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sykes cottages podcast inside holiday letting

Once you’ve bought your holiday let and are ready to open it up for bookings, how do you make sure that you are maximising the income that you earn?

In this episode of Inside Holiday Letting, our holiday letting experts will dish out their top tips on how to maximise your holiday let income, from how to decorate and furnish your property, to what you can do to ensure that your guests return time and time again.

We will also go into detail about the benefits of a holiday letting agent, how they can help you achieve more bookings and revenue, and much more.

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Podcast Transcript


Hello, this is Inside Holiday Letting – a podcast series from Sykes Holiday Cottages.

Today, we’re looking at ways to get the most out of your property, sharing tools to maximise your holiday let income.

Once again, we’re joined on this episode by our team of experts from the holiday letting industry:

Vanessa Warwick – Co-founder of the Property Tribes forum

Rachel Brennan Sales and Operations Manager from Sykes Holiday Cottages

Our guest today is Helen Winter. Helen, welcome to the podcast, and tell us a little bit about yourself:


Hi, I’m Helen Winter, I’m an interior designer, and I own a company called Coral Interiors, based in Bournemouth, Dorset. I’m a residential interior designer, and I also specialise in vegan design, most importantly in holiday cottage interiors.

Short-term letting vs long-term letting


So, you’ve bought your holiday home, and Vanessa, there’s a lot of things to take on board here, and a lot of things to think about. I assume, maybe one of them that’s up there at the top of the list would be – do you go short-term versus long-term letting?


Yes, that’s a good question. Because, if you think about it, the cleaning costs for a three-night stay are going to be pretty much similar to the cleaning costs if somebody stayed for two or three weeks – so, to my mind, the longer stays are more profitable.

But of course, because of the rise of the staycation, which is this trend that we’ve been witnessing for probably the last three or four years, there’s a lot of people wanting to book long weekends, maybe three nights. And, when you pick these kinds of bookings up during the low-season times, they can really, really add very nicely to your cashflow.

So, for the main peak seasons; summer, Christmas, New Year, half term, bank holidays – you should really try and aim to get the longer duration bookings. But then, for the lower season, the staycation-type short weekend, or few days’ break bookings really, really do enhance your cashflow.

Okay. So, for a short-term let, we’re looking, on average, at like two or three nights – a weekend, long weekend. In terms of a longer-term, can that be anything up to a month?

It can be. I’ve had a couple of instances where, I had one lady who was having her house refurbished and she wanted to move out for a month, so, I had a month-long booking from her. I had another lady whose house had been burned down, and she needed somewhere to live, and I had about a month booking from her. So, people always think of short-term lettings as mainly holidays, but there can be other instances where people need short-term accommodation. I recall another incident, where somebody had bought a new-build house in the area, and it wasn’t completed in time to match when they’d sold their previous home, so they were essentially homeless. So, they wanted to book, again, for about a month.

So, there’s lots of other things going on around short-term lets, which do attract bookings. Another good example is, where I’ve got one of my holiday lets, at Camber Sands. It’s a very popular location for filming, and some very big films have been filmed there, such as Monument Men, and you get a lot of film crews wanting to stay for the duration of the shoot.

So, there’s good reasons for people to have short-term lettings, outside of just taking a holiday or a long weekend break.

Are there differences in legal rights between short-term and long-term letting?


And Rachel, looking at a long-term let, does that change any legal rights, for both parties?

When you look at a short-term let, in terms of a bad tenant, with a short term let, they’re very short-lived. The holidaymaker will be there for a matter of days, or maybe a couple of weeks, at most. If there’s any issues during the stay, as well, you’re well your rights to remove them. Whereas, legally, this is much harder with a long-term tenant that you have.

Other factors to consider is, ease of payment, as well. So, all holidays are paid, in full, prior to the arrival date. Otherwise, the booking just won’t go ahead and the holidaymaker will, essentially, forfeit their stay. At Sykes, we require the full balance at least six weeks prior to their arrival date, unless they’re booking last-minute, when full payment will be required.

But, both forms of letting, there is a number of legal obligations to ensure that the property is of course, deemed safe for holidaymakers, or whether that’s a long-term tenant as well.

