Author Archives: Kate Stinchcombe-Gillies

Quotes just got better

We’ve listened to your feedback and have changed the way quotes work. Gone are the days when a quote would reserve dates in your calendar. From 9 December 2014, when you send a quote the dates will still be available for other guests to enquire and book.

So sending quotes has become a much more valuable way of pulling in bookings for your holiday home. And especially because travellers have told us they want quotes so they have a chance to pay.

A new sense of urgency

There’s no more missing out on bookings if a guest is biding their time and then decides not to book. Guests must act fast to grab the holiday dates they want. It should make getting your calendar filled up a much smoother process.

Plus, you can send more than one quote for the same holiday dates – the traveller who pays the fastest gets the booking.

Booking requests stay the same

The only time your calendar is marked as reserved is when a traveller sends a booking request. This is because they’ve provisionally paid and are just waiting for you to accept.

Wondering who gets the booking if two travellers want to book the same dates? Here’s a little run through of how it works:

Let’s say that Michael sends a booking request, but you’ve already sent Jean a quote for the same dates.

If you accept Michael’s booking request first, his payment will be processed and the booking is his.

But if Jean pays the quote before you’ve had chance to respond to Michael’s booking request, her payment goes through and Michael’s request will be declined.

More quotes = more bookings

Quotes are a fantastic way of encouraging guests to book. Create a quote from scratch by going to Bookings > Create a quote in your account, or see our video guide on how to respond to enquiries with a quote.

Thanks again for sending us your suggestion!

See our help pages

What is a quote?

How do I send a quote?

How does my calendar automatically update?

Get the best out of England this autumn

Autumn leaves in the park

Nothing beats the feeling of an English autumn: the changing colours, the crisp clean air and the crunch of leaves underfoot. Here are four autumn activities to make the most of.

See woodland wildlife in Hampshire

Hear pigs snuffle through the forest hunting for acorns, see skewbald ponies rounded up for the season’s pony sales and watch buck deer rutting, clashing antlers and barking in a battle for supremacy.

Autumn is the perfect time to visit the New Forest. Go for a ride to see the mists roll in over the heaths, spot funghi springing up in the woodlands and walk along the river from the beautiful village of Beaulieu to the quaint hamlet of Bucklers Hard.

Discover places to stay in Hampshire

Conker games in Northamptonshire

Join the thousands who flock to the ancient market town of Oundle in Northamptonshire for the World Conker Championships. Competitors battle it out on eight white podiums in an arena and the victor progresses to the Conker Throne, where he or she is crowned with conkers.

Northamptonshire is dotted with chocolate-box villages of quaint cottages with Tudor timbers and thatched roofs. Visit the county’s impressive collection of splendid mansions, including the ancestral homes of George Washington at Sulgrave Manor and Princess Diana at Althorp House.

Find a home from home in Northamptonshire

Apple orchard tours in Somerset

Explore the orchards of Somerset’s famous cider farms like Burrow Hill or Wilkins, taking in the rows of fruit-laden trees and pausing to taste the local ciders straight from the barrel.

The rolling limestone hills of Mendip and the alluring Quantocks are especially lovely in the autumn. Nearby, you can walk down Europe’s oldest complete medieval street and visit the Bishop’s Palace at Wells. You’ll see Glastonbury Tor soar from the flat landscape of the Somerset Levels to an impressive 158 metres.

Choose a Somerset holiday this autumn

Leaf-peeping in Gloucestershire

Autumn arrives with a bang at Westonbirt, the National Arboretum in Tetbury. Here you’ll find 341 varieties of Japanese maple, famous for their blaze of reds, oranges and yellows. You can follow one of the seasonal trails here or join a tree-discovering event.

Don’t miss Gloucester’s magnificent Gothic cathedral – you’ll probably recognise it as the one in Harry Potter and Dr Who. If you find yourself further west on the other side of the River Severn, you might like to stroll through the Forest of Dean and absorb its dramatic hills, curving roads and unspoilt views.

Find a place to stay in Gloucestershire

Free photo shoots available – limited offer

Some holiday homes are eligible for a free photo shoot to help them attract more bookings. Owners who’ve already taken us up on this offer are receiving a massive 90% lift in enquiries on average.

Do I qualify for the free photo shoot?

