What we’ve learnt whilst running our holiday cottages.

We’ve been running holiday cottages for over 10 years and we’ve picked up lots of tips and tricks along the way. We wanted to share these with you so we’ve shared our top 8.

Lesson 1 – Know what you’ve got and how to sell it

It’s never too late to look at your property with fresh eyes – what’s different about it? Why would someone want to stay there above the hundreds of other choices they have? One of the things we’ve learnt is that you have to have a USP for each property. Whether that’s adding a hot tub, having a freestanding, claw footed bath or amazing BBQ outside for the summer, think about what would best suit your property and whether it suits your target market.

Once you’ve got your USP, you need to sell it. The only thing that guests see before they decide to book with you is the photos you choose to put on your listing – so they have to be good! Make sure you get a professional (or amateur professional) to take decent photos of your property – it’s a worthwhile investment and providing you don’t keep making chances, one that will last for years.

Professional photo of a bedroom

DO – use professional looking photos that show your room in it’s best light.

Poor quality of a bedroom

DON’T – use a photo that you took on your mobile phone which is poor quality and worse – blurry!

Lesson 2– Know your audience and where to find them.

In order to successfully market your property you need to understand who you’re aiming it at and where they’re going to be looking for accommodation.  A young couple booking a city break are not looking in the same place as a family booking an annual get together. Think about the different types of breaks people take and how you would go about looking for somewhere to stay if you were in their shoes.

Tips:

  • City Centre Flat/Studio apartments – try booking.com
  • Large country houses – try HomeAway
  • If you welcome hen parties – go to wedding fairs/advertise in wedding magazines

Lesson 3 – Build relationships with local businesses

Chances are you bought your property because you love the area and have visited it yourself before but don’t forget all the things you wanted to know when you went there for the first time. Building relationships with local businesses can make your life a lot easier in the long term as well as pleasing your guests. These are the kinds of businesses that we’re talking about:

  • A taxi company – who can collect guests from stations/airports and run them around during their stay
  • Private chefs/catering companies – guests might like to indulge and have someone cook a special meal for them without having to go out
  • Spa/beauty treatments – we’re talking massages, manicures etc

If you have the time you can even offer to book these on behalf of your guests and add the cost to their booking – an ideal way to up sell your booking.

Lesson 4 – Take time to get to know your guests and respond to what they want.

Having owned and managed several properties we have learnt that particular interior design styles will appeal to different people. Now that might sound obvious but not everyone will take this on board. Forget your own taste and think about your target audience – if you’re aiming your property at families with young children, then don’t put a velvet sofa in the lounge. Not only is it impractical, you’ll have the guests worrying about grubby fingers the whole time they’re staying and on top of that it will need replacing quickly – at your expense.

At home, most people use a shower – because it’s quick and convenient. When on holiday, they don’t need to rush around, they want to relax and enjoy the break from their fast paced daily lives (unless they’re on an adventure holiday!). Therefore, if space allows, make sure you have a bath and a shower in the property. You don’t have to have a bath in every bathroom but depending on the size of your property try to have at least one in a communal bathroom (i.e not in an en-suite).

Lesson 5 – Prevention is better than cure.

The customer is always right – even when they’re wrong. It’s not like you won’t have heard it before but it’s so important to remember it.  There was time where we lived in fear of a damning review when we had to raise an issue with a group of guests – but not anymore. We have learnt that prevention is better than cure. Make sure you have your house rules set up and published for guests to see before they book with you. If you are clear on your expectations from the start then you’re already half way there. If you lose a booking or two as a result of your house rules, move on, those guests were not right for you or your property.

Lesson 6 – It’s the little things that matter (and more importantly – keeps guests coming back!)

We like to provide more than the bare minimum in our properties and that’s because guests appreciate it, so they’re more likely to book a stay with us again. We provide quality toiletries throughout the property for the guests to enjoy. When they all arrive, more often than not after a long journey, the last thing they want to be doing is running around looking for the only handwash in the whole house.

We also choose to leave a welcome hamper which is the perfect way to wow your guests without having to spend a fortune. Guests love having a rummage through the hamper to see what we’ve left them and it means they have some refreshments for when they arrive too! To make it even more special, why not team up with some local food producers and put their products in the hamper? Guests will love how local it is and you’re supporting small producers in the area.

Lesson 7  – Create a useful, easy to use Welcome Book

Anyone who owns a holiday cottage will know that guests have a lot of questions and we mean a lot. Before they arrive they want to know what’s provided; will there be dishwasher tablets, what about toilet roll, where’s the nearest takeaway etc. Once they arrive there are even more; what’s the wifi password, where’s the hoover, how to the turn the lights on in the courtyard etc.

All of this information is probably in the enormous welcome book you’ve left for them on the coffee table but either they’re not there yet so can’t access it or it’s so big they can’t be bothered to search the entire thing (complete with all sorts of leaflets and print outs and instruction manuals) just to find the answer to their small question. So what can you do about it? Well, that’s exactly why we set up My Welcome Book.

Lesson 8 – Reviews DO matter

We have learnt that it’s important to get as many reviews as possible, as our future guests rely heavily on them when making their decision. If you’re nervous about this, take a look at the comments in the visitors book before contacting the guests to leave one on a public platform – although these days, some people will just do it. Best practise would be to respond to each review you receive; the good, the bad and the ugly. If you don’t know where to start – we suggest contacting a marketing expert to help you.

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