The 8 parts to a winning loyalty program

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Repeat customers are the core of a thriving vacation rental.  How is your loyalty program working?

An effective loyalty program can be worth 20-40% extra on your bottom line if you do it well.

Here are the 8  key parts of an effective loyalty program:

  • The offer for returns
  • The ask after guests leave
  • Your newsletter
  • Your website
  • Loyalty giveaways
  • Referrals
  • The past guest list
  • Guest experience


1 The offer for returns

How are you going to reward returning guests?  It is important that you give returning guests a small thank you for choosing to return. What it is, is up to you and shaped around your target market.  I give my guests $50 discount and a special that first time guests don’t get, provided they rebook with me direct.  In my case that special is free use of our original Japanese robes, that vibes nicely with our Japanese Zen theme. Other owners may give 5-10% loyalty discount.  Others may provide special wine, local jams, vouchers for a meal, etc.

It should be a small extra that make your guests feel appreciated, and appropriate to your market.

Although I clearly say $50 off, past guests are often shy to ask for it, and I always give it.  In every case though, they should get the special thank you gesture, thanks in the booking confirmation and feel clear that their return is appreciated.

2 The Ask after guests leave

It might seem obvious, but you need to ask your guests to return and make the special offer soon after they leave.  If you are on site and physically farewell them, that is the best time to tell them of your returning guest offer.  If you are remote, you can call or email them.  In each case, thank them for staying, remind them of the return offer and ask for a review and a referral, and even ask if they would like to book again for next year.

Whether you make the request in person, you need to confirm by email from your rental email to their personal email.  The need to be able to find that email that goes direct to you.  The OTA email is NOT acceptable.

3 Your newsletter

In sending out your newsletter to past guests, you are NOT doing any hard sell, just keeping in touch and keeping top of mind for when they are planning their next holiday.  At the end of the newsletter, remind them low key you appreciate returning guests, how to book direct and reiterate the special offer for past guests.

The newsletter can be once a year or once a month depending on how you do it.  I send mine out once  month, but only if I have something entertaining to share with past guests. I always give them a newsletter special eg half price stay for a few days midweek – again unique to returning guests.

The mechanics of the newsletter, including spam permissions, are for another post in future for HRM readers.

4 Your website

It may seem obvious, but your returning guests need to be able to find you and book direct easily.  Your own website with a clear memorable name makes it easy for them to find you.  Given their first contact with you may have been buried within an OTA messaging system, they may even find it hard to find a past email.  Your website and your name make the finding easy for them.

5 Loyalty giveaways

It is helpful if you can give your guests a useful branded keepsake to remember you by.  A cap, pen, mug, fridge magnet, tee shirt, USB stick, etc.  It needs to be appropriate to your guests.

I leave guests a nice pen, with an image of my rental, branded with my url an telephone number.  I also leave a pile of cards, business card size, that remind guests of the discount they will get when they return and most guests take a few.  The card also tells them referrals will also get a discount.  The pen and cards both work really well for me.

A friend gives his guests a smart branded cap.  I like it so much I use it myself!

What do you find works for you?

6 Referrals

You should invite guests to refer their friends to you and make it clear they will get a discount.

A particularly effective reminder is the following phrase in your signature block of your email on guest departure: “The greatest compliment you can give us is to tell a friend about your experience”

7 The past guest list

This is obvious and simple – keep a list of your past guests, both name and email.  I am constantly amazed at the number of owners who do not keep that list.  Some don’t even bother to get the personal email address of guests who booked  via an OTA – it is easy, always ask!

[I have a simple formula for getting the email from OTA guests, with 100% success.  Let me know if you would like a free copy]

8 Guest experience

This is very simple and crucial.  For guests to want to return, you need to give them an excellent experience.  The never ending cycle of the guest staying, you check their experience, ask how it can be improved, improve, and do it all again.

When did you last ask your guests if they liked their experience, and for suggestions to improve?


How do you shape up on the 8 steps to loyalty?

What extra do you do? add a Comment below


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2 Responses

  1. Hi Rex
    You might remember staying with us for a conference you spike at in the Yarra Valleya couple of years ago
    Sounds like you have been through life’s wringer since then , glad to see that is behind you now
    Finding your emails very informative , many thanks

  2. Hi David, I remember staying with you vividly and the very switched on folks attending the conference. I”m glad you are finding the articles informative.

Comments are closed.

My name is Rex Brown. I live in Australia, on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. I run two of my holiday rentals here on the coast, and another in inner Melbourne . They are all quite different, but they all run at high occupancy. They are the sandpit that I play in, running constant experiments about what works and what doesn’t.

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