12 Ways to Increase Vacation Rental Occupancy in the Off-Season

No matter how successful your vacation rental property, the high season can’t last all year. 

And, with demand lower than normal in some sectors due to Covid rules and ongoing travel restrictions, sometimes as a property manager, you can’t just rely on the “time of year” to attract people to your space - after all, even the world’s best beach house isn’t the most obvious option in winter.

But during the off-season, you still want to attract ideal guests, even if they’re not your usual crowd.

Boosting vacation rental occupancy during times of lower demand is all about improving customer service and flexibility, and getting creative about marketing your space.

We’ve brought together some of our favorite ideas on how to maximize vacation rental income, and start boosting your off-season occupancy today.

RueBaRue is an easy-to-use guest communication tool that lets property managers increase their occupancy and drive more revenue by offering extended guest stays. Book a demo, personalized to your rentals to see the platform in action.

How to increase vacation rental occupancy rate during times of low demand

Offer extended guest stays

This works because it’s always easier to tempt existing guests to stay longer than to convert totally new guests to try your rental property, especially if your booking calendar has some random gaps.

But new guests might also want to extend their stay, too. Plug any gaps between stays and boost your occupancy and vacation rental revenue, by using a tool such as RueBaRue, which has a specific extended guest stays feature, to make it as easy as possible for guests to linger longer.

Guests can easily check in a day earlier, or stay a day or two later—and you can offer them a discounted rate to do so, all through the same tool.

RueBaRue Extend Guest Stays

Respond to all guest inquiries asap

At less-popular times, offering quick, helpful, and friendly customer service is even more important, to give guests a reason to stay and keep them happy even during awkward seasons.

You can make this as easy as possible by using guest communications tools such as RueBaRue, which are specially designed to help you message guests quickly and professionally. 

Features such as saved responses, vacation rental email templates, automated SMS schedules can help you respond to common issues efficiently. RueBaRue also enables you to have a team inbox so multiple people can reply to guest messages, rather than waiting for a specific manager to respond.

It also enables SMS messaging rather than email too, for easier, instant, more direct communication with guests that doesn’t get lost in their inbox.

RueBaRue Guest SMS Messaging

Lower your minimum stay

During the high season, it makes sense to have a minimum stay policy, to run your vacation rental business as efficiently as possible. But in the low season, you can easily increase occupancy and revenue by lowering (or removing) your short-term rental minimum stay limit. 

While it does create a little more admin and housekeeping work, it allows guests to book fewer nights, meaning they can squeeze in between other bookings, increasing your overall occupancy and revenue for nights that would otherwise stay empty.

Increase your maximum stay

Increasing the maximum number of days may work well for your property, as you need to find fewer renters to fill more nights. You might also find different sorts of guests to your usual; a family might not want to stay for a month, but a remote worker or someone who has just moved to the area may be looking for a longer-term base.

You can make this even more attractive by offering discounts for longer bookings, such as two weeks, or even a month or more; and make longer weekday stays more attractive too, such as giving guests three nights for the price of two midweek.

Ensure dynamic, competitive pricing

During the off-season, it’s vital to ensure your pricing strategy is as competitive as possible. Lower your nightly rate just enough to make it a tempting deal for off-season guests, without undervaluing your service or losing out. 

Using vacation rental tools such as Beyond and Wheelhouse can help you get the perfect balance and more, by analyzing the current market and trends, to ensure you get the optimum pricing for your business.

WheelHouse Screenshot

Credit: UseWheelhouse.com

Adopt a flexible cancellation policy

With travel still uncertain due to changing Covid restrictions, it’s essential to give guests peace of mind and an incentive to book, by adopting a flexible cancellation policy, especially in the low season when they may be even less inclined to stay than normal. 

You want to find the sweet spot between making cancellation flexible enough to instill confidence, and just strict enough that you don’t attract non-serious guests who will book and later cancel just because they can. As with pricing, it’s a balance.

Adopting a flexible cancellation policy also gives you greater visibility on OTAs (such as on OTA pages Airbnb, VRBO, or Booking.com). Guests can filter their searches by cancellation policy, and many will only look for listings that are on flexible cancellation, especially with travel still uncertain due to Covid.

Find new ways to market your listings

Updating your listings, your vacation rental websites, photos, social media, and descriptions of your rental spaces is essential to attract great low-season guests.

There’s no point describing your place as a “bright, summer villa” with photos of an outdoor pool in the depths of snow season. Instead, you might change it up to read “cozy-but-modern hideaway” with a photo of a welcoming living room or roaring fireplace.

Tailor your headline for local events too to capture attendees, or highlight your place’s proximity to non-seasonal events. You can also market your space by activity, and team up with local workshops—such as cooking classes or art retreats—to offer daily rates, and capture a more out-of-season crowd.

