Imagine that you are buying a new computer from your favourite online store. You research the new computer’s features; compare specs; look at the pictures; read the reviews. You decide that, if the price is right, you’ll by it. But when you look for the price you see a message: ‘Enquire With Seller’. “Hmmm”, you think to yourself, “OK before I enquire is it in stock?”. Again you are told: ‘Enquire With Seller’. So the key question is this, do you persevere and make the online enquiry, or do you move on to another product or site?
Nowadays, more and more online shoppers and browsers expect to see pricing and availability information. Holiday makers regularly book hotels, flights and holidays online so they reasonably expect to see basic pricing and availability information for self-catering holiday cottages. Research has shown that Internet users are pretty lazy and fickle. They don’t even like to scroll down a page, let alone go to the effort of making an enquiry as part of the pre-buying process.
But, let’s face it; it’s a bit of a drag keeping our calendars up-to-date. Especially if, like many owners, you have more than one property and even more so if you advertise on a number of sites. Pricing too can be a bit of a chore.
However as independent holiday cottage owners, we can’t have our “no agency fees” cake and eat it. And, as independent owners, that’s who we are competing against, the agencies and other providers who supply clear pricing and availability information. We are hiding our lights under bushels too if we don’t put clear pricing information on our calendars as we’re often cheaper than agencies!
We hear many objections to keeping calendars and prices up to date:
- “I’m too busy…” – Well, you’re going to have a lot of spare time on your hands if you don’t get any bookings!
- “It takes too long to update prices…” – Certainly the time consuming part is deciding on your pricing strategy for the year. However, once my prices were worked out, I timed myself updating the prices for a cottage. Each week had a different price (i.e. 52 prices), some weeks required comments for half term etc. In total it took me 1 minute 45 seconds and that included logging in.
- “I’ve got too many calendars to update” – This can be a problem but there are ways to consolidate your calendars. For example, if you have your own website, you can embed your Independent Cottages calendar into your own website with one simple line of HTML. That way, your website is always up-to-date. Full instructions are available on the owners’ login page, or contact us for more details. Also, you might want to consider using a centralised booking management system such as Holiday Bookings Online, SuperControl or bookalet. As well as managing the enquiry and booking process, they also provide advertising sites such as ourselves with a daily feed that automatically synchronises owners’ availability calendars. So all your calendars can be updated from a single source.
- “I like to leave my pricing flexible…” – This is a very valid point. In today’s market holiday makers expect a deal, expect to haggle. If you are happy with your levels of enquiries and bookings, then there is no real need to change your approach. However, if you do have some weeks to fill, the benefit of advertising with a site like Independent Cottages is that you can set your pricing and change it at any point to see what works best. If you are getting lots of bookings, you can increase remaining weeks or lower them if you need more.
There are other benefits to keeping your calendar up-to-date. What’s the point of receiving enquiries for dates that are already booked? It frustrates holiday-makers and makes owners unnecessarily busy. You will receive fewer enquiries overall, but they will be more targeted and more likely to convert. You may also be missing out on last minute bookings with holiday makers needing all the info at their fingertips to book quickly.