Open Calendars and Human Behavior
Every year we watch the same thing happen with our booking calendars as guests reserve cabins for their Montana adventure. For a long time we couldn’t figure out what was going on.
Some of our cabins would rent like crazy one year, and then have a mediocre year the next. Other cabins would have a couple of average years and then would have a year with twice as much rental activity. There was no rhyme or reason, and no obvious pattern as to why the same cabins, in the same inventory, in the same area, with the same marketing could produce such varying results year after year. The total number of nights rented remained fairly predictable and consistent, but the distribution of nights between the cabins we manage was all over the place.
And then we finally figured it out. It was all about open calendars and human behavior.
It turns out that guests don’t trust a rental property with an open calendar. They think there is something wrong with a rental with no bookings in place and they instead tend to choose a property with existing bookings on the calendar.
For illustration, look at these two calendars below. Let’s say you were planning a trip to the Bitterroot Valley for the week of August 15th. Both of the properties shown are available for this week and both are very similar, but based on the calendars, which one would you choose?
If you are like most people, you’d choose the busier calendar on the left because it must be a better rental, right? How can all those other people on the calendar be wrong? It’s a classic example of the herd mentality where people are influenced by others to make buying decisions.
As we discussed in our post about the best time to book a cabin in Montana, our annual booking season begins each October for the next summer. This is when we see many regular and returning guests book their stays. This is also when we see the longest stays of the summer get booked because these planners know they have to book early to get big blocks of time during peak season.
So what happens is that some of our cabins get a big spike of early dates and then as the booking season progresses, guests tend to pile on the cabins that have existing bookings and these cabins go on a booking run. Meanwhile, the cabin down the road that didn’t get a lengthy early booking sits with few or no nights on the calendar and people start to wonder why its calendar is open and are hesitant to book the cabin as the season progresses.
It’s important to point out that all our cabins are essentially the same in many ways. They are all managed by the same staff, cleaned by the same housekeepers, include the same amenities, and are stocked with the same quality supplies. They are all exceptional choices for your Montana adventure and have everything you need except food and drink to make your stay a memorable one.
It’s also important to acknowledge that we add new properties to our inventory on occasion that are just joining the rental program and have missed out on the early booking season. These are great choices as everything is new and great dates are available simply due to timing.