When the British summer doesn’t materialise, it sorts the (holiday let) men from the boys.
There’s a joke doing the rounds at the moment.
In the Bible, 40 days of rain was considered a disaster. In the U.K., we have 40 days of rain, and it’s considered summer!
This year, more so than ever, as we are experiencing one of the worst summer’s on record with rainfalls of Biblical proportions, along with flooding, and storms.
But, whatever the British weather throws at us, us Brits seem to take it in our stride and it cannot dampen our enthusiasm for two weeks by the sea in a pretty cottage with roses round the door. It’s actually ingrained in our culture.
As this blog: The British and the weather: a match made in Heaven muses:
We Brits have a strange relationship with the weather. Some would even call it intimate. We are obsessed by it. It occupies our thoughts daily. The weather forecasts on TV are among the most watched of programmes. When we have nothing to talk about, we talk about the weather. When we do have something to talk about, we still talk about the weather.
I guess that the reason for this national obsession is that the weather here is so interesting. It’s not exactly dangerous – I mean, we don’t get tornadoes or hurricanes or droughts – but it is varied and unpredictable. We can happily complain about the rain or the cold or the heat or the snow, while knowing that actually, it’s never going to be so extreme that we have to worry about it.
Conversely, at the slightest ray of sun, the shorts and bar-be-ques come out, bra straps are pushed down, pasty white legs are revealed, and sun tan lotion is scorned in favour of that “just burnt” look.
So, when it comes to U.K. holiday lets, a long, hot summer would be wonderful, but, even with this shockingly bad weather, they still perform surprisingly well and I firmly believe that they are still a growth area of investment.
The only difference that bad weather makes is that I find guests are more likely to make complaints, probably because they are disappointed and want to blame something or someone.
On the other hand, certain properties receive their best testimonials and reviews when the climate has put a dampener on festivities. Those that have big libraries of books, videos, DVDs, PlayStation & board games and have owners who care enough about their guests to make the rainy day experience a great one, come in for high acclaim.
With holiday lets, I believe that we have to adopt the mindset of a hotelier. With long term lets, you’re catering to the part of the brain that deals with practicalities that have to be done. With holiday lets, you’re dealing with the part of the brain that has a “want”.
So, when you are marketing a holiday let, you’re marketing to desire. Therefore, how people relate to inputs for holidays is somewhat different to how they find somewhere to live in my opinion.
In our holiday lets marketing, we have to appeal to the phenomenon known as “anticipation happiness“.
That means appealing to the needs & desires of our guests during their two weeks annual holiday (or long weekend break) that they generally look forward to and anticipate for quite a lengthy period of time.
It means we have to exceed expectations, think of every last detail, create happy memories, give value, and ensure that the weather cannot spoil our guest’s stay at our cottage.
The holiday lets marketplace is crowded and it is competitive. But competition is healthy. It weeds out those owners that don’t go the extra mile. It helps set and maintain standards. It rewards those who value their guests.
I generally believe it takes a holiday cottage 2/3 years to get traction in the marketplace. After that, the majority of bookings will come from repeat visitors and word of mouth … but only to those who provide a great experience.
It is for this reason that I am so proud of the Holiday Lets Tribe on Property Tribes. It is chock-full of detailed information on how to make your holiday cottage stand out from the crowd, how to maximise occupancy, how to “delight” your guests.
Here are some of my favourite discussions:
and much more.
Heather Bayer, Cottage Guru, is one of my favourite holiday lets bloggers and often inspires my discussions on Property Tribes.
She always has great ideas to help optimise a holiday let, such as her blog “20 ways to make a difference to your guests“.
1 Buy the best mattresses you can afford
Don’t skimp on your guests’ sleeping experience. This is what they will remember long after the pictures of sunsets and kids playing in the water have become .jpg clutter.
2 Supply big fluffy towels
If you supply linens and towels, make sure you have some good sized bath towels. The Lay My Hat folks have talked about this one at length and the consensus is that big fluffy towels are important. For anyone who’s ever spend a night in a Holiday Inn or Best Western and tried to wrap one of their skimpy towels around an ample body you’ll know what I mean!
3 Send an inventory of what is in your kitchen.
How do they know what to bring if you don’t tell them what you’ve got? It’ll save on a bunch of emails asking you if you have a blender/garlic press/potato masher/whizzy pineapple corer etc.
4 Supply welcome packs for kids
Find out the kids ages and pack up colouring books and (non-wax) crayons; puzzles and children’s guide books. Get them involved in what is around the property, for example if you have waterfront and there are frogs – download and print a frog recognition guide. Make it cool for them to be there.
5 Be generous with the basics
Supply sufficient paper products (toilet paper, kitchen paper & coffee filters), liquid hand soap, cleaning materials, kitchen foil, dishwasher tabs, garbage bags, light bulbs, plastic containers for leftovers etc.
