How to Build an Email List for Your Vacation Rental

Jul 03 2023
Hot air balloons lifting off in a crowd on vacation

Get tips on how to use Hostfully to optimize your vacation rental business and make more profit.


What’s in this article?

If you’re not building a vacation rental email list, you could be leaving serious money on the table. And if you’re reading this, you probably already know that relying on online travel agencies (OTAs) alone can be a risky strategy. 

In fact, 2022 research shows that email marketing generates $36 for every $1 spent*, so clearly there’s potential for a significant and measurable return on investment. But how? Most OTAs hide guests’ email addresses, and you don’t want to appear pushy or intrusive by asking the guest for their details when you’re trying to build rapport. 

Also, you also don’t want to spend hours figuring out email collection strategies when you have a property management business to run.

We’re here to help. Below, we:

  • Outline the six major benefits of building a vacation rental mailing list
  • Detail the seven steps to successfully building your email list, both for current and prospective guests

We also look at how vacation rental management technology can streamline the process without diminishing the guest experience or adding to your workload.

Building your email list

*Hubspot, The Ultimate List of Email Marketing Stats for 2022, November 2022.

6 benefits of building a vacation rental email list

Building a vacation rental marketing email list can offer a significant return on investment.

It helps you to: 

  1. Build better branding and grow trust – Building an email list so you can contact guests regularly builds on your positive relationship with them and keeps you top of mind the next time they book a trip.
  2. Get more repeat guests and direct bookings – Repeat guests can become a source of income for your business, take less effort to secure than new guests, and direct bookings save you money in commissions.
  3. Promote cost-effectively – Building an email list of previous guests means you can share promotions for special deals or incentives to book last minute at virtually no cost.
  4. Control your marketing – Growing your own pool of followers and brand champions gives you control over your business rather than relying on OTAs that may give preference to your competitors.
  5. Keep your audience updated easily – Building an email list enables you to send regular news and updates, and gives guests a reason to book soon. It shows why your destination is a great place to visit, and boosts your authority as a friendly, knowledgeable host.
  6. Show professionalism to property owners – A sophisticated direct booking strategy will impress homeowners and could be a deciding factor if they’re choosing between yours and a competitor’s services.

So now you know why you want to build a vacation rental email list, let’s look at how to do it.

7 steps to building an email list for your vacation rental business

When building an email list, there are some logical steps you can take to make collecting email details and emailing your guests more manageable and effective.

The main goals when building a list are to capture guest data as early as possible and get permission to send regular marketing emails. Then, you need to regularly share relevant content to positively build on your initial host-guest relationship.

1. Create a pre-arrival form that captures guest data

A screenshot of the Hostfully Pre-Arrival Form set-up page.
The Hostfully dashboard lets you set up a pre-arrival form in minutes using a template. Source:

A great way to capture guest data is to create a pre-arrival form that collects their details before they arrive. As an added bonus, this information may also help you to improve your guest’s actual stay.

Using a vacation rental tool like Hostfully makes this easier, as you can use our in-built template. Here, you can ask the guest for contact details, the reason for their stay, and what activities they may have planned.

Capturing guest data also gives you a chance to ask if they have any dietary or other requirements, which gives you a chance to tailor your services more closely to their personal needs and preferences (such as offering gluten-free snacks if they follow a gluten-free diet.)

2. Add ‘email required’ to your digital guidebook 

A screenshot of the Hostfully dashboard with check marks circled to show the email collection setup.
Hostfully’s dashboard lets you create a ‘splash screen’ that asks for user emails before they first use the Hostfully Guidebook. Source:

Sharing a digital guidebook that guests can see on their mobile devices is a great way to get them excited about their upcoming trip. It also means they can easily view all the information they need before and during their stay.

And with the Hostfully Digital Guidebook, which integrates with the Hostfully property management platform, you can ask guests for their email as a requirement to access the guidebook.

Setting this up with Hostfully is fast and easy, and you can also take this chance to reiterate the house rules or remind guests of other important information, like your check-out policy.

3. Implement WiFi marketing

A branded splash page to capture guest data for WiFi access using StayFi.
With Hostfully’s StayFi integration, you can collect guest email addresses when they connect to the internet. Source:

Another effective way to capture guest data is to ask guests for their email address when connecting to your property’s WiFi. Hostfully’s integration with StayFi makes this easy to set up and allows you to create a branded splash page—just turn on the integration and follow the steps.

