So you have been encouraged by the boom in staycations to venture in to the world of holiday lets. Perhaps you are a residential landlord who wants to get out of that market owing to the increasing numbers of regulations. Or, maybe you have taken stock of your life and have decided to relocate and start a new business. Whatever your motivation -congratulations.

However, any new venture is scary and you may want a helping hand along the way.

Freedom

Image of a person with open arms silhouetted against a sunset

Why have have you started the business? There can be all sorts of reasons for starting a business. Are you looking for freedom to enjoy other things or build financial security for your future and that of your family? To achieve this you want to maximise the potential of your holiday let. You want to be able to charge the maximum that you can. You also want to have the longest possible letting season – to have bookings starting early and continuing for as long as possible. So let’s explore these a little

Location

Image of a map with a red pin in it.

If you are buying a property as a holiday let then, as with any other property purchase, it pays to do your research. Not only do you need to consider the general area, the town, the village etc but, having pinpointed where you want to buy your holiday let, you need to narrow it down, especially if your area is quite big. Some areas of a town may be better than others. Is the location of the property accessible to the amenities and other attractions that your guests are likely to want? For example, are they going to be able to walk to a local shop or local restaurants.

Style

Image of a stone built single storey cottage with wooden windows

Consider the style of the property as well as the interior. What I mean by this is that a period property or a modern property may be either more or less appealing to type of guests that you are trying to attract and this applies to the way in which you decorate and furnish the property if it’s a period property for example you are likely to want the interior to reflect that period at least to some extent. That is not to say that for a holiday let guests might be attracted to something completely different.

Quality

Image of a bed positioned against a brick wall. The base has a pallet like appearance. The bed is dressed with a  pale blue duvet. Either side of the bed a cluster of three pendant lights hangs from the ceiling

Being able to charge a good amount ,or even a premium, for a holiday rental inevitably involves consideration of quality. This includes quality of the fittings as well as quality of the furnishings. This doesn’t necessarily require that everything is of the highest quality but it certainly does apply to those things which are going to have the maximum impact on your guests stay. This includes the beds, seating and cooking facilities.

Extras

Image of a selection of chocolates and chocolate batons with a miniature bottle of gin

If you want guests to be prepared to pay a higher fee then you need to give them an experience that elevates the good to something special. By this I mean those little touches that demonstrate that you have considered their comfort to the very last detail. Go the extra mile. In this connection it can help to cast your mind back to places you’ve stayed where there has been some aspect that has really resonated with you. Are there any images that friends have posted on Instagram of a quirky touch in place they have stayed. Another good idea is to showcase local produce – toiletries, artwork, some chocolates or a bottle of wine. Building a relationship with local suppliers happens to be an excellent way of showcasing your own business.

Hassle Free Set Up

Image of a person lying in a hammock reading. the hammock is slung between two palm trees and the backdrop is a stunning sunset

If you are embarking on creating a new holiday let business then there can be a number of obstacles. For example, you might not live locally (and therefore not physically available to do what needs doing), you might be running another business as your primary day-to-day business or be in paid employment and therefore not have the time to set up the business. There are a lot of aspects to creating a holiday let.

Initial Assessment

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As in any new venture it makes sense to start with a full assessment of the situation and what is required. For example, deciding on the location, weighing up each room and deciding what furniture and other items are needed, what can be accommodated, the suitability of the property for the likely guests etc.

Research

Graphic of a magnifying glass highlighting the word Research

Research comes back to some of the points I made in the sections above. It includes looking into appropriate locations for the new venture, where is there a demand for holiday accommodation. It might be sensible to consider locations that aren’t obvious, those where there is scope for the market to expand and where supply of suitable accommodation is low. Research extends to the market in the area you are looking at, will it provide the level of rental income that you wish for. It includes the type of properties that are most in demand. In addition there are questions as to the amenities and activities available for the guests you wish to attract.

Product Sourcing

Cartoon image of a person stood on a platform looking out through a telescopeagainst a backdrop of sky and clouds

Product sourcing refers to identifying and then acquiring the inventory that you need for the property. This isn’t simply a case of popping into a store and filling a shopping trolley or going online and filling your digital shopping basket. who among us hasn’t bought something online and been disappointed when the item arrived? This is particularly the case if, as referred to above, you want to maximise the rental you can charge and the length of the season. It involves very careful consideration of your target clientele and, of course, your budget

Implementation

Image of a person assembling flat pack furniture showing only their hands

Similarly, setting up your holiday let is not as simple as it may sound. I am sure that many of you have experienced the trials and tribulations of assembling furniture whether flatpack or otherwise. I have vivid memories of moving in to my first home and having to assemble the bed. It was a wooden frame and not only did I have to assemble the frame but I also had to fix the wooden slats that go across it. I seem to recall that it took three of us in the end! It isn’t just the big things such as furniture, when you take into account dressing beds, putting up artwork, perhaps fitting shelves or even simply positioning ornaments. It all takes time

Reliable Income

Image of a pile of pound coins against a blue background

If you have set up your holiday let as a business that is going to give you financial security and the freedom to do all those things that you want to do, then you don’t really want to be worrying from month to month whether the business is going to earn the figure that you have decided it needs to produce to give you the life you want. To achieve a reliable income you want repeat bookings. Ideally, you want at least a certain proportion of your guests to be the sort that book their next stay as soon as they have got home from this one. So here are a few things to bear in mind.

