Introduction: Airbnb Slow Season Strategies
Do you have a strategy for the Airbnb slow season?
When things are good (ie busy season), even the mediocre Airbnb host does well. It’s the slow season that separates the mediocre from the great Airbnb hosts.
This subject is one of those fringe optimizations that most hosts ignore. Or, if they do anything, it’s to lower the price during the slow season. This is a mistake. You should be keeping an eye on future occupancy and lowering your price 90 days in advance.
However, this article is not dedicated to pricing. I have listed numerous strategies below to help you decrease the impact of the Airbnb slow season or entirely remove it from your calendar.
All of the strategies have one goal in mind: to increase the flexibility and, thereby, the pool of FPGs (future potential guests) who can book your space.
Keep in mind that the more flexible you make your Airbnb listing, the more risk you are taking on. This should always be kept in mind. Ask yourself what the benefit is for any choice and compare that to your perceived or estimated increase in risk.
If you follow the below Airbnb slow season strategies, you will be elevating yourself above your competition (ie those Airbnb hosts who do not read this blog) and allow yourself to cruise straight through your slow season.
There are numerous slow season strategies you can implement throughout the year. Some of these strategies have you planning 6 months in advance! It depends on your situation, but you should follow at least a few of the below strategies. The Airbnb listings that I manage, follow many of them.
Slow season separates the mediocre from the great Airbnb hosts.
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Sign up for the “Airbnb of Event Space”
When renting on these platforms, the guests do not sleep the night in your listing. This can be an extra source of leads from an entirely different pool of FPGs.
Admittedly, this strategy will work well for some and not at all for others depending on where your home is and how it looks, but it’s worth a try, especially during the Airbnb slow season.
You may be surprised! One of the Airbnbs that I manage in New York City gets the occasional inquiry on Airbnb for a film and it’s nothing special as it relates to location or interior design. If the host allowed me, I am sure we could book extra revenue on the event space platforms.
Related: Make Your Airbnb “Event Ready”
Add the Word “Discount” to Your Airbnb Title
I wrote up an entire blog post about how to master your Airbnb title. This is covered in detail in that article as are many other goodies.
Specifically for the slow season, you can add verbiage into your title like ‘Extra 10% Discount’. I see this so rarely that it will get FPGs clicking on your listing, at the very least.
The idea is that a guest has already narrowed down your listing to their ideal budget and then seeing you offer an extra 10% discount, they would be crazy not to have a look, at the very least.
Be sure to specify the details of this discount in your listing description. If it works well, you might consider increasing your pricing to offset the discount a bit….or, using it as one of your busy season strategies (blog post coming soon!).
The downside to using this strategy is that it will require you to manually send the FPG a special offer.
Offer a ‘Friends + Family’ Airbnb Discount
This strategy is 100% automated.
If you use a service like Smartbnb (Related: Smartbnb Review – Airbnb Automation), you can send out an automatic message to the guest a few days or a week after check-out letting them know that you offer an extra percentage discount to the guest and any of their friends or family (as long as they mention the guest by name) during the slow season.
You can get creative and offer the discount for only midweek stays, for stays of 4 nights or longer, for stays on any day in particular months, etc.
If you want to learn how to optimize and automate up to 85% your messages, take a look at my Airbnb Message Flow Strategy + Templates. However, to reward you for reading this blog post, below is the message I’m referring to:
One last message…I would like to extend a ‘friends + family’ discount to you. If you, or your friends and family, return to %city% then please have them reference your name and I will honor an extra 15% discount for any stays between November and February.
Increase Percentage Discounts
To attract longer-term guests, increase those monthly and weekly booking discounts.
In general, a week-long reservation gets a 10% discount and a month gets a 20% discount. If you have time to be more detailed, go into Airbnb.com or AllTheRooms Analytics and research your competition.
Filter the search for your area, price range, and the number of beds to see how much they are offering for a discount and beat them out by 5%+.
Adjust Your Airbnb Pricing Hack
If you have not read my article on how to virtually guarantee more Airbnb listing views, do so now.
(Please note, given the frequency of changes to the Airbnb platform, this hack is allowed and disallowed based on what Airbnb is testing in your geographical area. A recent change to the platform is to ignore your ‘base price’ and instead show the lowest price within the next 30-days to FPGs searching without dates.)
If you already follow this strategy and know it well, then tweaking it will be easy. Re-measure your average pricing (it will be lower in Airbnb slow season than high season) and set your ‘Base price’ in Airbnb to about 10% lower.
Adjust Calendar Availability
In general, I recommend Airbnb hosts to keep their calendar open 3-6 months into the future. This is because you can charge a premium to guests booking 3+ months out, but a guest booking 6+ months in advance probably knows something that you do not (ie upcoming conference, concert, etc.).
With this strategy, I suggest you open your calendar availability to 12 months at the start of busy season. Three months later, adjust your availability to 9 months. Three months later, adjust to 6 months.
