Hot on the heels of the Globe and Mail article, I got a call from another freelance journalist looking for insights into rising gas prices and how it may (or may not) be affecting cottage rental occupancy this summer. I responded by saying that the impact of this issue shouldn't be taken in isolation. There are other factors that, in combination, are having a knock-on effect on occupancy levels this year and I know some owners are feeling concerned.
There has been a significant increase in cottages coming on to the rental market this year. Many are properties that have been listed for sale for some time without a sign of a serious buyer. In some cases, fuel prices have forced owners to rethink their usage of the cottage and they've sacrificed a couple of trips to gain a little rental income.
I am sure the weather has played a big role too. We saw a lot of rental activity in the early months of the year with many cottages being fully booked by early March. Since then, interest has been sluggish at times with an occasional burst of frenetic enquiries. All we need do to forecast a busy day is look out the window and feel the heat. There's nothing like a hot and humid day in the city to get people thinking about the breeze off the lake, and a cold beer on the dock.
So, what do you do if you have some empty weeks and need to get them filled. Here's a few ideas:
Sign up with CottageLINK and advertise on the last minute list.
This is a popular list, but you do need to be an advertiser to get your last minute rental listing posted. Listing for the first year is around $60 and this reduces by $20 in subsequent years. There is a small additional fee for inclusion on the last minute list, but with the amount of visitors this site gets, it is a worthwhile investment. www.cottagelink.com
Advertise on Kijiji
An increasingly popular classified ad site, Kijiji is a free option and is worth the time it will take to place your ad in the different city sections. Even if you just advertise in Toronto, Kitchener, London and Hamilton, you may well pick up enough interest to fill your weeks. These ads drop down the list as new ones are added, so you may need to update them. www.kijiji.ca
Comment on relevant tourism blogs and forums
This is a bit of a hit-or-miss strategy but if you can find a blog or forum where people are commenting on vacations or even asking about availability, get in there and promote your own. There is a trick to doing this so your post is not seen as a blatant advertisement. Offer some good advice or helpful tips on vacationing in your area, then add the URL of your web site in your signature block. If you have offered useful information people will click through to your site. www.tripadvisor.com
Make sure your web site is being seen
If your web site is not being seen, you won't get interested renters. If you don't know where your visitors are coming from, or would like to find out what pages on your site are the most visited, get a free stats counter and start analysing the information. This tactic may not give you immediate results but it will sure open your eyes to the actual number of visitors you are getting and what their surfing behaviour is once they are on your site. www.statcounter.com
If you have any other ideas, please leave a comment. Don't forget to include your URL in the comment because other readers will click on it to take a look at your site. This is how social networking works and it may even bring you new rental guests.
Photo courtesy of dvs on Flickr