If there’s a photographer available in your area you’ll receive an email inviting you to take up the offer. Keep an eye on your inbox and respond quickly to secure your slot.

Unfortunately we have a limited number of photographers with very tight schedules, so are unable to offer the photo shoot to everyone. The offer is mainly for new advertisers to help them get the most from their advert from the word go.

What happens next?

Once you’ve secured your slot, we’ll put you in touch with the photographer to arrange the best time for their visit.

Your new professional photos will be uploaded to your advert and a Visited by Holiday Lettings badge will go on your listing, encouraging more guests to book.

Want to find out more? Read our FAQ

Spot the difference

See how our photographers put a new dazzling new shine on these holiday homes.

Living room (before)

Before the photo shoot

Living room (after)

 

After the shoot: there’s much more light on the living space at Brooks House.

Master bedroom (before)

Before the photo shoot

Bedroom (after)

 

After the shoot: Apartment Vila Sol Village looks set for a good night’s sleep.

Kitchen (before)

Before the photo shoot

Kitchen (after)

 

After the shoot: a fresh perspective on the kitchen at 107 Royal Mile.

Front of the villa (before)

Before the photo shoot

Front of the house (after)

 

After the shoot: Villa No. 27 is captured in a whole new light.

7 top tips from a professional

You can get your photos looking pristine even if you’re not in line for a free photo shoot. Read Mike’s top photography tips – he’s a professional photographer who runs his own holiday home in Spain.

Photography tips to get guests booking

Villa with poolLooks matter for travellers when they’re researching their hard-earned holidays, so your photos need to show off your rental at its best.

You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take a great picture – but it helps to get some advice from one. Grab your digital camera and read seven top tips from Mike, a Holiday Lettings home owner and photographer who knows a thing or two about taking photos that sparkle…

Find some inspiration

Swimming poolFirst stop: check out the competition. When someone else’s advert leaves you itching to book a holiday, note down what’s great about the photos and try a similar approach.

Get the light right

Balcony during the dayExterior shots: it’s best to have a clear blue sky on your side. Stand with your back to the sun and snap away. You’ll probably need to photograph one side in the morning, then the other in the afternoon.

PatioInterior shots: take these during the day with natural light streaming in through the windows. If you want to show a room lit up at night, take your photos as the sun is setting – not when it’s already dark.

Forget the flash

LoungeYour flash will only light objects in the foreground, so it won’t always give you the best results.

  1. Set your camera to manual.
  2. Switch the flash off.
  3. Set the highest ISO (800 or 1600) for indoor shots, or a low setting (eg 100) for outdoors.

Cut the clutter

Dining roomMess and clutter will grab guests’ attention for all the wrong reasons, so have a tidy up before you start snapping.

Focus on your home

Dining on the patioTravellers don’t want to see pictures of someone else’s family having a blast – they want to imagine themselves there. Keep your shots super simple and free of people.

Give the full picture

BedroomYou don’t get a real sense of a room if all you can see is half a bed and a door. Stand in the corner of the room and set your camera lens to its widest to take in as much of the room as possible. You can use a tripod to keep your camera steady.

Be creative with angles

Bathroom photoTake a few photos while standing on a chair or holding the camera above your head. Now try tilting the camera. Do any of these approaches bring the best out of that bathroom?

Got your photos sorted?

We know 260 million travellers* who’d love to see them

When you create your free Holiday Lettings listing, your ad will also appear on 25 international TripAdvisor sites. Now that’s an easy way to get your rental noticed.

Find out about listing with Holiday Lettings

*Google Analytics, Worldwide data, July 2013

Trade secrets to keep guests coming back

Garden gnome

“The keys are under flowerpot.”

It sounds straightforward enough. Well, that’s until you arrive to find it’s pitch black, there are 30 flowerpots and the keys are actually under a gnome.

When it comes to greeting guests, we all know what not to do. But what should you do to give guests a welcome that makes them rave to their friends and come back for more?

Holiday Lettings interviewed holiday home owners and picked out three super successful letters with invaluable tips for greeting guests. Discover how Linda (winner of a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014), Mike and Ian create a first impression that’s memorable for all the right reasons.

