How to Take Advantage of the Post-Pandemic Pent-Up Demand for Vacation Rentals and Lodging
After a year of living through a global pandemic, people are traveling to satisfy their travel fever as life begins to return to normal and an increasing portion of the population gets vaccinated. With this return to normal comes a high demand to travel, making the rest of 2021 an extremely competitive year for vacation rentals and lodging.
Though the competition is fierce, there are plenty of ways you can take advantage of this increased demand and keep your rooms and rentals booked through 2021. Check out some of our tips for vacation rentals and lodging companies this year.
Increased Demand Means Increased Competition
The travel industry suffered a massive blow in 2020 as the pandemic resulted in restricted travel. However, as we begin to return to a sense of normalcy, the demand to travel has skyrocketed. With this increased demand comes increased competition as other lodging businesses try to vie for the consumers’ attention and money. This means any vacation rental or lodging company needs to maintain a competitive edge in both pricing and offerings. Along with increased demands comes increased advertising costs as more competitors enter the market. Keep this in mind when determining an advertising budget for the year.
Consumers Want Clarity and Transparency
Many potential customers have been waiting a full year to take a vacation, which means they want to know exactly what they’re getting themselves into. No surprises (unless it’s a free bottle of champagne or an unexpected room upgrade, of course). This year, transparency is of utmost importance to consumers. Tell your potential guests exactly what amenities are available, don’t try to sneak in any hidden booking fees, and alert them to any amenities or features that may be unavailable prior to booking.
Consumers want to see lodging options that reflect reality, not a deal that’s too good to be true. Provide high-quality, realistic images of the home, unit, or room, and skip the wide-angle lenses. Be sure that the photos are current and include images of the entire property, hotel, or resort. When writing property descriptions, avoid writing long narratives. Write a brief introduction followed by bullet points to highlight major features.
Mobile Experience is Key
Consumers are using their mobile devices more and more to make purchases and book travel, particularly through an app. If you have a travel booking app system already in place, you’re in luck — conversion rates for bookings through a travel app are five times higher than regular mobile conversations.
Even if your potential customers don’t opt to book on mobile or through an app, 70% of consumers research travel on their cell phone prior to booking, according to Stratos Jets. Revisit your mobile booking process and put in a conversation rate optimization flow to increase speed and decrease friction for users.
UX More Important than Ever
Because the market is more competitive this year as a result of increased demand, providing a great, easy user experience (UX) is essential. Clunky UX, slow loading property description pages, and difficult navigation will result in fewer bookings. Linking out to a third party booking module may also reduce your chances of pulling in the number of bookings you’re hoping for this year. But, integrating third party vendors into your own booking process can be enticing. Offering services like beach chair, umbrella, and bicycle rentals during the booking process can make the UX more seamless and improves the experience by centralizing add-on amenities.
Fully Disclose Fee Structure Up-Front
This year, consumers are less tolerant of additional booking fees, so you can expect to see abandonment on books if you’re increasing fees for your customers. Try to limit additional fees as much as possible and keep the pricing transparent throughout the entire booking process so that consumers know how much they should expect to pay.
In 2021, the vacation rental and lodging industry is seeing a real pushback from consumers on facilities and resort fees. If there is a real need behind these fees, it’s best to raise your rates rather than tack on extra fees.
If your business has high-end luxury rentals, we recommend increasing the required deposit as a way to minimize cancellations. There is a noticeable correlation between deposit as a percentage of the total rental rate and follow-through on booking commitment.
Understand Past Consumer Data
Use your understanding of consumer data from the past to determine the best way to geo-target your advertising in search engine optimization and pay-per-click campaigns. Analyze past data to pinpoint areas of the country from where your guests typically travel and target the appropriate percentage of your advertising to geo-target areas that have historically produced bookings.
Utilize Email Communication Best Practices for Lodging
Familiarize yourself with best practices for email communication and implement strategies like sending a follow-up confirmation email that outlines the transaction with full transparency into the entire fee structure. Use emails to keep your guest engaged and excited about their upcoming stay.
A good structure for email campaigns is as follows:
- Booking confirmation email immediately after purchase
- Two weeks before the scheduled trip, send an email with a subject line such as “We’re excited to see you!” and include any important information guests would want to know. If there are any amenities or features that will be out-of-order at that time, be sure to give your guests advanced warning as they appreciate the transparency.
- Three days before the booking date, send another friendly message with more time-sensitive information and include suggestions on activities in the area. This is also a great opportunity to provide any coupons or specials to activities or events in the area.
- Post-stay email. Sending a thank you email and a feedback survey 48 hours after guests’ stay is a great way to remain engaged with them and receive real feedback about your business, fostering a relationship with each customer that could lead to future bookings.
With an increased demand for travel accommodations over the next year, vacation rental and lodging companies have a great opportunity to increase bookings — especially after a dismal year for travel. But, in order to take advantage of the increased demand, businesses need to pay close attention to how they advertise features, providing full transparency on accommodations and fee structure. This is also an important time to test your mobile capabilities and overall UX to ensure that you standout among your competition.