And with this, you’ve got to ensure that you’ve got the right level of; insurance cover, public liability, the right rental agreements in place, completed risk assessments, gas safety certificates, PAT testing, water certificates if needed for a private water supply, even planning permission and premises use in place, if that applies to you. But, a lot of people believe that there are more obligations with a long-term let than with a short-term let, because the property is a proper home to them, rather than just a temporary accommodation.

I know, one that springs to mind, particularly for England, is the EPC – the Energy Performance Certificate. This is something that isn’t required, at the moment, for English holiday lets, because those bills are the responsibility of the property owner, rather than the holidaymaker – so that’s a little difference there.

Do short-term lets earn more than long-term lets?

But I suppose, on a longer term let though, income opportunity – you know that there’s a period of time that’s being blocked out, where you know you’re going to get some income.


That’s right. You can look at a long term let with a regular income there, but what you will find, is that there is more opportunity to earn more with a holiday let.

So, if you look at what you’re charging for the full calendar month, with a long-term let, you can typically look to charging that per week with your short-term let. So, there is more to capitalise on there. But as well, you can change prices – so, pricing fluctuations, you can take in seasonality, demands, peaks. Whereas, you’re not going to do that with your long-term let, as much as you are your short-term.

One thing to be aware of with short-term letting, with holiday letting, is that some weeks can go unsold, as you said, and that then will stop that income coming into you. I know we spoke about this previously, and Vanessa put it beautifully, is that – when you haven’t got anybody staying at your property, your running costs can be lower. So, of course there’s some regular, consistent costs that you have to consider; your mortgage payments, your council tax, maybe TV license. But, other running costs such as; lower utility bills, even no cleaning costs if nobody’s staying there, even no commission to pay if you are using a third party. So, with ourselves, you only pay commission to us, we are only paid, when we successfully let your week. If we do not sell your property, Sykes will not get paid.

So, some of those costs can, of course, bring those running costs down. And, the added benefit is that, if it does go unsold, you may wish to use it yourself, so you get some personal use.



I was just going to add, comparing standard buy-to-let to short-term lets – there are over 180 government statutes and regulations, that landlords have to adhere to when they have a tenant using the property as their home, usually on an assured short-hold tenancy. So, the legislation and regulation around that is far, far greater.

And also, as we’re recording this podcast, the eviction ban has been in place – you’re not able to evict a tenant, the notice period is six months. So, compared to holiday lets, there’s a lot less red tape. The guest is a guest, they’re not a tenant – they don’t have any right of tenure in the property. So, there’s a lot to be said for holiday lettings, when you compare them to buy-to-let, in terms of the regulation and the legislation.

The two main things that landlords worry about, is that; the tenant won’t pay the rent, and that the tenant will damage the property. Obviously, with holiday lets, the payment is upfront, so you don’t have that worry. And, tenants damaging holiday lets is extremely rare, in my opinion – I think Rachel probably knows even more than myself on this statistic, but certainly in all my years of holiday lets, I’m struggling to remember where a tenant damaged anything, actually. I can recall one wine glass being broken, and they left £2 on the side to pay for it – literally, that’s it.

And, I think this goes back to what we were saying in the other podcasts – if you provide a very high-spec, lovely environment for people, my belief is that they do respect that. So, you’re probably only going to get any damage in holiday lets if you’ve got large groups, like hen parties or stag nights, or things like that.


Okay. And, the rate of return, for each type – what’s that like?

Looking at the average gross earnings for a holiday property, you are talking around £20,000 per year. Now, this is heavily dependent, of course, on a number of factors; location, size, type, style, standard – that will, of course, influence those. We have some properties that can earn up to £125,000 per year, so there is quite a big range there. Larger properties certainly can hit that higher range, but you have to consider some luxury features to have in there.

In terms of bookings, these can range from anything from 30 weeks per year, to even 45 weeks per year. But again, it’s dependent on location, there’s some seasonality to take into consideration here, but, as well as own use, because sometimes availability can be blocked out, of course, for the owner wanting to use that property themselves – so, that can sometimes limit that.

Looking at, again; larger properties, city-centre locations, some of your unique properties as well, like glamping pods – these can actually earn in excess of 52 booking per year, because they will really capitalise on that short-break market that’s out there, as well. Whereas, they’re not going for those week-long stays, they’re potentially getting two in one week, so they can really make good use of that 52-week calendar.

