How To Maximize Your Off-Season Bookings In Central MN
With the summer season already booked out and the season’s end in sight for the Vacation Rental business I have had two folks in the last day ask me “What would you do to market my cabin in the winter?” At PMI Minnesota we are looking at the market trends on a daily basis and I would like to answer the question, as well as share my broader thoughts on the subject. The bottom line is that most short-term rentals are booked solid in Central Minnesota through the summer (the average is about 85%) As can be expected, in winter capacity drops sharply. The average in January for example is about 19% for most Lakes in Minnesota. Most vacation rentals throughout the year in Minnesota experience about 49% capacity overall. Although these estimates should be considered when purchasing investment properties, I don’t believe that owners need to just accept them.
My first two thoughts are that some short-term rentals simply make better off-season rentals than others. That is certainly something to consider. I also believe that vacation trends are changing and depending on the weather increasing past capacity in the off season is very doable for many of our potential clients. Here are my basic considerations when developing and implementing an off-peak marketing strategy in central MN.
PRICE ADJUSTMENTS– There is what I call a “sweet zone” when it comes to pricing out a vacation rental. The inverse correlation between price and capacity is obvious and it can be more severe based on the supply and demand of any certain lake or area. Specifically, if there are cabins on your lake that are similar and listed for less folks are going to fill those properties first. This is much truer on the off season because the number of vacationers is about 25%. However, analyzing the local scene and choosing an off-season price will certainly improve your chances of a higher capacity.
LOWER MINIMUM NIGHTS- The fall, winter, and spring vacationers tend to be a bit more spontaneous and many of them are doing their short-term rental around work and kids in school. Although we usually encourage at least a four-night minimum in the summer months, adjusting that requirement down to three or even two nights in the winter is something to consider. For many owners getting one full week and three weekends full in December is the goal. That will bring the capacity from 25% to 43% by filling up three more weekends. Consider that accumulative difference for the months of November, December, January, and February alone. If you are picking up six more days a month at $200 a night that would be an extra $4,800 in gross revenue due to a good winter strategy.
TARGETING POTENTIAL GUESTS- The next step is to list out the potential reasons why off-season guests might rent the property. i.e. holidays, ice fishing, snowmobiling, local events, hunting, cross-country skiing etc. (Even something as simple is offering sleds and snowshoes can make a difference.) Developing a marketing strategy that targets those specific guests is an important step. For example, discussing a network of snowmobiling trails with appropriate pictures along with a description that includes “A Snowmobiling Paradise” would target that audience.
SEASONAL PHOTOS & DESCRIPTION– One of the first things you realize in Real Estate is that many folks simply don’t have a lot of imagination. Making sure your photos and copy are updated with the seasons and targeting an appropriate audience is key. This can be a one-year project. Usually the same photos can be used for a few years; however, having at least summer and winter photos are ideal for many short-term rentals.
TARGET LOCAL DESTINATIONS AND EVENTS– Offering compelling events and activities for guests is always helpful year-round; however, it is even more important when the pool of rentals is smaller due to the off season. Calling the local chamber of commerce can be a good start to learn about local seasonal events. Also, working with local activities and destinations to put together some included discounts, or to work in some upgrades, can be an effective way of helping your listing stand out from the others in the area. For example, working with a local sky resort to market a "Skying Getaway" can a great idea!
There is no arguing that the vacation rental business in central MN is seasonal. However, there are things that can be done to increase fall, winter, and spring capacities. Contact Property Management Incorporated of Minnesota to learn more. PMI is the leading vacation property management franchise in the country. We bring systems, tools, and expertise that are simply beyond our competition. We would love to discuss your specific property and how we can help you optimize your investment.