Leading Vacation Homeowner Expert Offers Tips To Increase Bookings in Winter Months
AUSTIN, TX, September 7, 2006 — With winter right around the corner and travel trends indicating that more travelers plan on staying close to home over the next nine months, vacation homeowners may see a boost to rental income during the typically slower Labor Day to Memorial Day period.
"Vacation rental owners whose properties aren't in popular winter destinations often face a challenge in renting their homes during the traditional off-season," says Christine Karpinski, director of Owner Community for HomeAway.com, the largest online vacation rental marketplace with more than 65,000 properties worldwide. "However, given the increasing cost of travel and the explosion of the online vacation rental industry second home owners have more ways than ever to appeal to winter renters."
Karpinski says several travel trends this year may augment off-season rentals. Higher airfares and gas prices are forcing Americans to alter vacation plans and spending habits. Also, U.S. workers are taking fewer full-week vacations, opting instead for shorter stays.
"The good news is there are vacation homes within a two-hour drive from most metropolitan areas," says Karpinski, author of How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner and Profit from your Vacation Home Dream. "Americans pinched by high gas prices can still enjoy a getaway close to home by staying at a vacation rental for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room."
The off-season has also evolved into a more promising time for attracting renters because of the Internet. "Vacation rental home websites, such as HomeAway.com, VRBO and CyberRentals, give owners the opportunity to quickly and inexpensively respond to seasonality and market trends by offering nightly rates and special offers," says Karpinski.
For second homeowners, Karpinski offers these tips to attract winter renters and boost off-season bookings:
Advertise on the Internet. Even during the off-season, vacation homeowners should continue to advertise on vacation rental websites. The majority of travelers use the Internet for vacation planning, so keep your home listed on sites with detailed property descriptions, photos and search options that make it easy for travelers. Keep your contact information and availability calendar current.
Offer nightly rates. During peak season, many homeowners require a minimum week-long stay. However, during the off-season, offer nightly rates to encourage extended weekend rentals.
Advertise "special offers". Off-season specials, such as "rent three nights-get one free" and senior citizens and military discounts often attract vacationers who have flexibility to travel year-round. E-mail past guests with a special VIP package that includes reduced rates and a bottle of wine or dinner gift certificate.
Welcome children . According to the National Association for Year-Round Education, more than two million children are enrolled in year-round schools, which means their families can take advantage of lower-priced vacations during off-peak periods. Make sure you emphasize family attractions and activities.
"Winterize." Play up local winter fun in your property descriptions. Feature and use photographs of fireplaces, winter activities, mountain hiking and snow. If your home lacks winter appeal, consider adding a hot tub. It quickly pays for itself.
Accept pets. During the last three years, more than 29 million Americans brought their pets on trips further than 50 miles away, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. Who travels during the off-season? Travelers whose travel dates are not constrained by their childrens' school schedules. Or people with their "other children", their beloved pets.
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