So, again, as we’ve said before in the other podcasts, it’s about doing your research, finding out what’s going to work best for you. Do you agree Vanessa?


Absolutely, 100%. I did a huge amount of research before I entered the holiday lets market.

I was originally attracted to my first one at Camber Sands, because of the absolutely outstanding beach there, which is about seven miles of golden sand with shallow water. And, it’s very close to the town of Rye, which is a real tourist honeypot year-round. It has all the 1066 attractions in the area, it has fine dining, it has vineyards people can go and visit, it has beautiful walks, and it has, I think I’m right in saying, about 40 golf clubs within a 20-mile radius. So, there’s so much in the area to bring people to it year-round, and that’s what really attracted me to it.

And, I actually did something which I call ‘try before you buy’. I actually rented a holiday let in the same development that I was interested in buying mine in. I was greeted by the owner, and she supplied some lovely, fresh tiger bread, and milk, and butter, and cakes and things – and it was a wonderful welcome. I was very impressed, and I had a long chat to her about what sort of occupancy she was achieving, and whatnot. And, I stayed with my husband, in this little two-bed cottage for three nights, and explored the area. I did my ‘try before I buy’, and then at the end of that weekend, I went into the developer’s office and started discussing my purchase.

So, that’s a good way to try it. Test the competition and get some knowledge from other owners, because, generally, I find that other holiday let owners are very willing to share information and tips and so on – it’s a good resource to tap into.

How do you furnish a holiday let?

If we can bring Helen Winter in now, from Coral Interiors – the other thing that you’ve got to think about, and it’s obviously going to have an effect on your income, is how you’re going to fit the property out.

Yeah, it’s a balance. You need to do your numbers, obviously, up front. There’s no point lavishing loads of money on something which is only going to achieve at the lower end of the scale due to its size or location.

But, there’s a lot you can do that would actually elevate your nightly rate, elevate the quality of the guests you get, as well, referring back to the stag and hen dos. If you’re attracting people who are willing to pay that little bit more for something really special, then they are going to, generally, look after it better than someone who just is looking for the cheapest place possible, because they’re not going to spend much time there, they’re just going to be out and about.

So yeah, we tend to look at, really, the guiding rule, I think is – create something aspirational, which is better than average home. Something where people are going to go, “Oh, okay, well, I couldn’t have achieved this in my own home”, or, “This is a bit special”.

And also, the other key thing, really, is how you stand out online, it’s attracting the right guests online, when they’re just doing their research and looking to book something. So, just by standing out, and being a little bit different; having more color, and pattern and interest, obviously great views, and things like that, are also key.

But, standing out as opposed to people who’ve just gone for the typical palette of what’s current at the moment, which is a lot of grey and yellow. People are used to that and everything, that’s fine, but, just to elevate a little bit, and look designed and considered, it’s worth pushing the boat out a little bit, going bold and creative. Scaling things up a little bit is a really good trick that I use – so like, mirrors, go for much bigger than you might think, for your own home, the same with artwork and rugs.

A lot of the time, people just furnish it, but it may just have the look of furniture which has been handed down, or picked up on Gumtree or something, and I think, you’ve got to think like a hotelier. Your property’s going to be compared to local boutique hotels and B&Bs, so you have to compete with them, and not just think of it as a numbers game, like, “If I just buy everything cheaply, then I’m going to make loads of profit”. So yeah, we try and say, “Here’s what I think you should spend money on”, which, in my book, would be; a really good mattress, really decent sofas – the things that people are sitting on, lying on, spending time on.

Then, you can economize in other areas. So, things which aren’t going to take so much ‘abuse’, as it were, like, little side tables and stuff can be really inexpensive. But, what people remember, is, how well they slept, how refreshed they felt when they woke up. Did they have lights coming through the curtains or blinds? Do they wake up at 5 o’clock when they didn’t really want to have to wake up at 5 o’clock? So yeah, blackout curtains and blinds are really key.

Thanks, that’s great.

Can extra features help increase your holiday let income?


