5 Ways to Respond When Your Dates Are Taken

Jonathan Murray —  June 18, 2013

In my last two posts, I explained why I try not to get frustrated with travelers who inquire about dates I’ve already noted as unavailable, and the value I see in every inquiry I respond to – whether the result is a booking or not.

"Snail Mail" on Flickr, by jaaronI know I’m not the only one who gets these emails; some owners find them frustrating and a waste of time. Sometimes I wonder whether people even look at the calendar I diligently keep up-to-date!

Hold off before you hit delete on those extra emails, though: yes, it’s annoying when people overlook information you’ve made readily available. However, each one is worth the time to follow up.

Here’s how I see it: When a renter shows interest, there’s potential business for someone. Maybe this time it’s not you  —  but down the line, it could be. I don’t want to squander a chance to foster goodwill and new relationships, so I look for ways to make that effort pay off for me and the renter.

Create a vacation rental coalition

There are many reasons to connect with other owners in your area. Having a support system is one of them, but creating business opportunities for each other is another. Once these connections are made, you can offer a 10 percent commission to anyone who throws a lead your way that gets booked and vice versa.

Offer a discount for a different date

If the potential guest completely ignored your calendar, maybe it’s because they have some flexibility in their schedule. You never know! Instead of ignoring the email, consider sending a polite response offering them a 10% discount for dates that may be harder for you to fill.

Add them to your waiting list

When someone cancels at the last minute, wouldn’t it be great to have a list of people who would be excited to take their place? This may not work for all inquirers, but creating a waiting list that you can call on if needed may spare you from lost income.

Refer them to a boutique hotel or B&B

Skip the big chain hotels — if that’s what an inquiring traveler wanted, they wouldn’t have contacted you. However, like a network of other rental owners, making connections with a boutique hotel or nearby bed & breakfast provides a referral opportunity that also provides great customer service. Plus, if they’re open to referring their overflow guests to a vacation rental like yours, it’s better to be on their shortlist than not.

Redirect them to your calendar

You don’t want to offer a discount or make a referral, but you don’t want to ignore the request, either. Spare them a terse “no vacancy” response and have a standard reply ready that politely redirects them to the calendar on your website to select another date.

Invite them to join your email list (or, consider starting one!)

If you have an email list you use to stay in touch with previous guests, why not invite these new connections to sign up? There are many great reasons to do so, but here’s the most important one: they’re already interested in your property.

This is huge! The first hurdle is completed, because you already have their attention. You’ve put time and effort into getting great photos, crafting an intriguing listing, and now there’s someone who wants to book your rental – it just won’t work this time.  Not every visitor will make repeat trips to a particular location, but for those who will, you want to stay top of mind; maybe the next time they visit, they’ll be able to book with you.

If email marketing isn’t part of your strategy yet, keep an eye on the MyVR blog. We’ll be talking about the dos and don’ts of email marketing in the near future; it’s one of the most effective ways I use to bring people to my vacation property.

How do you handle extra inquiries for your vacation rental? Add your recommendations in the comments below.

photo credit: J Aaron Farr

Jonathan Murray

Jonathan Murray


Before starting MyVR, he co-founded Lift Media (acquired), a lead generation company that worked with clients like American Express, Netflix, and Fandango. He started MyVR after being frustrated with setting up his own Sonoma cottage as a vacation rental. He studied engineering at Bucknell University and received his MBA from Stanford University.
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3 responses to 5 Ways to Respond When Your Dates Are Taken

  1. Jon, I love this idea of offering a discount for a future ( hard-to-fill) date. In my response, I always mention that we rent nightlw, weekends & weekly in the off season, year round, but never thought of this discount incentive – thanks!

  2. I can often convince inquirers to switch dates…or to consider the Fall when the island is less crowded. I had so many inquiries for booked dates that I convinced my neighbor to rent her house too (which I handle) so I slide my excess inquiries into her house and make money on those too. I made her $40,000 in revenue last year and she isn’t even listed on any rental sites! I have now done this with a third neighbor as well. I also always offer to put them on a waiting list in the case of a cancellation…and have filled every cancellation I have ever had with previous inquiries. (I make particular note of inquirers from within the state of FL or nearby states….these kinds of guests can often drive down with a short notice and fill time that might otherwise sit empty.)

  3. Jonathan Murray
    Jonathan Murray August 29, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Laurie – thanks for the great insights! Sounds like a winning strategy.