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I have just posted another article outlining ideas for getting more bookings through low season.
You can read it here,
This is the third article in a series and you can find links to the first two articles near the bottom of the page.
What techniques do you use to attract low season guests?
We don't really care much low season guests, and definitely not during the off season. We like to use the cottage ourselves in the winter. There just isn't enough money in it to make it worth my time to put all my personal stuff away and vacate.
We do have a two-tier rate structure for high and low seasons. Also, we may relax the number of nights they may rent to under 5.
However, summer in the Caribbean can get pretty hot and our a/c costs escalate accordingly so we usually give no further discounts. Otherwise we may find ourselves losing money on the rental!
I think you are right. WE have rental properties in Mexico and the summer is our low season and it is very hot. All renters have their expenses, likke administration companies, Property taxes.... but the highest expense are the A/C's and they get used in the summer much more. To lower the rates a bit is fine, but a lot you can't, because the electricity bill consumes a lot and you ending up with paying on top. I think it better not to rent or people they paying the requested rent, to not loose money.
We to have high air conditioning bills in the summer and as another pointed out...guests...don't conserve, why should they, they're on vacation. However, if you have a wall thermostat there are lock boxes you can place over them to prevent them from changing the settings. Easy to attach to the wall...if it's tampered with...the guests gets charged a property damage cost. They can dress up or down if they are uncomfortable. We have ceiling fans in each of the rooms, operated from the wall and not from pull chains...seems guests can't operate the pull chains either...lol. Other costly issues that I noted from another is the cost of the firewood they provide for their guests....WHY are they providing it? You can purchase a couple durologs...or stack just a starter of fire wood...for one burning. Why aren't the guests buying thier own wood if they want that rustic sit by the fire feel. Most resort towns have places that sell a very small
stack...about enough for one/two burnings. I'd only provide enough for one burning.
I went to your page and tried to download some free information and it said it wasn't available and the cart was empty. You have some good points on vacation rental marketing. If fact, I just signed up to get invited from Pinterest!
I'd love to be able to cut my off season rate to $100/night per person! We have cabins that sleep 4-7 people and the very best we can get is $125/night in the low-season/winter and there are times where we struggle to get even that. When your properties are in this price range, the math just doesn't work to cut our prime season rate in half. I won't rent our cabins for $75-85/night for 3 nights--a typical winter rental here in the Smokies. Cleaning costs, heat bills, propane for the fireplace, maintenance calls, etc. eat up any profit.
Thanks for the replys,
Why not charge for the electricity for the air-con? I think that is fair for both the owner and the renter. If you don't charge for air-con it's open season for abuse, renters crank it up, leave it on when they go out and leave doors open without regard or a care.
At some villas that I was managing I had the air-con put on a separate circuit where the breaker was in a locked box and then charged a flat fee, per week, for air-con. You could even meter it separately and charge it out like that on a non profit basis.
Sorry about the broken download link. Try the one on this page, im pretty sure it works,
As far as Pinterest goes I think it is just great for compiling marketing material for vacation rentals and their surrounding area info. Enjoy using it. I would like to see your efforts so maybe you could let me have a link when you are up and running. Invites come through in a couple of days.
I was promoting the idea of long term rentals because, as you say, cleaning costs alone would eat any profit.
The thing with low season is that there is a hell of a lot of it so it is well worth marketing it in any way that you can and low price advertising works.
I always pass on electricity, gas and firewood costs in low season as this is fair on both parties.
Thanks rentmore. One problem with your excellent suggestions is that we live 1800 miles away and have a manager for on-island details. They might agree to monitor the electricity, but would charge us additional fees every time they visited the house. Our a/c system is separate units in rooms and plugged into outlets where they are, so it's not possible to have them all on one breaker. In the summer when the temperature is 90+ and there are guests in the house, it's probable that the a/c is running all the time. After 15 years or renting in off-season we have found that we get rentals because our house is air-conditioned, but an additional charge for a/c would be a bad marketing decision. We do have a "Green Guide" written by us which gives renters information on the power issues and costs on our island, among other things. It seems to help.
It's a complicated dance we all have to do as owners to compete in our areas with other houses offering different amenities at different prices. At least we personally don't have to worry how much firewood they're using!
I see your point, it's tricky enough juggling the needs of guests and balancing the books but doing that at a distance is even more difficult.
