So you are self managing your own Short Term Rental. You don't have a website but you are looking to get more direct bookings of your own. Awesome! Soooo how are you going to do that exactly? Well for one, even if you don't have your own website for direct bookings there is still a sure way to get more bookings with the guests you have now, the guest's you've had in the past and your future guests. Yupp. It's true. I'm going to share with you a little secret that I currently do at my own Vacation Rentals. I have at least 10 people in my database (currently) and I got started 6 months ago, right before Covid and during covid... in Florida no less. So with the guests I've had, I now have 10 guests that regularly reach out to me directly via phone and ask me about booking direct. All the while I am still getting all the bookings I need on popular platforms such as VRBO and Airbnb when they are not texting me asking me about availability.
First of all - I didn't even realize this was a major thing until a guest actually brought it up to me. He wanted to book direct with me to avoid extra fee's. I've already hosted him and I knew he was a good guest. I was certainly comfortable with that idea so I said Ok! That's how this started for me. I use platforms like Airbnb and VRBO all the time and when I travel and it NEVER occurred to me to ask hosts for discounts or to book direct with them. Like literally, never thought of that. What a smart idea as a traveler - and even smarter idea as a host.
Tip 1: Ask Certain Questions To Gauge Why Your Guest Is Traveling
When you get a booking from the platform you advertise on, you have an opportunity to say hi to your guest and ask them about their travel plans. You won't be surprised at how many "annual trip to Florida" messages I receive. On the day of arrival I always send a text message as well as a message over the app. I'll say all the necessary things over the app and when I text them, I encourage them to ask all questions there as I respond quicker via text. Guest love this. My most generous compliment in my reviews are usually "This host has an amazing response time" in addition to other frequent compliments.
A few Extra things to keep in mind
I also prepare thoughtful gifts and touches at each one of my properties, for each and every guest.
I prepare travel guides both virtually and a handmade one in every home
I give plenty of suggestions to multiple restaurants - this includes vegan and vegetarian eating as well
I provide a plethora (big word I know) of information of the surrounding area and even places 2 hours beyond my home that are worth a visit if they are unique enough
I have more information about "extras" on my travel blog and I provide some extra tips there if you are interested in reading click the link.
Tip 2: Keep Your Home Up To Date with a Trendy Vibe & Professional Photos
Nobody wants to come back to the area to stay in your extra bedroom with mediocre decor and a semi comfy bed. A well designed space is a must to give your guests a "vacation experience" that makes them want to come back again. Also, if you do rent out a room in your home - giving a private entrance option is a game changer and will get you more bookings. Anyway, design is huge. Think about where your home is and why people generally come to visit. For instance I live on the beach in Florida. The homes I manage are just a short 3 min walk to the beach and to the famous John's Pass. So let your imagination go wild of what YOU would like for a beach vacation home that is just a short walk to the beach. Ok ok ok, now think about YOUR home and the location. If you're in the mountains chances are that very cliche' mountain look is going to go great for your rental. People visiting are most likely not from the area so enhance the area into your home. The decor pieces will give off a super vibe of where they are staying. When your home can add value to the "vacation experience" then you are already in a better position for repeat guests and referrals. Follow my Pinterest board for more "vibey aesthetics" to add to your vacation rental.
3. Meet Your Guest - Physically, Like IN Person
If you are managing your own vacation rental - chances are you are readily available to be on site in no time. You need to take advantage of that because for someone who manages them for other people, I am not always readily on site. When you can physically meet your guests and say hi, look them in the eye and show them around the home to ensure that they know how things work - esp if they need further explanation is absolute gold. Meeting your guest is often an undermined strategy. This helps to engage in small but a trustworthy relationship between you and your guests. Do all the necessary "checking in" as their stay continues (esp those over 5 days in length) and once their stay is coming to an end, offer them a small professional card with your home information there and let them know if they ever come back they are welcome to book direct - because they were such awesome guests.
4. Create a personalized gift Or Experience for guests to take back home with them
Whether it's a pen, magnet, handmade ornament, personalized gift (like local coffee) or ANYTHING else that pertains to the area of your hometown will work. Just include your "home name" on there, phone number and email for direct bookings. These small items are going to leave guests with a smile and a memory to hang on the fridge, Christmas tree or become their new "favorite pen." At the very least it will offer a great review for potential new guests. Also, If you are someone who has an experience to offer your guests at minimal cost then you are already adding so much value to the package that is your vacation home. I'll never forget moments where my host took my boyfriend and I on an ATV tour of Hana Ranch in Maui just because and even offered his National Park Passes for us to enjoy Haleakala. Or the time in Ireland where my host offered to take my mom and I around town for a quick coffee just to familiarize us with the area. These were moments that stick out to me and make me want to stay with these hosts again if I ever find myself back in the area. You will leave those lasting impressions on your guests with a thoughtful small gift or personalized experience.
5. Reach out to past guests
This seems like a no brainer but it's a strategy that gets overlooked all the time. I know it does, because as someone who uses Airnbnb (ALOT) I've never had a host reach out to me to see if I was ever coming back to the area this year. In some cases, I absolutely had gone back to the areas and never thought once to try to get a better deal as a repeat guest with my last Airbnb host. Reach out to your past guests and wish them well. You can even offer a small discount if they find themselves coming back to the area - OR by referring your place to a friend.
I hope you found these tips helpful and implement them into your hosting routine with your own property. If you ever find yourself needing more help, don't hesitate to ask me. I offer a variety of packages to help hosts manage their own properties and take it up that extra few notches.
I've also written another few articles that you will probably find helpful.
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