Consistency

Image of a series of hills against an evening sky. There is a quote "Trust is built with consistency" by Lincoln Chafee

If you want to attract repeat business then it is important that the experience your guests have each time is equally good. You need to ensure that your offering is consistent in order to build the trust of guests. Have you ever returned to accommodation that you have stayed in before and been disappointed, felt that the standards have slipped? If you have guests returning year after year then it is possible to become complacent and be lulled in to a false sense of security. It helps to monitor your reviews, what do guests mention about the accommodation/ experience that they enjoyed? This feedback can be an indication of what your guests value. These are the things that you can focus on when aiming to maintain your standards.

Making Guests Feel Special

Close up image of a dog's neck showing its collar and name tag

One thing that you can do to encourage repeat bookings is to make your guests feel special. This doesn’t need to cost much money and some examples are free. There are different ways of making guests feel special. On the one hand there are things that you do for every guest but still makes the experience special for the individual. Then there are things that relate to the individual which involves getting to know your guests on a more personal level and remembering those details. How about keeping a file or notebook in which you record details such as particular brands they prefer, the names of all the family including the pets and any other details they may have mentioned. I don’t mean scrutinising their social media profiles but just enough to show that you have been listening to them.

Consider Your Existing Clientele

Image of a address book with a green cover embossed with a gold bee

This might apply to existing holiday let owners rather than new business owners but it is worth bearing in mind. In any business it is easy to focus on gaining new customers and neglect the existing ones. Ensuring that existing customers come back is the key to securing repeat business.

Processes

Image of three cogs surround by different coloured arrows in a circular arrangement to signify the idea of processes

Continuing the idea of consistency, consider the processes involved in the business. What are the the various stages in the experience that your guests encounter? These include elements such as your website, booking process, what happens in the lead up to the visit, what happens during the stay and even afterwards. If you can develop processes for any of the various elements then this is more likely to ensure consistency of experience.

Great Holiday Experience

Image of a table with a post showing the words "wish you were here"

It sounds obvious doesn’t it? What your guests are after is that wonderful holiday experience. The one that makes them say “do you remember the time when we stayed at …”. So you need to think about what are the things you can do to make their stay unforgettable so that they are posting photos on social media and can’t resist telling their friends what a wonderful experience they have had.

Booking Experience

Image of a hand picking up a telephone handset from a desktop system

Ok so this is a bit unexciting I know, but ensuring that it is easy for people to book is the starting point. Which mostly means looking at your website since that is how most people will book. You may use a letting agent or platform to take bookings so this relates to your own website for the business if you have one. This isn’t the place to go in to the topic in detail, but basically your website needs to be appealing (professional photos) and the booking process simple to navigate. Even if you mainly use an online booking system do not neglect those guests who may use the telephone to book.

Welcome

Image of a wooden outdoor table on which is a wooden tray with white teapot and mugs. There is lovely scenery in the background

When your guests arrive, after what may have been a long journey, you want them to feel welcome. You don’t necessarily have to be there to welcome them in person (after all it may be late when they arrive) but leaving something appropriate such as a tea tray with tea things laid out and cake or, if you know your guests are arriving later, a bottle of wine and some nibbles, will be appreciated. I remember being greeted at one holiday cottage with tea and scones which were scoffed sitting out on the patio while taking in the view. Many places leave a welcome hamper with a small selection of local produce which I think is a lovely touch.

Comfort

Image of a cream knitted cashmere hot water cover with matching socks on a grey sheepskin

Think about the comfort of your guests. I’ve touched on this in the section on extras. Put yourself in the shoes of your guest. Consider your own experience of staying in self catering accommodation, B&B’s or hotels. Can you remember anything that stood out or, by contrast, something that you would have liked but was lacking. What things have you forgotten to pack in the past. This could be something luxurious or equally, something practical like a little sewing kit or a hot water bottle. Do some research, ask your friends and family for ideas but ask them to be serious in their replies!

Activities

Image of a pile of books the top one of which is open

I’ve mentioned this in the past. Take time to consider how your guests are going to spend their time whilst staying in the property. This will obviously depend on the location of your property and your target market. It may involve making some changes at different points in the season when the weather may exert an influence. Are your guests most likely to spending most of their time away from the property or might they want to spend at least some of the time relaxing in the property (or it’s outdoor space). Are you hosting a family or a couple enjoying a romantic getaway? If you don’t know the area then you’ll need to do the research or get someone to do it for you.

There are a lot things to consider if you setting up a holiday let or if you want to develop your existing holiday let business I’d love to help. Would you like to know more? Call me on 07745 876182. I cover the Wirral, Cheshire, North West and North Wales.