Your holiday homes bookings, are they down as a result of adverse winter weather?
The weather plays a major part in your business. From guests delaying making a booking until the weather “improves” so the booking cycle becomes shorter, to the impact it has on our guest’s actual holiday time with us.
So when adverse weather hits (often magnified in the media), the problems it causes to our holiday rental business are magnified too. Even if your holiday home’s area is not directly affected by this bad weather. Geographically guests aren’t that smart. They hear “Scotland” mentioned in the news and assume the whole country is under 5 centimetres of snow, instead of just the highest Highlands.
Adverse weather now can impact on Spring and Easter bookings too. As guests delay booking. Bookings that are normally confirmed by now, with deposits paid, just haven’t materialised.
Fear not. Let’s stay positive.
Here are 10 things to do if adverse weather has affected your bookings and your holiday homes bookings are down
1. Be proactive
It’s all about your mindset. Sitting back, doing nothing, accepting it, just waiting for winter to pass won’t help you or your finances. So no more “well it happens”, “it’s winter after all”. Instead make a decision and a commitment to yourself to be proactive. Yes, this will mean putting more time and effort into your marketing to chase the bookings. But commit to this extra push.
2. Acknowledge, Address and Reassure
The temptation is to not talk about it. “Sshh, don’t mention the weather”. Don’t bring it to anyone’s attention that there’s been a problem nearby. This is what most people will be doing: you need to do the opposite.
Don’t ignore the weather, acknowledge that the weather in your area has indeed been horrendous recently. Then address peoples’ concerns about issues such as road closures and turn any negatives you can into positives. Reassurance is a key card to play and guests will need more reassurance than normal, to counteract the pictures they’ve seen on TV.
Reassure them that yes a road nearby was closed last week, but it’s open now and access into your village is as normal so “you’ll have no problem getting to the village pub”. They will appreciate your honesty. If you have a riverside property for example, then it’s important in times of flooding to take current photographs to prove that all still normal and guests have no reason not to book with you.
3. Talk about your specific area
Potential guests may well think the whole of your area is a no-go area when they see reports on te news. The media plays a big part in this misconception and I too have fallen for it; assuming a few years ago that the whole of Somerset was affected by flooding. My uncle who lives there soon put me right. So your potential guests will no doubt be led into thinking the same.
Also, talk about other activities taking place in your area, such as a local market or what food the local restaurant has on their specials menu this week. Images of food can go a long way to distracting people from focusing on the weather!
The best way to do this is on social media. Add current photographs of your immediate area and share others’ photographs too. Add a photograph of a stroll through your village with a simple caption “off to get some milk”. In other words, life is totally normal where you are. Or take a walk on the moors, which potential guests may assume aren’t accessible at the moment and take lots of photos as you go.
4. Contact your regular guests personally
You already have a good relationship with these people. Now is the time to continue to nurture that.
They will have read about the weather and may have thought of you and the places they so love to visit. Send an e-newsletter just to this group, you’d have time to personalise each one. Explain explain how shocking the weather has been, but importantly remind them that you are still open for business. Know what dates they stayed with you last year and tell them that these dates are still free, would they like to rebook? The tone mustn’t be too salesy but at the same time you don’t want to miss this opportunity of getting a rebooking if you can.
5. Use email marketing
Use email marketing to contact other past guests and all your contacts too. This group doesn’t need personal contact from you but an email offering reassurance that you’re waiting to take their bookings. Explain that in your part of the world everything is normal. Reference the bad weather but don’t focus on it. It’s important to keep this email up-beat and positive.
You should be regularly emailing these people anyway, via email marketing tools such as Madmimi or Mailchimp. If you’re not doing this, then start now (but that’s the subject of an entirely different blog)!
6. Write a winter things to do guide
A “things to do in your area in winter guide”, can really help drive interest in your holiday rental, can help with your winter bookings and your future marketing. Write the guide, then save it as a pdf file that can be downloaded from your website in return for an email address. This email address will then be used in your future marketing as mentioned in point 4.
The guide must be promoted on your social media too.
It’s useful in times of adverse weather because it takes the focus off the weather. Some ideas for your guide would be – the 5 best tea rooms to visit nearby, the 5 best Sunday lunches in your area, the 3 best local spas. Indoor activities work well for the winter as it highlights that there’s so much more to a holiday with you than what the weather’s doing!
7. Make friends with the meteorologists!
As part of your mission to reassure guests, keep a very close eye on your local weather both short term and longer term. If they’re talking about a dry spell or a sunny spell that’s coming up, be ready to pounce on that and use it to your advantage. Guests may be worried that if they do come to stay with you they’ll get stuck in the floods or the snow too while they are there. Positive weather messages, with appropriate happy-weather images, again on social media and on your website, can allay those worries.
8. Talk about the spring
Take guest’s minds away from the current weather stories and remind them, that by booking with you now; look what they could be enjoying in the spring. Something for them to look forward to. Encourage them to book now with enticing images of spring flowers, lambs frolicking in the fields. You know the type of images I mean: the iconic, traditional spring images, that just want to make you get out and about and explore.
Are there any specific spring events or Easter fairs that you could start talking about to help guests focus on this time of year?
9. Don’t do it alone
Other local businesses will also be wanting to promote a ‘business a usual’ message. Work with your local contacts on how best to promote this. The larger tourism agencies may have their own campaign. See how they are doing it and join in with them and retweet their tweets.
The more local business that participate the louder and stronger and more far reaching the message will be. If on Twitter, they are using certain hashtags, then make sure you use them too. Likewise on Facebook and Instagram share, comment on and like all the beautiful images that show your area at it’s best.
10. Get you camera out
Last but certainly not least and in fact images have been referred to in many of points 1-9, get your camera out and snap, snap, snap away.
At any time of the year, come rain, sleet, snow or shine, images are one of your key marketing tools. You should have files on your computer of various seasonal images you have taken over the years. Images you can call on and rely on whenever you need them. Like when there’s been a spell of adverse weather. You can use these seasonal images to your advantage. Take snowy images to show how pretty your garden looks covered in the white stuff. Post pictures of your cosy lounge with the log fire lit. Get snapping!
When your wider area is hit with adverse weather you need to do all you can to proove that you and your locality are open for bookings.
Getting your message heard involves regularly updating your website and blogs and involves more time spent posting on social media. This is the most effective way to get to more people, in the quickest amount of time.
Fortunately the public’s memory is rather short and once any adverse winter weather has passed and the media move onto the next story, so too will your potential guests. The bookings will start to flow again. But in the meantime follow this advice and work your socks off to educate potential guests and counteract the negative image any adverse weather inevitably brings.
Bring on the summer!