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How to market a short-term vacation rental: property rental marketing plan

Whether you’re just getting started as a host or looking to expand an existing rental business, crafting an effective property rental marketing plan is essential. An optimised promotional strategy for your short term vacation rental helps attract prospective guests and drives direct bookings to maximise occupancy and rental income. 

In this guide, we’ll explore 12 key marketing tactics to make your furnished home, vacation rental or Airbnb listing stand out, plus explore how a Touch Stay digital guidebook can help you showcase your property and drive bookings every step of the way. From leveraging listing sites to encouraging referrals, read on for tips to make your property stand out.

Market to your target guest

Before you even start your marketing plan, consider who you're marketing to - who's your ideal guest? Create a guest persona to define this ideal guest and set out their wants, needs and expectations as well as what they read and where they hang out online.

This is a fundamental step in marketing your short-term vacation rental. If you understand your target audience, your marketing will resonate with them and it will reach them in the places (in print, online, and out and about) where you expect to find them.  

A guest persona includes demographic information (age, family situation, income level) as well as geographical location, interests, media preferences, and travel behaviours. For instance, if your rental attracts adventurous travellers, your guest persona will include details of websites and publications they might read, brands they follow on social media, etc. A tool like SparkToro might be useful to help with audience research.

When it comes to talking to your ideal guest once they've booked and are looking forward to their stay, continue to apply the same thinking. Here's how Paradise in Hawaii uses its guidebook to talk to its different guest personas (couples, families) positioning content that's clearly relevant to each of them.
vacation rental marketing plan

Set vacation rental marketing goals

Goals are the backbone of a successful marketing plan for your short-term vacation rental. Setting measurable marketing goals is key for providing direction, maintaining motivation, focusing your efforts and gauging what works. Monitor specific metrics to inform goals and analyse your progress.

Consider aims like:

  • Reaching a set number of booking enquiries per month
  • Obtaining 5-star reviews from 90% of guests
  • Increasing repeat bookings by 25% year-over-year

One practical goal is to increase the visibility of your digital guidebook. Touch Stay lets hosts see how often their guidebook is opened, so you can set view goals and tweak content to be more enticing. Aim for a specific number of views within a set period or shortly after guests receive the link. This not only boosts engagement but also enhances the chances of guests discovering valuable information about their stay.

Getting granular with your goals, regularly tracking analytics, and consistently measuring performance ensure you can adapt your strategy based on what works best for your rental property. Remember, effective marketing is an evolving process, and goals provide a roadmap to success.

Optimise your rental listings

Getting prominently listed on major booking platforms like Airbnb, Vrbo and forms the foundation of any property rental marketing plan. It instantly puts your place in front of searching travel on the sites they use most to find vacation rental accommodation. That said, creating a rental listing that stands out for browsing guests requires a little thought and time.

Spend time enhancing your listing with:

  • eye-catching, and accurate, photography
  • detailed amenity descriptions
  • skim-stopping headings
  • examples of how your place is different or special 
  • proximity to nearby must-do activities
  • competitive pricing
  • stellar recent guest reviews
  • up-to-date availability calendars

Once a guest has confirmed their booking, you can share a link to your Touch Stay guidebook. Unlike most listing sites, your guidebook is fully customisable for you to apply your logo, brand colours, font, images and videos. In fact we encourage you to put your brand front and centre! Plus, it offers unlimited freedom to showcase your property’s unique features and offer personalised local recommendations for guests during their stay.

Build a conversion focused website

A bespoke website gives holiday rental owners full control over site design, user experience and promotional content while establishing you as a legitimate short-term rental business. It also has the potential to compete with listing sites in website searches for specific accommodation requests.

Your vacation rental website enables you to showcase high-quality interior and exterior photography, video and 3D virtual tours too. A website that allows instant online booking through real-time calendar/availability integration means people who land on your website will be able to book direct - no listing site commissions deducted. It also creates a platform for you to publish regular, locally-focused blogs to boost search engine visibility for location-based keywords. And don’t forget, it can point to your social media pages and invite people to sign up for your newsletter as well!

There’s a place for your digital guidebook on your website too. Touch Stay users can embed a preview of their guidebook directly on their website without displaying sensitive property information (like access codes or Wi-Fi passwords) to anyone who hasn’t booked yet. Learn how to embed a guidebook preview on your website and how to easily set access levels.

Vacation rental marketing plan

Optimise your website for search engines 

If you have a website as part of your vacation rental marketing plan, then you’ll want to consider its chances of appearing in the search results of your prospective guests. This is called search engine optimisation (or SEO for short). 

