It may seem strange to start talking about the next season when the current one isn’t over yet. It’s smart to look to the future, especially in the self-catering industry.
When visualising a calendar, we usually picture something that runs from January to December - often a wall hanging with pictures that has a start and a finish. Filled with appointments, birthdays or reminders, they are typically replaced in December to be started again for the following new year.
For a business, this system doesn’t work. To only start planning a few weeks/months before the next season is, to put it bluntly, foolish. It is the equivalent of having future availability 11 months in advance when in January, but only 6 months when in June and then having none at all for the latter end of the year.
Surely you should allow your guests to book whenever they want to? Because let’s be honest, there are no promises that they are going to return to your website again.
The early bird
The old proverb ‘The early bird catches the worm’ is very relevant to both those who book holidays and supply accommodation. It implies that those who act first will have the upper hand. That by being prepared and taking opportunities early, you are more likely to be fruitful and successful in what you want to achieve.
Although there is a big culture for last minute deals, a vast majority still like to book the important things in life (such as holidays) well in advance. As those of your guests who are prepared are more likely to get their first pick.
When do guests book?
Whilst everyone is an individual and should be treated that way, there are certain trends when it comes to placing bookings that shouldn’t be ignored.
Statistics show that January is the busiest time of the year to plan a getaway. For many it is a time following the Christmas period and a way to escape the ‘winter blues’. It allows one to look forward to those foreign soils, country escapes or city breaks and build up anticipation for what is to come.
However the second most popular time to book is actually in the summer. Made up of those placing last minute bookings, and travellers returning from holidays, to book in preparation for the next year. Whilst the idea is fresh, there is a likelihood they will consider staying again, almost as soon as they return home. Especially if their break was memorable and want to recreate it the following year.
Presenting availability well in advance has advantages for everyone. Without stating the obvious (that it allows you to make money!) it can help to manage your future income. By knowing when dates are reserved, and money is coming in, gives a better understanding of cash flow.
On the other hand, your customers can also budget when reserving dates in the future. The earlier someone can place a deposit, the longer they then have to pay off the balance. This is a big incentive for securing a booking and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Before submitting availability for the following year, it’s also worth planning ahead for other non-guest related dates. For instance, are there any plans for refurbishment? Is the bathroom starting to tire? The master bedroom a little dated? Or does the garden need some work carried out? Whatever the case may be, it’s best to plan ahead now.
You may even have plans to stay at one of your own properties yourself. It’s all very well intending to spontaneously stay, yet this may not be an option if everything goes to plan. As in it’s probably best to make the assumption that you will be fully booked next year, so by not pencilling out the dates, there is a chance you will not be able to have your break.
By submitting these dates onto your calendar and website, you’re not only committing to a more structured preparation, but also giving the impression of a more popular place to be. Any new online visitors will see a fuller calendar with guests that appear to be eager to stay a year in advance. It can be quite easy to get bookings when you’ve already got bookings…
If you are curious about what Shortbreaks can offer your self-catering business and want to find out more, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.