Since it was founded some 15 years ago, the number of Airbnb listings has grown from just a few hundred to over six million, with hosts in over 100,000 cities across the world. And the vacation rental industry isn’t slowing down now.
So if you want to keep up with Joneses, it’s not just about having a greener lawn and slapping a fresh coat of paint on your short-term rental. To get ahead of the competition, follow these pro tips and make your vacation rental stand out among a sea of millions.
Why is the vacation rental industry so competitive right now?
The global vacation rental market was valued at almost 75 billion USD in 2021, and it’s set to rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.3% over the next decade or so, which will bring its value to over 118 billion USD in 2030.
And our research found that in 2022, 80% of hosts reported more competition than the year before. But what makes the short-term rental market so competitive, especially now? And what factors are intensifying the need for your listing to stand out from the rest?
People are traveling more
Though we’d like to soon forget it, 2020 happened, and the pandemic stopped the vacation rental industry in its tracks. But three years later, people around the world are finally getting the chance to scratch that travel itch they’ve had to suppress for so long, with the number of both international and domestic travelers for vacation rentals climbing.
A renewed ability to travel means the short-term rental market is surging, and it’s coming back even stronger than before—this gives you a fantastic opportunity to capture more guests and bring in more bookings.
But according to data organized by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), short-term rental accommodations have increased by 13% since 2019. How do these figures affect the ratio of supply to demand? Are there enough guests to fill these units?
Supply is outpacing demand
Recent AirDNA data predicted 21% growth in active listings in 2022. But the question remains, can demand match supply? We spoke to industry experts about this topic in our 2022 Vacation Rental Industry & Hospitality Report:
“During 2021 and early 2022, demand outpaced supply and occupancy rates rose. Towards the middle of the year, supply began to outpace demand in many markets, leading to drops in occupancy rates. More vacation rental reservations are being booked than ever, but the competition for those reservations is steep.”
So while people are traveling more than they were three years ago, giving you a chance to capture more bookings, that doesn’t mean you can just sit back, relax, and watch the bookings roll in: You need to operate proactively to make the most of this opportunity.
There may be an economic crisis on the horizon
A further reason to take full advantage of the travel bounce while you can is the possibility of economic troubles ahead.
Julie Brinkman, CEO of Beyond, spoke to us about the current economic climate and its impact on short-term rentals, stating “Property managers and hosts are feeling the effects of increased competition. Coupled with an expected economic downturn, operators need to start preparing.”
Given that leisure and hospitality tend to suffer during an economic downturn, taking steps now to set yourself apart from the competition is the best thing you can do to future-proof your vacation rental management business.
12 ways to make your vacation rental stand out
There’s no need to fear a recession or an oversaturated market when you know your vacation rental home is well-positioned to stand out from your competitors.
Follow these twelve pro tips for creating a property and listing that will draw in guests and keep them coming back so you can scale your vacation rental business.
1. Have descriptive listings that showcase your brand
No matter how unique the property or how stunning the view, you won’t capture potential guests if you don’t draw them in through your listings. Use vibrant language, be descriptive, and highlight your property’s best features and amenities, whether that’s the lake view or a game room equipped with pool and ping-pong tables.
And don’t forget the imagery: Airbnb has found that hosts with professional images in their listings can earn up to 20% more than other hosts in their area. So investing a little extra to get a professional photographer to take quality photos can be a highly effective tactic.
For more listing inspiration, check out our article on vacation rental description examples.
2. Provide an unparalleled experience that spoils your guests
Nothing can replace an exceptional stay, so be sure that the guest experience you provide is top-notch, from the minute they book to after they check out. That means providing quick responses during the reservation process, ensuring a smooth check-in experience, and designing a stress-free stay.
So nail down the basics, like having a beautifully maintained property, providing helpful information in a timely manner, and making it easy for guests to reach out at any time (we talk about automating your guest communications below).
Also, go the extra mile by homing in on the details that will take a guest’s stay from good to unforgettable.
Outfit your bathrooms with hotel-size toiletry sets, stock your kitchen with a bag of coffee beans from your favorite cafe, include a welcome basket with local treats, and give your guests an experience they’d love to repeat.
3. Use tech to be more responsive than the rest
Being responsive isn’t just about being a courteous host—it can impact where you show up in OTA searches. The Airbnb website states that its algorithm takes into consideration how quickly hosts respond to guest inquiries when ranking search results.
To stay on top of your guest messaging, use a vacation rental software tool with a unified inbox, like the Hostfully PMP (property management platform). This gives you an overview of all your guest messages in one place so you don’t have to constantly be jumping between booking apps and messaging platforms.
And being responsive throughout a guest’s stay is simply better for their experience. If they have a question about how to turn on the hot tub, they don’t want to have to wait around for hours to receive a response. Getting back to them within minutes means a better stay for them and a higher star rating for you.
|Pro tip: Being proactive can help you cut down on guest communication. Include a detailed house manual in your digital guidebooks to provide your guests with an answer to their question before they even have to ask it.
4. Don’t skimp on the amenities
Better amenities don’t just enhance the guest experience: They can be a big selling point in your listing. So think about the types of amenities your typical guest would most appreciate.
If your property is located on a lake, provide canoes and kayaks. Or if it’s on the beach, stock your unit with towels, sunscreen, and chairs. Be sure to highlight these amenities in your listing, which will help set it apart from competitors.
You can even use Hostfully Digital Guidebooks to upsell premium amenities, such as a private chef or childcare services. This gives your guests the ability to personalize their stay, while you can earn more with each reservation.
5. Make it accessible and inclusive
You never know who’s interested in booking with you, so make sure your properties and listings are inclusive. That means putting extra thought into how someone with a disability or from an underrepresented background would experience your unit.