Rachel, there are a lot of key features that are going to help to maximise your holiday let income, and a lot of things which people are are into at the moment. Things like; the log burners, the open fires, the hot tubs, as well, as mentioned in previous podcasts, the acceptance of pets, the outside spaces, the gardens, WiFi, as well, but good WiFi – these all have an impact, don’t they?


That’s right. All of those features that you’ve said there are all big ticket items, and they’re the ones that are really going to drive additional bookings, which, of course, is going to drive revenue. But also, they’re ones that can be taken into consideration when we are calculating your rates that you’re going to charge.

So, even if I just take a couple of those. So you’re looking at hot tubs – they can actually earn you over 50% in additional revenue, in comparison to a property that doesn’t have a hot tub. The likes of WiFi, which you actually look at as quite an inexpensive feature to have, that could increase your income by around 16%.

And, you made a very good point there, of ‘good WiFi’, you’ve got multiple users onto that WiFi. You’ve got, potentially; people streaming, they’re watching Netflix on the Smart TVs, all of that, that you need to make sure that you are going to be able to handle all of that. I do think that poor WiFi is probably worse than having no WiFi at all, with the frustrations and the bad feedback that can come out.

But, a few different things that you didn’t mention there that, of course can bring back repeat bookers, but also, great feedback – you’ve got well-equipped kitchens in there. Off-road parking, that ease to access that property, which can sometimes actually be quite challenging when you look at either city or central town locations, but there’s ways around that as well. So, we’ve got a lot of owners where, we’ve spoken with local councils, we have parking permits for the property. It’s just that, the holidaymaker wants to know that it’s just ease, that you’ve thought of everything for them. So, if you’ve already got that permit ready and waiting, and directions to where that about local car park is, that’s something to consider as well.  Coastal, near to a National Park with lots of beautiful walks nearby, and also the convenience to amenities. Maybe it’s a shop nearby, we’ve got lots of foodies out there, so certainly, if you’ve got some great restaurants or pubs nearby, and also places to go and see, activities to do in the area, is another one to consider.

And, things like that do affect your earning potential. You might have somebody who stays at your holiday let for a week, for instance, and then when they’re checking out and giving you feedback, “Well, you said it was good WiFi – it was ridiculous, I’m not going to pay for this. I’m not happy with this, I’m not happy with that”. So the earning potential can be compromised, can’t it?

Certainly. The last thing a property owner wants is negative feedback, or a complaint coming to that property. And, something that we do at Sykes, is actually check in with the guest after their first night’s stay – to make sure that everything is to their taste, to make sure that everything’s okay, that there’s no issues that have been incurred during that first night. Because, it gives us, as well as the property owner, a number of days to rectify any issues that they may have experienced. So, when it comes to leaving that all-important feedback at the end of their stay – it’s going to be great, because actually, we were proactive, we got to those issues in a speedy manner. But also, if it’s all positive and all hunky-dory, then that’s great, we’ve just got to do that again and again.

It’s important, when you think about your fixtures and fittings, that there can be a tendency to go cheap and cheerful here. But honestly, this is where quality really pays off, and it’s going to work out much, much cheaper in the long-run. There’s better wear on the fixtures and fittings, it’s going to need replacing less, but customers appreciate quality, as all three of us have been discussing.

And that is going to lead to fantastic feedback, which leads to more bookings, which leads to more income in your pockets. And, I am a firm believer that, there really is no better marketing than word of mouth. You can’t get any better than that.

What mistakes do people make when holiday letting?

We’ve talked about trying to do things right here, Helen. Obviously people will get things wrong, but it’s just making sure that you’ve tried to cover off all the bases. And, when I say, ‘get things wrong’ – you’ve got a holiday let, for instance, that sleeps eight, but at the dining table, there’s only room for six, or something like that.

It could be something so simple, but again, that is going to have a big effect on your earning potential, and obviously, your feedback. Is that the sort of thing, and other things, that people get wrong?

Yes, definitely. I’ve seen it a couple of times, or people saying, “Let’s get a sofa bed in the living room”, “We can have a pull-out bed up in this room”, and “Let’s have bunk beds upstairs, four bunk beds in one room”. And yes, they’ll fit, but then, you’ve got to think about, how big is the sitting room downstairs? If it’s not open plan, you don’t want it to be like a dentist’s waiting room, where there’s people just sitting all around the edge of the room, on any available surface – you need to definitely factor that in.

