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Quiet season?


catherined

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We found Feb and March really busy enquiries wise but slowed dramatically in April. Booked all but 1 peak week and had 'late' bookings for April and May. Nothing for June yet and only enquiries for Sept.Personally I don't mind the late-comers as long as you can get the funds cleared before their stay starts. Better late than never wouldn't you say?
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  • 3 weeks later...

Concur with "mikejan" the age of last minute bookings are here...so is the range of cheap airfares which give people a far wider choice in locations throughout Europe.Don't agree that there are too many people doing Gites/Chambre d'Hote...in our area there are few hotels and a growing tourist market. I think it's not about price cuting but being good at networking, excellent PR and wide range of advertising.

Those who fail to market themselves and  not offer par excellence will go to the wall.....

We have had a steady start to the year but like "Smily" found April rather quiet....whether the CPU protest put off brits coming over or the fact that more people than ever are in serious debt in Blair's Britain could count for an uncertain summer.

 

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There has to be a potential that supply exceeds demand in the gîtes/holiday rentals market.

 

Have all those families and individuals, who over the last 10/15 years rented in France, now bought their own place and boosted the potential of rentable places with the effect that times will become harder and harder for everyone to find ‘clients’  - last minute or otherwise ???

 

How effective are agent websites in finding customers?  We have had a satisfactory experience with frenchconnections.co.uk but also this year tried holiday-rentals.com, which to date has produced 4 enquiries only and no bookings - £50 an enquiry ???

 

Anyone else experiencing this ?  no doubt that as Lotman says marketing is very important....

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I would also say you are right (robotpierre) about Brits and others buying Holiday homes and using for holiday rental in recent years....In our area of the Lot (46) the Brits and Dutch have a growing slice of the local Housing market and use these properties as holiday rentals for at least six months of the year.Holiday lets are seen as good investment and in our area property is expected to rise for the next few years,whatever happens in the rest of France.

Not surprising then that with a growing Holiday home rental market expanding then the slice of cake for those with Gites/Chambre d'Hotes will see a decline in bookings etc.Hence the need to be on top of the game and fine tune marketing and offer better USP's then the competition down the road. As for Brits Buying and renting out these homes who can blame them when they see their Pensions down the drain!...Thanks Tony ! 

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I'm going to be controversial about this, so you can all shout at once. Although I'm not an owner of gites/chambres d'hote, I have been a customer many times and also have quite a bit of experience in the travel industry.

Most properties in good areas and with decent facilities could be let many times over in July/August and for almost any amount. This has always been the case with holiday accommodation, whether a b&b in Blackpool, a hotel in Benidorm or a gite in the Dordogne. To get bookings outside this period requires luck, good marketing and keen pricing. There's no point thinking "my place is worth more than that " because if nobody wants to book it at that price then it's not worth it. I realise that people have charges to cover for such things as electricity, cleaning and laundry and that you must make a profit over and above that. Equally, some of you will know from experience that if you keep your place vacant at the full cost you have a good chance of getting someone turning up on the spot from the tourist office. For many people, however, your expensively priced property will be standing empty. Even if you only make 60E euros over your outgoings, that is surely better than having the place empty.This is why airlines have always offered cheap standby tickets; once a plane has taken off the seats can never be filled, even if someone's only paid a fiver for a seat it's all additional profit.

As an example, we're coming down early June to do some work on our house, but thought that it might be nice to have a week's actual holiday afterwards. Money's tight (isn't it always?) but we thought that in the quiet season we might have a chance of picking up a bargain, particularly at short notice and only being two people. Our budget was £250 and I started off looking at Holiday Rentals. When I searched for availability there were over 200 properties available; when I put in a price cap of £250 that went down to 20. This is with only about 3 weeks to go. That sounds to me like there are going to be a lot of empty properties that week! We eventually booked with someone who was selling through Ebay and got a half price bargain at £140. This person may be only making only about £60 profit that week, but isn't that better than making nothing? Perhaps we'll come back again, perhaps we'll recommend this property to friends; we'll certainly spend money in her community as well as paying rent. These are all additional benefits of taking a low priced booking at short notice.

I'm sorry about the long post and I hope I haven't annoyed people too much, but it's a point that I thought worth making.

