Southwest Florida is one of the most underrated parts of the entire sunshine state. Sure it doesn’t have the nightlife and bustle of cities like Miami, or the theme parks of a place like Orlando– but what the Gulf Coast does have is unmatched. You’ll find some of the most legendary white sand beaches, breathtaking sunsets and scenery, and miles and miles of gorgeous coastal waters.
Southwest Florida is now in demand. What used to be an open secret is now becoming the hot ticket for travelers. And rather than staying at expensive hotels and resorts, vacationers are looking for the best vacation rental homes to book their vacations.
“But wait”, you might be saying to yourself, “I’ve got a vacation rental home in southwest Florida, and I’m not getting a lot of bookings…” That’s probably true, and we can help you with that.
In this article, we’re going to give you some of the secrets of the most booked SWFL AirBnBs and give you the insights you need to recreate their “secret sauce” for your own vacation rental. See what others are doing to win, and you’ll win too. Let’s dominant the southwest Florida AirBnB market together, starting now.
A Note: Remember, this isn’t an article to “get a few more bookings”, it’s about dominating the southwest Florida vacation rental market, so it sets a high bar. If this article is outside of the scope of what your rental home has to offer, we’ll still give you an evergreen solution to get more bookings at the end of this article.
You Need These Basics
The southwest Florida AirBnB market is extremely competitive, and there are several things your vacation rental home should have to hang with the other rentals that are dominating the AirBnB rental market in the Gulf Coast.
If you don’t have one (or some) of these things there’s still hope. There are definitely other ways your property can stand out (more on that later). But overall, here are the criteria we found that the most rented AirBnB properties in southwest Florida shared.
You Need to Offer the “Florida Experience”
To really keep yourself in the top-tier of the SWFL vacation rental market, you need to give people all of Florida’s “greatest hits.” Any rental that looks to dominate the market needs to have beach access or a pool (and enclosed, screened-in lanai pool if possible).
When people come to stay at your rental, they imagine themselves soaking up the sun on the beach or poolside, so this is a must.
Additionally, if for any reason your home doesn’t have air conditioning (which in Florida is like a death sentence), you haven’t got a chance, and are headed toward some 1-Star reviews…
When people Google pictures of Florida’s Gulf Coast, they see gorgeous images of Coral Springs, Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, Naples and others. If your vacation rental home listing doesn’t match their idea of an idyllic Florida vacation, you’ll never dominate the market.
This is a “chicken-and-egg” scenario. If you don’t get bookings you can’t get reviews, and if you don’t get reviews, it’s tougher to get bookings. To dominate the market, you have to have at least 5-10 reviews to start (but as many as possible is the goal). Your total review score cannot be lower than 4.7 overall.
The truth is that people will scroll past the most beautiful, well-written descriptions and photos if your reviews are low. Keep this in mind with every booking. (We have some tips on helping you get more reviews in another article: our ‘Don’t List Your Property on AirBnB Until You Read This’ guide, which can be found here.)
The vacation rental homes that are most booked in Southwest Florida can be more luxuriously priced, but the guests still need to feel like they’re getting great value. The most popular AirBnBs in SWFL are averaging ~$350 per night overall. Essentially, you want to make sure that your pricing is a better value than local hotels, and offers fantastic bang for the buck.
Now, keep in mind that there may be special events, and different seasonal pricing to take into consideration (you may be able to charge more than that during peak seasons, or you may have to drop your price in the off-season).
Also, know thy self. That price point is a general starting amount for rental homes in the southwest Florida area. If you have a palatial, beachside mansion in Fort Myers, set your price accordingly.
Charge what you’re worth, just bring the value. Overall, use your best judgment, see what price similar spaces to yours are booking at, and be sure your price point is attractive enough to win people over from hotels and other rentals.
The Whole Enchilada
It might be tempting to split up your rental home into single rooms, but this isn’t a good idea. One of the strong suits of a vacation rental home is the actual home experience. The last thing your guests want is to have to share common areas, bathrooms, and the pool with other travelers.
You’re not only competing with other vacation rentals for bookings– you’re also competing with hotels. Be a house, and don’t try to “out-hotel” the local hotels, it’s a battle that’s hard to win. The guest who are looking for single room rentals aren’t your target market, they’ll likely just rent a hotel room anyway.
If you want to dominate the southwest Florida AirBnB market, rent out your entire condo or house, and don’t go piecemeal.
AirBnB has a new standard for hosts keeping their rental clean that they’re calling Enhanced Clean. If you meet their criteria, it shows at the top of your listing.
This goes beyond just keeping your rental looking clean on the surface. You have to adhere to a five-step process that is within AirBnB’s handbook.
The process was developed by global health and hospitality experts and requires hosts to go beyond surface-level cleaning, and committing to sanitizing your rental home using the industry-leading standards set out in the handbook.
You can learn more about AirBnB’s new Enhanced Clean initiative here.