Meeting and greeting

“I live next to our cottage, Greenbanks, so I meet and greet guests myself. They often comment that they appreciated this, but my main advice for owners considering this approach is to be aware of the amount of time you’ll have to commit – especially at weekends, when a lot of guests arrive.” – Linda, owner of Greenbank

“If your property isn’t near where you live find yourself a reliable property manager; someone local who comes recommended and can sort out any problems when you’re not there. It’s also worth fitting a key safe for late arrivals.” – Mike, owner of Casa La Torre

Pre-ordered shopping

“I’m increasingly finding that guests like to order their groceries online in advance of their stay. If they want it to be there before them, I make sure I’m around to receive it so they can arrive to a fully stocked house.” – Linda

Welcome hampers

A welcome hamper“Welcome hampers can be a challenge if you’re remote, but I try to leave a few basics: cooking oils, spices and charcoal for the BBQ. If I know someone’s come for a special occasion I ask the lady from the local delicatessen to set up some things for their arrival. She’s got a key so it’s no problem to organise.” – Ian, owner of Meadow View Barn

“When you’ve got a group of 8-10 guests a bottle of wine doesn’t go far. So instead I bake a cake. Our place is in Yorkshire so this year I made a special Tour de France cake for the guests who came to watch the race. I also always leave Yorkshire tea, fresh flowers, milk and sugar. If you’ve travelled a long way the first thing you want is a cup of tea and a cake.” – Linda

Welcome cards

“We’ve got a stack of cards, showing our cottages, painted by a local artist. I normally leave guests a card with a message relating to their stay – such as “Happy birthday” or “enjoy the races”. I think these little details help make each stay special.” – Linda

Remote controlled heating

“Remote controlled heating means that if we get a last minute booking in the winter, it doesn’t matter where we happen to be – we can still make sure it’s warm when the guests arrive.” – Ian

We know 260 million travellers*, all looking for a warm welcome

If you can wow them like Linda, Ian and Mike, you could be looking at years of return bookings from previous guests and their friends. Advertise with Holiday Lettings for free and your ad will also appear on 25 international TripAdvisor sites.

More about listing with Holiday Lettings

*Google Analytics, Worldwide data, July 2013

Calendar sync is now live: less admin, more bookings

calendar-imageWe’ve added a new calendar syncing feature to make it easier for you to keep your calendar updated and ready for bookings.

Calendar sync automatically imports updates to your Holiday Lettings calendar from other calendars. This will also automatically update your TripAdvisor calendar.

You can sync your Holiday Lettings and TripAdvisor calendars with HomeAway, Google, Airbnb, Yahoo and any other calendar that uses iCal technology.

(Please note: your Holiday Lettings and TripAdvisor calendars won’t push out updates – only import them.)

More about how calendar sync works

How to sync your calendars

Log in, go to Properties > Update calendar and select Sync with other calendars

More about how to sync your calendars

What’s in it for you? How calendar syncing gets you more bookings

Sync your calendars and you will…

1. Receive better quality enquiries
When travellers can see your true availability, they can send more relevant and specific enquiries your way. You’ll save their time and yours – no more “sorry, we’re booked for those dates”.

2. Accept more booking requests
Sick of having to turn down good money because you’re already booked? Fully updated and synced calendars mean no more misunderstandings getting in the way of you and paying guests.

3. Give travellers the confidence to book with you
When your calendars are synced, the ‘Calendar last updated’ date on your ad will refresh every day. Potential guests will see this and know you’re on top of your game.

More about the benefits of keeping your calendar in shape

TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Print_Logo_COE2014_en_US2014 is the first year that holiday rental properties have been included in the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awards. And it’s all in recognition of your hard work.

The results are in for the cream of the crop, so congratulations to all of you who won – you’ve provided consistently excellent holiday experiences for guests over the past year. Take a look at our champions.

Winners will see a ‘Certificate of Excellence 2014’ stamp on their TripAdvisor and Holiday Lettings listings. You can see an example on Greenbank’s advert, one of our fantastic Yorkshire winners. Here’s proud owner Linda.

Linda. Owner of Greenbank Home 503822

Make sure you’re in the running for 2015

It’s all about the reviews – how many you’ve gained and the ratings you’ve received. Simply collect them from guests every time they check out.

It’s easy to do and it shows you’re committed to providing great holidays.

More about collecting reviews

Getting your certificate

We emailed the winners with all the details and they should have received their certificates by now – read our FAQ if you’re still waiting.