This strategy, though not perfect due to Airbnb limitations, essentially allows guests to book through next year’s slow season where price maximization is much less a concern than occupancy rate.
Here’s an example…
Let’s assume Airbnb slow season starts in October and ends in March. In this case, you would open your calendar to 12 months of availability in April so that a guest can book throughout next year’s slow season (March of the following year).
Around June, you would change your calendar availability to 9 months (ie keeping your calendar blocked after March of the following year). Around September, you would change to 6 months. Around December, you would change to 3 months until next April when you open your calendar to 12 months and repeat.
If you have your far-our pricing dialed in with PriceLabs (which you should by now!) then you have more flexibility in terms of calendar availability as you know with high certainty that no matter when an FPG books, you will get a premium price.
The concept behind this strategy is to secure some bonus reservations from the guests who are planning ahead 6+ months in advance of Airbnb slow season. If you have 5 days booked on a few of your slow season months, this relieves a lot of pressure.
Remove Extra Person Charges
An extra person charge is an aggressive pricing strategy. Most hosts incur limited additional work or wear and tear on the home with an added guest, yet most charge for an extra person simply because it is an option.
An aggressive pricing strategy is best kept for high season. Remove the extra person charge during your slower months.
However, add a significant extra person charge for any guest over your maximum. For example, if your maximum occupancy is set for 4 guests, add a $100 charge for guests after 4. This accomplishes two things.
First, it allows Airbnb to let you charge the guest if they are caught bringing more than is allowed for based on the reservation guest count. Otherwise, Airbnb will agree that there were more guests, but will not send you any extra money because you do not indicate any charge for additional guests (yes, I learned that the hard way).
Second, it disincentivizes the guest from bringing extra people.
In the high season, when demand is highest, you are able to be more aggressive with your pricing by adding in an extra person charge. There are a few important notes involving math if you choose to do this.
Let’s say you rent your home to 4 people at $100 per night. Effectively, each person is paying $25 per night. If you add in an extra person charge for a 5th guest (add a floor mattress or pull-out sofa), this fee should be a maximum of $25 on the high end. Otherwise, the incremental cost will go up.
I recommend you charge around 50% of the cost per person without an added guest (in this case 50% of $25 is $12.50).
Another important note is to understand that if you are hosting an entire home and you are not on-premise, adding an extra person fee incentivizes a certain type of guest to bring more guests than indicated. Instead, I recommend you price your space for maximum occupancy which is what most guests are looking for anyways.
On Airbnb, always charge for extra guests over your maximum.
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Lower Minimum Nights
If you have purchased an Airbnb Listing Optimization Report from me, then you know I recommend a one-night minimum year-round.
However, if you have a 2+ night minimum, the Airbnb slow season would be a great time to test out a single night minimum, even if it is just for weekdays. Most cleaners would gladly accept the additional work.
Lower Your Night Rate
But, lower it more than you think. Hotels lower prices up to 40% during the slow season and they are professionals with numerous marketing channels and teams devoted to getting the pricing right.
You need to understand your fixed costs (expenses paid regardless of a guest occupying your space like rent or mortgage) and variable costs (expenses paid only when a guest is in your space like electricity) to know what your true minimum price should be.
To clarify your minimum, it represents the amount you would accept for a reservation that allows you to profit instead of keeping the place vacant.
As mentioned above, there is math involved to get to this number. It should equal your fixed costs plus variable costs for that reservation plus how much you value your time.
A minimum is not what you would like to get. A lot of hosts make this mistake and price their minimum way too high during the Airbnb slow season.
In rare situations, like during the coronavirus pandemic, your minimum actually decreases to cover only your variable costs in order to lose less money.
For example, if your variable costs (water, electricity, gas, etc.) are $25 per night and your fixed cost (mortgage, internet, taxes, etc.) are $75, your minimum during desperate times like coronavirus should be anything above $25 per night. That’s because you will lose less money having it rented. Even at $30 per night, that extra $5 ($30 minus $25) will go towards decreasing your fixed costs or net loss.
Hotels lower their prices 40%+ during slow season. Do you lower your Airbnb listing rate?
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Conclusion: Airbnb Slow Season Strategies
You need an active annual pricing strategy to account for the low and high seasons. Due to demand, anyone can get by in high season, but it is the Airbnb slow season that separates the professionals from the amateurs. Here is what you should think about in order of importance:
- Lower your nightly rate up to 50%
- Adjust your calendar availability to encourage early slow season bookings
- Adjust your ‘Base price’ within Airbnb related to the Airbnb pricing hack
- Increase your percentage discounts based on competition
- Remove extra person charge
- Lower minimum nights to one
- Add the word ‘Discount’ into the front of your title
- Offer a ‘Friends + Family’ Airbnb discount
For kicks, here’s what Airbnb themselves has to say about how to navigate the Airbnb slow season…
Share your Airbnb slow season strategies in the comments below!