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When do I start to panic?


jerrytlr

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Hi all

We recently moved to France (Dordogne), now living here permanently. Our property includes one established Gite, but the previous owners let the marketing and bookings (and condition!) slip for the last year or so before we bought, so I am now trying to rebuild the business. Effectively, it's like starting from scratch.

I have read lots of really helpful info on here about where and how to advertise, and how to grow the number of bookings - however, the info I cannot find is - when do customers tend to make their bookings?

We are up and running with one marketing site so far, but over the last few weeks I have had only a handful of enquiries and no bookings yet. Should I worry about this? Or are people currently thinking about xmas, and will start sending enquiries and (hopefully) making bookings come Jan/Feb?

Would be interested to know what other people have found regarding what 'peak times' are for enquiries, and also how many bookings one would reasonably expect to have for 2011 at this stage.....

I am anyway concentrating on improving the marketing of the Gite, but advice on what 'normal' is for enquiries at this time of year would really help me know how much more I should be investing at this stage....

Thanks in advance for your help!

Cheers,

Jerry
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I would say Jan is a busy booking period but this year maybe slow due to the downturn.

As for bookings, my best year I had 14 weeks, my first year I had around 6, the only guaranteed dates are the school holidays of course all others are a bonus.  It depends on what you have to let, mine was a family friendly gite with 3 bedrroms, large pool and large fishing lake so I got the family groups with fisherman dads. 

My gite was a side line and so marketing was just Chez Nous and one other, cant remember which.

Many other still in the biz will come along with the actuals this year shortly no doubt!

Good luck.

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The letting season for French gites is very short.  Some people consider it lucky of they achieve 10 weeks' holiday lettings in total, mainly concentrated in July and August.

Take a look at www.laymyhat.com - this is an excellent site that will give you an idea of what to expect.

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Last year we had a lot of bookings coming in before Christmas for 2010. The year before there was a lot of talk of recession in the air and bookings were much later in 2009. This year feels more like 2009, although we have already sold our August weeks. We limit our bookings to about 14 weeks a year, but could take more if we wanted. Ours is a small gite in Normandy so I think we pick up a lot of UK bookings from people who don't want to travel too far. Further south I think you would do well to target other European countries, but be prepared for the fact that the French seem to book much later.

Good luck!
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For us October - Xmas time is usually quiet for new bookings (we do get repeat bookings when I send the annual newsletter late October), it starts to pick up late December through to Easter.  We are now into our 8th year & aim to have 20wks/gite/year & I would say that 80% of our guests are couples over 45, many have now stayed with us for 4yrs or more, so I currently have 9wks provisionally booked for each gite.  We tend to only have families booked for the school holiday period in our larger gite only.  As already stated the peak time in France is July & August, so you should always be able to fill those weeks, especially as the French tend to book later, so no need to panic yet.  In our slower years we have found that by Easter- Ascension Day w/end we have sold all our weeks - so that will be time to start worrying.  Our GdF inspector says that in the Charente we should aim for a minimum of 14wks/year, which we have always exceeded but mainly because we concentrate our marketing for the older age group.  After 8 yrs I would say that the secret of our success is that we now have a regular clientele who book every year & we cater for the 'couple only' market, who seem to have more disposable income & come during the 'shoulder' periods.  Demographically this market should increase as the baby boomer generation approached retirement age.  So relax a little & think about who you wish to market your property to.  We have found that Chez Nous & Holiday France have always performed well for us & generated the sort of guests who enjoy France & wish to return year after year.  Owners Direct are good for the last minute bookings, but they tend to be looking for Special Offers & rarely return - similar applies to Holiday Rentals.  For the French market try pour les vacances & the Dutch favour gites.nl, but both nationalities tend to be late bookers.  Bon courage
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This year was our first year and we didn't start advertising until March.  We have let about 12 weeks this year which wasn't too bad.  We let predominantly to French families (easier!) and have noticed they often book at short notice.  They also like weekends / short breaks outside the main season.  For 2011, August is now booked bar one week.

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Some French friends of mine who have two high-quality gites in the Vendée, each with a lovely pool, said they have had no bookings for 2011 so far. THis time last year, they were nearly fully booked for the next season. They said that other gites in the area are in the same situation.

Maybe people are waiting for the New Year to see how the economy - and their personal finances - are faring.

Angela
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Agree about www.laymyhat.com being a useful source of info for gite owners,, but disagree that the French gîte letting season is very short. It depends on a lot of things, location, facilities etc. but it is possible to get 30+ weeks (pool probably essential), although the average is probably 12 weeks.

Bookings are slower this year than last for me too.

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