Wendy Shand, owner of award-winning family holiday specialists Tots To Travel looks at key trends in the European holiday lettings market and how to avoid empty weeks in 2013.
Buying and renovating a holiday home can take a lot of time and money and although having a home in the sun is an end in itself it can be far more satisfying if it offers you an extra income stream as well.
There are many people who will happily pay for the opportunity to holiday in your property and, if they enjoy it, they’re likely to tell others and even book again. On the other hand, if it were that easy everyone would be doing it. The holiday letting market in some regions is saturated so knowing how to make your property stand out is vital.
So where do you start?
The key to running a successful holiday let is to choose a particular market, understand and meet their very specific needs, and then exceed their expectations.
At Tots to Travel we specialise in hand-picked stylish holiday villas fully equipped for families with children under five. During the past five years, we’ve been asked so often for advice I’ve created a blueprint for lettings success, a free advice booklet packed full of tips culled from years of hands-on experience. I’ll summarise some of the main points below but first I want to mention new trends it’s worth being aware of for 2013:
Firstly, the trend towards higher quality accommodation continues and I would suggest taking the lead from boutique hotels and aiming for beautiful design and excellent customer service. People are able to make their own homes very sophisticated, even on a budget, and why would they go anywhere less attractive than their own home?
The market continues to be increasingly fragmented and finding a niche is key. There is still strong demand within the family friendly niche but owners need to go the extra mile to understand the requirements of guests and provide everything they need to make their stay more comfortable. That’s why, in 2013 all our holiday homes have a new and unique Tots Essential Kit Guarantee, which ensures they offer all the equipment parents of young children need, from pool barriers to night lights.
The other points we stress to home-owners are these:
You need to stand out from the crowd by identifying your unique selling proposition. Try to understand what will make your property different and appeal to your target market.
Do your property up to the highest level you can afford. There’s a lot of competition and your property will need to be appealing to stand a chance. Target your spending where it’s most needed and don’t forget the finishing touches, from pictures to cushions.
Safety should be a prime consideration. As an owner of a holiday let, the onus is on you to ensure your property meets the highest possible safety regulations. Be sure to get good advice from the outset both to fulfil your clients’ needs and to cover yourself legally.
Get the basics right outside. Consider the best places to site eating areas, extra shade, and what to provide in a children’s play area. Adding a fence around your swimming pool will give your property a unique selling point since the vast majority are unfenced – and install pool heating if you want bookings outside peak season.
Deciding where to market your property is crucial, from magazines, online advertising portals and agencies that will take a lot of the strain for you (but may charge more. And, of course, you should have your own beautifully designed website. I recommend having a marketing mix so you don’t have all your eggs in one basket.
I strongly suggest getting professional photographs taken. I have surveyed the properties that sell well on the http://www.totstotravel.co.uk site and there is a dramatic difference in the number of enquiries (and therefore sales) of those who’ve done this.
Collecting feedback is also important. Good or excellent feedback should be used for marketing and, while it’s disappointing, negative feedback is valuable and will give you pointers to make your property even better.
Finally it is important to get off to the right start. Figure out how and when clients are going to pay you and how you’re going to ask for the money. You will need a set of Terms & Conditions; find a local solicitor to put these together for you. And ensure your directions are as foolproof as possible.
Do also keep reassessing too: the holiday lettings market is constantly evolving and you may find you’re fully booked one year yet your tried and tested routes might not work for you the next. The trick is to make sure that your property doesn’t get lost on advertising portals and your agents are actively marketing your property.
At holiday lettings agency Tots To Travel we have 400 holiday home owners on our books and the key issue they all confront is how to ensure empty weeks are kept to a minimum and make more money from their properties. We’re always happy to work with them to offer advice and happily some find our marketing expertise makes a big difference. The added bookings are a welcome boost to their income and the partnership they have with us is enjoyable – and helps ensure a better and safer experience for the hundreds of families who choose to trust us with their precious family holidays.
Wendy Shand started Tots To Travel in 2006 and they now have properties in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and the UK. The company won the Customer King Award for excellent customer service, and Wendy, the Practical Parenting Business Parent of the Year Award 2009.To find out more:
Telephone: 0845 26 941 26
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