6 Marketing Strategies for Vacation Rentals
Getting your vacation rental ready for your first guests is an exciting time, but you need to get the marketing just right to engage potential visitors with your brand.
Without a regular flow of guests, you’ll struggle to cover costs and might end up with an expensive property lying vacant for much of the year.
In this article, we look at marketing strategies for vacation rentals to help you identify your target audience, engage with them, and build the tools you need to maximize occupancy and profits.
We’ll talk you through the process of setting up your website and Online Travel Agency (OTA) listing, and give you tips on:
- Getting great reviews
- Setting up guest communications
- Leveraging social media platforms and email marketing
- Differentiating your brand
- Maximizing rebookings and extended stays
We’ll also show you how you can create processes for sustained growth that will unlock the potential to scale up your vacation rental business from one or two properties to a vacation rental empire.
Let’s get started with a look at how to develop and market your vacation rental brand.
RueBaRue’s guest communication platform gives you the tools you need to grow your vacation rental business. Book a demo to see the platform in action.
Complete vacation rental marketing plan
You’ve probably browsed through enough vacation property listings to be able to spot the good from the bad. But behind every great property listing, there’s a well-designed marketing plan that’s considered:
- The target market and how to engage with them
- How to build and strengthen the vacation rental brand
- Ways to maximize occupancy
- Ways to maximize revenue and profit.
Let’s start with the basics of getting your property listing up and running.
Part 1: Nail down the basics
Only two decades ago, you’d hire an agency to rent out your vacation property or even put a sign in your window to attract passers-by. But these days, creating a professional online presence is your first step to getting your vacation rental business off the ground.
1. Build your website
Your website might not be your main source of bookings to begin with, but direct bookings are the key to independence from OTAs and increased revenue. So set it up straight away, and start creating a buzz about your new vacation rental.
Start simple. Save time and money with a free website builder, using templates to help you design your site.Squarespace, Wix, and Odoo all provide free website builders with features like calendars (that can sync with your OTA) and e-commerce features.
Choose a memorable name. Give your property a name that evokes vacation vibes like ‘Lakeside lodge’, ‘Ocean views’, ‘Charming cottage’. If you can incorporate it into your URL, even better.
Make it visual. Include a “Hero shot” of your property’s best feature on the home page—whether it’s the pool, the view from the terrace, or the building’s façade. Then, include high-quality photos of all aspects of your property.
Write great copy. Provide clear, accurate, and informative descriptions about your property and the area. Write like a real estate agent with terms like ‘stunning master bedroom,’ ‘spacious living area,’ and ‘modern, well-equipped kitchen’.
Make it easy to use. You don’t need tons of pages and a complicated navigation system. As well as the photos and descriptions, you need to include: your contact information, a calendar, direct booking functionality, and local information.
Share it with everyone: Once you’ve launched your site, send a link to influencers, industry contacts and people you know who might book it by email, Whatsapp, SMS, and social media platforms.
2. Get professional photos
However beautifully you describe your property, the photos will be what sells it.
- Get inspired. Research similar properties or watch TV shows about vacation rentals, like Stay Here or Instant Hotel. After this, you might want to rethink your space, have a declutter, or invest in some chic cushions and throws before you get started.
- Hire a professional photographer. Choose someone who specializes in real estate and vacation rentals.
- Stage your property. Set the dining room table and make the beds look inviting. Everything should be sparkling clean and tidy, but some props like a book or a glass of wine next to a sunlounger will help sell the idea of a relaxing stay.
- Choose a sunny day. Schedule your photoshoot on a sunny day to show your property in its best light and make the most of any views.
3. List on all vacation rental listing sites and online travel agencies (OTAs)
Now that you’ve got your website and photos, you should have all the text, information, and images you need to list your property on vacation rental listings sites and OTAs like Airbnb, Booking.com, Vrbo, and Expedia.
- Share listing information across platforms. You can save time by first creating your property listing on Airbnb and then importing the details onto the other platforms.
- Sync your calendars. There’s nothing worse than realizing you’ve got bookings for the same weekend on two platforms so sync calendars across OTAs and with your own website.
- Mention every fixture and fitting. The more features you include, the better your listing will perform. So if you have an iron or a hairdryer include it in the list.
