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    Big Bear Vacations + Whimstay: Big Business for Small-Town Stays

    “Getting day-trippers to stay overnight has always been a challenge,” says Melissa Gade, manager of distribution and revenue at Big Bear Vacations, the leading vacation rental company in Big Bear, California. In their quest to encourage more visitors to experience their vibrant small town, they found a reliable partner in Whimstay, who assisted in sparking a surge in last-minute bookings.

    Since 1907, Big Bear Vacations has been a cornerstone of their local community, offering comfortable accommodations and nurturing the growth of local tourism. Yet, they faced a daunting task: How do you unlock the potential of last-minute guests seeking a quick, affordable getaway?

    The Challenge: Enticing Day-Trippers to Extend Their Stay

    Situated at an elevation of over 6,750 feet, Big Bear is a year-round haven for Southern Californians. Its draw is significant: a refuge from the summer heat and a haven for winter sports. Despite this appeal and its proximity to Los Angeles, getting travelers to extend their visit remained a significant struggle.

    Big Bear Vacations operates in a drive-thru market. Overnight guests stay longer and spend more, which is reflected in the local economy. Vacation rentals are the second largest contributor to local tax revenue in Big Bear and constitute the fifth most significant source of employment. In fact, vacation rentals represented a staggering 77 percent of all visitor spending in Big Bear Lake in 2021.

    Ensuring full occupancy, particularly for gap nights and weeknights, weighed heavily on their operations and the property owners they represent. Moreover, the goal to attract last-minute travelers and day-trippers, especially during off-peak seasons, presented a persistent challenge as they strived to scale their business and support their employees and the community they serve.

    The Solution: Pioneering a New Partnership

    Enter Whimstay. Following a compelling presentation at a travel industry conference, Big Bear Vacations recognized the untapped potential of targeting last-minute travelers in the short-term rental market. As a result, they formed a strategic partnership with Whimstay.

    With its comprehensive approach, Whimstay not only facilitated the onboarding of Big Bear’s listings but also negotiated enticing discounts for travelers seeking spontaneous, budget-friendly vacations. Their platform offered an avenue for last-minute booking seekers — a target audience that Big Bear Vacations was eager to attract.

    The Impact: From Expiring Inventory to Increased Bookings

    The results? Big Bear Vacations noticed an uptick in last-minute bookings almost immediately. Whimstay’s proactive account management team continued to provide crucial market insights to Big Bear Vacations while also ensuring that customers received the highest standard of service synonymous with Big Bear Vacations.

    Ultimately, this collaboration resulted in lower expiring inventory, increased revenue, and reduced churn, underpinning the growth and sustainability of Big Bear Vacations, the region’s longest-standing vacation rental company.

    For other businesses facing similar hurdles, the success story of Big Bear Vacations and Whimstay underscores the value of strategic partnerships in tapping into new customer segments and unlocking revenue opportunities.

    Noël Russell is the CXO and a founding team member at Whimstay, an online travel agency specializing in boosting last-minute bookings and making travel more affordable. With 20 years of creating globally recognized content and campaigns, she also serves as an adviser and mentor in the tourism and outdoor industries. 

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