How you optimise the information on your website to answer the queries searched for by guests can be quite a task, but being unique and specific with your content will stand you in good stead. 

Some SEO tactics to consider

Research vacation rental-related words and phrases that potential guests use when looking for accommodation online and ensure you’re using these (if relevant) on your website.

For example, if “glampsite in Yorkshire” or "Cotswolds farmhouse rentals" apply to your offering then weave them into landing pages, listing descriptions and alt text tags across your website. 

Alt text is like a label you add when uploading images to your website. They’re read by screen readers, which are used by the visually impaired to understand what’s on a web page. They also help your images to appear in image search results.

  • If a direct booking strategy is key to your vacation rental marketing then you can monitor your search rankings through sites like Semrush or Ahrefs, which also provide optimisation suggestions.

Leverage social media in your vacation rental marketing plan

Promoting your short-term rental or Airbnb listings via prominent social media channels builds visibility and referral traffic to help drive your vacation rental marketing efforts. 

Share frequent posts on Facebook, Instagram, X (formerly Twitter - when do we stop saying that?!), and TikTok focused on your destination and property type:

  • Stunning hi-res photos of your property - inside and out
  • Images of beautiful views from your property
  • Real five-star reviews from recent guests
  • Last-minute deals to fill orphan days
  • Special offers or discounts to mark events or public holidays
  • Availability announcements

Geotag your social posts wherever possible. A geotag is a specific location added to a social post that will help expose it to more people, since content is often searchable by location.

Do some research into the most relevant hashtags to use for maximum reach and engagement; however, simply using hashtags that include obvious words relevant to your vacation rental, like #beachhouserentalscornwall or #oxfordfarmhouserental, for example, also helps too.

Start following STR influencers for inspiration and check out our blog for 101 ideas on how to promote your vacation rental property on social media.

Property rental marketing paid advertising campaigns

SEO and social media activity is what we call organic marketing. Then there’s paid search and paid social activity, often referred to as pay-per-click (PPC).

While strong organic visibility remains vital for property rental marketing, paid digital advertising could significantly amplify a holiday let marketing plan by putting your property in front of warm prospective travellers precisely when they are planning trips to your area. There are a variety of options, including:

  • Google Adwords - bid for one of the sponsored slots at the top of a keyword or phrase search result that you’re struggling to compete for through organic content creation. It can be competitive if others are bidding on the same phrases, and especially if their budgets are bigger. You’ll only pay though when you appear and someone clicks on your result.
  • Social media ads - all the social media channels have an advertising platform.
  • There are a range of advert types (text only, single image, image carousel, video or reel).
  • You’ll create an ‘audience’ that you want to target based on a set list of information provided by the channel. 
  • You determine what you want the goal of your ‘campaign’ to be (e.g. engagement - likes, comments, shares; conversion - link clicks). 
  • You can also create ‘remarketing’ ads that target previous website visitors or people who have previously engaged with your posts. 
  • You’ll also have to set a budget and how much you want to pay to achieve your chosen goal.
  • You can also choose to ‘boost’ organic social media content to get more people to see or interact with it.

Beyond paid search and paid social media, there are myriad other paid advertising options. A brief list:

  • Online travel agency (OTA) sponsored listings: boost listings on prominent OTAs like Airbnb,, Vrbo, etc. - pay to prioritise your listing in search results for relevant keywords.
  • Utilise listing-specific promotions - some OTAs offer targeted promo campaigns like ‘last-minute deals’ or ‘family-friendly getaways’ where you can bid for placement.
  • Native advertising - an ad that takes the natural form of the content it's placed within. For example, a sponsored article on a blog or news site that reads like a regular article but promotes your listing.
  • Display advertising - banner ads, rich media ads, video ads, etc. that are shown on websites, apps, and more. These are visual ads of various types placed around relevant content.
  • Blogger outreach - contact travel bloggers relevant to your location and offer a free stay in exchange for an honest review. The coverage can drive bookings.
  • Influencer marketing - partnering with relevant travel influencers to promote your listings to their followers.
  • Podcast advertising - sponsored segments or ads within podcasts that align with your target audience.

Build an email list of prospective customers

Sending promotional newsletters to an engaged subscriber list provides another channel for showcasing vacation property availability to prior guests and subscribers interested in visiting your place or location. 

The best thing about email marketing is that once someone chooses to give you their email address, you have a direct line of communication with them. Maintain this to highlight last-minute deals, new amenity upgrades or seasonal packages, and most importantly, to continue telling them about your place and location in an informative and inspiring way.

Crucially, don’t just use email as a sales platform - there are only so many holidays someone can go on in a year, so think carefully about sending valuable and enticing information amongst the odd special offer!

