Repeat bookings are revenue gold for vacation-rental property managers. Why? Because these bookings have a much lower cost of acquisition than new bookings. They also are more profitable bookings, especially if booked directly, avoiding OTA fees and restrictions. And repeat guests are much more likely to become advocates of your business, and refer additional direct-booking guests to your vacation rentals.
Repeat bookings give your business a competitive edge that’s especially valuable in the current vacation-rental market, where increased competition, lower occupancy rates and lower RevPAR are putting a pinch on vacation-rental profits.
The good news is that the vacation-rental industry is expected to grow annually at 11.1% from 2022 to 2030. So if STR businesses can seize the opportunity to attract repeat customers, they can capitalize on growth opportunities and profit.
To help you grow your short-term-rental or vacation-rental property management business, we will be looking at the importance of repeat bookings and direct bookings, and how to win repeat bookings for your rental properties.
Why Do You Need Direct and Repeat Bookings for Your Short-Term Rentals?
Increasing occupancy and average daily rates are the main objectives for property managers. And while vacation-rental managers are increasingly focusing on direct bookings especially as their businesses grow, they still get up to 22% of their bookings from Airbnb.
But while OTAs such as Airbnb, Vrbo and Booking.com might be good at getting more eyes on your property listings, the fees they charge for these services are a high cost for your business. These booking sites also subject property managers to potentially costly booking refund policies, and complicated, cumbersome claims processes for property damage.
Additionally, working with OTAs can restrict you in many ways. You have less control over the way your rental properties are represented, and because the OTA is designed to own contact with the customer, you have limited opportunities to increase customer loyalty and fewer chances to provide your guests with special offers.
All these factors have two major effects on the productivity and scalability of your business: rental management operations’ lack of personal touch and reduced customer-centricity.
So clearly, if you want to expand the profit of your rental business, provide a better guest experience, and increase the occupancy rate, you should focus more on getting direct bookings and retaining those guests as repeat customers.
Before moving on to tips on winning direct and repeat bookings, let’s clear up an important point in achieving this strategy.
It is not about getting online booking agencies out of the way and taking over the workload yourself. What OTAs do, they do very well. It is more about balancing your use of OTAs with reliance on a team of professionals executing customer operations, responding rapidly to booking inquiries, and offering superb guest-services support.
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4 Tips to Get Repeat Bookings
Acquiring a new customer is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining existing customers in any industry. Therefore, it is essential for property rental management businesses to come up with effective strategies that will set them free from customer acquisition costs and encourage repeat bookings.
Here are some useful tips to improve your customer service operations to get more direct bookings and repeat bookings in your short-term rental business.
1. Take a Holistic Approach to the Guest Journey
Before making any improvements to your short-term or vacation rental business strategy, you should consider the guest journey as a whole, including their lodging search, booking experience, pre-arrival, guest stay, and post-stay.
Taking a holistic approach lets you understand the needs of your guests at each step, maintain clear communication, and provide a better customer experience. In turn, your guests feel more valued, which is one of the most significant factors in turning new guests into loyal customers.
2. Collect Information to Build Trust and Customer Loyalty
Collecting information and making informed decisions accordingly enables businesses to maintain successful brand awareness and loyalty campaigns, which in turn increases customer retention and direct bookings.
As OTAs do what they can to limit a manager’s access to guest data, it is important to capitalize on opportunities to capture a guest’s contact information, such as email address and phone number. Your team can build data in a CRM and then remarket to these guests through marketing emails and messaging that will drive rebooking.
Your guest services team should take every contact opportunity with guests to fill in as much information as possible, even noting preferences for restaurants, tours, and events.
Additionally, you can set up automated email campaigns to inform your guests about your services, special offers, and discounts.
3. Provide Exceptional Customer Service
It is essential for rental businesses to understand guest motivations and provide unique experiences to turn them into returning guests.
To provide your guests with exceptional service and improve their loyalty, you should examine guest reviews online and on social media.
This way, you can realize the strengths and weaknesses of your customer service and improve it accordingly to increase customer engagement and keep loyal guests on board.
4. Find an Ideal Partner for Your Business
Managing short-term-rental operations is not an easy task. Guest services, especially, are a 24/7 job, one that requires hospitality experience, professionalism, and the ability to not just pass along guest requests, questions and problems, but to solve them.
If you want to get repeat bookings, increase brand awareness, and turn your customers into loyal repeat guests, you need to partner up with the right team.
One of the most effective ways to improve your operations, and fill gaps in guest services coverage, is to extend your business team with high-quality, experienced remote talent. The right remote workforce company can help identify where remote staff will be most effective for your company. And will take care of every step of the recruitment process, monthly payroll and ongoing support.
Expanding your staff with key remote roles will not just save you up to 60% in labor costs over hiring local in-house employees. It will improve guest experience and internal operations, resulting in happier guests, better review and the lucrative repeat and direct bookings that will take your business to the next level.