If your rental suits it, you can take this a step further and consider opening up your vacation rental properties up for less-obvious use, such as workshops or activities that don’t depend on the weather or your usual high-season activities—such as offering it up to host a writing retreat, for example.

Update your rental to attract guests who book during the off-season

In fact, reconsidering who your “ideal guest” might be can be a great strategy for low-season, as they might be different from your peak season regulars, but could still make great guests (for example, digital nomads vs. families; business travelers vs. holidaymakers).

Once you’ve decided who you’re targeting, make sure your off-season property is suitable for them, such as ensuring great Wi-Fi for digital nomads or providing an easy-to-use iron for business guests to press their smarter outfits.

Make sure your space works for low-season guests, such as providing blankets or firewood in cooler months, or fans and AC when it’s warmer.

Creating digital guidebooks using tools such as RueBaRue is also a great way to keep your space updated.

You can provide local information in your vacation rental welcome book that is relevant and up-to-date for all seasons, so you’re not recommending a ski slope in ice-cream weather, or a great beach when snow is falling.

Creating tailored digital guidebooks is easy with tools such as RueBaRue, as you can quickly set them up using dedicated templates, which can then be populated with information unique to the guest's stay in minutes, by connecting it with your property management system (PMS).

RueBaRue Guestbooks

Ensure amenities change with the seasons

Changing up your place by season works for amenities too.

For example, if you tend to leave a bottle of wine for guests, change up your usual springtime rosé for a wintery red when it turns cooler; leave ice pops in the freezer for summer guests, or offer music-themed treats for guests who you know are in town for a live jazz festival.

Guests won’t fail to appreciate these extra touches and are much more likely to leave positive reviews, especially when you request them at the exact right time by automating survey emails through tools such as RueBaRue.

This means that you can write and schedule emails asking for feedback and reviews in advance, so they send automatically at the perfect set times, such as immediately after check-out, or a few days later, when their stay is still fresh in guests’ minds.

Redefine what you mean by ‘off season’

Even when your rental is technically in “low-season”, big opportunities still exist, such as during popular music festivals or concert weekends; or during major sporting events such as international marathons and tournaments.

As well as updating your listing to refer to these, you could even go a step further and partner with these events. 

Contact organizers for referrals, offer discounts to attendees and ensure guests know you are aware of why they’re in town, so you can help out; for example, allowing late check-in for concert attendees, late check-out for daytime events, or space to store bikes for a cycling race.

Start by searching local websites for big upcoming events in your area, and consider local market trends on platforms such as AirDNA or Transparent, to see when bookings are unexpectedly high in your region.

Update your listings and amenities for local people too

If your rental usually targets long-distance or international travelers who haven’t been able to visit due to Covid travel restrictions, right now you can boost occupancy by making your place attractive to people coming from less further afield.

In your local area guide, you can highlight little-known things to do or new openings or attractions in the area that even locals might not know about; or may have heard of, but need a good incentive to try.

People don’t only book vacation rentals for travel purposes; locals might still be looking for a luxury escape, romantic weekend, a chance to try a new restaurant, or just want a break from their usual life.

Making your place attractive to locals also helps with shorter minimum stays, as explained above, as local people are likely to want to stay for less time, but still be ready to book in low-season.

Reach out to previous happy guests

We said earlier that it's much easier for vacation rental hosts to tempt existing or previous guests back than it is to entice potential guests who haven’t ever stayed with you before, and filling your rental up during the low season is no exception.

Email or reach out to previous happy guests, offering them a good-value discount or an extra treat (such as a free dinner voucher or welcome food hamper) if they choose to stay again during a low-season period, and give them special offers and incentives to refer their friends personally. 

Vacation rental software such as RueBaRue can help you make this even easier, by asking for referrals and offering discounts via automated emails, so you can ask at exactly the right time, with no extra work from you.

RueBaRue Schduler

Vacation Rental Occupancy: From off-season to all-year-round

Increasing occupancy during low periods needn’t be as difficult as you think.

With a few tweaks such as updating your listing seasonally, changing up your amenities to fit the weather, appealing to a different set of guests, and using pricing tools such as Beyond and Wheelhouse to ensure you get the price just right.

And tools such as RueBaRue help you to improve guest communication with automated emails and fill-in-the-blank templates, to ensure all inquiries are managed and responded to professionally and quickly; that guests can extend their stays with a touch of a button; and you can create digital, easy-to-use guidebooks that stay up to date with the changing seasons too.

We’re confident that with a few tweaks from this list, you’ll be increasing occupancy in the low-season - not to mention all year round! - in no time.

RueBaRue is an easy-to-use guest communication tool that lets property managers increase their occupancy and drive more revenue by offering extended guest stays. Book a demo, personalized to your rentals to see the platform in action.

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