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KathyC, I agree, in the shoulder season it pays to be more flexible about pricing. However, if we get some people who will pay the full asking rate, I would rather have those bookings at that rate rather than advertising the whole month at really low prices. My properties are fully booked in June, but I have given some discounts where appropriate, for lower level occupancy etc. Like you say, I would rather have someone in the houses than no-one at all. A lot of holiday rental websites offer 'last minute' bargins now, so it is worth people looking there for discounts (e.g. holidaylets.net, frenchholidayhomes.com).
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Same situation for us, we are booked solid in high season, yet  Sept has not even had a week booking yet, and June is half full !!

and the crazy thing is over half of those peak season bookings do not have children...or at least they haven't declared them to us !!........and therefore could be having cheaper / slightly quieter  holidays in June & Sept,   I don't understand the mentality that everyone has a holiday in July & August when prices are max, places are at their busiest and the sun is almost too hot and uncomfortable.

Moan over!

myself...I shall be looking forward to a nice break in June and Sept , and as you may guess.. these months are my favourite times of year for weather and avoiding the crowds.

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[quote user="Grays"]

Same situation for us, we are booked solid in high season, yet  Sept has not even had a week booking yet, and June is half full !!

and the crazy thing is over half of those peak season bookings do not have children...or at least they haven't declared them to us !!........and therefore could be having cheaper / slightly quieter  holidays in June & Sept,   I don't understand the mentality that everyone has a holiday in July & August when prices are max, places are at their busiest and the sun is almost too hot and uncomfortable.

Moan over!

myself...I shall be looking forward to a nice break in June and Sept , and as you may guess.. these months are my favourite times of year for weather and avoiding the crowds.

[/quote]

 

Have to agree with you there Grays[;-)] we don't have children and have always taken our holidays in May/June and Sept as it's cheaper, quieter, easier to book time off work, less crowded on the ferry and as you say the weather is less uncomfortable oh and the roads are quieter as well [;-)] As we now have our own place we have been over a week in May  then a week in June ,2 weeks in July(for a change) then a week in Sept[:D]

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I'm going to be controversial about this, so you can all shout at once. Although I'm not an owner of gites/chambres d'hote, I have been a customer many times and also have quite a bit of experience in the travel industry.

As an example, we're coming down early June to do some work on our house, but thought that it might be nice to have a week's actual holiday afterwards. Money's tight (isn't it always?) but we thought that in the quiet season we might have a chance of picking up a bargain, particularly at short notice and only being two people. Our budget was £250 and I started off looking at Holiday Rentals. When I searched for availability there were over 200 properties available; when I put in a price cap of £250 that went down to 20. This is with only about 3 weeks to go. That sounds to me like there are going to be a lot of empty properties that week! We eventually booked with someone who was selling through Ebay and got a half price bargain at £140.

Don't think it's Controversial but a word of caution on Bargin deals! The saying "you get what you pay for" holds good.Looking at a Holiday rental with a 250 GBP limit is cheap even for June.In fact from our experience June normally is a good month of the year and therefore we charge a mid-season room rate, likewise with our Gite.Much for the reasons mentioned by others on this thread, quieter, not so hot, less traffic etc etc. I suspect that the reason that there were so many properties available at over the 250 budget is that most are owned by British residents living and working in the UK and therefore rentals are a bonus and not seen as part of an income,hence the higher rates.

I don't know about the merits of holiday lets on Ebay but you certainly got a bargin in 140 GBP for a weeks holiday...I hope the accomodation is to your liking as from personal experience we found a "Bargin" deal when we were searching for property here in France.Very cheap...but as I mentioned "you get what you pay for" this property had a large crack on the wall floor to ceiling, bedroom door that only shut when locked, WC that you couldn't sit straight on!....window that was difficult to open and bathroom door that would only shut if you didn't stand at the wash basin.To top off  generally unclean!!....Oh nearly forgot no proper parking and in the middle of no where!! None of which we could have known about or reading the advert....surprisingly we never went back!....Hope your bargin is ok.

The point I'm making is that price is not the sole factor.Gites/B&B's cannot be viewed in the same light as cheap Air fares.Like most B&B/Gite owners we tweak our prices and marketing....discounts for long stays...special discounts for anniversaries or discount packages on minimum stays of four nights or more etc...everyone has there own ideas but at the end of the day we're here to do business.I noticed that you have a home here in France!....rather curious as to weather you intend to let the property...Bargin prices maybe??

