Increase your vacation rental occupancy by 10% without extra bookings

Rex Brown

Updated on:

A lot of vacation rental owners leave money on the table by leaving gaps between bookings.  A vacant day here and a vacant day there often add up to 10% of your occupancy.   There are easy ways to sell the extra days and regain that occupancy.  It’s all about the detail.

In a typical scenario, a new booking leaves a day gap between bookings.    Maybe at the start or the end or maybe the start and the end.  So what to do?

The tempting one night booking trap

It might be tempting to try and sell a single night stay to fill the gap, but single nights are a big overhead for you.  You still need to pay for the cleaning and laundering and set up costs, and it is a lot of running around for you and your cleaner on a tight schedule.  In many markets, the net margin will be small and a distraction for you when you could be working  on your advanced marketing.  So what to do?

The timeboxed discount offer

You can offer the guest for the current booking an extra night at a discount to use up the spare day.  You add urgency to the decision by putting a 24 hour deadline for acceptance of the offer.  I have found by experiment in my market that I get a two out of three take-up of the offer for a 50% discount for the extra night. The guest is very happy and that extra day often moves them into loyal repeat guests.  You also get a good margin for the extra night that would ordinarily be vacant.  The 24 hour time limit means you get a quick decision.  The special offer is a standard script in your booking confirmation template and only takes seconds.

If the newest guest doesn’t take up the offer, you can make the offer to the guest who has booked the other side of the gap, with good results, just not as high a proportion as the older booking often has less flexibility.

The 2 night gap

Where there is a gap at the start and the end of the most recent booking, you will lose two nights income.  The obvious action is to check if the guest has flexibility to shift forward or back a night giving a two day gap that you can sell.  By experiment in my market I find that guests are flexible about half the time, particularly if you have struck up a rapport during the booking process and you ask quickly after the booking  – before they lock in their plans.

Cheap cleaning can be expensive

Some VR owners penalise themselves via short-sighted cleaning arrangements.  A classic example is when the owner negotiates slightly cheaper cleaning rates, for which the cleaner doesn’t clean on Sundays and doesn’t do a changeover clean.  (The clean after the departing guest and before the arriving guest on the same day).

By excluding changeovers, a day is inserted after each booking, giving guests less flexibility, and potential occupancy drops by around 20%.


Attention to detail is important, and as shown above, you can increase your occupancy by 10% with very little effort.  If you are already using these tactics great.  Any other tactics out there for mopping up those spare days? Use the comments to share.

1 thought on “Increase your vacation rental occupancy by 10% without extra bookings”

  1. Sophia has privately asked if I can share the wording I use for the Timeboxed discount offer. Good idea thanks Sophia. Here’s the script I use, it is very simple and to the point.

    [First part of booking confirmation email is normal, including restatement of booking and price, followed by the special offer in bold.]

    The price for 2 guests for 2 nights is $600. Arrive Mon 17 Sep 2018, depart Wed 19 Sep 2018.
    Special offer – you can also book the day prior for 50% off. Price normally $300, special offer $150. This offer is valid for just 24 hours, let me know if you would like to go ahead.

    [confirmation email ends as normal, including insiders’ guides, etc]

    If you have a similar offer, please share in the comments.

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