- Offer discounts: OTAs will highlight your property listing in search results when you offer discounts or even feature them on thematic pages. You can offer discounts for longer stays, quiet periods, or to the first few guests who make a booking.
4. Get great reviews
Potential guests will always look at your star rating, and the better your rating and the more reviews you have, the higher your vacation rental will appear in search results.
If someone you know wants to book your property, it’s worth asking them to book through one of the OTAs–and absorbing the booking fee yourself–so you can get things started with a glowing 5-star review.
Some OTAs like Airbnb let you review the guests first. Giving them a top rating and saying how much you enjoyed hosting them will almost certainly inspire them to return the favor. You can also set up an automated message to request a review from guests–but maybe don’t send it to guests who’ve complained constantly during their stay.
5. Set up guest communication systems
Guests appreciate attentive communication from their host as it reassures them they’ve made a good booking decision. It’s a good idea to create a message flow to set a welcoming tone and show you’re available for questions.
Example message flow:
- Thanks for your booking. Confirm the booking, say how much you’re looking forward to hosting them, invite questions, and send a link to your local guide if you have one
- A week before arrival. Confirm details like address, arrival time, and a phone number to call if they’re running late
- The day of arrival. A message to check that everything is OK
- Just before check-out. Check everything went well with the stay and confirm check-out time
- Request for review. Send a couple of days after the stay
- Come again. Send a few weeks or months later and suggest a direct booking
- Newsletter. Regular messages about the property and the area
Sending all these messages is very time-consuming and could take up all your time. But guest communications solutions can help you reduce communication by 70%. You can program your messages to send automatically and use an FAQs bank to answer guests’ questions.
You can also give your guests a digital guestbook filled with everything they need for their stay— directions, parking information, instructional videos for entering the house, WiFi codes, and tips for using the coffee machine and barbecue.
RueBaRue’s messaging system helps you manage communication with guests.
6. Set up guides to the local area
Sending your guests a guide to the local area will help them get excited about their stay. You can tell them about the history of the town and local sights, and recommend your favorite bars and restaurants.
You can also sync your recommendations to a map so distances from your property to recommended places to go are calculated and mapped automatically so guests can decide whether to walk, cycle, or drive.
Branding your guestbook with your vacation rental logo and colors will remind guests of the services you provide and underscore the professionalism of your vacation rental business.
RueBaRue’s Digital Guestbooks help you provide everything your guests need, like arrival times, door codes, house rules and a local area guide.
RueBaRue’s guest communication platform gives you the tools you need to grow your vacation rental business. Book a demo to see the platform in action.
Part 2: Advertise your vacation rental
Alongside your digital marketing efforts, you need an advertising plan. That’s not to say you should invest in a nationwide billboard campaign, but it’s worth considering what tools you can use to advertise your property and how to measure their success.
Step 1: Leverage social media marketing
Social media platforms can give you access to pretty much everyone, anywhere in the world. But your target audience is actually quite niche. It’s just the people who like to vacation in your area (maybe who live in a nearby city), who can fit comfortably in your property, and can afford your nightly rates. So in the case of a 2 bedroom apartment with a master bedroom and a smaller room with 2 single beds, you’re almost certainly looking at a family with 1-2 children.
Now you know who they are, you can start to target them online. There might be a Facebook group called ‘Vacation rentals’ or ‘Family vacation ideas’ in a local town where you can post links to your short-term rental property’s page.
You can also create Facebook and Instagram accounts to share with guests and keep them updated with photos and local news. Social media automation tools like Hootsuite or Loomly can save you time with this.
Step 2: Email marketing strategy
Most OTAs don’t share guests’ email addresses with you, so you’ll need to build your own email list for your email marketing campaigns.
You can use a guest communication tool like RueBaRue to collect and store email addresses and collect past guests’ emails as part of your WiFi login system. You can also grow your email list by encouraging visitors to your website to sign up to your newsletter.
- Create short, eye-catching newsletters with updates on restaurant openings and other events.
- Base your messages on seasons or holidays. Suggest how to enjoy the area at different times of the year and include photos of your vacation home with its Christmas or Halloween decorations.
- Make it easy for email recipients to make a booking with a call-to-action (CTA) button. You can incentivize bookings with special offers and discounts.
Running an email marketing campaign can be a lot of work, but you can use a guest communication tool with email templates and a calendar to schedule your messages to cut down on your workload.
