Updated: Feb 5
Growing up in the 1970’s, I have happy memories of many different family holidays in rented holiday homes all over the UK, including Bourton on the Water which is where I now live. Back then Airbnb wasn’t even a thing, nor was the internet, so we booked our holiday lets from catalogues which arrived in the post.
The quality was enormously variable –many were lovely but I also remember some that were frankly awful. They were often furnished with what looked like the results of a house clearance project, you often had to take your own towels and bedlinen, and the kitchens were stocked with a random assortment of odds and ends, tired old pans, and mismatched crockery.
At the time of writing, the coronavirus restrictions mean that holiday lets and airbnbs are largely standing empty – the few that are occupied are being used as long term lets, or as housing for key workers. However it seems likely that restrictions will be lifted soon - currently thought to be from early July. So if you are a holiday let owner, this is the ideal time to refresh and update your property ready for when this happens.
While the tourist industry generally has been massively affected by this crisis, we feel it is likely that the “staycation” will become even more important and that once restrictions are lifted, holiday accommodation in the UK will once again be in strong demand.
This does not mean that holiday landlords can be complacent and wait for the bookings to roll in. A quick google search for holiday lets in the Cotswolds alone brings up 7,130,000 results. The first few pages are mainly the larger professionally run companies, and a quick scan down the listings highlights the words “luxury”, “bespoke”, and “elite”. Running a holiday let is now very much a business, and there is a great deal more competition out there.
As professional home stagers, declutterers and organisers we have a wealth of experience with property presentation, styling, and organising in and around the Cotswolds. If you are a holiday rental or Airbnb landlord we would be delighted to work with you to help you establish or upgrade your property in order to maximise your rental revenue.
So what would be our key recommendations for making sure that your holiday property stands out from the crowd?
First things first - what’s your USP?
In marketing terms a USP is your unique selling proposition. In other words, what is it that makes your individual property stand out from all the rest? It’s really useful to identify this so that you can build on it and incorporate this into your marketing.
It could be something about the location of the property, so for example proximity to key tourist attractions in the area. Or it could be something unique about the property itself, such as having an outdoor dining area with pizza oven.
If you have a property with an interesting history/name/features that will be very marketable. Linking your internal décor and styling to that theme can also be very appealing – for example I have stayed in a property which was once used as a Bakery, and the original bread oven and stone flagged floor were very much part of the interior design.
And if the property you own is not in itself particularly unique, think about how you can create something which is more special or appealing. Features like hot tubs and wood burning stoves can be valuable additions which customers might search for specifically in search engines.
However you could also go for something less expensive but which would appeal to specific types of customer. So for example if you think your house could be popular with walkers, think about the addition of a boot room accessed via a separate door, or providing an outdoor warm water tap for muddy dog paws.
Targeting – decide on your ideal guest.
The previous paragraph leads nicely to our second point which is to decide on your “ideal guest”.
To some extent the property itself might determine this. So a cute little one bedroomed cottage might appeal to honeymooners. A larger 6 bedroomed house with a spacious kitchen diner room might lend itself to family groups celebrating special birthdays or other occasions.
Then think about the kind of client you prefer – are you aiming at the family holiday market? The high end clientele who might expect more in the way of luxury? The weekenders or the long stayers?
Having thought about your ideal guest and try to paint a “pen picture” of them. What is likely to be important to them? What are they likely to enjoy? This will help you plan and prioritise your offering.
So honeymooners might value romantic touches like a champagne chiller, candles, and fresh flowers. Family groups on the other hand might like board games, a BBQ, an extra big fridge.
Having a clear picture of who you are aiming for will help you avoid spending money uncecessarily but can also help you in putting together your marketing and advertising key messages.
Get the basics right
It’s no longer enough to furnish your holiday let on the cheap – it shows. The ubiquitous brown leather sofa looks so dated now, and nobody wants to sleep on a saggy mattress. The aim with a holiday let is to provide something that is nicer than the holiday makers own home.
When you are buying or replacing items always invest in the best quality you can afford in a classic style as it will last for years and will always look good. The bed, the sofa, the dining table – these are all key items which should look good and be comfortable to use.
