Homestay and vacation rentals are now in trend in the travel industry for the past few years. This is most likely due to a homestay that can accommodate huge families and offer ample facilities to travellers. Besides, they also seeking a more homey and cozy accommodation or in short, a “home away from home” when they are travellings.
Starting a homestay business can be easy when you have vacant rooms or houses. However, maintaining the business and filling up the vacancies can be challenging for every homestay owner. But don’t worry, to save your time and effort we have come up with some tips to help you fill up your homestays and perhaps increase your sales.
1. Creating a theme or style
First off, many homestay owners deem this unnecessary but in fact, by putting in some effort into applying and beautifying your homestay according to a certain theme, this could be a game-changer.
Examples of themed homestays:
Homestay make-over can be an interesting process especially when you have a theme in mind. This tip is highly recommended for homestay owners who are running the business in the outskirt of town or far away from tourist attractions. What do you have to do? You turn your homestay into a tourist attraction.
Get help from a professional interior consultant if you need to get the ideas running!
2. Cleanliness and Maintenance
This is probably the most basic tip but does not be surprised when some owners fail to understand this and take it into consideration. We have had number of homestay owners who wouldn’t loaf on this and are willing to take excellent efforts in maintaining the condition of their homestays.
Mow that lawn, clean that carpet, repair the leaking pipes and do just anything that could make the condition of your homestay look as if you first bought it. This could reduce the probability of guests complaining about that faulty air-con too and travellers would love to return to a well-maintained homestay. Always.
3. Providing necessary amenities
These days, we can easily find homestays living up to the level of hotels and sometimes, even better. We have come to realise that many homestays are beginning to provide basic amenities such as bath towels, shampoo, body gel etc. Such detailed and thoughtful preparation would somehow make a difference in your sales where besides comparing rates, the next thing a traveller do is comparing the amenities offered by the homestays before making their choices.
Don’t stop reading as we are about to reveal some tips on the top amenities every traveller is looking for. Those are the plus points if your homestay has them.
First, in our list, we have a Wifi connection. This is undoubtedly the top amenity every traveller is looking for in this booming age of digital media. Invest in a decent Internet connection and start seeing your sales rolling in. Other amenities worth considering and investing in are bbq equipment, iron board, hairdryer, cooking facilities and of course, air-con in every room.
4. Upload good pictures of your homestay
Having good pictures of your homestay is the biggest asset to a successful homestay business. Good photos help in making a great first impression on the travellers when they make their booking. If you have not had your homestay photos taken professionally, you should start thinking about hiring a professional to do it. Any decent photographers will do in this case as you just need a set of high quality and good photographs of your homestay for all your marketing purposes. If you think you are quite a decent photographer, you may even do it yourself!
If you are unsure of the photos you should be preparing, here’s a quick tip:
- 2 photos of the exterior of your homestay
- 1 photo of the living room
- 1 photo of the kitchen
- 1 photo of each room
- 1 photo of each bathroom
- Bonus: 2-3 photos of the common area, garden, parking space, swimming pool
5. Getting on social media
The rising age of technology makes it easier for us to promote our business online and the easiest and cheapest way is to tackle down the social media aspect. Creating a page or account for your homestay is easy and what’s more important is that you can create as many pages (if you own multiple homestays) as you need for free. You are basically building a platform for all your future online marketing plans at zero cost. Nonetheless, we suggest not more than an account or page for the same homestay to avoid confusion.
Furthermore, it’s easier to get in touch with potential guests via social media especially when the platform offers messaging feature because once again, exchanging messages on social media is usually free. Not forget, sharing and posting images of your homestay are free too.
6. Accepting online bookings
Now that we have the access to the Internet and social media, many homestays’ owners are beginning to accept online bookings manually via social media and messaging app. However, it could be stressful to process bookings during the peak season and public holidays when you do it manually.
Here comes the rescue of booking platforms provided by online travel agencies (OTA). OTAs help homestay owners fill up their vacancies by listing the homestays on their website and at the same time, process any bookings that went through their online booking system. Listing on OTAs enable homestay owners to get more exposure and reach out to travellers easier but simultaneously, your homestay will be more prone to competition as you will be listed together with other homestays.
Read also: What Are The Criteria of Good Booking Engine
Usually, OTAs take a cut or a certain amount of commission from each successful booking made so make sure you choose the right online booking platform for your homestay. Also, find out how to get a free online booking engine.
7. Sync calendar between OTA using iCAL
Most the owners who run homestays or vacation rentals are trying to advertise their businesses in multiple locations (e.g. Airbnb, Booking.com, HomeAway, Agoda, etc). The more places you can be found and booked, the more bookings you are likely to attract. But by increasing your exposure online you may also increase the risk of overbooking.
With iCalender (iCal), you are able to sync your booking calendar between OTA (e.g. Agoda, Booking.com, AirBnB, LetsGoHoliday.my etc). iCal works very well because it used to store guest bookings on the property’s calendar. Since a booking was created, iCal will record it and added to the property’s calendar. You won’t have to manually update your availability across the channels. It saving your time and your rooms are less likely to be overbooked.
However, iCal implementation has its limitation because it does not guarantee the sync and also it does not support reservation sync. On top of that, its reliability fully depends on how frequent the OTAs pull the iCal data. Based on our test, we notice some OTAs only pull the iCal data once a day; this will lead to overbooking during the peak season for sure. If you’re looking for a more reliable solution, we suggest using a channel manager (mentioned in step 8).
If you prefer to have more control over the sales online, our platform (Lets Go Holiday.my) are supporting approve-based booking method. You are able to accept or reject a booking request made by your guests with SMS or E-mail.
8. Advertise Your Homestay on Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) and Sync the Calendar using Channel Manager
Each of the OTAs like Airbnb, Agoda, Booking.com, Expedia has its own strengths and they have loyal members who use only their system to look for accommodation. So, getting your homestay listing and selling on these OTAs help increase your sales.
The problem to this strategy is to manage the calendar. How is it possible to make sure there’s no overbooking while you are selling on so many OTAs, the answer is Channel Manager. Channel manager is a tool that keeps all the calendars in sync. Softinn offers an all-in-one system for homestay owners and includes a channel manager.
9. Offering loyalty programs such as Promotion Code
Loyalty programs such as promo codes, coupons and rewards are great ways to expand your customer base. Of course, as a business owner, it seems like a bad idea to give things away for free or a discount, but when you employ promo codes for your businesses, they can be very effective in attract new customers and increase your sales.
For example, if you want to encourage your guests to stay longer, you could create a promo code that offer an extra night free or a 20% discount on the 3rd night when they book at least 2 nights. Other than that, you also can create an early bird discount to increase revenue and encourage guests to book in advance. If you want to or plan to start running a marketing campaign, you can create a special promo code for your homestay on Softinn promotion code system.
Read also: How to Create Promo Code on Softinn Extranet
10. Giving guests a warm welcome before hand over keys
Giving your guests a warm welcome before handing over the keys also a simple way to get more guests through your homestay. A warm greeting can leave a positive first impression and also encourage them to book with you next time instead of going for another homestay.
We would advise you to take some time to offer your guests something as simple as a drink of tea or coffee when they arrive. Or, provide them with a guidebook or map of local tourist destinations to help your guest get their bearings so you can show them where is the best to visit and how to get there.
Do you find these tips helpful? Try them out and let us know. If you love them, don’t forget to share this post with your friends and if you have more and want to share it with your fellow homestay owners, feel free to leave us a comment below!