It’s October – are you all set for Christmas and the New Year?

As we enter the last quarter of 2014, what booking habits can we expect to see? Who is booking holidays for which months and what size of properties are they choosing? Analysing bookings made through SuperControl during October over the last 3 years enables us to identify key trends. Not surprisingly for this time of year, they follow exactly the same pattern as those in September.

The majority of bookings placed during October are for holidays starting in October and November, the most popular group size is 2 yet they are mostly booking properties with a capacity of 4; and in the UK and IE the most booked duration is 1-3 nights whereas it’s 7 nights in the rest of the world (ROW). So it is as important as ever to make sure that potential guests are aware of the late availability you can provide and are able to book and pay for their holidays easily (8-9pm continues to be the most popular time slot for receiving bookings).

What is different about October though, is that this is also when you really need to up the stakes and promote your property/ies as the ideal location to spend Christmas and New Year. Timing is crucial, and a little time and thought invested in these key occasions now goes a long way. And I’m not just talking about this Christmas, make your plans for 2014 and the year ahead.

Bookings for Christmas

Unsurprisingly, guests don’t want to hang around and take any chances when it comes to booking their Christmas breaks. Most bookings for the Christmas period (for properties both in the UK and the rest of the world) are placed between 365 and 181 days ahead. However, we also see a second peak across the board for bookings coming in between 90 and 31 days ahead:

Xstats3

Bookings for New Year

Whilst New Year bookings aren’t quite so regimented in pattern, a similar trend emerges when you look at the lead times for this period over the last 3 years. Again there is a definite spike for bookings placed between 365 – 181 days ahead, but it also peaks between 60 – 15 days:

NYstats
This indicates that New Year celebrations are not always planned so far ahead, and guests are more comfortable taking a chance and leaving it until later to book for this period.

An insight into booking habits over the last 3 years definitely gives us an insight into how to maximise bookings for the festive season, starting now.

What do guests want at Christmas and New Year?

1. Flexible start days and durations

The start dates that you have available are key. Patterns of annual leave depend on the day of the week that Christmas Eve and New Years Eve fall.

start_day
Given that Christmas Eve is on a Wednesday this year, it would be a good idea to enable Tuesday and Wednesday as start days; and even if you don’t enable short breaks at other times throughout the year, it’s worth considering allowing them for this short season if you still have availability for this coming Christmas or New Year. By all means hold out for the full weeks for next year. In SuperControl there are tactical ways that you can offer short breaks for maximum return, look out for next weeks Support tips email: How to use special prices.

2. Everything taken care of

Guests won’t want to bring their Christmas tree with them. Part of the attraction of going away for the festive season is that there is less work to do – cleaning, laundry, putting up the decorations etc. Show them what you can offer; if you can, add a page to your website dedicated to Christmas and New Year, if not can you update your photos and set a winter scene between now and January 2015? Share images of your house dressed for the festivities, the tree, presents, chestnuts and lit fires with stockings hanging from the mantlepiece; candles, holly, mince pies and mulled wine. Think about soft, warm lighting – really set the scene. Share the photos on your social media pages too and invite comments from previous guests.

To exceed expectations think beyond Christmas decorations and scene setting. Can you source or order a turkey or goose on their behalf? If you can, you could add them to your booking options so guests can request it at the time of booking. What about recommending where and when to order their food shopping for delivery ready for their arrival? If guests are arriving late can you accept delivery on their behalf? Give directions to the closest church that guests can visit to attend midnight mass. Find out the opening hours of local pubs and restaurants – which ones are open and serving food on Christmas Day and New Years Day? Do any still have availability for this year? If not still feature them for information for guests searching now for Christmas and New Year 2015 bookings.┬á What is happening for New Year in your area? Is it ticket-entry only at your local pub? Provide advice and contact details.

3. To stay in touch

It is likely that even those that want to get away from it all for Christmas and New Year will still want some contact with friends, family and the outside world. This might be by a phone call or a session on Skype, so it is a good idea to reassure people that you have good mobile coverage (or if you don’t that there is a landline they can use) and if you provide free WiFi that you also have a good connection speed (hopefully). They might want to relax in the afternoon and watch the Christmas movie – do you have Sky or Free view? Provide all the information that might make or break the deal.

And finally …

The last piece of advice is to ask an honest friend or colleague to take a look at your website and social media pages. Ask them if they were looking for somewhere to stay for Christmas and New Year have you got it all covered? Do they have questions that you haven’t answered? Do they think you provide too little (or too much) detail? Having someone you trust to cast a fresh eye over things is always helpful – they will often spot something that you may have overlooked, and that is always a good thing.