Starting and running a holiday cottage business
Running a holiday cottage can be an immensely rewarding lifestyle, but there are quite a few things you need to know and prepare if you’re thinking of taking the plunge and starting your own.
Here are a few of our top tips, gathered from more than 25 years in the travel industry.
Style and communication
Choose your audience
It’s important to consider the sort of people you’re hoping will come and stay with you. Think about who visits your area and what for? Are they business people in town for conferences, families on beach holidays or couples looking for a special weekend? If people visit the area for many different reasons, then it can be extremely beneficial to focus on one core group as your target market. Read more about choosing your audience and marketing to them here.
Put your personality into it
We love a place that’s been designed and decorated with originality and character. More importantly, so do guests. Your place needs to stand out in a list of places on a website, or a string of internet search results, then delight people from the moment they arrive. If you love it, and market it correctly, then the right guests will love it too. Read more about interiors we love here.
People love discovering new things while they’re away, so think about inviting them into your holiday cottage as a chance to introduce them to your area. Get local soap and produce, art on the walls and crockery in the cupboards. It’s those sorts of details that make your accommodation feel special and give it a real sense of place.
Marketing is going to be key to making your new place a success. The first thing you need to decide is how much you’re going to do yourself. You might set up a website and social media channels and monitor them all constantly, or maybe you’d rather concentrate on guests and let an agent do most of the marketing work. We’ve got more marketing advice here and some tips on choosing an agent here.
The legal requirements
Letting rooms in a property you own or a whole property as a holiday let affects the council tax rates you pay, insurance and also has a couple of other legal implications. Read more about it here if you’re letting rooms in your own home or here if you’re renting a whole property. They aren’t simple, so feel free to get in touch if you get confused. If we can’t help you, we’ll know someone who can.
Set your rates
Other holiday cottages in your area can be a guide for your rates, but might also inspire you to provide something more upscale or affordable than what already exists. Make your rates comprehensive and factor in general wear and tear rather than charging for every tiny breakage or extra bit of cleaning. It’s not a good idea to make a guest’s first impression if your place an extra fee, or their last memory a dispute about missing spoons.
It can be a good idea to have a dedicated phone and/ or email address for bookings so that enquiries aren’t missed. People are always considering several options, so speed of response is important. Set up email templates with stock replies for when you have no availability on a guest’s dates or are answering FAQs, although if a question is asked too often, you should probably have the information on your website somewhere.
You hope never to need Ts&Cs but you’ll be very glad to have them when things get contentious. There are some good templates for legal phrasing (here’s one worth starting from) but there’s also a more personal aspect to your T&Cs as well. It’s up to you how flexible you’re going to be with cancellations, breakages and payment. When it comes to deposits, consider a fixed fee instead of a percentage, as guests can be put off booking by high deposit charges.