If you run a short term rental, then it’s going to happen one day. Your phone will ping and a message will tell you that guests you had scheduled in your calendar won’t be arriving after all.
No big deal – it happens to everyone. But how do you proceed from here?
Well, the important thing, particularly if the guests were supposed to be staying for more than a couple of days, is to fill that gap. How are you going to do that?
- Use your cancellation book (see below)
- Post the availability to your social media accounts such as Twitter. Tag influencers
- If there are local events during that time, call the organisers
- Do the same thing if there are any conferences taking place locally at the time of your availability
- Contact colleges in your area
- Contact hospitals in your area too
- If you know someone who runs a website or blog, write an article for them
- Alternatively, contact major websites in your area that cater to visitors and see if they’d like a free article
- Post photographs of your area to Instagram – tag influencers
- Tidy up your listing on Airbnb, Expedia or whichever sites you use
- Contact local experience-providers
- Add your availability at the top of your listings
- Contact large businesses in the area to see if they have staff or visitors who are coming for a few days
- Theatres, concert venues and so on invariably have people coming into town for special productions
- Check your local area for any festivals or fairs that might be going on locally
- Let your neighbours know – they might have friends or family who’d like to visit them during that time and stay in your rental
- Do you have contacts with other local accommodation providers? If so, let them know about your vacant dates. If they’re full, they can refer the guests to you
The chances are that one, two, three or more of these will easily fill in your now-vacant dates. Bear in mind too that certain listing services that you use might have a system whereby a host who has just had a cancellation is automatically shown high up search results so that can help enormously too.
But you’d be surprised how many people you casually meet during your day to day activities know of someone who is coming into town and is looking for somewhere to stay … the UPS man, the lady at the dry cleaners, the security guard at the bank…
YOUR CANCELLATION BOOK
I say ‘book’ but it might be a spreadsheet or a series of notes on your phone but however you decide to record the information, it can be invaluable.
It takes a few months to build up so do start doing this when you first start your hosting career.
Just make a note of any guests who have told you when they are leaving that they’d love to come back if ever you have a vacancy. (It’s a common complaint with our guests that we have no availability in the next few months).
The chances are that after a year or so of hosting you’ll have quite a list of guests, friends of neighbours, friends of friends and others – all of whom aren’t dependent on dates and would love to spend a few days at your place. When you’re bidding your farewells to your guest you might hear comments such as:
- I have several friends who’d just love to come and stay here
- My aunt/mother/cousin/friend saw the photographs we posted on Instagram and asked us to ask you if you have any availability in the next few months
- I’m here visiting the local branch of my business and I know that others visit too. They’d love to stay with you
- It’s such a shame that you are booked for Easter/the first week of October/ next week/whatever – we/our friends/our relatives would love to stay with you that week
Yes, it’s true that some of these people are just being polite. (Sigh). But the genuine ones will happily give you their number. You only need one strike to fill your cancelled dates, after all.
Cancellations are yet another reason why it’s inadvisable to have stays of over two or three weeks. If a guest cancels who had a booking for two weeks, those weeks are going to be easy to fill. If the guest has cancelled a two-month stay then you’ve got more of a task on your plate.
If all else fails, it could be because of the most tentative reasons. For example, I once had a guest who was planning a weekend visit cancel. I filled that dates quickly. Then that guest cancelled.
The exact same thing happened again. It was astonishing until I checked the long-range weather forecast and found that some seriously horrible weather was mentioned for that weekend. Luckily, I had several names in my cancellation book of people who vitied the area regularly to see their family or friends in the neighbourhood.
It only took two calls to get the dates filled because guests who are travelling to see friends rarely worry about what the weather is going to be like. They don’t come here for that, after all. (And guess what? Yes, the weather was actually lovely during their stay).
But if none of the above work, and you have a few days free of guests in your rental, use those days to perform some long-delayed super-cleaning or maintenance. Let your rental – and therefore your future guests – enjoy the benefit.
JJ is originally from the UK and has lived in South Florida since 1994. She is the founder and editor of JAQUO Magazine. You can connect with her using the social media icons below.