This is the latest statistic from a US industry report and it could be a big part of why you have empty rooms. Whilst the industry has grown exponentially over the last decade, vacation rentals are still not even an option for more than half of the American market. Whether through a lack of awareness of the options or a lack of recognised brands, vacation rentals simply do not register. In fact, only 17% of leisure travellers in the last year decided to stay in a vacation rental.
This may sound like bad news but it means there is still 83% of the market to appeal to. What can be done to turn vacation rentals into a viable option for these people?
With 68% of people not even considering a rental the biggest problem seems to be exposure. As a relatively new force in the travel industry, few businesses have the resources to compete with the marketing of major travel brands. Vacation rentals have been forced to pursue online reviews and social media as a way to promote themselves. This has been a great way to establish an identity and build reputations for smaller business, but it just cannot have the same impact as a multi-media marketing campaign from a large company. Whilst it can seem that your social media and current advertising campaigns are reaching sufficient people, remember that 68% of people basically don’t know that you exist.
The next problem is perception. For some people vacation rentals have connotations with sharing a room in a flat, or even just a sofa. There is an attitude that vacation rentals are just rented time in a stranger’s home rather than a business that cares about the the quality of your stay. You will have to fit your holiday around the wants and needs of the property owner, rather than the other way round. Good reviews, social media posts combined with accurate photos and listings have helped to show the true nature of vacation rentals. What this study shows is that the industry still needs to accurately define itself in the minds of a large portion of the market.
One of the best ways to do this will be to utilise the power and popularity of the many different portals. Names like HomeAway, FlipKey and Booking.com are developing into globally recognisable brands. By listing your property on these you can capitalise on their publicity and the confidence that the public have in these companies. Take a look how our Channel Manager can help you administer your properties on over 45 of these portals at once.
Have you ever considered alternative forms of advertising? Think about if you didn’t know about vacation rentals, how would you go about booking a holiday? Travel agents, magazines and TV are all options that people look to when booking. Paid internet ads, such as Google Adwords can be a good way to promote your site to people that will start by searching for their holiday location rather than the term ‘Vacation rentals’. You can read a case study about how a small business used paid ads and the results here. Investing more of your budget into new advertising campaigns is certainly a risk but there are so many potential customers to reach that the rewards could quickly outstrip the initial outlay.
And despite Internet transactions being almost ubiquitous there are still large pockets of mistrust. When paying large amounts over the Internet you need to know you are dealing with a reputable and professional website. We've all heard horror stories from people arriving at half-built hotels or shysters with fraudulent pages. Having your own properly produced and professional website will inspire trust from first time customers. A quick response time and an active on-line presence will show that you are in control of your business and can be relied on to provide dedicated and competent service and assistance.
Finally, out of the 68% of people not even considering vacation rentals, half of these say it because of the lack of services that travellers have come to expect. Front desk staff, concierges and room service have become a part of the luxury experience that people want from a holiday. It seems that people are reticent to give up these services. For some, a vacation rental just provides a space or location and misses out the things that make a holiday truly relaxing. If you provide these services, make sure you let your customers know. If you have it; promote it. Owners need to demonstrate that their businesses are not just a side project, but a full time and properly run operation.
Whether you can convert any of the 68% that don’t consider vacation rentals is secondary.
The first step is understanding the scale and accepting that the industry has a great deal of scope to grow and develop. Constantly experimenting and diversifying your approach to promotion and exposure will help to ensure that more and more people see your business and then begin to seriously consider vacation rentals.