efforts and customer journey. However, it is important to note these will likely change throughout the year, so make sure you factor this in.
Example Your cosy cottage letting in the Lake District has a good history of attracting mid 50s couples between September- October who stay for 3-7 nights. They often write reviews on the lovely walks, tea rooms, craft beer and pub food. By recognising this, you could provide hiking poles and binoculars, a foot spa for post-walk relaxing and stock the fridge with some local ales. You can then shout about this on your social media channels, newsletter and website!
2. You have a poor distribution network
You may notice that your occupancy rate is low because you have a poor distribution network and, as a result, people simply aren’t finding your rentals. Some key things to consider: Are your properties visible on the channels where your target audience are most active? Do your social media ads need optimising? Are you testing different channels and budgets?
Within iPro Software we have a channel manager module that enables you to easily distribute your vacation rentals to different advertising platforms from one central platform. It’s incredibly simple, and is automatically synchronised if a property is booked or updated. You can find out more about this here.
3. You don’t look as trustworthy as you think
Make no mistake – trust is a key decision factor for any potential booking and should not be underestimated. Remember, this is your customer’s hard-earned money that they are investing in you, and they want to make the most of this! Here are some key trustworthy factors to consider to improve your occupancy rate:
– Have a secure payment system. Anything out of the ordinary will discourage bookings and damage trust.
– Encourage guest reviews. Research shows that 91% of people regularly look at reviews and 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
– Encourage and share user-generated content: If potential customers can see real people having fun at your holiday home, they are much more likely to envision themselves having fun there too. By sharing these UGC images or comments, you can build trust and social proof. Need some awesome ideas for how to use UGC?
– Social media verification – does your website have Twitter, Facebook or Instagram links?
Work on your about us page – perhaps most importantly, your about us page needs to clearly show what you do and who you are. Here are 9 simple tricks by Moz.
4. Your booking process is too complicated
Simplicity is the key to an increased booking rate, which fundamentally translates to a higher occupancy. If your customer journey requires too many clicks, isn’t clear enough, the functionality for looking at properties is faulty or your website isn’t optimised for mobile, you won’t see a high conversion rate across your website.
By fixing these fundamentals, you can all but guarantee a higher occupancy rate. Read our blog 7 Secrets To Achieving A Top Converting Holiday Rental Website for more top tips.
5. You aren’t tracking lead opportunities
The competitive nature of the holiday rental market makes every visitor to your website a potential customer so each enquiry deserves equal attention. iPro Software’s lead management console allows you to log each enquiry and nurture them through automated emails to provide a flawless customer experience. This enables your agents to better manage and identify enquiries that deserve immediate attention and those that need nurturing.
With a smoother and more efficient enquiry handling system, you can turn more maybes into yeses!
6. Your properties don’t stand out
From a customer point of view, the most influential factor in making a buying decision often rests with the quality and variety of imagery. We’d recommend investing in professional photographs of your holiday rentals throughout in different seasons. Revisit these with your buyer personas in mind – what would they like to see?
Supporting this, you should have a clear holiday rental description of the experience your customer will get if they book the property. Rather than just listing what is included in the property, speak to your customer’s emotions. Can they expect to relax on the decking watching the sunset whilst the BBQ is sizzling away?
Want to learn 19 reasons why Airbnb dominates the market?
7. Your website doesn’t rank in search engines
“Beach holiday home.”
“Best holiday homes in Pembrokeshire.”
“Cottages to rent in the Cotswolds.”
These are just some of the phrases your potential customers may be using in Google. But, if you haven’t got the budget to compete with others via Google AdWords, then you should try and rank organically via optimising your website for search engines.
8. You don’t have a plan for the slow season
Although reducing your prices during the slow season is an important tactic to increase occupancy, there are other ways to entice potential holidaymakers. By analysing previous bookings, you can create a ‘slow season buyer persona’, identifying similarities and differences.
Example Are your guests looking for a winter romantic getaway? Then you could offer a meal for two included in the price. Thinking strategically about what your target audience would really appreciate that may just be the difference!
9. You’re not sending qualitative emails
Email marketing is a holiday rental agency’s most powerful ally. Having the ability to contact customers who have booked with you in the past is a marketing tactic that is often underestimated. You can even segment your email lists to match your buyer personas and send targeted emails that will feel much more personalised.
“If you enjoyed your stay in Pembrokeshire, you’ll love Cornwall! We’ve selected the most popular holiday homes tailored for you – take a look!”
10. You aren’t testing enough
There’s an abundance of tactics you can experiment with to increase your occupancy rate; pricing, reformatting your website, special offers and better advert descriptions. However, be sure to change things a little bit at a time. This way, you can better measure which factors are truly influencing your results and so enabling you to improve your occupancy rate incrementally.
11. You aren’t adapting your strategy with industry trends
The old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” can be true for some industries but rarely is for fast-moving sectors. To stay ahead of the competition, you must be prepared to adapt your strategy, learn new marketing techniques and experiment with new tools otherwise you risk being left behind. The easiest way to do this is by learning about the past to prepare for the future – read our key takeaways for 2017 and what you can likely expect for the year ahead.
12. You aren’t following up with customers
As mentioned in number 3, happy customers are key in demonstrating your business trustworthiness in leaving reviews. However, they can be much more than this. Not only do you want your customers to turn into repeat guests, but you want them to become evangelists – encouraging others to use your services too.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to send holiday letting follow up emails. These can ask for reviews, ratings, UGC, or surveys. Here at iPro we offer a range of email templates you can automate. Booking follow up emails should be timely, personalised, and will often offer an incentive e.g a repeat booking discount.
13. You don’t have a property management software!
One of the simplest and fastest way to improve your holiday rental occupancy rate is to implement a property management system that enables you to control all aspects of your business from one central area. Using iPro Software you can track bookings, customer communications, channel distribution and property changeover cleans all from one platform – and that’s just to name a few!
If you’d like to find out more about the system, or would like to arrange a free demo, please get in contact below. We’d love to hear from you.