What does minimum stay mean?

Minimum stay is a policy, or restriction, that you can set at your property which dictates how guests can book their reservation. For example, if you set a minimum stay of two nights, no guest will be able to book a stay shorter than that. 

Minimum length of stay (MLOS or MinLOS) restrictions can be used across all your rooms or a select few that you choose. It can help you maximise your revenue and control your occupancy, but it’s a delicate balance that relies on managing supply and demand.

Why do hotels use MLOS?

Hotels and other accommodation providers actively use MLOS policies to take advantage of periods of high demand, especially if they are coming out of a low period.

For instance, if a popular performer is coming to town or a big event is happening, setting a minimum length of stay enables more revenue to be earned since rates are likely to be higher during a peak period. Maximising revenue during high demand periods, helps offset reduced revenue during low demand periods.

Some owners or managers may be also tempted to set a minimum stay for their hotel during low periods but this is risky. If demand is already low, and you have restrictions in place, guests may choose to book somewhere else entirely, leaving you with an even lower occupancy.

Pros and cons of using min stay strategies at your property

Setting MinLOS restrictions can be both beneficial and damaging to your performance in different circumstances so you need to be strategic about when you utilise them. Here are the pros and cons:

Pros of minimum length of stay

Setting or keeping a minimum stay policy at your accommodation can help you:

  • Maximise occupancy and revenue during peak periods
  • Ensure quiet days of the week or weeks of the year have a regular occupancy rate
  • Save on cleaning and maintenance fees, since a full turnover of the room only happens after check-out
  • Reduce the risk of rowdy or unsavoury guests that could disturb others
  • Increase your average length of stay (ALOS)
  • Boost guest loyalty and profit, since each day is a chance to impress guests with your services and personalise their experience

Cons of minimum stay restrictions

Minimum stays aren’t always the best way to go however, especially with modern guests. Here are some potential downfalls:

  • It’s literally restrictive to guests, who won’t always appreciate it
  • Guests can circumnavigate it online by booking multiple one-night stays
  • If can decrease your visibility on some online travel agents if guests use particular filters
  • Decreased visibility can in turn reduce direct bookings, since the billboard effect won’t be happening
  • It can backfire when demand is low – guests may simply book with another provider if they don’t feel like they have enough flexibility

How to set your Airbnb minimum stay

Any third-party channel you are selling your rooms on should allow for minimum stay policies. On Airbnb, you can set a minimum stay restriction by:

  • Logging into Airbnb and going to your calendar
  • Selecting your listing and finding your price and availability settings
  • Navigate to trip length to update your min and max stays
  • Create any custom or recurring rules if you wish to

If you’re using a hotel channel manager, you can also perform your updates from there. This allows you to apply your restrictions in bulk, instead of visiting various OTA extranets to do so.

How to set your VRBO minimum stay

Setting a minimum stay on VRBO is very similar to Airbnb. 

  • Log in to your account and select your chosen listing
  • Select your calendar and navigate to settings
  • Choose minimum night stay and input your restriction
  • Save and you’re done!

How to change minimum night stay on Booking.com 

As with Airbnb, the best way to change your minimum night stay policy on Booking.com is via your channel manager. This is because you’re likely connected to a number of OTAs and you’ll save time if you update them all at once.

If you prefer to do it via Booking.com extranet, simply:

  • Find ‘Rates and availability’
  • Choose your calendar or room name
  • Select your dates
  • Select a minimum length of stay dropdown and choose how many nights you require
  • Click save

How to effectively manage your minimum stay bookings

If you do intend to use minimum stay bookings at your property, there’s a few tips and tricks that will help you be successful. Here are six of the best ways to optimise your occupancy and revenue with MLOS.

1. The bigger your property, the longer your min stay can be

Guests will often book larger properties for longer because there are more services and amenities available, and they may be in a larger city where there is more for travellers to explore. This allows you to set a minimum stay of more than two nights to maximise your overall occupancy, revenue and profit per guest.

2. Watch your competitors to gain an edge

If you notice that your closest competitors have set a longer than average minimum stay, you can win guests over by setting yours comparatively shorter since they’ll feel they have more flexibility with you. Competitor insights are always vital, so it’s worth looking into how business intelligence tools can help you.

3. Use them strategically, not desperately

If your property is located in a seasonal location, or is relying on a lot of events or function business minimum stays are perfect for taking advantage of high demand. You can also use them on weekend periods to get an extra night out of guests who are willing or wanting to have a ‘long’ weekend. 

What they are not best for, is trying to turn a low demand period into a high occupancy period. If you want some ideas on increasing occupancy during low periods, check out our guide here.

4. Understand your guests to set the right policy

The length of your minimum stay restriction can also depend on who most commonly stays at your hotel. For example, leisure guests generally stay longer than business guests. If you expect mostly families or couples on holiday, a longer minimum stay is probably fine, but business travellers may shy away from this.

5. All or nothing is an option

While particularly risky, there are scenarios where increasingly long min stays can pay off. If your property is particularly empty in low periods, you could set a minimum stay of 10-30 days at a discounted rate. This could encourage digital nomads and remote workers to enjoy an affordable working holiday in an attractive location that is without big holiday crowds.

6. Take advantage of guests with long lead times

It’s largely accepted that guests who book a long time in advance are booking for a longer than average stay, to ensure they don’t miss out. If you notice this happening a lot at your property, you can feel free to set 7+ minimum night stay.

This means you’ll be able to lock in occupancy and forecast your revenue more accurately. From there, you can devise plans on how to maximise revenue as your supply reduces, and demand goes up for certain dates.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).