And also, if you’re going to have, say, 10 people in a house, and they’ve all slept there fine, but the next morning they’re all trying to make their breakfast or grab a coffee in a small little kitchen – I agree with what Vanessa was saying, open-plan does make a lot of sense, I think, for holiday lets, because you do have that flexibility in your ground floor, and sense of space, so you haven’t got people trying to squeeze through doorways at the same time. And these could be multi-generational as well – a group of people, the grandparents, small children, you’ve got to factor in everyone’s comfort and everyone’s needs as much as possible. Also, is there a place to keep the buggy and the pram? Is there a place so people don’t have to bring dirty wellies in? And stuff like that.

Other little things, where you’ve kind of missed opportunities – so the key thing is storage and making the best use of every space, so you don’t have dead zones in the house. So, say you’ve got a big landing and you’ve got nice big window there, you can easily put a little bookcase and a chair and a lamp, and just create a little reading nook. And that’s almost like an additional space, if someone can just have a bit of peace and quiet to themselves, or just look at the view or whatever.

It’s just really trying to think how people are going to use the space. It’s all great when the weather is sunshining, everyone’s out in the garden, and, you have that perfect week of sun – but how often does it actually happen? People can end up cooped up indoors a lot more than they planned to, with people they’re not used to spending a lot of time together with, potentially. I think it’s really also important to give a little bit of separation, so it’s not all totally open-plan. So there is, say, a little snug, where someone can just shut the door and make a work call if they have to, or, just read, or do some homework – away from everyone else watching a football match or something.

I do think layout is a really crucial factor to factor in. And, if you have the opportunity to go back to basics with your property, as opposed to inheriting something you have to stick with, then yeah, just think about what’s the optimal amount of people you want to be able to host comfortably, without being impingement on anyone.

Yeah, absolutely.

Extra thoughtful touches can help achieve repeat holiday let bookings

Vanessa, we mentioned in a previous podcast, that, if you know there’s going to be a pet staying, you leave the little treats out – it’s the little touches like that, putting them into your holiday home, which is hopefully going to get the repeat business. It’s putting your bit of personality on the property, but you don’t want to saturate your personality across the property, do you?

I think it’s nice for guests to know that you’re there in the background, and that you’re committed to them having a wonderful holiday. Those little touches do make a difference – I had a guest, once, who I happened to find out, was celebrating her 80th birthday, so I arranged for an 80th birthday card and some balloons to be in the property for when she arrived. And she really, really appreciated it, and it was just a nice thing to be able to do, actually. I felt it was a privilege to be able to do that, and to give her a nice, warm welcome into the property.

A few years ago, we would leave games and comics and things around for children, because, generally speaking, we all know that if the children are happy, the adults will be happy. But in this day and age, they’re all on their gadgets and devices, and this, again, chimes back to what we’ve been saying about the importance of superfast broadband. In one property with four people, there might be 8-10 devices online at any one time, people doing different activities online.

So, just think about all those little things that can make a difference. You’re helping people create memories and create happiness, just those little small things can really, really contribute to their experience at your holiday let. And of course, they could walk into a holiday let, and there’s no 80th birthday cards and balloons, and they could have an equally enjoyable time. But then, I think, just having that little extra something really can make an enormous difference and make people feel special.

And as we’ve said before – in any business, if you can make people feel valued and special, it’s a much better way of achieving positive feedback and them really, really rating your service and your product and referring it to other people and telling their friends, as we said. So, yeah, just those little things, little thoughtful things can make a very big difference


Because you’ve invested the time, and it’s going to appear to the people staying that you’ve invested some time in making sure and trying to take care of them as best you can. So, they’re going to obviously absolutely appreciate that.


They are. And I do recall, I was flying to New York with my mum, and we arrived at the British Airways check-in, and they said to my mum, “We see it’s your birthday today, we’re going to give you a free upgrade”. And I was so delighted for my mum, it had as much impact on me as it did on my mum, I tell people about that all the time.

And actually, there’s another little story – I was flying back from America, I was on Virgin Atlantic, arrived back at Gatwick at about 5 o’clock in the morning, and to my absolute astonishment, Richard Branson came to the door of the aircraft and shook hands with everybody that was leaving. And, that’s why he’s got a successful business career.

