We've heard from many vacation rental owners lamenting the onslaught of inquiries from travelers looking for discounts. Thanks in part to the uncertain economy, many of you may be getting more inquiries from bargain hunters than in past years. However, it's not just the slumping economy that has facilitated hordes of bargain hunters into the vacation rental realm.
The press has also taken notice of vacation rentals as a great alternative to hotels and, in turn, many travelers are now trying to book your homes. A lot of these new vacation home renters are used to comparison shopping on websites like Expedia or Hotels.com, so they may be inclined to try out the same tactics with a vacation rental.
Now, it's important to note the difference between a bargain hunter and a bottom feeder. Bargain hunters are looking for the best value for their money and are willing to spend a little extra time to make sure that they get the best deal. They're typically reasonable folks who, in the end, turn out to be great renters. Bottom feeders, on the other hand, want a drastic discount and act like they're doing you a favor by renting your home. This type of inquirer can be more trouble than they're worth. Try to determine which type you're dealing with before moving forward with a booking.
And what do you do with all these bargain hunters? Well, you have a few options.
Stand Firm on Your RatesYou may find that the key to handling bargain hunters is to stay firm on your rental rates. Instead of offering a discount, convince prospective renters of the value of your home versus the local hotels. To do this, you might first appeal to the renter's rational side by walking them through the numbers. Be familiar with the hotel rates in your area and be armed and ready to use some arithmetic. For example, a family of four vacationing for a week in Myrtle Beach could spend $150/night to stay in a 400 sq. ft hotel room ($1050 for the week) or could rent your two bedroom 900 sq. ft. condo with a full kitchen for $1100.
Beyond the facts and figures, you can remind your potential guests that, in addition to better rates than many of the local hotels, you are also offering plenty of amenities and conveniences. Many owners also find that throwing something in with their rental rates adds to the overall value — without having to discount their prices.
Suggest a Less Expensive WeekIf your home is booking slower this year than in the past, don't jump the gun and give a discount too early. Your home is worth the posted rate, especially in the peak season. If you have a traveler who loves your home but is really itching for a deal, try suggesting a week in your slower season. Many bargain hunters travel in the off-season anyway to get lower airfare and to avoid the crowds. If you get a bargain hunter knocking on your door for a week or weekend that you don't typically book, consider their offer, but again, don't give your place away.
Provide a Counter-OfferYour final option is to actually consider discounting your rates. For example, if you have some dates available just a week away and you get a prospective renter asking for a discount, you might consider knocking something off your rental rate to secure the booking. However, you don't have to automatically succumb to whatever figure they're throwing at you; instead, try to meet somewhere in the middle. Keep in mind, though, that this type of response can open the floodgates for negotiations, so be sure to consider where you draw the line.
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