This is an effective method that guests are familiar with since it’s common practice in places such as airports and hotels. Plus, it has the advantage of capturing not only the booker’s contact information, but all the guests who connect to the WiFi, so it’s especially useful for large groups. 

4. Send a survey to guests at the end of their stay

A banner image that reads: ‘We hear you’.
Guests will usually appreciate the chance to share their feedback at the end of their stay and give you their details too.
Source: Jon Tyson / Unsplash

An end-of-stay survey is another opportunity to capture guests’ details. It gives you a chance to thank them, and they feel valued as a guest because you’re asking them to offer their views. 

This not only enables you to collect data, but also helps you to improve your service as you proactively respond to feedback.

A good approach is to use the survey to target specific issues rather than simply ask for generalized opinions. For example, you could ask questions like:

  • What additional information would you like to see in the guidebook?
  • Was the temperature of the property comfortable on arrival?
  • How would you rate the cleanliness of the property?
  • How would you rate the complimentary bathroom toiletries?
  • Was there anything missing from the kitchen that would have improved your stay?
  • What would encourage you to stay with us again?

5. Promote your newsletter and send it regularly

A view from above of a map of Colorado and maps on exploring the state.
Writing regular blog posts with useful tips, like the perfect itinerary for a visit to your area, is a great way to offer readers an incentive to sign up for updates. Source: John Matychuk / Unsplash

Regularly sharing unique content that’s relevant to your target audience on social media or your website allows you to build a following and invite people to sign up for similar regular updates, as well as discounts or deals.

Great vacation rental content ideas include sharing your behind-the-scenes process (such as how you prepare for a new guest) or suggesting the perfect weekend itinerary for visitors.

You can invite people to sign up for updates via social media posts, website pop-ups, or subscription forms at the bottom of blog posts.

6. Join social media groups

A view of a smartphone screen with social media app logos.
Joining social media groups and using them to interact with people in your niche, and/or potential guests, can drum up interest in your brand and boost your authority. Source: Pixabay / Pexels

Joining social media groups is another way to drum up interest in your brand. Through helpful comments and advice, you can demonstrate your expertise, showcase your vacation homes, and invite people to subscribe to your newsletter. 

Be careful not to join Facebook groups purely to promote yourself, though, as many groups have rules against this, and people can usually smell self-promotion a mile off. Instead, if you join with the genuine intention of sharing ideas and tips, people will naturally start to see you as an authority. 

They’ll associate you and your brand with professionalism and good service, and this may lead to interest in your properties, blog posts, or social media feeds.

7. Keep them subscribed

A view of a Gmail inbox.
Once they’re subscribed, keep them subscribed, with useful and consistent content. Source: HostReviews / Unsplash

Of course, a mailing list isn’t effective if you then fail to drive interest with your outreach. So, avoid the following common pitfalls:

  • Scattergun emailing – Don’t send too many emails or recipients will learn to look past your content.
  • Irregular emailing – Send newsletters or share special deals on fixed days of the week or month so your audience learns to look forward to your updates.
  • Uninformative subject lines – Provide clear, concise subject lines that capture attention.
  • Only hard sells – It’s good practice to make 80-90% of your outreach informative, friendly, and valuable, and 10% of them straight sales or deals.

If your guests see you as a friendly, trustworthy, and engaging source of expertise, choosing your services will come naturally when it’s time to book a vacation.

A vacation rental email list: The key to successful business growth

Building a vacation rental email list is a tried-and-true way to boost authority and professionalism, and curate a pool of loyal guests to help drive your occupancy rates and revenue.

But many OTAs hide guest data, and asking for email addresses can appear intrusive. Plus, email marketing can be time-consuming and complicated. That’s why having a clearly defined strategy is crucial.

Using a property management platform like Hostfully enables you to set up solutions like a pre-arrival form, a digital guidebook splash page, a post-stay survey, or WiFi marketing. 

You can also target people who haven’t stayed with you yet by showcasing your authority and building your brand via social media.

This will help you connect with an engaged target audience, and give you more control over your marketing and growth.

Building your email list