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  • 4 weeks later...
Hi,

We too have a couple of cottages near Bergerac. We have found most of the warmer months fine but the cooler months not good at all. This in spite of central heating, log fires and reasonable prices.

Maybe this is digressing a little but I must say that I get a little worried when I see other Gite/cottage owners dropping their prices to almost nothing as a result. Have they never heard of the ‘Law of Diminishing Returns’?

My view is that this sort of thing kills one’s own market. I have even seen an add saying ‘any offer accepted’….. Come on…. Most of us offer a great product at a good price…..

I disagree with this tactic on two fronts… first, as I say it does kill your own market but secondly… I would find it hard to explain to one guest why he had paid double what another guest had paid… It just seems unfair.

I prefer to close for the quiet months. Ok I know not all can afford to do this but maybe it is time we fought back. Many of us provide an excellent product for a good price…. By slashing prices we are hurting only ourselves….

This year almost all of our bookings have been what would normally be termed ‘late’…

I have had potential guests ask for 40% discounts and I have replied that we never discount other than when people rebook or book more than a single week… The response I have had is sometimes really rude!!! I think allot of holiday makers have read the negative press and think we Brits with Gites are all starving!!!!

Put it like this… If a family of 6 come her for one week at £750 in July they get a pool, a cottage with dishwasher, DVDs, Sat TV, games, towels, bikes, …. everything thrown in…. That works out at £18 per person per night…… I think that is a bloomin good deal…… Cheaper than any hotel and twice the quality.

So….. Don’t drop your prices… offer a food basket or a case of wine…. And if that’s not good enough recommend Benidorm ! (never could spell that word).

Let’s all stop killing the Gite market….

Just a thought

Joseph

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I'm sorry Joseph but I dissagree. Firstly the internet means more and more people are booking late. They also expect a discount for 'net' trading. Secondly we all know that there are plenty of gites etc. available so we have to make ours more appealing than the next. We'd all love to be asking £750 + per week but who's going to pay it. We live in a world of cut-price shopping, we need to adapt to that. Gone are the days of high profit rentals. I believe in high turnover at a realistic price, but then again I only rely on the income to pay the tax and the bills. The house is the investment for me. For those that rely on the rental for a living, it's going to get harder.
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Yes, I started this thread, because things were so quiet. But now I'm fully booked thanks to some heavy, and some moderate discounting. I'm with rental systems:

http://www.rentalsystems.com/default.asp?sag=20480B&sc=textlink

who take 10% but you can price up for that, and its well worth it because they take credit/ debit  cards for you and automate the whole thing. It meant I was able to take a booking on thursday last for arrival that Saturday, and again this morning for arrival this sat. I did have to discount, but I made a small profit, managed to pay my staff locally who wouldn't have got anything if the house was empty, and I'm sending touristes into the village to spend money which wouldn't have been spent there otherwise. To a degree, I think its all very well having a second home/ investment property, but you do have a certain responsibility to a region if you buy up a house and leave it empty most of the year. We bought because we absolutely love the area, so we want to be able to put something back into the local economy.

For people who may not think like that, remember- the more popular/ prosperous an area becomes, the more your 'investment' is worth in the long term!

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You make a fair point about those who rely only on Gite income to live. I guess they just have to take what they are given.... I have worked out that you’d need at least 4 fully booked most of the year to be able to manage properly. That is a big task.

Obviously how different people live varies, a family of three can live on as little as 30,000 Euros here but if you have come to France to relax surely this means eating in restaurants a few times a week… Drinking the odd Grand Cru (I mean crew) and not just the cheapest bottle one can find in the hypermarket…. Is there anything more awful than poor Brits in cheap clothes wandering around hypermarkets looking for ‘Offres spéciales’ ? (Don’t all get funny with me know…. We all see it and we all think the same thing….. They have a choice… they could go back to their council flats in Newcastle anyway and avoid the daily humiliation they give themselves and embarrassment they give us).

I would not want to be in that position, in fact if I were I would cash in my ‘investment’ and buy a new home in the UK... Oh but they can’t afford to coz they sold up and moved and the market has done them in…. ‘INVESTMENT’??? Some might call it a jail sentence….