Which island is the house on?
rentmore, you're right about the cleaning costs--they don't go down in the off season and would pretty much devour any income if for multiple, shorter stays. Unfortunately, it's extremely rare that someone comes to the Smokies for more than 3-4 nights in the off-season. People come for quick ski trips, romantic weekend getaways or bargain hunters wanting the best deals of the year. What really hurts in our market is that there are many desperate owners (and even MCs) that discount 2BR properties in the winter as low as $69-79 a night. I drove past a rental company flashing sign this week that said: Cabins $79/night...Free Breakfast...No Cleaning Fees. Can you imagine what the property owners are getting in their monthly rental income statements?
My philosophy is "something is better than nothing." Now having said that, I'm not going to price it so low as to lose money, and it is certainly going to be worth the effort I have to expend in making the arrangements, but I let people know what my cleaning cost is; they have to pay state/local taxes, so anything above that is fine with me. I've got the entire process down to a science by now, so anything anything I get in the off/winter season is just the icing on the cake for us.
That's the perfect take on low season, every week sold is a bonus. It may not be big money but it can really add up.
I had a lot of success with advertising walking and bird watching holidays in low season. I wrote about that last month, http://rentmoreweeks.com/2012/01/08/vacation-rentals-turning-low-season-into-high-season-part-two/
I think more owners need to look at doing monthly rentals in the off-season rather than nightly or weekly.
I have just purchased a property in CO -since we closed in October we rented out the guesthouse until the end of March. It gave us an income when the property would have otherwise been vacant. Is it really paying? Not much but definitely better than nothing. The tenant is paying the utilities and it gives us the peace of mind that there is someone actually on the property instead of it sitting vacant. It has also enabled us to find any problems with the property before offering it on a nightly/weekly basis.
Hi, I am paying close attention to this convesation. I am just entering the third rental year and have found that peak season rentals which I fully book easily (Cape Cod) fall about $8000 short of covering all my recurring annual expenses (my goal). So I am looking for ideas to promote our VR in a more competitive off-season market.
The idea of longer off-season rentals is appealing. Is there is a better way to market month-long rentals than through VRBO and HA? Most of my off-season rental inquiries are for a few nights only which carry a very small profit margin.
I have booked off season short term rentals for sports, charity events, and festivals happening in my rental area. There are fishing competitions, cycling and running fundraising events, and festivals off season that can be a good source of off season visitors. I have a group that rents every year for a springtime cycling event that raises funds for medical research. You could explore the possibilities by talking with your local chamber of commerce, scanning the local newspaper for events and festivals (I have an online subscription to a local paper), and contacting the groups that sponsor these types of events to inquire about their housing needs.
I don't have any advice for long term rentals off season as my experience is in an area that could be classified as having a high season, an off season, and a "no" season. In my opinion there isn't a low season in some rental communities. The size of a community, the season, the location, etc decides this. In my case, despite the draw of a quiet and beautiful island community in the winter months, the costs of utilities, services, wear and tear, and other considerations, make the low season a "no" season. I don't agree with the idea of better to get something than nothing unless your financial situation requires it.
I would think long term off season rentals require some research into the population that visits at that time of year. I'm going to think about this and will post if anything useful comes to mind . . . . .
you could try searching "websites for seniors", "websites for retirees" (there are a lot of sites out there. Then post articles about long term winter breaks to escape the cold north or long winter golf holidays (improve your handicap) for elderly couples, walking or cycling (get fit) holidays, etc.
Its a huge market
Ok--that sounds good, when I get the time. This off-season marketing is becoming a full-time obsession!
Wondered about birders? I've heard low season can be great for birding in my VR area.
I've looked at some of the birding publications but when I checked it cost about $50/month for a small ad in classified section. How can I reach that potential market without adding to my marketing budget which is already maxed out!!
Off topic a bit, but have you seen the movie "The Big Year" with Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin? It's all about birders traveling the country. Really good movie! You might get a kick out of since you have birding in your area!
I had really good results by blogging about bird watching, I had a website and added blog posts about bird watching and walks in the area. You could make a Squidoo page (they call their pages lenses) (squidoo.com) a page is easy to make and its free and it gets a lot of traffic. You could start micro blogging at tumblr.com or blogger.com.