How to run a vegan holiday let

Helen, when you have a property, it’s always good to be a couple of steps ahead – looking at what’s going to be trending, looking at what the ‘in thing’ is going to be. Are there any trends to be aware of? And, you offer a vegan design service, which is obviously growing in the UK – tell us a bit more about that.

So yeah, veganism in general, and plant-based eating, are just huge movements at the moment and people have different reasons for that. And if you don’t eat animal products, you don’t really want to sit on a sofa made of leather, or lie on a pillow made of feathers and down, and things like that. So increasingly, people are sort of thinking, they might turn to veganism for health reasons, or for ethical reasons, and then think, well, it’s really like the whole lifestyle; it’s not just the food you eat and drink, it’s the clothes you wear, the shoes you wear. And then, people will come to me, because I actually advertise as a vegan interior designer myself, and people will say, “Well, we’re a vegan family, can you help refurbish our home and upgrade it without any sort of animal products in it”. And yeah, as you say, it’s a huge thing.

I think it could be a really huge USP for a holiday cottage owner, if you can market your property as vegan-friendly. Which would mean, like I said, avoiding leather, avoiding silk, avoiding wool and avoiding feathers, which sounds like quite a lot to do, but actually, it’s just knowing where to shop and what the actual positives are to the products. So, things like leather – people think it’s hard-wearing and it’ll wipe clean and everything, but if you get a rip in leather, or if you get oil on it, it does stain and it’s ruined at that point really. Wool is quite scratchy and itchy, and I can’t stand wool next to my skin, even before I was vegan, so, there’s a lot of comfort in that, as well, to factor in.

So, I use a company called Soak&Sleep for all of the duvets and pillows, and they have this amazing range called ‘soft as down’, which is just microfiber. And they just feel exactly like down, with none of the crackly noise you get with feather and down pillows.

I just think, yes, it can be just a really easy way to create a niche for your property. So, you attract people who are vegan, or interested in being vegan or vegetarian, but it’s not going to sort of alienate people who aren’t. So you’re not alienating anyone particularly, and I think it’s very easy to market as well.

There’s always Facebook groups for people crying out for information for how to veganise their lifestyle, and things like that, so it’s just a huge market to tap into. And you could have like a welcome pack, you could do a tie in with a local food delivery company, for example – we have one in Bournemouth, which does amazing pastries, and donuts and things like that. You could have them provide a welcome pack with vegan craft beer or wine, as well, and just, really create that ‘wow’ moment when they arrive, and just feel so welcomed and well-thought of by their host.

Okay. So, there’s a couple of little things to bear in mind there.

How to generate year-round holiday let income


Rachel, bearing in mind if somebody has a holiday let in this country, bearing in mind what the Great British summertime is like, you don’t want to put your eggs all in one basket for a couple of months, you’ve got to try and generate the income all year round – what are your top tips for that?


Location is definitely a big factor here, I know we’ve touched on this in previous podcasts. Within that sort of an hour and a half to two hours of a major city, that sort of drive time, and being able to offer flexibility around your changeover days to offer those short breaks as well.

It’s always great to have a fixed changeover day, to encourage those week-long stays. Typically, that should be a Friday or Saturday changeover, and actually, certain locations work better either or. So, if you are in a location where it does drive quite a lot of short breaks, typically a Friday would work out better for you, because, then you can have a Friday to Monday stay, and then Monday to Friday stay. So, these are things that you’ve just got to consider, to help you to boost that income during those winter and shoulder months as well.

There’s certainly some features that you can consider putting in the property that’s going to make it look attractive during those shoulder months, too. So, we talked about it before, those open fires, large kitchens, and making sure that there’s something to do indoors. We’ve got properties where they do have cinema rooms, games, rooms – because, we know what the weather can be like. And, especially with kids, there’s certainly nothing worse when you open the curtains and it is pouring down with rain and you’re thinking, “What are you going to do?”. It’s great to have something indoors, which you can keep yourselves occupied with.

And, year-round activities in the area, and amenities – you don’t want to pick a location where every restaurant closes up for winter, because they all go on their own holidays. You want to make sure that they’re going to be open year-round, so that your customers can continue to have that fantastic experience.

Are holiday let reviews important?

