Your holiday homes bookings are down as a result of the corona virus?
Whether it’s media hype or a genuine health concern, an extremely rare event, such as the corona virus impacts massively on any tourism business. It impacts on guests delaying making a booking until the situation “improves” so the booking cycle becomes shorter, or on a guest’s actual holiday time with us.
Even if your holiday home’s area is not badly affected/infected by the virus, geographically guests aren’t that smart. They hear ‘the south west’ mentioned in the news for example and assume the whole of that region is out of bounds. When the reality is for example a specific school has had to close in a specific town (at the time of writing!).
Let’s stay positive.
Here are 10 things to do if adverse external factors have 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 virus to pass won’t help you or your finances. So no more “this is how it is”, “it’s a pandemic”. 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 Corona”. Don’t bring it to anyone’s attention that there’s been a confirmed case nearby. This is what most people will be doing: you need to do the opposite.
Don’t ignore the virus, acknowledge it’s here. Then address peoples’ concerns about issues such as tourism hot spot 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. For example, what better way to keep yourself out of harm’s way than a walk on the nearby isolated cliff top path or out on the moors. Take photos of the local landscape, the unpopulated areas and use these to your advantage.
Reassure them that yes a large country show as cancelled last week as a precaution, but everywhere else is functioning as normal (pubs, restaurants etc). Remind them it was a precaution. They will appreciate your honesty.
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 the news. The media plays a big part in this misconception.
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 virus!
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.
4. Contact your regular guests personally
You already have a good relationship with these people. Now is the time to continue to nurture that.
Try to personalise your emails to them. Empathise, explain the situation, 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 carrying on as normal. Reference the virus 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 seasonal things to do guide
A “things to do in your area in winter/spring/summer/autumn guide”, can really help drive interest in your holiday rental, can help with your 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. Along with permission to keep hold of their email of course.
The guide must be promoted on your social media too.
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. Or how about the best 5 local gins (they then can stay inside and enjoy this activity).
7. Talk about the spring
Take guest’s minds away from the current news stories and remind them, that by booking with you ; look what they could be enjoying in the spring. 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. And to feel the sunshine on your face for the first time in months.
8. 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.
9. Get you camera out
Last but certainly not least and in fact images have been referred to in many of points 1-8, 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. 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 prove 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.
Before we know it, the corona virus will have passed and the media will 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 downturn in business this outbreak inevitably brings.
Bring on the summer!