Sign Up  |  Already Signed Up? Login

The OwnerRez Blog

A blog about our thoughts, services, upcoming features and the industry at large.

7 ways to promote your vacation rental

As vacation rental owners, we've experimented with many different ways to promote our vacation rentals. Each method takes a different mix of time investment and monetary investment to set up and run. Some, like the big listing sites such as VRBO, VacationHomeRentals, HomeAway, FlipKey, etc., take a relatively large cash investment to set up but provide a lot of inquiries and bookings. Others, like running an email newsletter for your guests, take a bit more time investment but are relatively cheap in terms of cash.

We've found that a mix of various sources is the ideal way to create a strong booking stream. Paid listing sites are your bread and butter -- they will drive most of the inquiries. They're also the most expensive, and beyond optimizing your listing on each site, there's not a whole lot you can do to increase inquiries from that source. A personal property website allows you to engage more directly with guests, become involved in the local community, and build and individual brand for your vacation rental. Email newsletters and a Facebook page provide a way to maintain a connection with former guests and increase your repeat booking rate.

Method Cost Time Return
National paid listing sites High Medium High
Local paid listing sites Medium Medium Medium
Free listing sites Free Medium Low
Personal property website Low High Medium
Local property management companies Free to Low Low Medium
Email newsletters Free to Low Medium Medium
Local Search Listings Free to Low Medium Medium
Facebook page Free Low Low
Google AdWords Medium High Low

1. Listing Sites

Listing sites are the first thing you should set up. They're straightforward -- write a description, add some pictures, and set up information about rates and amenities. Once you set up a listing, you can use OwnerReservations' inquiry email handling to automatically pull the inquiries into OwnerReservations, generate a quote, and let the guest book right away.

There are three major categories of listing sites, with a descending order of price and return:

2. Personal property website

Cost: low
Time: high
Return: medium

A personal property website gives you a central location to manage your brand. It may not generate many bookings at first, but it's a central hub for several other marketing avenues -- like email newsletters, local search listings, and Google AdWords. A website is an easy URL reference to give people so to get directly to your listing, rather than the unpronounceable gibberish you typically see on a listing site.

If you accept inquiries through email on your website, you can use OwnerReservations' inquiry email handling to automatically pull the inquiries into OwnerReservations, generate a quote, and let the guest book right away. We're currently working on an inquiry widget you can drop on your site to give guests an inquiry form that will fill directly into OwnerReservations.

3. Local property management companies

Cost: free to low
Time: low
Return: medium

Many local property managers have an option to list your vacation rental in their advertising, even if they aren't fully managing the property. They'll manage the booking and cut you a check. The way they typically make a profit is to charge the guest an additional amount over your price. Depending on the manager, and depending on how many bookings you're getting from other sources, it may or may not be worth using them. You can find local property managers by googling for vacation rentals in your area and noting the management sites that come up on the first couple of result pages.

4. Email newsletters

Cost: free to low
Time: medium
Return: medium

One of the first things you want to do is keep a list of the email addresses of people that inquire and/or book your property. This allows you to get in touch with them over time, give them updates on any upgrades you might make to your property, information about events in the area, or offer them discounted stays. There are many ways to go about this, from monthly newsletters to seasonal newsletters (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter), to targeted discount offers (a free days stay for stays of over three days, etc.). Some people even offer groupon style discounts, where a former guest can purchase credit to be used for a future rental at a discount.

You can email people from your personal email address, but this method doesn't look as professional and gets difficult once you have more than a few people to email. Instead, we'd recommend using an email marketing tool like MailChimp. MailChimp is free if you have less than 2,000 people in your email list, and has very reasonable rates for larger lists.

5. Local Search Listings

Cost: free to low
Time: medium
Return: low

Local search listings are a powerful way to connect with people looking for vacation rentals in your area using search engines like Google. With a local listing, people googling for vacation rentals will see more detail about your listing right inside Google, things like pictures, descriptions, and reviews. You can also connect the listing back to your property website to allow people to get in contact with you directly.

6. Facebook page

Cost: free
Time: low
Return: low

A Facebook page is a nice way to interact with your guests and keep in touch with them after they leave. Facebook has a lot of hype surrounding it right now, but a Facebook page typically won't generate many bookings. It's still worth setting up a page because its simple and fast to create.

7. Google AdWords

Cost: medium
Time: high
Return: low

Google AdWords allows you to purchase ads that show next to Google search results based on the keywords someone is using to search. With AdWords, you write a short text description for your ad, and pay for each time someone clicks your ad and goes to your site. AdWords can be a good way to get people to your property website, but they also take a lot of effort and expertise to set up properly. If you're not careful, you can spend a lot of money learning what ad copy works, and honing down the ad targeting to people that are actually interested in booking your property.

What are your experiences with promoting your vacation rental? Have you used other methods? We'd love to hear what you have to say -- let us know in the comments.

The fastest, most-professional way to book is with OwnerRez, the leader in online vacation rental software.  Sign up for your free account!

2 Comments (add yours)

Dec 30, 12
10:00 pm
GeckoVilla says:

This is an interesting summary, but in our experience we have found our own website to be the strongest generator of bookings. The geographical location and competitor set of each owner's holiday rental will also play a major part in forming their marketing strategy.
In our case in particular, by offering something out of the ordinary (a villa where guests are welcomed, looked after and cooked for by a local family), in a location that is off the beaten path and away from the over-developed tourist hot spots, this unique niche becomes our most important factor.

May 5, 13
7:09 am
herry nelson says:

Great work. These tips are very helpful and necessary in these days to promote your vacation rentals business.

In order to leave a comment, please login.  If you don't have an account, get one now in less than 30 seconds.
What is OwnerRez?

We are an online booking service for vacation rental property that helps managers and owners save time, create quotes and bookings faster, look professional and keep detailed records without needing an accountant or staff.