With just over 20 years of booming industry, it’s safe to say that a standard for vacation rental quality has been established. A set of core amenities, a level of cleanliness and hospitality, and various other factors form your guests’ expectations. Generally, this set of standards is designed to please everyone. But what happens when you design a vacation rental to cater specifically to one demographic?
Will other guests feel alienated? Will you cut your potential market down drastically? Is standing out from the pack a lucrative path to take in this case?
These are some reasonable questions to ask ones’ self when presented with an emerging trend: purpose-built vacation rental properties. A number of vacation rental management companies have decided to forgo the common “please everyone, attract anyone” strategy in creating their rental units. Instead, they’ve decided to narrow down their target audience to a specific demographic and create a VR experience that’ll go above and beyond in servicing this niche.
The results have shown that there’s plenty to capitalize on when going this route. With a bit of research, creativity, and a tasteful approach, you too can create your own one-of-a-kind purpose-built VR experience. This VRM Intel article gives a few great examples of successful niche vacation rentals.
Let’s take a look at some of the considerations you should make in putting this bold venture into practice:
1. Location First
A great way to frame your new niche-based venture is to stop thinking of this as a vacation rental and start calling it a resort. You’re building a resort – a golf resort, a yoga resort, a surfing resort, and so on. The word comes with some connotations that focus your goals on your demographic.
One of the most important aspects of any resort is having the resources & facilities to accommodate the practice of your niche-of-choice. A yoga resort has open spaces, peaceful wind chimes, hard wood floors and beanbag chairs. A golfing resort has a putting green, a driving range, and spare oversized plaid shorts with SPF 50000 sun block tucked in the pocket. And a surfing resort, of course, has an ocean..
Considering that last example, it’s safe to say that not every facility has to be wholly owned by the resort and located on-site. But the main takeaway is this: your resort’s location is extremely important.
And not just for the accommodation / facilities either – you also need to consider demographics local to or attracted to a particular area. Your surfing resort should probably be by a beach with great wave breaking conditions for surfers to work with. Since your demographic of surfers is likely to be aged 18 to 45 and more male-dominated, you can factor this into your location as well. For instance, picking a property that’s located in a township with a nightlife rather than a secluded one.
Demographic considerations like these will contribute to your chances of success.
2. Research the Competition
Before you start drawing up blueprints and budgets, you’ll have to do the rest of your research legwork. Competition is all around you, and if you’ve found a niche and location that’s virgin territory, you can be sure competition will follow you.
One of the great things about appealing to a specific niche is that your direct competition drops significantly. It’s also much easier to perform competitor research since you have a much narrower set of keywords, amenities, and specialized marketing outlets to filter results by. The bad thing about it is that each direct competitor is capable of taking a more significant chunk of your business.
The subject of competitor research has been covered a few times on this blog, so rather than going into a step-by-step, we’ll provide a few links. For instance, the ROI calculation article and the beginner’s guide to vacation rental management both touch on this subject and give tips / procedures for performing research. The shortest way to getting hard data, though, is to use a service like AirDNA’s Market Minder.
Really, the most important thing when researching competition for a purpose-built vacation rental is to ensure there’s an open market for you. If not, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you can directly compete with existing businesses appealing to your choice demographic. Do you have something better to offer? Do you have better command over marketing channels?
3. Catering to Your Niche
So now you’ve located your vacation rental property, selected a demographic, and assessed the competition. Now it’s time to build! It’s difficult to compile actionable information for use on any niche you can dream up, but we can provide a little strategic foundation.
You have three major considerations in designing your resort around a niche:
This word has caused some confusion in the past since it sounds like it’s referencing areas strictly on-property. So let’s just clarify: facilities can be on or off the property and are areas/equipment/locations designated or catering to a specific purpose (unlike amenities, below).
An in-house gym is a facility, an outdoor gym in the park down the road is a facility, but an exercise bike is an amenity. Hopefully the terminology used is a little clearer now.
