Leslie Preston, founder and general manager of Bachcare, the holiday home management and rental company. Bachcare manages nearly 1000 holiday homes with over 60 holiday managers and over 20,000 guests. She talks to Gill South.
How busy is your Christmas season?
While the heaviest demand is the weeks of Christmas and New Year's, it stays extremely busy through the summer school holidays until the kids go back to school before Waitangi Weekend. February, March and April are still popular times to go away, particularly when the weather is nice. However, December and January are by far the most popular months to rent a bach in the year, with over 30 per cent of all bookings for the year occurring in these two months.
New Year's Eve availability is typically all taken by August each year but lots of people wait until Boxing Day to see what the weather is going to be like and then make their bookings for January and February. We get a huge amount of bookings right after Boxing Day for January.
Do you add staff this time of the year? How do you cope with the sheer volume of enquiries?
Bachcare is made up of our national support office (which handles all the bookings and reservations, marketing and finances) and our national team of locally based holiday managers. We have over 60 holiday managers throughout the country.
At this time of the year, we are really busy in both our national support office and our team of holiday managers are extraordinarily busy.
For Bachcare, planning for the busy Christmas period actually starts at the end of the previous summer when we take a step back and debrief on the past summer.
It requires a huge amount of coordination and attention to detail. We have to be super organised, and have a plan in place well before the summer season!
Our Bachcare support office always brings on a student to help us for the summer time. And, in the run up to the summer season, we do get additional support from some of our holiday managers who work remotely for the office. Our holiday managers also get help by having friends help them with the large volume of cleaning.
The Bachcare support office is staffed seven days per week through to 9:30pm every night. Our holiday managers are available to our owners and guests every day as well. As a service organisation, we have to be available to our owners and rental guests every day of the week.
What is the nature of your busyness at this time of year?
From a guest perspective, many contact us now about their payments, adding additional nights, booking a linen service, confirming details of the house, or getting the contact details for their local Bachcare holiday manager.
We get enquiries on phone, emails and now even live chat! With our real time booking system, potential guests making their bookings directly online but they often contact us to clarify an aspect of their holiday before they book.
Owners are also contacting us about the maintenance aspects of their homes, their own use of their homes or improving their listings to maximise bookings during these key time of the year.
Are there any particular preparations you make for this time of the year?
We are always looking to improve the experience we deliver to our owners and our guests, and to make things more efficient. We have grown 30 per cent each year for the last three years. We can only continue with that level of growth by constantly improving and looking at ways to enhance the business. We make a lot of changes to our operations (including resources, processes, website technology) during the winter months well in time for the busy summer season.
We review all of our guest feedback to see if there are any houses that need special attention, staff that need further training, or procedures that need to be enhanced.
And, our national field manager spends a lot of time on the road and on the phone touching base with our national network of holiday managers. We provide a lot of coaching and help work with our holiday managers to ensure the houses are ready and the local teams have sufficient resources in place to cope with the busy summer season.
And, to celebrate, we have a get-together with our holiday managers right before the start of the silly season. We do recognise each of our holiday managers and the contribution they make to helping people have an amazing holiday season.
What lessons have your learned from the past?
As the owner of Bachcare, I have realised that I need to surround myself with great people who are as passionate about Bachcare as I am. The enthusiasm we all have going in to the busy season keeps us going.
I have also learned that we have to have ample staff on for all the key stat days. This has been very hard telling people they have to work on their normal work days but everyone does realise this is our busiest time in the year.
For many seasonal tourism/hospitality businesses around the country, the Christmas holiday period will make or break them. Tell us your stories. Email me, Gill South, at the link below: