The run up to Christmas is notoriously a quieter time of the year for holiday cottage owners; with fewer people looking to go away, particularly with the expense of Christmas lurking just around the corner. However, there are still lots of people looking to get away both before and over Christmas, along with people starting to book early for next year so are you in the best position to attract them?
There is no question that 2012 has been more challenging for cottage owners with people wanting more short breaks, last minute bookings and really shopping around on price. However, on the upside, there are a good number of them looking, in fact we are currently seeing an increase in site traffic in excess of 30% compared to this time last year.
So what can you do to make sure you get your fair share of winter bookings? Here are 7 tips:
- Firstly, try to be as flexible and competitive as possible. Holidaymakers have a huge selection of holiday homes to choose from so make sure yours is offering as much as your competitors (and a little bit more!).
- Take time to review your advert. Is it accurate and most importantly check your contact details – you will not get enquiries and bookings if people can’t contact you! If you have updated any facilities in the cottage, let us know so we can update your advert. Perhaps the wording could be more appealing or more winter specific, highlighting features for cosy winter breaks. We are happy to update your advert at any time (no charge) so feel free to let us know of any changes you would like.
- Photos really do sell cottages so if your holiday home has some time when it is not booked, use the opportunity to get some great new photos. Don’t forget to dress each room nicely so it looks its very best. On the subject of photos, if you have a log burner or open fire, make sure you have a good photo showing it roaring in the background. A flameless fire looks as unappealing as an empty restaurant and you really are missing a sales opportunity if you do not have it lit in the photograph (newspaper works wonders for a quick fire).
- Respond quickly to enquiries. We have noticed holiday makers sending out higher numbers of enquiries when searching for a last minute break. Make sure you have regular access to your email and respond quickly. He who gets back first with a desirable offering is much more likely to get the booking!
- Promote last minute offers on our Late Availability facility. As an owner listed on the site, there is no additional charge for using this facility and it really can help to fill up those winter gaps in the calendar. Don’t be put off if you tried it once and did not have any success, keep using it because if it gets you just an extra couple of bookings, it is worth it. Also investigate popular local events (e.g. Christmas markets) and put this information alongside your Late Availability Offer in the ‘comments’ field. It may well just swing it and tempt someone to book.
- Why not drop guests who have previously stayed an email to let them know you are taking short breaks. If you know they have previously had a fantastic time at your cottage, they are more likely to want to return and if you offer them a ‘loyalty’ discount, it may well tempt them.
- Use this quieter time to prepare for next year. Set your prices and carry out any maintenance work on the cottage.
However much doom and gloom you may hear, we are finding the UK holiday market an incredibly buoyant one. You may need to work a little harder, smarter and be a little more creative, but the UK is still an incredibly popular holiday destination and there are lots of people out there looking for a break. Make sure you are doing all you can to gain your fair share of the bookings!