Squidoo has the advantage that you can dress the page up with Amazon adverts, in this case bird watching books, you can add photo's of your house, descriptions, maps, photo's of birds, etc
Ah, I'll think about that! Not a blogster but suppose I coudl learn. I'm familiar with many bird species because mother was an avid Audubon Club member.
In fact I dedicated one of our Cottage webpages to birding, but doubt that it gets much traffic. http://www.turtlecovecottage-capecod.com/birding.html
Wondering how I might get more traffic to this page from birders who might be interested in a good off-season deal.
You could try expanding that section of your website with more sections on each type of bird, each sanctuary, etc. and link each of these new pages back to your /birding.html page.
/birding/storm-petrel.html for example.
Google would see you as more of an expert then and you should see more traffic.
You could also try to drive traffic with Twitter
OK well expanding the website isn't financial option at this time--I already spent $$ on the website and don't feel that it's paying off in terms of confirmed bookings.
But may I could do something with Twitter although my tech skills with "tweeting" are psilch (spelling?)! Under another thread I have asked of there is a VR owner who tweets so that I can follow and see what they do.
This all seems like a lot of work--and a huge learning curve for me. But maybe the Squidoo thing is worth looking into when I have time and energy.
I've been doing some thinking and reading about the winter season on the Cape and Islands and how to make it appealing. The problem, in my mind, is that there isn't a straightforward way to market winter in this area. No one thinks of the Cape and Islands for winter rentals. So . . . where and how to market a winter rental in a traditional summer market - how do you overcome decades of tradition? How do you begin to get attention? I don't have an answer.
Improving or expanding a website is not going to make people suddenly want to visit the Cape in winter. Homeaway and VRBO are also not useful. Again, renters are seeking a summer vacation. It's possible to add a paragraph that showcases winter activities and encourages people to visit off season, but that's not likely to generate much interest in the short term. Emails to previous guests might generate some interest. Craigslist for the local area.
I've reviewed hotel websites,, the chamber of commerce website, and some articles in the media about visiting the Cape and Islands off season.
I've concluded it is possible to identify a handful of winter weekends and weeks that will appeal to couples and families, but I keep coming back to the marketing. Where to advertise a winter rental of a sumer home?
Possible themes for a weekend or week on the Cape and Islands could be a family week during school vacations (museums, nature, sports, etc), couples weekends - especially Valentine's Day, culinary weekends (tasting and cooking), a spa weekend, arts and crafts, antiquing, and historical (maritime, lighthouses, etc),
I've noticed hotels advertising themed weekends during the winter.
But, all the ideas circle back to marketing a sumer resort during the winter. And, in my mind, there is also a question of the additional circumstances and costs of winter - heat, show removal, storms and power loss, etc. An owner would have to carefully determine thieir costs.
Alll in all, I have considered these issues and found it would likely be very time consuming and possibly hold little financial reward to attempt winter rentals.
I have found inquiries for my home end with the Thanksgiving holiday and pick up a week or two before Memorial Day. I imagine that's the typical schedule for a Cape and Islands house. Not too many want to shiver and drink hot chocolate after walking along the beach in the winter months . . . . although it is beautiful at this time of year.
Thanks for the thoughful reply, thaxterlane, and for doing some research. When I have some time, I may check out what hotels/motels are doing and chamnber of commerce as well.
It IS very time-sonsuming, as you say. But the biggest obstacle as I see it is the mind-set amongst those living on the Cape, that summer and maybe fall for the festivals is the only time anyone would want to come there.
Yet you and I both know that the Cape and Islands are quiet and lovely in winter. I have one Canadian couple who feels the same way; they enjoy coming to Cape Cod in winter for the very reason that it is "balmy" in comparison to where they are coming from. Could there be more our there like them that we aren't reaching?
I wonder if WeNeedAVacation.com or any of the Cape business orgainzations have ever tried to explore some of the potential, winter, niche markets.
For example, one of my co-workers here in NV , who happens to be an avid birder, would love to get back to Cape Cod during a winter storm!! Why? Because he says everyone in the birding community KNOWS that Cape Cod is the place to be during a winter nor'easter. That's when you get to see and add the rare bird that is blown in from sea to your life list!
(Not sure how relevant this posting stream is to others--perhaps we should move it to our Cape Cod group for further discussion?)
