Owner Expert Profile: David Prescod

David Prescod has a Masters degree in marketing, and lectured in tourism marketing at the North Warwickshire & Hinckley College. In 2006 he and his brother fulfilled a lifelong dream of buying a holiday house in Barbados, in memory of their parents who originated from the island. Since they began to rent it out, David has applied various marketing techniques to promote his property to the public, at great success.

Here he shares some professional marketing strategies owners can use to get more business for their holiday rentals. Here he tells us how renting his beautiful home in Barbados allowed him to fulfill a lifelong dream, and shares some of his best practices.

Q: You have a very interesting personal connection with Barbados, what made you decide to buy a holiday home there?

My parents were from Barbados. My father came over to England in 1957 and my mother shortly after. Unfortunately my mother and father are not with me anymore. My brother and I decided to buy a piece of the island in their memory. We did consider other holiday destinations as far and wide as South Africa, Poland, Egypt but we had the family ties with Barbados. So Barbados really was the only choice. It took us three years to actually find and build our particular property, its time well spent so we certainly don’t regret it. We’ve named our property Seriento after the boat my father sailed to England on in 1957.

Q: What made you decide to build your own property? Did you decide to buy this property with a view to let?

We certainly did buy the property with a view to letting it out. In terms of choosing the property it was very important to understand what any potential guest would actually want. We did take time to understand what any potential guest would actually be looking for in a holiday. The house that we actually built and purchased was quite different to the one we nearly bought. We’re very fortunate that we didn’t buy that one, it was a much bigger house but the location wasn’t quite right. As I said previously location is important, and people really do come to a destination to experience the local attractions and the local culture. So our property’s location offers safety, offers easy access, offers spacious living, and those really were the three criteria when we chose our property.


Q: And once you had the property what changes did you make to it to turn it into a holiday letting?

In terms of furnishings we employed a local agent that knew a lot about Barbados style and design. We wanted our house to have a cultural flavour and feel to it. We did consider furnishing it ourselves, but I have to admit as a male interior design is not my speciality. So we did use local knowledge in terms of fabrics and furnishings and also local knowledge in terms of where to actually get the best value. So that was very useful because it created a whole look and feel for the property. And we do from time to time go back and add things to it. Sometimes guests make suggestions, and in terms of getting feedback it’s important to so you know where you can improve.

Q: How many weeks a year do you aim to rent and how many weeks a year do you use the property for your own holidays?

Last year we had a very successful year where the property was rented out for 42 weeks. I would like to say that that was particularly down to my marketing efforts and the different strategies that I used. We aim to rent it 18 weeks per year that would be on peak or off peak. Barbados fortunately has an all year round season, so it’s quite easy to get bookings for an all year round time period. In terms of myself I last went to Barbados this June, and in terms of friends or family we probably only visit for weeks per year. Last year, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on which way you look at it, it was impossible to get down because it was virtually fully booked from guests from HomeAway Holiday-Rentals. So it’s a problem to have.


Q: How many enquiries do you get form HomeAway.co.uk a year, and what do you do to turn these enquiries into bookings?

I probably get on average 2 – 3 enquiries a week, I have to admit bank holidays, and when the sun is shining in England the enquiries tend to increase. At the moment I’m probably converting one in three, one in four of those enquiries into bookings. so there’s quite a frequent influx of enquiries and I do find I need to update my availability calendar on a frequent basis and I have used some of the priority listing features as well. its all those little things that do help to increase the numbers of enquiries.


Q: When someone makes an enquiry, what would you do to turn this enquiry into a booking?

The process of booking a holiday is an important part of the marketing mix. When you get an enquiry it is very important to respond. The guest may be sending multiple enquiries to different property owners, and they are very keen to see who wants their business, who responds the quickest, I fortunately get my emails straight through to my smart phone so I can respond very quickly. I have a template email with an attachment already inserted, so I can fire off a very quick response giving information regarding the period they have enquired for. I send a copy of my booking terms and conditions, my inventory. I always finish my emails by asking a question such as, “Have you visited Barbados before?” or “Are you planning to hire a car?” so it sets off a two way conversation rather than just responding to their email.

Following that I always follow up with a phone call. I like to speak to potential guests, and that is all to do with reinforcing their confidence. A guest may be, in the case of Barbados, a family of four. They may be paying £2000 for their flights, a further £1000 for their accommodation, that’s £3000 and you’re taking a leap of faith by booking a property from somebody who you’ve never spoken to before, you have the HomeAway.co.uk guarantee, but it would be nice to have that personal touch and actually speak to somebody. In the time it takes you to pick up the phone, speak to somebody, introduce yourself, build up a rapport and place some customer confidence its time very well spent. So I’ll never accept any deposit payments from guests until I’ve spoken to them.


Q: Do you also use the telephone to screen for guests and make sure they are suitable for your home?

Yes, some owners I know are not particularly keen on taking group bookings from single sex parties. It can obviously depend on your destination. Barbados isn’t a particularly cheap destination to get to, so I wouldn’t get many requests like that. When you’re screening guests you can definitely get a sense of the type of guests, and certainly the type of holiday they intend to actually have when you actually speak to them. The questions they actually ask you suggest what they are seeking to actually do. I have on only two occasions actually refused to rent my property to somebody and in the four and a half years I have been renting my property have I had a guest here who has not treated my property with respect. And that was fortunately flagged up by my cleaner who goes in once a week and acts as my eyes and ears on the ground. So using the phone is a two way process in terms of instilling confidence in the home owner and allowing them to screen the guests.

David has kindly shared some fabulous marketing and advertising advice for holiday home owners:

Insider Advice for Marketing your Holiday Home
10 cost effective ways to increase your bookings in 2011

Copyright HomeAway.co.uk, September 2010