Direct Booking Vacation Rental Marketing Guide - Part 10: Get More Direct Bookings with Email Marketing

Learn how to use email marketing, a direct and effective way to engage with your audience, nurture relationships, and drive direct bookings for your vacation rental properties.

Direct Booking Vacation Rental Marketing Guide - Part 10: Get More Direct Bookings with Email Marketing

Introduction: Email Marketing for Growing Direct Bookings

Shifting away from the reliance of a third-party OTA means you have the ability to own every aspect of your business, including the guest relationship. The key to growing a successful direct booking business is to build and nurture a guest database. Rather than always counting on acquiring new guests, growing an email list and implementing an email strategy will drive more direct bookings by empowering you to re-market to those who have already had a pleasant experience staying with you.

Email marketing is a direct and effective way to engage with your audience, nurture relationships, and drive direct bookings for your vacation rental properties. Even if you're new to email marketing, these strategies will help you leverage this powerful tool to its fullest potential.

Growing Your Email Database Prior to Check-in

Email is still one of the most powerful marketing tools available today. It is an effective communication channel that will enable you to maintain a connection with guests long after their initial stay. With email,  you can send updates, offers, and exciting news related to your properties and the surrounding area that will keep loyal guests coming back year after year. Without a strategy to actually collect guest emails, you’ll miss the opportunity to take advantage of this tactic and may never host the same guests again.

In order to start growing your email database, you can leverage the power of Google Forms and email automation. You can do this within your PMS if you’re using one, use a CRM tool or even set up your OTA account to automate messages ahead of check in.

See an example below:

Email Subject: Confirm Check-in Information

Email Body:

Hi {{ First_Name }},

Thank you for booking your stay with us at {{ Business_Name }}.

To make your check-in process as seamless as possible, please complete this short from:

[Add Link to Form]

We look forward to hosting you soon!

Warm regards,
{{ Personal_Signoff }}

Information to Collect Ahead of Check-in

You should only be collecting information that will either help you build a relationship with your guests or improve the experience of your guest’s stay. Consider including the following in your Google Form:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number
  • Vehicle License Plate / Registration (If required for parking pass)
  • Driver’s License / Passport Number (If required by law)
  • Any special occasion or celebration during your stay

At the bottom of the Google Form, be sure to include an email opt-in box that says, “Please check this box so that we can send you important updates and details about your stay with us.”

Be aware of email marketing laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States. Ensure you have consent to send emails and provide an easy way for subscribers to opt out.

Once you have a Google Form set up, you can either connect the form to your email marketing software (if not included with your PMS) or have the inputs sent to a Google Sheet to be accessed at a later date.

Growing Your Email Database at Your Property

Another way to grow your email database is when your guests arrive. You can do this by leveraging an exchange of value using QR codes.

Identify the two hottest touchpoints in your property (typically the kitchen and front entrance) and create a tasteful sign that says, “Welcome to “Berry Mountain View Stays”, scan this QR code to learn about…”

Here are a few examples:

  • The top 5 best places to eat in the area
  • The top 5 must-do activities while you are here
  • The top 5 best hikes in the area

The benefit to this strategy is that you increase your chances of collecting email information from all of the guests in the party, not just the person who made the original reservation. Similar to above, the QR code can either direct guests to a Google Form or an email opt-in form. Once the guest submits their name and email address, you can trigger an automated email to be sent to the guest’s inbox containing the information promised above.

Email Marketing Automations

There are two different types of email automations that you’ll need to implement in order to grow a successful direct booking business. The first are email automations, coming from your PMS, email tool or even your OTA account. These are typically related to events triggered by a transaction, such as a booking confirmation email or new booking and should include a link to your Google Form so you can collect their information.

The second are email automations coming from an email service provider (ESP) such as Mailchimp once you’ve collected a guest’s real email address. Remember, until you capture a guest’s email through a Google Form or email opt-in form, you will be unable to utilize the communication channel established by an OTA in the future.

Mailchimp is one of the most well-known email service providers and is a great way to get started with email automations. With Mailchimp, you can set up an email journey that is triggered based on a certain event. For example, an automated email can be sent to a guest once they have filled out a Google Form or scanned a QR code.

Below are a few automated emails every direct booking business should consider:

  • Welcome Email - Sent immediately after a guest submits their check-in information letting them know what to expect and what info you’ll be sending them in follow up emails
  • Property Details Email - Sent as a series leading up to the guest’s check-in date
  • Top 5 Recommendations Email - Sent once a guest completes an email opt-in at the propertyresidence
  • Day after Check-In Email - Sent the day after a guest’s check in date to see how your guest is doing and to see if they have any questions or are having any issues
  • Mid Stay Email - Sent halfway through a guest’s stay to do a pulse check and make sure there are no issues that you’re not aware of. This is important to ensure you catch issues ahead of time before they leave as that gives you time to rectify the stay and prevent a bad review.
  • Check-out Email - Sent on the final day of the guest’s reservation
  • Google Reviews - Sent after the guest has checked out

Your properties will gain more visibility with Google reviews. You can add a unique link for each of your listings to check-out emails by visiting here. If you want to learn more about how to set up a Google Business Profile, read our blog post on this topic.

Convert Returning Guest Into Direct Stays With Email Marketing

Now that you have a system set up to grow your email database, you can start remarketing to guests who’ve already stayed with you. The best way to do this is to either use the email marketing tools that come built into your PMS or a standalone ESP like Mailchimp. Regardless of the tool you decide on, you should now have a system in place to grow your email list. So, what can you do with that email list?

Email marketing is a powerful tool to keep your direct booking business top of mind and enables you to build a relationship with your guests after they’ve checked out. You can send updates on any new locations you have or updates to existing properties, provide past guests with special promotions to encourage a booking when you have unfilled availability, or inform guests about events and festivals at certain times of the year. Finally, email marketing is also a great way to ask guests for reviews and referrals.

Here are a few tips when sending email campaigns:

  • Segment your email list based on events like their last reservation date
  • Be mindful of scheduling and email frequency, especially if a guest just stayed with you
  • Send limited-time offers during the off-season
  • Limit promotional sends during the busy seasons
  • Include relevant content and topics your audience would be interested in
  • Inspire your audience to travel — what are they missing out on?
  • Send visual emails. Use high-quality imagery as much as possible
  • Build a relationship with guests. Send happy birthday or anniversary celebration emails
  • Reminders of popular holidays your guests may want to book for
  • Make sure your emails are designed with mobile users in mind
  • Ask previous guests to share your properties with their friends and family who may be traveling to your area


By implementing these strategies, property managers can use email marketing as a powerful tool to grow their direct bookings, engage with their audience, and maintain a loyal customer base. Consistency and personalization in your email campaigns can lead to increased bookings and revenue and keep guests either coming back or recommending your listings to their friends and family.

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