In the Mediterranean, it’s common for boat charters to last a full week (usually from Saturday to Saturday). And while that schedule has many benefits, if a boat fails to rent, you’re stuck with a ship in a marina for a full week. That means less revenue, and potentially explaining to boat owners why you failed to rent their vessel during peak season. So, are short-term, last-minute boat rentals a potential solution?
How frequently do you have unrented boats?
Take a look at your records to see how common it is for boats to go unrented. Are there any patterns you can spot? If, for instance, rentals tend to lag during a specific period, something simple like offering a discount for the month could be an easier fix than adding last-minute or short-term rentals to your schedule.
If your unrented periods are more sporadic in nature, you might consider accommodating last-minute or short-term bookings. Before we get into how to accommodate last-minute rentals, let’s discuss what “last-minute” means.
What does “last-minute” mean to you?
For instance, during the high season when charters often book months in advance, a booking request two weeks prior to check-in might be considered last minute. But in the Spring, when there are fewer guests, last-minute could be as soon as the day before.
Take a look at your business and see what the shortest turnaround you can manage is. For a bareboat rental, could you have the boat ready in a few hours? With a crewed rental, do you need a full day or several? Figuring out this baseline gives you a sense of what you can realistically offer guests who are interested in booking with short notice.
Are short-term rentals worth it?
Of course, with last-minute rentals, it’s likely that you’re going to rent the boat for a period shorter than one week. You don’t want to jeopardize any existing bookings, so these spontaneous trips may be as short as a few days.
For some charter operators, the work that goes into turning the boat around (or finding a crew if it’s a crewed charter) isn’t worth it for just a few days.
However, consider the opportunity cost of not renting. If you don’t do last-minute rentals, you make no money on vacant boats. So, is there a pricing structure you can come up with that can help boost your bottom line?
The type of pricing structure you consider will likely depend on your market. If your marina is near a lot of coastal hotels, you might consider offering discounts for short-term rentals that would appeal to these clients. For instance, you could offer a 4-day charter for 50 percent of a weekly booking.
Or, if you know day trips are common in your area, you could consider offering daily packages, priced slightly higher than the daily rate of a one-week rental.
Enaviga’s software can help you target customers for short-term trips, and lets you price these trips at a different rate than your standard bookings.
If you find the amount of work that is going into these last-minute rentals, including labor costs, means you aren’t earning revenue, don’t totally give up on the idea. Consider possibilities like a last-minute booking fee to cover your crew’s time that is separate from your pricing model.
Crunch some numbers to see if there’s a model that might work for your business; after all, no one knows your slow weeks or margins better than you.
How to get started
If you do decide to start adding more complicated schedules and pricing to your booking calendar, managing those bookings becomes more important than ever. It’s critical that you have booking management software and an up-to-date calendar to ensure you don’t get any wires crossed.
For instance, when we designed Enaviga software, we wanted to provide data and analytics to make these types of nontraditional bookings possible. After all, this type of pricing is standard in the hospitality industry outside of boating. With our software, you can also use analytics to help you pinpoint your slow period and test out pricing models to see if offering short-term or last-minute bookings make sense for you.
Whether you have vacant boats a handful of times a year or you seem to have a resting fleet once a month, last-minute rentals could help bring in additional revenue, but it’s important that you decide whether or not they make sense for your bottom line.