If your certificate got damaged in the post and you’ve contacted us about resending it, you should hopefully receive it next week.

Things to consider when setting your prices

Rowena, Cyprus holiday homeownerWhat do you consider when setting prices for a stay at your holiday rental? Rowena, who owns and runs a holiday home in Cyprus, tells us about how she’s already setting her prices for the 2015 season.

When you factor in the mortgage, maintenance fees, management fees, cleaning and laundry charges, plus electricity and water bills, it can sometimes be difficult to break even and make money from your holiday home. So it’s crucial to set a price that will cover your costs.

It would be great to be able to offer our house at a bargain price, but in reality it’s not possible, and especially in a hot country like Cyprus. Our prices are higher in the summer and this is not because it’s a popular time of year to go, but because the price of running the air conditioning in the hot summer months is extremely expensive – we have to make sure the price we charge covers this additional costs.

Check the competition

We always check to see what prices other people are offering in our area and although we have to ensure we are covering our costs, we also want to be competitive and not price ourselves out of the market. At the same time we don’t want to undervalue our home and guests may question the quality of our property if our prices are too low.

It’s also not always possible, or viable, to match what other people are offering. We had an enquiry last year via Holiday Lettings from a guest. They enquired about our property and another in neighbouring resort in our village at the same time, and told me that (although they preferred the look of our property) the other homeowner had offered them a deal they couldn’t refuse. I weighed up all the factors and came to the conclusion that we just couldn’t match the price they had offered. It wouldn’t cover our costs and, as tempted as I was to reduce the price and secure the off-peak booking, I still believe I made the right decision.

The guest went to Cyprus and viewed our house while they were there. They’ve subsequently stayed with us twice since, as they are regular visitors to Cyprus and much preferred the look of our home. So although we didn’t get that particular reservation, we have as a result got further bookings from them and are still able to cover our costs when we quote.

When are the flights released?

Another point to consider is when to set your prices. Ideally you need to do this as soon as possible as many people like to book in advance.

Next year I have three potential bookings, who are all waiting for the EasyJet flights to be released for 2015. So for me it’s very important to ensure our property has up to date prices when those all-important flights are launched. Plus, at this time we will put some extra effort into advertising and promoting via our social media channels.

What about your prices?

I would be interested to hear how you set prices for your holiday rental and what your reasoning is behind them. 2015 seems a long way off, but in reality it’s just round the corner!

Online security checklist

Occurrences of fraud on our website are extremely rare, but it’s important to be aware of the risks. The last thing you want is a fraudster (or ‘hacker’) accessing your email account, posing as you and requesting payment from your guests.

So it’s vital to watch out for warning signs of phishing attacks and put some simple security measures in place. Use our security checklist to keep your online accounts safe.

  1. Find out about phishing
  2. Look for signs of a fake enquiry
  3. Protect your email account
  4. Log in to Holiday Lettings regularly
  5. Use different passwords for each online account

1. Find out about phishing

Phishing is the practice of sending emails that appear to be from a trustworthy source to get sensitive information (e.g. login/passwords, credit card details) for fraudulent purposes.

These emails may contain a link directing you to a site that looks like Holiday Lettings, but actually has a slightly altered or misspelt URL (e.g. holidaylettttings.co.uk). You enter your login details and the scammers then know how to access your Holiday Lettings account.

For more information and to report an incidence of fraud, visit the ActionFraud website.

2. Look for signs of a fake enquiry

Holiday Lettings has security systems in place to identify scam emails. However, fraudsters are always inventing new ways to trick us, so it’s important that you’re on the lookout too.

Our top anti-phishing tips:

Tip #1 Only respond to emails that you know are from us

We’ll only ever contact you from email addresses that end in:

  • @e.holidaylettings.co.uk
  • @bm.holidaylettings.co.uk
  • @holidaylettings.co.uk

Here’s an example of a valid enquiry address format: Alison.Jones_290ppkn@bm.holidaylettings.co.uk

Tip #2 Never enter your details on a non-secure website

We never misspell or add words to our core website address. We’ll only ask you to log in to your Holiday Lettings account with a website address starting with:
https://www.holidaylettings.co.uk

The Holiday Lettings login screen

You should be suspicious if:

