It’s one of the biggest headaches for property owners; getting bookings in mid and low seasons. I’ve been partly involved in the property business for a few years now, and these are just some of the tricks that I’ve learnt along the way to boost bookings.
#1 Allow for shorter stays
There’s no two ways about it; you have to be more flexible in these seasons. You need to offer lower rates and allow for shorter stays than you would in the high season. Most travellers are savvy enough now to be on the lookout for cheaper and more flexible deals during these seasons, so if you offer a good one you’ll find they get booked up quickly.
#2 Create special wellness packages
Offering packages alongside a booking is a great way to entice potential bookers in. A great trick I learnt is to research local wellness centres, and offer yoga or spa retreat packages alongside your accommodation.
The new, modern-day focus on wellness makes these popular, and you can work with local businesses who have a social media presence to help you promote these packages.
#3 Optimise for countries with low fare rates
Deals are changing all the time, and it’s worth spending some time researching them. Use Skyscanner to search for flights anywhere from your location for the upcoming months. It will give you a quick look into where the cheapest flights are, and then you can optimise your bookings around this.
For example, if you are based in Lisbon and see that there are cheap flights from Paris to Lisbon all summer, then it would be useful to have a French version of all your vacation rental site listings.
#4 Company retreats
I started my company Surf Office four years ago with the aim of helping people be more productive in beautiful places. We shifted our focus to help companies with company retreats, and now cooperate with accommodation partners and landlords around Europe.
Our highest demand is in autumn and spring, and so we can now offer these accommodation partners and landlords a perfect proposition where we can help to fill their spaces and rooms in the low and mid seasons.
#5 Try to find unique, niche websites to distribute your listings
Everyone is using websites like Airbnb, Booking.com or Hotels.com. These are great sites and they may drive the majority of your bookings, but it also means they’ll be driving the majority of your competitor’s bookings too.
Think about some unique, smaller niche websites where you can distribute your listings. We just launched a website like this called Epic Monday, which converts remote houses into productive home offices for employees. We started this project recently in Portugal, and after a lot of traction from landlords, we are now expanding into more locations.
#6 Organise local events
If your property has a large open space, like a garden or a patio, you can try organising local events. There are a huge range of events you can think about, like wine tastings, movie nights, or meetups, and you can find local event organisers on places like Meetup.com.
You aren’t always likely to earn money with these local events, but it’s a great way to build up your reputation and create a fantastic relation with the locals. Word-of-mouth counts for a lot in the property business, and they will recommend your properties to friends or relatives visiting them. This is more of a long-term strategy, but it works.
#7 Invite bloggers & Instagrammers
This is another strategy which will bring you bookings in the long-term. Bloggers and Instagrammers will create fresh content around your property, which they will share with their peers. Don't expect direct bookings immediately, especially if you aren’t inviting celebrities with hundreds of thousands of followers.
Try to attract bloggers who aren’t so famous, otherwise they will charge you for the visit and ask you to cover all of their costs. Smaller bloggers are simply happy with a free stay. You will get some backlinks to your website and probably a few cool pictures to update your listings, and any additional bookings are a bonus.
#8 Long-term discounts with weekly/monthly stays
Many sites like Airbnb allow you to set up discounts for a longer stay with weekly and monthly discounts. Avoid them in the high season, when you can fill out your properties easily.
But in mid-low season you can attract people who are searching for longer stays, usually business travellers, digital nomads, students or teachers. Be aware that these people are very careful with the amenities that regular travelers care about less: equipped kitchen, desk, solid internet or washing machine.
#9 Bundle and unbundle rooms
American entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreessen says that there are “only two ways to make money in business: One is to bundle; the other is unbundle.” You can apply this to vacation rentals too.
Try to be creative with your properties - imagine you have a property with 4 rooms, try to unbundle it into a 4 single room listing. If you manage 10 studios, you can try to bundle them into two, three, four, five studios and this way attract groups of different sizes.
It may take some playing around to get this right, but it will allow you to appeal to a wider range of people.
#10 Contact organisers of local conferences or events
Research larger events in your area and contact them with an offer to become an accommodation partner. If it's not a large conference, they don't usually even ask for commision. This strategy needs a bit of luck to find good partners, but you would be surprised at how many leads one relatively small event can drive to your business.
And again, it helps with that much needed word-of-mouth.
About the author
Peter Fabor is the founder of Surf Office - an organiser of productive company retreats in Europe. One of the recent projects is Epic Monday - a unique vacation rental niche which attracts remote working professionals. You can reach him on Twitter as @faborio or by email: email@example.com