And finally, to all three of you, for this episode of the podcast, reviews – do they really matter, and what should you do with feedback?

Helen, first off, there are going to be people who will love everything that you do, and write that down, and that’s great. But, there are going to be some people who will complain at the drop of a hat – how much notice do you take of those reviews?

Yeah, I think there are people that that’s their nature to complain and find fault, but, I think you need to see feedback as an opportunity to improve and to learn.

If you keep seeing the same comments and feedback coming up, then you really do need to take action. If people keep saying, “We kept getting woken up because it was too light in the room”, or it was road noise or something – if there’s something you can address, with a white noise machine, or something like that, then really do take on board. Try not to get defensive, give a really good response to the person, say, “Thank you so much, I appreciate your input. We’ll take it on board”, and then just take action.

And think, obviously there’s things that you can’t do anything about, but there might be something clever you can think about for next season that you could implement – secondary glazing, or something like that, if you’ve got your cottage and you can’t put double glazing in.

So, I think you see it as an opportunity, and I think also, it’s very hard to come back from the first few reviews – if they’re not amazing, even if then you’d go and implement some changes, it’s really hard to then recover from those poor reviews. I think it’s really key, and I’m sure Rachel knows a lot about the psychology of this, of getting those first 5-10 reviews being absolutely stellar. Then, you’re kind of away with the races, because everyone else is going to see that it’s a great place to stay, and they’re going to not expect to find any fault.

Vanessa, your take on reviews?


It’s really interesting, because I would say that 90% of reviews are either 5-star or 1-star. So, in other words, mediocrity is invisible. So really, really good, and you’ll get very favorable feedback, or really, really bad, you’re going to get a 1-star review.

Reviews are nothing more than a learning opportunity to improve your product and service. And I think, just speaking as a consumer myself, I think, everybody understands that things can go wrong in business, but when they do go wrong, they want to be listened to, and they want to feel valued.

If you have a negative review, you need to learn from it, and make sure that that doesn’t happen again. But also, I think you need to consider how you might be able to send that guest away with more of a warm, fuzzy feeling, and maybe say, “Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention, I’m very sorry you experienced this. Perhaps we could offer you 10% discount off another booking, or give you three nights for the price of two”, or something like that.

Just really make that guest feel that you care, that they’re listened to, and that you’re going to do your best to resolve it with them. I think that lays down an audit trail, as well, and that actually works in your favour, because it shows that you do care and that you do listen.

So, yes, take reviews onboard, learn from them, respond to them in a professional manner, try and solve it in an amicable manner with the guest, and leave that audit trial that you are listening, you are there and that you care.


And Rachel?


For me – reviews, it is all about best practice. It’s all about being open, honest, transparent, and you really have to display it all. And not just for advertising standards, but to build that trusted brand for yourself, for Sykes, but also for you and your property.

The first thing I do, whenever I’m going to buy absolutely anything, is check the reviews, and I always expect there to be some negatives in there, and if it’s all glowing, I almost think that they’re hiding something. So for me, it really is, as I said, important to be open and honest, to show everything.

And, for those that are negative, or, potentially, some that does have a personal preference in there, which you’re not going to be able to do much about, it’s responding to it in, of course, the right way, as both of our guests have alluded to, and then taking constructive feedback from that as well, making some changes. And, of course the positive ones, you’ve just got to do that again.

And, as I said, that first-night check-in really can make a difference, because you’re aware of any issues that could potentially crop up in that feedback, and you can make some changes there and then – so that doesn’t ruin the entire holiday. And as I said, they see it as a proactive approach.


Thank you very much to our guests for today – How to Maximise your Holiday Let Income. Vanessa, Rachel, and also Helen, thanks for joining us today.

In the next episode of Inside Holiday Letting with Sykes Holiday Cottages, we’re going to look at three things; location, location, location – showing you where to invest, and why.

Let your property with Sykes and earn up to £125,000 per year*

  • Join over 15,000 holiday properties already working with Sykes Cottages
  • We welcome over 26 million web visitors a year
  • Many of our owners achieve more than 45 bookings a year
  • We specialise in turning your holiday property into a profitable year-round income for you

*Based on a 7 bedroom property in the Lake District with bookings between October 2017 to September 2018.

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