There a number of ways to collect email addresses:

  • Newsletter subscription form on your website
  • Specific social media posts or activity
  • Temporarily link to your sign-up form via the link in your social media profile
  • Promote your newsletter with a link in your email signature
  • Collect email addresses as part of contests or giveaways on your social channels

For more info on STR email marketing, check out our ultimate guide to property rental email marketing.

While platforms like Airbnb hide guest emails from hosts, Touch Stay allows you to collect guest emails in a friendly, non-intrusive way to extend your relationship with guests long after they check-out. Learn more about Touch Stay Email Capture.
vacation rental marketing plan

Explore local partnership opportunities

Partner creatively with local businesses to open up unique co-promotional opportunities that benefit you, your guests and the local economy. 

Potential partnership ideas include:

  • package your vacation rental stays with local wine tours, spa discounts or theatre tickets
  • provide guests with a nominal value voucher for a local cafe or eaterie - enough for a couple of drinks, say - knowing they’ll likely enjoy more than a coffee and support a favourite business of yours while appreciating your generosity
  • use a local producer to provide a sample of artisan chocolates upon arrival (maybe they’re even branded!) and ensure guests know where to buy more of them nearby

Not only does this encourage your guests to explore your local area (driving revenue into the local community), but builds trust by establishing you as the local area expert. 

Your digital guidebook is the simplest way to present further doorstep suggestions. Adding a comprehensive Local Area Guide to your digital guidebook is the perfect way to showcase your recommendations and these offers. 

vacation rental marketing plan

Encourage word of mouth marketing and referrals

Earning genuine word-of-mouth referrals from past guests who had an exceptional stay remains highly impactful for vacation rental marketing. When compiling your vacation rental marketing plan, remember that the entire guest experience influences this element of it - marketing is not just about getting people to book. 

Consider how your communication with guests between booking and arrival, arrival and departure, departure and beyond influences word of mouth marketing and referrals, and what steps or processes you can implement to ensure perception of your accommodation, your business and your brand remains consistent or keeps getting even more positive!

Touch Stay’s range of guidebook features help you exceed every guest’s expectations by making their stay as enjoyable as possible as well as making it quick and easy for them to provide reviews, social shares and direct peer referrals. Building solid guest relationships and consistently delivering 5-star hospitality establishes reputation and supports strong referral occupancy over time. 

The Touch Stay blog is brimful with tips and expert advice on delivering an exceptional guest experience. You may also be interested in the Guest Communication Study, which reports on our findings of surveying more than 2,000 vacation rental guests.

Create upsell and cross-sell offers

One such way to deliver a consistent experience for guests - and to ensure you’re communicating with them regularly - is to promote extras and add-ons to make their stay even more of an experience. You can market these on your website and then promote them once guests book. 

Creating packages in this way is also a great way to boost rental income. Common vacation rental upsells include:

These incremental sales increase your average nightly rate while enhancing the guest experience by providing additional value and convenience. 

Touch Stay helps you achieve all of this from within the guidebook, for example:

  • survey guests about the amenities they’d appreciate, so you can optimise your future upsell offerings
  • enable guests to browse and order items and experiences that ensure a memorable trip

Reinvest profits into marketing optimisation

Reality check! Your vacation rental marketing plan isn’t a ‘do it and leave it’ exercise. It will evolve with your business and guide your every marketing move from day to day and year to year. Your plan will also need to be agile to changes in market conditions and visitor behaviour shifts, quarter-to-quarter and year-over-year. 

Continually review performance metrics and track analytics to identify successful platforms, channels and strategies, while optimising or cutting the poorest performers. Keep abreast of vacation rental marketing trends or technological advances that may impact or aid your efforts - how you use AI in marketing is one such example. 

It’s essential to reinvest a fixed percentage of proceeds from occupancy revenue into both the content you own and control (your website and email marketing) and the channels you use to reach your target audience. That means budgeting for things like:

  • updating professional photography and/or videography
  • testing emerging digital channels
  • adding new or optimising existing website content 

You want to ensure that you’re always marketing the most accurate and current version of your accommodation and using the right marketing mix over time across both digital and traditional channels.

Ready to create your vacation rental marketing plan?

The strategies outlined here encompass an effective marketing framework  tailored to highlighting your unique short term rental accommodation — optimised specifically for driving direct bookings. And when seamlessly integrated with Touch Stay’s features, you’ll become unstoppable while delivering truly memorable five-star stays that let genuine word-of-mouth testimonials do the talking time after time!

Ready to take your vacation rental marketing plan to the next level?