The bedroom in particular is a room where the quality of the guest experience is extremely important – so a really comfortable mattress, smooth cotton sheets, plenty of pillows, good quality curtains which keep out the light – all these will help ensure your guests get a good nights sleep which in turn ensures they will leave good reviews!
Similarly the kitchen and the bathrooms should all be equipped with good quality fixtures and fittings – the oven, the fridge, dishwasher, shower and so on should all be considered as investments rather than expenses. Of course, shop around to get a good price, but always prioritise quality and value for money over cheapness.
Have fun with accessories
Once you have the basics in place, you can have a little fun with your interior design by choosing accessories that are more “on trend” and can be easily changed with the seasons. Property magazines can be good for keeping on top of current styles and trends.
Lampshades, rugs, throws, cushions and so on can easily be obtained relatively cheaply on the high street or online – auctions are also good places to pick up some more unique or vintage items to add that more individual touch.
Think like a hotel
Staying in a holiday rental is no longer a “cheap and cheerful” alternative to staying in a hotel. On the contrary, the choice to rent a holiday let is often driven by the desire for a more luxurious, private, and individualistic holiday. So yes, you are competing with hotels but think more along the lines of a boutique country hotel than a nationwide hotel chain.
When putting together your inventory try and include all the little details that you might expect to find in a really nice hotel. So lovely fluffy towels and quality bed linen are a must, but it’s also nice to provide the little extras like hairdryers, plenty of coathangers, a good quality coffee machine, satellite TV or a movie streaming service, and so on. Again all of this should be linked to your “ideal client” to ensure you are providing things that really add value.
When putting together your guest information pack, try and think of things that will help your guests create a really special holiday. So don’t just throw some tourist attraction brochures in a folder, but have a think about local services and businesses that offer something unique and different – maybe cookery lessons, or bespoke tours of the area.
A welcome basket is a popular addition. At the absolute minimum it’s worth providing tea, coffee, milk and perhaps a bottle of wine in the fridge. Some landlords choose to go the extra mile with a basket of locally made produce such as freshly baked bread, jams, honey etc or even a basket of good quality toiletries.
You might also consider other consumables such as dishwasher tablets, or logs for the fire. Everything provided should be costed carefully to make sure you are adding value without eating too much into your profit margins.
Declutter and refresh your inventory
It’s worth doing a thorough check of every single item on your inventory at least once a season to make sure everything is there and that it is all in good condition. While tenants should let you know about things like the odd broken wineglass, they might not mention things like towels that are past their best or frying pans that stick.
It’s also a good idea to make sure that things like board games have all the pieces, that the welcome pack is complete and up to date, and that everything mentioned in your listing is complete and working.
Take it for a test drive
So how long is it since you actually spent some time in your own holiday property? And we’re not just talking about an overnight sleep, but actually staying there, taking a shower, cooking a meal, watching TV – just to see how everything feels from a guest point of view.
You could even ask some friends to stay there for free in exchange for giving you (honest) feedback. Also make sure you review and act upon any guest feedback or reviews that you have received.
So how can we help?
Running a holiday let can be a time consuming business, especially if you manage multiple properties, have a full time job or are not local to the area.
Here at New Leaves we have been running our decluttering and organising business in the Cotswolds since 2015. We have worked on a huge variety of different projects, everything from an 8 bedroomed farmhouse to a one bedroomed flat. We have a “little black book” of contacts from electricians to plumbers to gardeners to decorators.
There really are many different ways that we could help you, including but not limited to the following:
Carrying out inventory checks for you
Inspecting the whole property to identify areas needing attention
Reorganising and replenishing your kitchen equipment, bedding, and fixtures
Making interior styling recommendations
Organising and project managing redecoration or renovation projects
Styling and staging the interior
Preparing the property for photo shoots
Setting up or managing your social media/property listings
We can do any or all of the above tasks for you, saving you valuable time and money. The cost of any improvements or renovations are tax deductible and should pay for themselves through increased bookings and revenue.
While we don’t currently provide a property management service we are very happy to work with letting agents, or to recommend local cleaning companies, gardeners, handymen etc to help you keep your property in good order once it has been upgraded.
We can of course also provide all of the above services for second home owners in the Cotswolds as well as for holiday lets.
If any of the above sounds like it could be helpful to you, don’t hesitate to get in touch for a chat to see how we could help.
Claire & Sue
Photo credit: Neil Furner