We have found that over the past ten years of letting holiday cottages, booking patterns change year on year and this year is no different!
The current financial climate is influencing peoples’ spending patterns and is most certainly impacting upon the holiday rental market. Booking trends are much more last minute than previous years; there is an increase in demand for short breaks all year round and holiday makers are really shopping around for the best deal. With the number of holiday cottages available, holiday makers have a huge selection of holiday accommodation to choose from and can afford to be selective.
On the flip side of the coin, UK holidays and short breaks lend themselves well to the current climate and the ‘last minute’ nature of the business. At Independent Cottages, the first three months of the year have been incredibly buoyant with increased traffic volumes in excess of 30%, along with an increased level of enquiries being sent to owners.
So what do you need to do to make sure you get your fair share of enquiries and bookings?
- Flexibility – The more flexible you can be, the more likely you are to secure bookings. More and more people are looking for short breaks during the peak season with many wanting flexible changeover days. Whilst many of us prefer to only offer short breaks in the quieter months, there are plenty of owners out there now offering them all year round so if you want to increase your booking levels, you may need to also offer them during the busier months.
- Be competitive – The cost of running a holiday cottage is ever increasing, yet this year is probably more price conscious than ever before. It is frustrating having to reduce your rates, particularly when your costs are continually rising. However, unfortunately you may need to make your rates as attractive as possible to ensure you gain a good level of bookings.
- Who does your cottage appeal to? The wider the audience your holiday cottage appeals to, the more bookings you are likely to gain. A sizeable percentage of the current UK holiday rental market falls into the 20’s and 30’s category and whilst many of them seek ‘old fashioned’ charm, this often starts and ends with the bricks and mortar! A period traditional holiday cottage has a high level of desirability; however, a ‘chintzy’ dated decor is often not appealing to the younger generation. To appeal to the widest possible audience, you would do well to let the wonderful period features speak for themselves and compliment them with a fairly neutral décor that has a wide appeal to all.
- Facilities – The more you can offer for the money, the more likely you are to gain bookings. People now generally expect a holiday cottage to offer all the facilities that they have at home and with the price of many electrical items being so cheap these days (e.g. DVD players, CD players, iPod docking, flat screen televisions etc), there really is no excuse not to provide them. We have also found that holiday cottages offering internet access on our site have a higher level of bookings!
- Pets – Whilst accepting pets comes with added risks and responsibilities, it can increase your bookings, particularly out of season. If you find yourself short of bookings, it may be worth assessing whether your holiday home lends itself well to accepting pets.
- Discounts for under occupancy – It requires less organisation (and cost!) for couples to take a holiday or break. If your holiday cottage sleeps more than two, why not consider advertising a discounted rate for couples or under occupancy. You often get less wear and tear on your cottage and it may help to secure some extra bookings.
- Work smart – Many of us cottage owners prefer to rent our holiday cottages independently, if only to save on agency fees. However, agencies charge fees for a very good reason … because it takes effort, successful marketing and considerable work to gain a high level of occupancy all year round. We always recommend that owners advertise on a number of good websites to ensure they gain a good level of exposure and bookings. Whilst this year may be tougher financially, it is not the year to be cutting back on advertising and it is a year when you need to work harder as an owner than ever before.
There are lots of people choosing to self-cater in the UK this year and the more attractive, appealing and flexible you make your holiday home, the more likely you are to be successful.