Running a successful gites business in France

Many holiday property owners make the mistake of investing thousands in their properties and then trying to market them on a shoestring. You have to expose yourself to the ‘dangers’ of getting bookings from as wide a market place as possible. Advertising is not about stretching your budget, it's about expanding your markets.
Competition is increasing with thousands of people buying properties to let and the problem is compounded because these new holiday home owners started off as holidaymakers, many of whom were regular visitors to France.So you've put your heart and soul into restoring your holiday properties and you're ready to receive your first guests.

gites ruraux

Photo credit : Gites ruraux FR

You're next step is to choose how, when and where to advertise your holiday home to maximum effect. The most expensive form of advertising is the type that does not work! It may generate little or no response, or produce a lot of enquiries but no bookings. This may be as a result of where and when you have chosen to advertise, the content of your advertisement, how you handle enquiries over the phone or the details you are sending to your respondents. Last year (2016), 39% of people travelling to France from the UK were regular visitors. A further 36% had taken a holiday in France in the past four years with the remainder either visiting for the first time or not within the last four years. Sadly, an estimated 15% of people who wanted to take a holiday in France were unsuccessful in finding suitable accommodation.

This is not because there was not accommodation available but because they were unable to find a suitable vacant property. This problem is likely to get worse before it gets better. There are two fundamental errors most often made by advertisers. One is that they design their advertisement based on the message they want to convey, rather than including the information that someone looking for a property needs to know in order to make a decision. The second is they spread their advertising across a number of mediums that are all aimed at the same sector of the market.

The tourist market is made up of scores of different areas that are then split into smaller sectors. These can be categorised into nationalities, ages, interests, activities and so on.So a marketing campaign aimed at young families will not appeal to a middle aged couple looking for peace and quiet. As a result, if you are looking to fill your property for the longest possible period and not just the school holidays, you need to be sending out a number of different messages, through a variety of mediums, aimed at different sectors of the market. Someone looking to rent a holiday home is faced with a myriad different media, including publications and countless Internet sites to search through.

So someone who would dearly love to rent your property has to acquire the publication or find the Internet site where you are advertising. Then they have to wade through thousands of advertisements trying to find anavailable property that fits their criteria. So where do you advertise to gain the maximum and most effective exposure?First you have to decide what sectors of the market you want to exploit to fill different times of the year. Then put together a marketing strategy that will appeal to these holidaymakers. Different age groups and nationalities travel at different times of the year. New Internet sites and publications rarely work, or ever get established. So choose to advertise in brochures and Internet sites that have a proven track record. These companies will already have a large established and loyal clientele who will use them rather than go looking for new mediums. The temptation is to advertise with the cheapest Internet sites. A rule of thumb is, the cheaper the service the lower the rental income generated, as these companies tend to have little or no advertising budget. So a hundred pounds saved off your advertising budget may result in a thousand pounds lost in rental income.

The days when you could place an advertisement in a newspaper and expect to fill most of your season are long gone. With the growing competition from other property owners and the spiralling number of Internet sites clogging the Internet, marketing is now a prerequisite
skill needed by all property owners who want to succeed in letting.

Effective advertising is not the same as efficient advertising and it is possible to spend a lot of money without getting satisfactory results. I've heard it said a hundred times, that any fool can fill July and August, but at what financial cost?

A balanced advertising spread would be the choice of one brochure plus three or four Internet sites specialising in reaching different sectors of the market. These will depend on what you are trying to achieve, the size of your property and where it is situated. Different nationalities and age groups travel at different times of the year and some nationalities tend to favour different regions. This can make it complicated for anyone new or with little knowledge of the markets and can be the cause of poor returns as a result.

There are companies who specialise in putting marketing packages together for the serious holiday property owner. They understand the markets, know the best places to advertise and can normally put together advertising and marketing packages that cost less than if you did it yourself. They make their money from commissions earned from the advertising services they represent and so charge no fee for their services. Dealing with just one company, while still spreading your advertising across a wide range of mediums, means far less admin.

You should also set aside some of your budget to advertise in the UK press should you have last minute cancellations or be left with odd weeks. There are also a number of Internet sites that specialise in last minute bookings and these should be utilised when the time comes and you are looking to shift last minute availability.

Knowing when to advertise is also important, when it comes to advertising in the press. Whilst the Internet is a 24 hour 7 day a week medium, it is very easy to spend money on press advertising when people aren't looking and therefore waste money. All the advertising in the world won't work if people are thinking about other things and not considering booking a holiday! An Internet site is always there and can be viewed at will: it cannot be lost, mislaid or thrown out with the rubbish!