Agreed. Let's continue the dialogue in the Cape Cod group. I've got some additional ideas that could work for both of us and it would be good to have some feedback or a collaborator as I sort through the results of my brainstorming sessions.
But thanks to both of you for showing how we can all rethink our low seasons creatively, even if we aren't on Cape Cod. Although we won't be suggesting birders come for a hurricane in the Caribbean, (no matter how many species are blown off course!) there are other pros to low season such as much lower prices, no lines or long waiting times in your favorite restaurant and a more relaxed attitude among the year-round residents who won't be so stressed out in their roles of tour guides, charter boat captains, etc., and will be very grateful for your business.
I'm sure we can all think of more positives and maybe rewrite our headings accordingly.
Cape Cod...why not rent off season - Sept - May, to school teachers. My whole family lives on the Cape (I live in New Mexico, and my VR is a ski destination and get out of the heat for Texans destination in the summer, so Im not a Cape expert). But it was brought to my attention that many of the teachers are young and cant afford the summer rental prices so they go back to Boston or where ever in the summer and look for school year rentals. If nothing else the house will be occupied and utilities paid, charge them the mortgage plus some.
This probably isn't relevant to many owners out there, but what about looking for bookings from any business travellers in the area?
By which I mean consultants and contractors who are visiting hospitals, academic establishments, businesses and so on who are in the area? A self-catering option might be more attractive than a hotel if they are there for more than a few days and the comforts and space of an apartment or house appeal especially if staying in a hotel for a week or two...
So maybe approach local:
A lot of these seem to turn to the local tourist office in the UK to find accommodation.
There are some rentals in our neck of the woods who also do well from performers at the theatre and media companies. I imagine that there are some profitable short lets in Salford and Manchester now the BBC has relocated much of it's production there.
Meeting the needs of our Guests are tough and every location is different. Our rental is similar to that of the Smokies area. For our area, we charge for Cleaning/Housekeeping, however you want to phrase it. The Guest pay that fee. I talk with each of our Guests, find out the reasons they are coming to the area. We have a 3 Bedroom/2 Bath Condo on the Lake. During winter months I have to compete with the local Hotels. We can accommodate up to 7 persons. I figure the rental for Guests and discount when I need, to get the booking. If I can keep the cost close to the same rate as the local hotels that offer suites...per night...I usually able to get the booking. For parites of only 4 its more difficult....and is usually just above the hotel suite rates...but guests want to be together,not separated by floors or several rooms down the hall, they want to save on eating out cost, be able to wash clothes, relax in a living room, not on the edge of a bed, etc...we have the advantage. It's private, cozy and very comfortable. We offer small extra's, like the first mornings coffee to get them started. We furnish most of the TP they require for the stay, dish detergent, a very small amount of Laundry det., I've negociated with local business's to offer discounts to those guests who stay with us...sometimes I even offer a gift card of some sort to encourage the booking. During Thanksgiving I offerered $50 gift card to a local grocery store to help with their food expenses. An empty rental makes no money...being reasonable without doubt...something is better than nothing. We offer 2 night stays...min. 3 nights during Holidays, discounts for a weekly rental and discounts for Sun. thru Thurs. nights. For those who have property managers. It's nice to find someone local who can help, realtor type managers do not and will not give you the personal service that is required for your rental. Do you have a local friend or if you have a good cleaning person, they could handle the little extra services for your guest. Mail the gift card to them and they can take it with them when they go to clean and leave it in the rental. When I have birthdays that I'm aware of...I go to the dollar store and pick up a couple balloons and drop them off at the rental..and when guests arrive...they are surprised to find that we went out of our way a little to make them feel special. I am not the actual owner of this property....and I'm not a realtor either with 30 other properties that I'm crunched for time to manage...the more guests I have at the best possible dollar I can get....nets more money for the owners and for me as well...that is my motivation. Realtors don't have enough motivation to push your particular property...more for owners...means more for me...it's all done on percentage of the actual rental. The owners pay for the advertising, repairs etc...I handle all other aspects of the property with the gracious generosity and trust that the owners have given me to negociate price and other services. I can't nor can anyone else advertise to manage for owners, because we're not licensed to do so...but you can advertise to find someone who can help better manage your property in your abscence. Charge for housekeeping, don't take it from the nightly rental receipts.....then your rental is that much further ahead.