Step 3: Use local SEO marketing strategies
Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves optimizing your website to show up on a google search when users look for local information.
As well as bringing potential customers to your website, it can help you grow your vacation rental business by showcasing it to the people most likely to make a booking.
- Relatively cheap to set up compared to traditional advertising
- Generates more credibility and trust among users than simple adverts
- Helps you expand your business as you can attract an unlimited number of visitors
- You can use analytics to find out about your users
- Encourages you to generate fresh content about your vacation rentals and to create an easy-to-use website
While it can be difficult to compete with established websites that have bigger budgets and more staff available to maintain websites, it’s definitely worth adding Local SEO to your marketing toolkit.
- Create SEO-friendly content with regularly updated blogs and keywords relevant to your business such as ‘Lake Tahoe Vacation’ or ‘Lake Tahoe Resort’ Your blogs should include your area name and keyword
- Have an optimized web design that works well on mobile devices
- Use all the SEO tools available such as alt tags on images, a variety of heading types. Wix has some useful information on increasing your web traffic .
Step 5: Maximize rebookings
Converting your OTA bookings into direct bookings is a great way to maximize your profits as you won’t need to pay your booking platform’s commission. You’ll also be able to manage your relationship with your guests and build loyalty to your brand, which will lead to repeat bookings.
- Offer a personalized guest experience. Provide extra touches like a welcome basket to make your visitors feel really welcome.
- Send a booking reminder. Set up automated messages to remind your guests to rebook.
- Create a loyalty program. Encourage repeat stays by offering your past guests a discount, a free night’s stay, or a free breakfast or dinner.
- Make it easy to book directly. Make sure your website is optimized for a great experience and can easily take direct bookings.
Step 6: Extended stays
Getting your guests to extend their getaways is a great way to make sure you have a full calendar with no difficult-to-fill gaps. It increases occupancy rates and reduces costs as you won’t have to send your housekeeping team to do a turnaround. Most OTAs don’t have an extended booking option, so guests will need to contact you directly or make a brand new booking.
However, RueBaRue has an Extend Guest Stays feature so guests can find out when they can stay for longer. It also automates the process so the homeowner doesn’t have any extra paperwork. Your guests will be thrilled that they can stay longer and not have to pay another booking fee, while you’ll benefit from extra revenue and increased occupancy.
RueBaRue allows you to generate more income by offering guests the opportunity to extend their stays. See how RueBaRue helps you identify gaps between bookings and send your guests automated messages. Book a demo .
Put guest communication at the heart of your marketing strategy
To help your vacation rental business thrive, you need to set up scalable processes that can support your short-term rental property portfolio as it grows.
This involves the basics of getting high-quality photos, optimized OTA listings, and a social media presence, as well as building your own relationship with your guests so you can market to them directly and keep them coming back.
Putting guest communication at the heart of your marketing and growth strategy will help you connect with your customers and strengthen your brand.
With a guest communication system like RueBaRue you can use centralized communications, stored guest data, and automated messaging to help you develop a loyal customer base that’s independent of the OTAs.
It will also give you time to focus on the strategic side of developing your business and creating new sources of revenue.
RueBaRue’s guest communication platform gives you the tools you need to grow a successful vacation rental business. Book a demo to see the platform in action.
Frequently asked questions about marketing strategies for vacation rentals
How can I increase my vacation rental income?
You can increase your vacation rental income by taking direct bookings to avoid paying a commission and by accepting longer bookings to reduce the number of turnarounds. You can also adjust rates according to the season to improve occupancy.
How do I promote my VRBO listing?
Vrbo offers a Boost widget to help you promote your listing. It allows Premier Hosts to improve their short-term rental property’s listing position in search results. Other ways to promote your VRBO listing include making the most of special offer options for potential guests, and listing every amenity and fixture at your vacation home so it appears in more search results.
What marketing tools can I use to sell my vacation rental?
To market your vacation rental, you can use bookings platforms like Vrbo, Airbnb, and Booking.com. You can create your own website, promote it on social media platforms, and use communications tools to run email marketing campaigns to encourage bookings.
What is the best site to list a vacation rental?
The best site to list a vacation rental is one that is popular with potential guests who vacation in your area. The most popular listing sites are Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, and Tripadvisor.