  • The sender asks you to click on a link that takes you to a website address that doesn’t start with ‘https’, then asks you to enter sensitive information.
  • The sender asks to pay by cheque, sends too much money and asks for a refund of the difference.
  • The sender is overly keen to move the conversation away from our secure Holiday Lettings site.
  • The enquiry is written in poor English and overly formal. (However, please note that you may receive legitimate enquiries from travellers who don’t speak English as their first language.)
  • The enquiry includes a lot of the traveller’s personal circumstances, which are irrelevant.
  • The enquiry is for a noticeably long period of time.
  • The sender wants to pay by Western Union, banker’s draft or cashier’s cheque.
  • The sender asks you to phone them on a premium rate number – often beginning in 09.

3. Protect your email account

  • Think about setting up a designated email address just for bookings and enquiries from travellers – your other online accounts won’t be affected if this address is hacked.
  • Some email providers, like Google, have an additional security measure called ‘2-Step verification’. If you access your email account from an unknown device you’ll receive a pin code via text message to complete your login. If a hacker tries to access your account, you’ll be alerted by the text message and the hacker won’t have the code to get any further.
  • Check the settings on your email account to make sure nothing has been changed. Fraudsters often set up redirects on email accounts, which means they could be receiving your enquiries and requesting deposits.

4. Log in to Holiday Lettings regularly

  • Every enquiry you receive will appear in your Holiday Lettings Inbox as well as your personal one. If you notice that any of them haven’t been delivered to your personal email address, contact us immediately.
  • Set up SMS alerts. If you receive a text alert but don’t receive an email enquiry, you’ll know to contact us to investigate (the SMS and the email won’t necessarily arrive together, so please don’t worry if they arrive a few minutes apart).
  • Download the app and make sure push notifications are turned on (do this via the Settings app on your phone).

5. Use different passwords for each online account

This way, even if a hacker gets hold of one password, your other accounts will remain secure. Remember to log out straight away after using any online account.

A good password is:

  • Hard to guess.
  • At least seven characters long including letters (uppercase and lowercase), numerals and, where possible, symbols.
  • Changed regularly.
  • Not stored on your computer or any other electronic device that can access the internet.

We’re here to help

We don’t want you to miss out on any genuine enquiries, so if you receive one that you’re not sure about, just get in touch.

5 pricing tips for more bookings

Don't miss out on bookings - read our top tips for pricesHow much will it cost? Alongside ‘Where is it?’ it’s the burning question guests ask when they’re booking a holiday.

So do guests get the answer when they click Prices on your ad? If they don’t you’re wasting their time and yours. But most of all, you’re losing out on bookings and revenue.

With online booking guests can query the price by entering their holiday dates and number of guests. However some guests will look at your table of prices if they’re not quite ready to book so it’s still important for the prices to be crystal clear.

How unclear prices mean missed bookings

Guests are unlikely to book if they can’t easily see how much their holiday will cost. In fact, they’ll probably go elsewhere to find and book another property.

If a guest is still interested in your property, they can contact you to find out how much a stay will cost, wait for an answer and then decide whether to book. Most guests have a shortlist of a few properties to choose from, so while you’re emailing each other about the price, there’s a high chance that they’ll book elsewhere.

Having clear prices lets you seal the deal much more quickly and makes the whole booking process a lot easier for both you and the guest.

5 pricing tips for more bookings

#1 Update your prices

Make sure your prices are bang up to date and you’ve listed prices for forthcoming dates. No guests are interested in what you charged in the past but all guests want to know what you charge now!

#2 Simplify your prices

Put your prices into blocks, e.g. summer, weekends, high season, so it’s easy to see at a glance what it costs to stay at your property.

#3 List prices for short breaks

If you do nightly or weekend lets add prices for these so a guest can easily work out the cost of the 2-night stay and doesn’t waste valuable time asking you.

#4 Think long term

Guests like to get ahead with their holiday plans so list your prices well in advance so they can book with you. We recommend at least 12 months, more if you can.

#5 Make everything clear

If your property is booked for the immediate future or you’re not taking bookings for the moment, say so on your calendar and price lists. And add prices for the dates when you’re able to take bookings again.

Get up to date with your prices now – log in and go to Properties > Update prices.

More help with prices

Need some help with updating and adding your prices? Watch this video guide.

Published: 29 April 2014