How to attract repeat bookings - part 1

Recognising the importance of repeat bookings for your self-catering cottage business and how you can develop a plan to cultivate them.

This article is in two parts – and you’re reading the first. In recognising the importance of repeat bookings to holiday cottage owners, this part outlines the benefits of developing a plan to cultivate them and notes a risk to bear in mind if you end up with lots of them.

Part two will outline some tried and trusted holiday cottage marketing tactics to incorporate within a Repeat Bookings Plan. While some returning visitors can become good, albeit paying friends, their main benefit is that a repeat booking is generally achieved at far less time and cost than it takes to acquire a new booking as well as doing wonders for your cash flow.

As well as persuading them to return on an annual basis, you have the opportunity to attract them for additional breaks at different times of the year, or incentivising them to encourage their friends and colleagues to come at stay at your cottage as well.

If you’re a holiday cottage owner whose bookings are mainly repeat, that’s great, although there is a potential downside. Beware of doing (or not doing) something that makes them decide to go elsewhere in future. The following year is going to leave you with a lot of unexpected holes in your calendar. So, if you’re comfortably overwhelmed with lots of repeat bookings, make sure you know exactly why they are returning – what they expect or look forward to doing, so you don’t force a change in their holiday habits.

How do you encourage repeat guests? Well, the obvious answer is to ensure they have such a good time and fall in love with the location that they’ll want to return. So, let’s take that as a given.  

But how many guests who have loved your cottage have yet to return? Here’s a useful exercise: Next time you’re trawling through it, note the number of comments in your visitors book who express an intention to return. Then note how many actually have returned. If there’s a gap between the two totals, it may pay to invest a little time in actively cultivating repeat visits. What are the benefits? Have you ever calculated how much time and money you invest in getting and administering a new booking? There’s that advertising budget: if you only had to get half the bookings you now get, filling the other half with repeat bookings, how much could you save in terms of money and time spent updating sites?  Then there’s time spent responding to oodles of enquiries in addition to those that convert to bookings as you try to fill vacant weeks. Thereafter, given that returning guests know what to expect and do, you’re likely to endure far less time answering questions once the booking is in place or when they arrive.

Look out for the next blog on this theme we’ll look at some of the ways to cultivate repeat bookings and incentives