Talk about access details in your listing, and include imagery of your property to better showcase whether it would be a good fit for someone with limited mobility. Here are some suggestions:
- Step-free entrance
- Grab bars in the bathroom
- Wide doorways
- Easy-reach tabletops and surfaces
Additionally, make it clear in your listing that you’re accepting of each and every guest. Add your pronouns to your profile, and include a sentence or two in your listing that conveys you embrace guests from all backgrounds.
6. Personalize stays
While it’s nice to leave guests a freshly baked loaf of bread for their first breakfast in their unit, it’s even better to personalize their stay. So if you know your visitors are celebrating an anniversary, gift a bottle of wine or champagne and a thoughtful welcome note for them to arrive to.
Ask your guests a little about themselves before their stay: Use a PMP like Hostfully that lets you schedule guest messages, and automate a warm and welcoming email or SMS to guests as soon as they book to ask about the purpose of their trip.
That way, you’re better prepared to give guests exactly what they need, including personalized upsells. If you know your most recent booking is coming into town to celebrate a bachelorette party, offer upsells like a private yoga class and backyard brunch (bottomless mimosas, anyone?).
|Get inspired: Use a message template to get off on the right foot with your guests and learn about the purpose of their trip.
Thanks for booking with us, we can’t wait to host you! To make sure we have everything you need for your stay, may we ask the purpose of your visit?
And please, let us know if there’s anything we can do to make your trip more enjoyable. We’re just a message away!
7. Broaden your guest profile
Different guests have different needs, and they want to feel like they’ll be accommodated at your property. When creating your listing and direct booking website, think of the types of travelers that might come across your listing, like families, pet owners, or remote workers.
So if your vacation home allows for it, be sure to highlight that you’re child- and/or pet-friendly. This is a little detail that can help you show up in more OTA searches. And the increase in bookings that follows will more than make up for the effort it takes to childproof (or petproof) your living room.
Or highlight your high-speed WiFi to attract remote workers and include images of your designated workspace in your listing. Taking these little steps will make your property more attractive to a whole new market of guests.
8. Target a niche
While it’s important to have a broad guest profile, it’s also a good idea to target one niche as your ideal guest profile. For example, if you want to go the pet-friendly route, you can list your property on specialized OTAs like BringFido.
Create a special pet-friendly space in your unit equipped with a bed and toys, and offer pet sitting as one of your upsells. Or if sustainability is a big part of your business model, showcase that quality and list on Ecobnb or Vegvisits.
If you have that unique selling point, narrowing in on what makes you special is a good differentiating factor that will set you apart on the booking platforms.
9. Be a local expert
To really stand out, you have to be more than just a host. Be a local expert and provide your guests with curated recommendations, event details, insider tips, and unique upsells.
Use a Hostfully Digital Guidebook to create guides to the best restaurants in the area, must-see local sights, and seasonal events, and keep it up-to-date with your expert tips. Hostfully also partners with Viator, so you can recommend local activities and tours to your guests (and earn a commission when they book!).
Upsells are another area where your local expertise can shine. Partner with local experience providers, like a cooking school or spa, and make it easy for guests to plan experiences right in their digital guidebook.
10. Optimize your listings for OTA search engines
Even if you have a standout listing, it’s no use if potential guests aren’t seeing it. There are a number of variables you should keep an eye on to optimize your listing for OTAs.
As we mentioned above, responsiveness is an important factor when it comes to rankings on booking engines. And keep a close eye on your star rating (more on that later).
It can also be a good idea to turn on instant bookings and accept one-night bookings. Check out our article on how to rank higher on Airbnb for more tips on how to make your listings show up at the top of OTA searches.
11. Harness SEO to show up in Google searches
Remember, listing sites aren’t the only place people find their vacation rentals. Having a direct booking site can be a booking powerhouse, and it will be especially valuable if you’re using local SEO to help potential guests find you.
While SEO is an in-depth topic, there are a few simple things you can do to help your website show up at the top of search engine rankings. First, make sure your website is optimized for both desktop and mobile viewing. And include your NAP (name, address, and phone number) in your website’s footer to boost local SEO rankings.
You can also consider starting a blog to help your website show up higher in the rankings. SEO may take some research and time, but it will pay off in the long run if a significant portion of your bookings are commission-free, made directly on your website instead of through Airbnb or Vrbo.
12. Stay on top of your star ratings
We all know it: Star rankings are the currency of the vacation rental industry. But don’t wait for reviews to just come to you.
You can get more reviews for your vacation rental by sending an automated message at check-out requesting guests to share their thoughts about their stay. And be proactive when leaving your reviews for guests, doing so as soon as they leave.
The higher your rankings, the more vacation rental bookings you’re likely to get. So while it’s important to provide a 5-star stay, don’t forget to also reach out to guests who’ve forgotten to leave you a review.
|Get inspired: Send out a friendly review request to maximize your 5-star reviews.
Thank you so much for staying with us—we really hope you had a fantastic time! We gave you a 5-star guest review, and it would really help us if you could leave a 5-star review in return.
If you’re stuck for ideas, feel free to mention the condition of the property, our detailed guidebook, or the beautiful views.
Thanks again, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to book another stay with us!
Outshine the competition with a better listing, more bookings, and an exceptional stay for every guest
While it can be hard to make your vacation rental property stand out in a sea of short-term rentals, it’s certainly not impossible. First impressions are everything, and that starts with your listing. Good lighting in your photos, detailed descriptions, and inclusive language will draw potential guests in.
But don’t stop there—to keep the 5-star reviews and bookings rolling, remember the details that will make their stay stand out in your guests’ minds. A little extra work in providing an exceptional experience will pay off, and will see you top the OTAs.