6 Provide stuff to do on a rainy day
Games (with all the pieces intact) , playing cards ( new packs); scrapbooking box; lots of paperbacks. Include a rainy-day ideas book with creative and fun things to do.
7 Guidebooks and maps
Go to town on the information you provide. Not just local tourist information but your own recommendations for restaurants, places to go and things to do. Include suggestions for half-day and full day driving tours or trips out. Remember that your guests probably don’t know the area and would be delighted with your ideas.
8 Emergency/Power out kit
Don’t leave guests in the dark in a power outage. Make sure they know what to do and where to find your power outage box, which should contain a wind-up radio, candles/gas lamp, lighter, information on who to contact to inform that the power is out, and a reminder about safety.
9 At least one really sharp kitchen knife
One of the top complaints about vacation rentals is the lack of sharp knives. Buy at least one really good knife or spend a little more on a good quality set.
10 Get a universal remote control
If you have more than one remote control for your TV, DVD, Video and stereo, invest in a universal that will control everything. Set it up for all your entertainment systems and leave one clear instruction guide should anything go wrong.
11 Provide a variety of herbs and spices
No-one wants to pack a whole bunch of seasonings, nor will they really want to go out and buy them all, so why not stock up with a comprehensive herb and spice collection. Keep them topped up too.
12 Fresh soap in the bathrooms
Either nicely packaged soaps or topped up soap dispensers will do, but please don’t leave used bars of soap in the washrooms.
13 Leave an ‘ooops I forgot’ pack
Pick up some travel sized items – toothpaste/shampoo/shower gel/razors etc. Put in a basket or box in a cupboard and let your guests know where it is should they have forgotten something.
14 Create the mood
Leave lights on for guests arriving at night; classical music playing on the radio for ambience and the heat up (or fire lit) for cooler times. Make sure the place smells lovely – using natural products where you can. Fresh flowers are a great touch too.
15 Write a welcome letter to your pet guests
There’s nothing pet owners like more than to have their furry friends acknowledged. Writing a letter directly to the pet and adding it to the welcome pack works really well if you want to get across your pet rules in a friendly way. Add a little pack of natural dog treats.
16 Supply a pet pack
Here’s what you need to pamper pets and their owners – Two stainless steel bowls, a bucket, several old towels, a dog brush, some rubber gloves, a ‘skunk kit’ (comprises bicarbonate of soda and hydrogen peroxide), a temporary dog tag with the cottage address and phone number, and a couple of tennis balls as well as a supply of plastic bags.
17 Be creative with kitchen stuff and small appliances
Provide a range of small appliances and bake ware so any spur of the moment cooking idea can be gratified. A bread maker; ice cream maker; Panini machine; juicer; slow cooker are just a few suggestions. Cake pans, muffin tins and cookie sheets are also welcomed. On your checkout list ask your guests what they would have liked that was not there. Then act on their suggestions if you can.
18 A welcome basket
Everyone loves to get something they were not expecting. A small basket with some seasonal items is nice to leave. We usually pick something up from our farmers market on a Saturday morning before our changeover. A fresh pot of basil, some local tomatoes and a small jar of honey in summer; some hot chocolate sachets, maple syrup and scented candles in winter. When you want to create a great first impression, this usually does it!
19 Offer a geocaching pack
Geocaching is fast becoming a really popular activity for all ages. For the price of a handheld GPS, a family can get outdoors and have a fun filled day without any entrance fees to pay. Provide a GPS pre-loaded with caches in a 20 mile radius of your property, and hide one of your own nearby to get them started off, and you’ll have them hooked. Geocachers will tell you they always recall how they got started, and the thrill of the first find. Be the one to initiate this and they’ll remember you forever. More on this on myCottage Caching site.
20 Keep in touch with your guests
Make a quick call or send an email after their stay to thank them for leaving the place so nice (even if it wasn’t quite up to your standards). Ask for some feedback and act on it, letting them know if you make a change as a result. Keep them informed if you make any additions – we let all our previous guests know when we added a hot tub, and got immediate reservations from some of them.
So, the name of the holiday lets game is to put your guests first and remember that even bad weather cannot spoil a warm welcome, a cozy cottage, a comfortable & relaxing night’s sleep, and quality time with family!
Follow me on Twitter: @4_walls
Vanessa Warwick is a former TV presenter, turned professional Landlord, consultant, and speaker. Along with her husband Nick Tadd, she founded Property Tribes, which is now the U.K.’s busiest on-line Landlord and investor community. Nick and Vanessa have just launched their new tech product, Yulpa, an on-line “property office/filo-fax” that helps you organise and manage your entire property life in one place. It comes with an iPhone app that does auto due diligence on any property being considered for purchase.
Vanessa and Nick advocate the use of technology and digital and social communications in property, and speak at events all over the U.K. as well as consulting for the BBC on property. They invest mainly in flats London and family houses in the South East and are also big advocates of holiday lets, having two upmarket holiday lets on the South Coast that achieve above-average occupancy thanks to the couple’s web efforts and vertical marketing strategies.