Airbnb and HomeAway are still a first choice for many travelers who aim to book a home, a boutique hotel, a condo, a castle, a tiny house — whatever your heart desires. Listing site giants like Airbnb have helped shaped the popularity and expectations for travelers. But vacation rental homes are catching like wild fire. Even traditional OTAs, like Booking.com and Expedia, have moved into the vacation rental space. With so many giant listing sites out there, you sometimes wonder — what about the endless number of niche travel sites that have launched for short-term rentals.
As vacation rental marketers, is there a space for niche travel sites in our portfolio?
Let’s take a wide view at travel niches and examine what opportunities are out there for vacation rental professionals.
Wouldn’t it be Niche?
Are super specific, specialized travel sites idealistic?
Niche tourism brings people with a common interest or goal together. From a marketing perspective, niche travel sites will lack the volume you saw on Airbnb and HomeAway, there’s no doubt. But niche travel sites are useful strictly because of the limited selection, and often times you can get leads better suited for your particular property.
MagicStay in Europe, for example, lets business travelers easily find listings that are equipped for business travel. With Misterbnb, gay couples can find vacation homes while also feeling welcomed by the gay community. Fans of the show Shark Tank probably remember Rent Like a Champion, the website to find accommodations in college towns for big football games. The list goes on.
Why is niche travel on our mind? This past week, we saw two different types of news stories regarding niche travel. The first was the unfortunate news about VacayHero’s suspension of operations. But with one listing site’s departure there are several new travel sites to rise. Skift created this list of five niche travel sites for short-term vacation rentals.
It got us thinking about how niche sites fit into what we do as vacation rental software builders. Our goal is to help owners and managers get more bookings. Sometimes this means distributing your inventory to more channels. Ultimately though, we love to see our clients book directly. As a thought experiment, we’d like to consider the added benefits of listing on niche travel sites versus traditional listing sites.
As a vacation rental owner or manager, the type of traveler you attract can sometimes matter just as much as the volume of travelers you get. If you list on a niche site the type of lead you get could be more receptive to being a repeat guest.
Have a Niche Trip!
Marketing Funnel. Channel Distribution. Guest Personas.
Channel distribution and channel management makes it easier to test out new marketplaces. Especially if you’re thinking about listing on a few niche travel sites in addition to the major OTAs.
How your guest finds you plays into how they perceive you and your vacation town. So while our vacation rental businesses aim to get more bookings and more people discovering your properties, your marketing efforts can be better spent getting more of the right kinds of bookings. That is, getting guests who are going to be of more value over time.
Niche travel sites offer a unique opportunity for highly engaged guests that you can target to book over and over.
The plan you formulate to retain past guests will help you strategize which channels you’d like to distribute on. For this reason, it’s worth it to characterize what kind of travelers frequest each site. This is called creating a customer persona. There are many ways to create guest personas. It may be you’re looking for “more family vacations” or “more millennials” or “people who like golf and live in Northern California”. These are essential characteristics and will help you when coming up with a strategy for paid advertising.
But I want to zoom out and look at four guest personas that you will encounter (or already have encountered) while marketing in the world of short-term vacation rental. None of these characteristics are good or bad in and of themselves. They’re neutral.
What you’ll need to determine is if they’re right for you.
Guests that want to bargain.
Let’s face it. Vacation rentals are still part of an emerging industry and in many travel destinations there is still a fair amount of bargaining. Listing on the more traditional travel websites will sometimes get you the guest that wants to strike a deal. And if you’re okay with this, great! Rick at Destin West Escapes, for example, offers discounts to veterans and firefighters at certain times of the year. For Rick, this helps him spread the word of his business to a clientele he loves providing hospitality for. Sometimes striking a deal will help you fill occupancy in the low season or will facilitate a last-minuting booking.
However, the downside hardly needs to be expounded. People looking for discounts can be a waste of time, are more difficult to please, and contribute less to your bottom line.
Keep a tally of every discount you gave this year and where that guest came from. See how you can adjust that listing to prevent bargain hunters in the future.
Guests that want to understand the area.
When your guests are having a great time you know you’ve done your job right. Guests that want to understand the area are engaged, are interested in what your town has to offer, and are eager to go explore and report their findings back to you. These guests are willing to chat with you before booking as opposed to finding an instant book property. And some vacation rental properties are perfect to accommodate this type of guest. But if that’s not what you’re about as a business, then don’t market yourself as the local expert.
If guests are trying to get a lot of host engagement they could be disappointed in fact that you sent a welcome email rather than greeting them at the front door.
Again, neither approach is better than the other but it is valuable to know which channel serves you the optimal guest. Remember, this channel could be one you don’t currently list on but would like to try with OneRooftop’s channel manager made for short-term rental homes.
Guests that want convenience.
Convenience is often the word Online Travel Agencies use to describe the booking experience. You book a vacation rental the same way you buy a plane ticket, book a night in a hotel, rent a car for a week, or even order a pizza. You pay — signed, sealed, delivered.
What some vacation rental owners and managers may not realize is that customer service to the modern traveler includes whether or not you allow online booking.
Guests that keep on giving.
Typical marketing funnels work like this: you try to get as many people to see your leads as possible. In an inverted pyramid, those leads make the widest part and are at the top. Some of them slip away, or book elsewhere. But maybe you can book them later, you say.
Next in the funnel are the people who book. This is the narrow point where you try to drive all your business. Well, many small businesses need to think getting more business out of your past guests. In the traditional marketing funnel, this is called customer retention and
Do Niche Guys Finish Last?
How to measure success at YOUR vacation rental business
At the OneRooftop office, our conversations are constantly revolving around how to help small businesses improve. From our developers and the design team to our sales and support teams, we all strategize how small businesses can streamline operations, gain stability amid competition, and still keep costs reasonable.
Niche tourism may be great for you to stand out in your destination. It may also help you get future bookings! Just remember that your success may take a different route than your neighbor. The way you set goals will lay the groundwork for the decisions you make. Measuring your performance should become a regular habit so that what you put into your vacation rental is giving you the best return.
OneRooftop put together a list of Key Performance Indicators that are crucial to any vacation rental business trying to make it in modern hospitality.
Looking for a way to list on more channels?
OneRooftop would love to chat!
Request a free demo of OneRooftop’s vacation rental software and channel manager at OneRooftop.