Maybe the fact that we don't rely on the income makes it easy for us to turn away people looking for discounts. Just like you the cottages for us are a source of ‘pin money’….for us they replace the car each year and occasionally pay for our holidays.

Frankly we don't want to attract 'the wrong sort' with low prices anyway…... Union Jack shorts, tattooed beer bellies and shaven heads are not for us (and that is to say nothing of the men).....

You seem to think that £750 is allot… Surely it depends on the product… For a two bedroom Gite with no pool it would be allot…. Lots will pay £750 a week and much more..... If you have the right product....

Our place includes an 11m heated (oh… and clean) pool, Air conditioned bedrooms, fully fitted kitchens, and so on. We do not charge for Bikes, Tennis, Books (over 1200) DVDs (over 1000), games, linen, welcome baskets, towels etc…….This all in stone cottages aged about 150 years.

We spent about 150k (real money) renovating the two cottages over 2 years. If people think that is not worth £18 a night (peak season) then fine, we will agree to differ and they can go elsewhere.... Frankly it is amazing value. The renovations we did used local artisans and our places were featured in an American Magazine on how one should renovate properly…. I am not boasting, as you don’t know who I am there would be no point… Just trying to emphasise the difference between a cottage or Gite of high standard and the usual rubbish.

On top of this we never take a bond, we cover all damage, we always have guests to dinner one night during their stay and they get free eggs from our chickens, veg from our gardens and fruit from our trees…. Now that is worth £750. Not, I would say, the usual package, but if you think £750 is too much you’ll have to tell me where you holiday….

I’m off to Antigua in a month and that is costing me £11,000. for the 4 of us. THAT is an expensive holiday but we will not have to mix with riff raff and for that it is worth it….. £750 for 6 for a week in SW France… I don’t think its so much…. Nor fortunately do my guests.

Now if people only want to spend £500 or so why don’t they stay at home and have a few good nights out in a local restaurant….? What is this obsession with having to holiday when you just can’t afford it…..?

So far I am happy to say that we have had no shortage of bookings... Only 3 weeks (in one cottage) out of our open season are not booked this year. ... and that was due to a cancellation.... (We don’t keep the deposit when that happens either…. We like to do right by people…….)

Forgot to mention… We never accept children here…. Guests seem to like that.

Most of our customers have stayed in cottages before and they cannot believe the service here… They complain about in the past being charged extra for water, for heating, for towels, for just about anything….. Such operations are a joke… It is 2006 and people want quality…. Many will pay allot for it…. Even stretching to £18 per night.

One last thing... I disagree with you point about internet price reductions. Of course many companies offer discounts on the internet... There is a good reason for this.... They are able to reduce the normal overheads, staff, post etc.... They then pass on a small part of that saving to the customer.....

When we use the internet things are quite different....We do not reduce our overheads…. We increase them…… First WE must pay for an advertiser, then we have the same or higher overhead as we must also run a computer... The customer on the other hand gets all the benefit of the ease of locating and booking a holiday.

Your suggestion to bump the prices and then drop them thus giving the impression of a discount is.... well I can’t comment upon that but I guess there is a fine line between marketing strategy and dishonesty….

None of the above is directed at you, just as your comments are not at me so please don’t take offence…

All the best and good luck with your bookings…. and your investment.

Joeseph

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[quote user="TheWalkingDude"]Frankly we don't want to attract 'the wrong sort' with low prices anyway…... Union Jack shorts, tattooed beer bellies and shaven heads are not for us (and that is to say nothing of the men)..... [/quote]

 

One easy way to weed out that crowd- don't provide a telly! It's worked really well for us. It's definitely lost us some rentals, (example: 'we woudl really like to rent your house but is is there any way you can manage to get in english television for us because we have two children aged 9 and ten and there will be nothing for them to do all week if we don't have a television') but we've been happy with the guests we've got. And yes, I have reduced prices in the last few weeks and got two lovely young couples, who wouldn't have been able to afford the house otherwise, and may return in later years when they have kids, or who may tell their friends that the area is worth visiting. We leave free postcards, calendar magnets etc in the house for guests to take, so their very presence is a marketing opportunity. And again, I go back to my point about empty houses- they do nothing for the local economy.

