by: Tim Blackwell
Before COVID-19 arrived, vacation rental marketing was a cinch. Many owners and operators had a captive audience and enjoyed healthy booking calendars. They scoured the market for more properties to bring into their portfolios, and usually succeeded.
Winning bookings was like shooting fish in a barrel.
But that has changed. Filling nights at vacation rental properties has become more difficult because of market uncertainty and redefined travel habits. Operators and owners are now are rethinking marketing approaches.
Survival of the fittest has become a reality in the business world, said one industry leader recently. Some businesses that were unfit going into the pandemic simply won’t make it through. Those willing to adapt have the best chance of survival.
“We have no doubts about the impact of COVID-19 in the vacation rental industry,” said Geovani Martins, who heads Kigo sales in Europe. “But the most innovative property managers are constantly looking at adapting their businesses to this new reality, coming up with different ideas and keeping the positive mindset that helps them get through this difficult situation.”
Online vacation rental marketing and robust websites that promote direct bookings are helping property managers navigate choppy waters.
Online vacation rental marketing focus at HOST 2020
Leaders who attended HOST 2020 in November suggested taking a look around, surveying changed travel habits and processes and marketing online accordingly.
One property management professional who spoke at the event noticed that home renovations are rising in London because people are spending more time in their flats.
Through social media, she posted links to the company’s website and encouraged people to stay at one of her properties while their home was being remodeled. The resulting direct bookings, some that span months rather than days, could not have been generated through an online travel agency (OTA). Ironically, they are filling a gap left by travelers who are staying at home.
This example is just one of many that panelists presented to guide management companies in increasing their visibility and building customer relationships. The session, hosted by Martins, featured Kigo’s Kathryn Ryan and Rafael Koukkoullis, along with Nila Chakraborty of NIKASA Properties, Ltd.; Susan Doull of Commendable Rentals; B.Homy founder William Astolfi; and Citi Concierge co-founder Paulo Basto.
Path to direct bookings starts with websites
Vacation rental marketing is shifting toward direct bookings, which are seen as a way for properties to better compete for available dollars. Websites provide property managers a powerful way to attract new guests, bucking a trend of relying exclusively on channel managers for business.
Through their website, operators can establish a more personal connection with prospective guests and establish their branding. Discounts and welcome packs enable property managers to offer better deals when travelers visit the site, and well-written blogs provide information and insights that enhance the customer experience.
Blogs can help prospective guests fill in gaps about a destination or adapting to new travel processes, offering tips and information that may not be available elsewhere. A unique spin on a destination that includes recommendations by the property management company can help in decision-making. As the prospect engages with the blog, the likelihood of a booking naturally increases.
“In order to navigate the changing vacation rental landscape, property managers are trying different ways of driving traffic to their own websites rather than depending solely on OTAs,” Martins said. “The Kigo website can help with its SEO-friendly technology and by allowing the integration of a blog.”
Marketing to the specific needs of travelers
Koukkoullis, who is Kigo’s Account Management Team Manager, said property managers must find unique ways to stand out among competitors who are vying for the same listings more aggressively than they were eight or ten months ago.
Vacation rental property management systems that offer an end-to-end guest experience and are adaptable to changing conditions put operators at an advantage.
Martins acknowledged that many managers are worried about their owners, who feel direct financial pressures when bookings drop off. Property management teams that keep owners informed with the right information at all times boost their image and brand, which allows them to stay a step ahead.
“We know the pandemic is the undercurrent in everything we talk about,” Koukkoullis said. “The main thing we are facing is scarcity. How do I stand out in a commodified industry? How do I get the small amount of business that is there?
“What we’ve found is that the difference is in the details. It’s all about being one step ahead of the competition and anticipating what travelers are looking for, and marketing to them specifically based on their individual needs and desires.”
Kigo websites integrate with our powerful software, and can provide you with the comprehensive vacation rental marketing and booking system you want that gives you so much more than a listing site. Learn more about Kigo websites.