Remember when a week in a self-catering cottage was something really special? Well, it’s still an idyllic type of holiday if you find the right place, it’s just that there are so many of them to choose from it’s hard to know where to start.  And if you are a provider of a cottage rental, how do you stick out from the crowd? Read on for tips on how to keep your holiday home from languishing empty through the holidays… 

Presentation points

Make sure you offer a clean, well presented property that is accurately reflected in the photos that appear  online advertising. Cottages are very popular as holiday lets because they are quaint, authentic and rustic, offering something a little different for those used to living in modern houses. Many guests will have romantic notions of roses around the cottage door, thatched roofs and log fires crackling in the grate, so if this can be delivered, make it clear. It is vital you meet client expectations, if a property is described as a traditional fisherman’s cottage it will have timber frame windows and stone walls, not charmless white PVC and pebble-dash. If you are selling an authentic, old world dream, you must be able to provide it.

The décor balance 

The balance between practical and pretty will challenge your interior design talents.  In low ceilinged cottages it’s wise to use paint shades that reflect light as in darker months it may seem gloomy. Natural daylight in a home is much prized and during renovations it might be worth considering the addition of extra timber frame windows to open up particularly dim interiors.

On frantic changeover days you will be grateful you chose practical easy clean floorings, wipe clean wall surfaces and upholstery and carpeting that don’t show the dirt. Beach cottages or those in the hills will attract families who embrace the great outdoors – this means they will bring sand, dirt and mud back into the house with them. Think of strategies to counter this problem early on – if there’s room you could create a separate boot room or develop an outside area for showering/dispensing with outdoor gear.

Old but modern

Old houses have their quirks and although holiday makers love the general appearance of traditional homes, they still like their mod cons. This means you have to provide a well configured kitchen with a minimum of dishwasher, washing machine, large fridge and cooker. Mum and Dad won’t want to work too hard, so make things easier by providing things that help with kiddies – high chairs, cots, toys, board games, books etc.

These days, cooking and dining is a social activity and large open plan kitchens which encompass family groups are very popular. Bear this in mind when reconfiguring a property for the holiday rental market. Equally, consider establishing an outdoor barbecue area for dining al fresco – something very popular with holiday makers.

Go the extra mile 

People repeat book properties for many reasons. If it is spotlessly clean, beautifully situated, convenient, comfortable and well equipped, they will feel warm and positive about your house. However, they will feel even better disposed if they have had positive dealings with you. If your communications have been friendly and courteous and if you have been helpful and listened to any concerns, then they will be more likely to return.

Make them feel wanted by providing a welcome pack containing local produce and a bottle of wine.  Leave a folder with information about how all the appliances work, how the heating and hot water is used and any little quirks or tips that may help with the running of the house. Leave information also about all the wonderful local attractions, the nearest restaurants,pubs, supermarkets, doctors, etc. Many holidaymakers like to make use of online supermarket deliveries so that they have fully stocked cupboards on arrival – try to accommodate such requirements if you want to be popular.

A visitor’s book is a good idea and allows guests to feedback directly to you, and also to leave tips and suggestions for other guests to follow.

In this digital age, everyone seems to have an opinion, good or bad, about the places they stay. Although this can sometimes be used unfairly against the hospitality industry, it certainly serves to focus the minds of those who provide leisure accommodation services. If your country cottage is warm, welcoming, well equipped, comfortable and clean, repeat business will be lining up to return. This will halve the amount of promotion and marketing you need to do which frees up time for working on improvements to your rental formula. Follow these tips and soon you will be well on the way to achieving that fabled 100 per cent occupancy rate  you so deserve…