 

 

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The telly is an interesting point as we reckon few renters use it. Having spent some money on an improved connection, and the TV licence of course, it has stayed this year but its always up for review. 

In fact when we lost service due to an enterprising neighbour doing some DIY we didn't get any complaints.

Has anybody else got any thoughts ?

 

Regards

 

John

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Hi,

That sounds a good idea but it’s a big step.

Bear in mind that allot of people will purport not to like TV and act as though not watching TV is some sort of intellectual accolade… The fact is most people do enjoy a bit of TV, for some people (usually the not so clever) it is like a tag…. ‘Look at me I don’t watch TV so I must be clever and sophisticated’

We had one here like that… she actually walked around the pool reciting poetry……. Well you know what they say about a good memory for poetry?… it can be pleasant enough but it is no substitute for wit…. (might have misquoted a little there…but I rely on wit… not memory)…

Over dinner she mentioned Kafka so I attempted to engage her in discussion about old Franz… she did not have a clue (like him) …. She’d evidentially read one of those abridged versions which is designed to give you enough knowledge to get you through some dinner party or other…… She was a teacher…. I should have known…… Give me beer bellies and tattoos any day over pseudo sophistication…. I’d rather a real bum from a slum than a fake from Highgate…. (I made that up I did… I did….)

Sorry to ramble….

I think you are very brave to do this and sincerely hope it works out for you. Maybe you could say TV optional… French or UK?…. Just a thought… you clearly know what you are doing.

We do the post cards too.. We took photos of our place and sent them to Vistaprint… They also do excellent business cards, key rings and so on…. All very cheap all on-line… Designing your own cards etc is real fun.

Anyone looking to do some artwork, postcards etc could not go wrong with Vistaprint. It is all done online and delivery is fast and free. I ordered 5000 business cards last year and there was a slight error on them (only slight miss alignment) so I send back about 10 and complained and they immediately sent me another 5000 free…. Now THAT is service….

We even supply little sewing kits, these cost about 1 euro each but again… it’s the little things that can count.

I have thought about putting stamps on the post cards… These are not expensive and as you say they advertise for us (our web address etc is on each card)….

I also have our website tattooed across my daughter’s forehead. (not really…. Its on her arm.

Do you know our biggest asset for getting guests? Without a doubt it is our feedback page. We have some great feedback and almost all guest tell us that after the photos the feedback is the thing that gets them to book. So, if you have not got one get a guests book.

Joe

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The feedback is a great idea- it's one of the things that really sold rental systems to me. (I've used it to book my own holidays) After each guest stays at the house they are sent an e-mail to submit a review. It can only be filled in by someone who has booked and paid for their rental through the system, so there's no way that the owner can 'boost' their feedback by writing their own reviews!

As to the telly, most guests have commented (mainly positively) on the lack of TV in our guestbook and they all say it forced them to make more of an effort to get out and about and plan their holiday. (but maybe having booked knowing there wasn't one they were more likely to do that anyway!) Personally I love the month we stay there ourselves without tv, the kids turn into completely different people!! And the moment you offer the option of a tv, people will take it- they'd be too afraid not to....just in case....and they might not be getting full value without it...

I have considered putting in an unconnected tv, just for dvd's and videos, but I've resisted so far. I know it can be handy if you've got young kids and a hangover and you want an extra hour or two in bed....

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We have UK and French TV plus DVD player and I don't think it has ever lost us a booking - quite the contrary in a lot of cases, particularly when there are sporting events such as Wimbledon and the World Cup (we are fully booked this month). Although parents may welcome getting the kids away from the TV, we also have parents who like having a lie in on holiday and are happy that a TV is there for the kids in the morning. We also get a lot of older couples who like having the TV for the evening occasionally and access to UK radio via the satellite. In Brittany, the weather isn't always great, so it can be useful to have something in the house.

People who don't want the TV unplug it. Voilà.

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Our gites are a TV free zone.....whats the point of a holiday if you are obsessed with TV schedules. Holidays are all about doing something different, and switching it off forces children to play and interact with others. At our 6 gites on one site we find that our guests really like to get together in the evening. So this year we are laying on evening entertainment, eg a band one night.....its upt our numbers, and made us completely different to our "competitors" because we offer more than just a property. We offer an experience.... and believe me our online guest book comments get better each year. We've not had a quiet season, when all around us are complaining.

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