Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Online Availability Calendars : to update or not?

Do you keep the availability calendar for your vacation rental updated ? Is it worth it ?

If you are listed on multiple vacation rental sites, particularly those that have their own online availability calendar, then keeping them updated can be quite a chore. There are tools out there to help, but it is still a pain.

The question is : does it matter ? Do renters use online calendar availability to narrow down their choices, or do they simply ask for price and availability first, ignoring whether this information is already provided in your online availability calendar ?

In my experience, quite often, renters do not check your online availability calendar before sending a query. This can be for several reasons :

1. They simply don't bother ( or don't realise that they can check availability) Although I am sure this is sometimes true, I suspect this is a small minority of cases.

2. The renter's dates are flexible and hence, they don't want to limit their choices. I think this is often the case : the renter may not have yet booked their flights and hence their dates may be quite flexible. Ignoring the information in the online availability calendar allows them more flexibility in finding suitable vacation rentals.

3. The renter may send a lot of queries to see which vacation rental owner comes back with the best option on price and availability. Many vacation rental by owner sites now allow owners to create an enquiry list and then send the same query to all of these vacation rental owners at once. Thus it is easier to send off a "mass" enquiry to 10 or more vacation rental owners, than to individually check which of those vacation rental properties are available for the dates requested. This feature, although great from a renter's point of view, it somewhat of a pain for the vacation rental owner, since it results in a lot more enquiries from renters for every booking that will be generated.

So, it is a waste of time keeping your online availability calendar up to date ? Well, keep in mind that some vacation rental by owners sites prioritise the search results they provide to renters on the basis of which properties have most recently updated their online availability calendar. Hence, updates may actually increase your visibility to renters, resulting in more enquiries.

Comment, as always, welcome.

Kevin

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