Keep Reading to Get More Bookings
We promised that if you found yourself lacking in some of the areas mentioned above that we can still help you. Keep reading– these tips will still help you get more bookings.
I Have the Basics, Now What?
A lot of what we’ve covered so far may be a bit out of your control. So let’s say that you tick all of the boxes we’ve mentioned above, but you’re still not getting as many bookings as the houses around you.
Let’s talk about the ingredients to the “secret sauce” of dominating the southwest Florida AirBnB market so you can use it to win.
Ingredient 1: Constant Attention
If you got into the vacation rental business so you could have a “passive income”, then you’re not going to like to hear this. The vacation rental homeowners who absolutely dominate are the ones who constantly give their rental attention– in person, and online.
It’s not a “set and forget it” industry (at least not anymore). The market is far more saturated.
The owners who dominate have the AirBnB app on their phones and reply to messages, questions, and booking requests quickly. Often the difference between getting a booking or not getting a booking is answering a simple question about the pool or other small matter. When your potential renter’s messages are coming through, you are you answering them quickly? That’s how you dominate.
Ingredient 2: Fresh, Current Listing
You took the time to really dial in your listing… eight months ago. You’re thinking: “It couldn’t have really have been that long ago, could it?” The answer is yes. Not only does time fly, but many hosts take the time to set up their listing once, and then it’s like quick-set concrete, never to be changed again. It sits, and then it gets stale– and it’s almost like potential guests can smell it.
Are your description and photos the same ones that have been there for a while? What about your competition? Just like anything online, AirBnB has trends that come and go in waves. You have to check out what other popular listings are doing at least once every month if you want to stay competitive… but the owners that do it bi-weekly or even more often than that are the ones who are dominating.
Ingredient 3: Seriously Follow Your Competition
As we’ve mentioned, the AirBnB market is more competitive than ever, and the demand for rentals in southwest Florida is increasing rapidly. If you want to be the best, you have to see who is on top and then do what they’re doing to win.
Candidly, you should be checking out what your competition is doing as frequently as you can. And dig deep. Look at 5-10 listings. You’re not looking to rip anyone off, but you’re certainly able to take any great concepts and use them as inspiration to improve any parts of your listing.
Find some of the best-rated, most-booked AirBnBs around you. And don’t just check your Gulf Coast city– check multiple cities all around southwest Florida. Most renters don’t know the difference between say, Coral Springs, Naples or Bradenton. They’re just looking at the listing to see if they love it and get strong Florida vibes.
Check your fiercest competitors’ prices, their photos, their descriptions, their titles, and even their host profiles. See something you like? Emulate your own version and start contending with those who are crushing it.
Bonus Tip: Read your competitor’s reviews. What do their guests call out by name as being great or lacking? Find their best reviews and make sure you’re doing the same things. Find their worst reviews, and you can even put solutions to those very issues in your listing.
For example: Click on any review that’s less than 5 stars. Is there a pattern? An inconvenience? Let’s pretend it’s the WiFi. Take that negative, and put the reverse (as a positive selling point) in your review: “The fastest WiFi in Coral Springs.”
Ingredient 3: Keep Up with AirBnB News
Seriously. AirBnB has had to pivot quite a bit to be successful in the last year and a half. They’re rapidly updating how they handle many facets of their business. We mentioned the Enhanced Clean initiative they’ve implemented above, and that is the perfect example.
If you were keeping up with AirBnB news, you could be an early adopter, and be one of the first to have the Enhanced Clean appear at the top of your listing. Stay ahead of the curve by seeing what’s around the corner so you can stand out until everyone else catches up.
Optional Ingredient: Give Instant Book a Shot
As we reveal the secret sauce to dominating the vacation rental market, consider this an optional bit of spice. Like a jalapeno pepper that can give you that extra kick if you’re willing to try it, but can also get too spicy if you’re not careful.
People want to be able to book their vacation rental home at the speed of their thought. They like what they see, and they’re ready to book. By enabling Instant Book, your potential guests can book immediately without needing to send you a request for approval (as long as your account is set up properly).
Instant Book doesn’t cost you anything, and where it really shines is for traveelers who may be trying to snag a last-minute booking. They don’t have the time to wait for the normal booking process, they need a place to stay now.
So why is this an optional ingredient, and maybe considered a little spicy? Because you lose a measure of discretion over who you let rent your vacation home, which matters to some of our vacation rental owners (or candidly, their neighbors). If you have any trepidation about this option, maybe try it in the off-season for a booking or two, see how your experience is, and reassess after.
Does This Sound Like a Lot of Work?
It is. There are no two ways about it. To truly get as many bookings as you can and hit your vacation rental home’s revenue potential, it takes hard work, dedication, and time.
If you’re the owner of a vacation rental home, and you feel like you’re not reaching your rental’s full potential, that’s where Sunshine Cohosting can help.
We’re experts at helping vacation rental owners dominate the market. All of the tips we shared in this article are only the tip of our expertise ice burg.
Let’s have a conversation about how we can help you dominate the southwest Florida AirBnB market today.