When you select your location, you’ll likely be searching for off-property facilities to boost your resort’s appeal. And you should be since they’re priceless assets. In fact, you may find yourself envisioning a resort niche based around a locations particular resources – it’s an excellent strategy and it comes equipped with target demographic traffic and marketing presence to piggy back off of. Use it!
For those who are doing renovations, or even building properties from the ground up, fitting an on-property facility into your budget should be somewhere near the top of your to-do list. Sometimes you’ll have to be a little creative in implementing this though – it’s not always the most obvious choice. And it certainly doesn’t have to be the most expensive.
For example: you’re in the Pacific Northwest United States making an outdoorsman’s resort. You’ve decided it’s going to serve as a comfortable base from which families and athletic rugged men can take various excursions out to the redwood forests, rivers, and rock-faces to get back in touch with nature and feel something primal. Or something like that.
You’re renovating a log cabin and would like to include an athletic facility in the vein of real-world challenges. A swimming pool is way above your budget – but a rock climbing wall is a perfect, low-cost addition that’ll easily give your resort a boost in appeal to your target demographic.
This is a fairly self-explanatory subject we’re segueing into, so let’s just continue on with our example from above. Your rock climbing wall is at the top of your facilities list, but how can we flesh things out even further? How about we include a selection of special rock-climbing shoes available for guests in various sizes. Keep a special map next to them which marks off all of the local climbing faces in the area to encourage your guests to put them to use.
For the cost of a few pairs of boots and a some printed sheets, you’ve equipped your guests with everything they need to add a fantastic, unique experience to their vacation.
That’s the type of niche-specific amenity you want to focus on.
Finally, we come to the boring stuff! Marketing your vacation rental isn’t the most stimulating task, but it can certainly be rewarding when done properly. Obviously, it’s a pre-requisite that you read through the Vacation Rental Marketing 101 guide (and maybe the email marketing guide too if you’re still hungry for ideas).
You have to go all-in with this idea if you’re to capitalize on it. That means you can’t get cold feet and go creating listings that minimize your vacation rental’s heavy slant toward outdoorsy people. Your title should declare it proudly: “Secluded Outdoorsman’s Cabin & Resort”. Your copy should re-enforce this theme: “A perfect natural getaway for those looking to re-connect with the earth, climb, swim, and hike the surrounding forests, rivers, and mountains”.
It doesn’t mean you aren’t going to attract people from outside your demographic – don’t worry about that! A wise James Earl Jones baseball ghost character once said “if you build it, they will come“. Your vacation rental is not exclusive – many people outside of your demographic will find it appealing, and it’s still going to pop up on the same marketing channels as all the boring old general VR properties. Airbnb, Booking.com, and the like – your niche-resort is going to be standing tall next to all of them.
With a niche comes a community. We’ve gone with an outdoorsman’s paradise for our example, so how exactly do we reach these people? Start by searching for forums, clubs & societies, events, and local attractions with direct or tangential relation to your niche.
For example: you’ve managed to find buzzing internet forums for amateur archery enthusiasts, free climbers, mountain bikers, and polar bears (people who like to swim naked in cold water…apparently). Make an account (or designate someone on your payroll to do so), participate in some conversations, and slowly work in your status as a resort manager who happens to have everything they’re interested in.
Don’t just make an account, post a lazy advertisement, and never return…nobody clicks that stuff. Find existing conversation and context to introduce your wares. Appeal to their expertise by asking for help in designing a new facility for your resort – you get some advice along with free advertising direct to your target audience.
That’s just internet forums – we haven’t gotten to boy scout clubs, company retreats, niche-related blogs & magazines, Facebook groups, and on and on…there is a TON of marketing channels for you to exploit and capitalize on. Just make sure you go in with the intention of interacting and contributing, not selling. Your approach and demeanor are everything when interacting directly with potential guests. You are not a salesman – you are a likeminded enthusiast and you want to give your community something great.