All too often, new vacation rental owners dismiss the idea of receiving direct bookings because of the high visibility and seal of quality offered by online travel agencies such as Airbnb or VRBO. Despite these sites taking a commission, it is widely believed that this “small” loss of profit simply comes as “part of the job”. We’re here to prove otherwise.
According to Phocuswright, in 2017, 69% of European hotel bookings were made on OTAs. The other 31% were direct bookings – those which came in via the websites of specific accommodations.
While these figures may seem daunting, numbers have already increased compared with 2016 – when direct bookings accounted for just 26% of the total. Experts say that this figure will continue to rise and that more and more lodging providers will become the direct competitors of these large advertising pages.
One thing is crystal clear, however – the technological race in the tourism sector is showing no signs of slowing down.
As the industry grows, the emergence of software specifically designed for vacation rental businesses are facilitating owners’ work, improving the process for guests and – you guessed it – enabling owners to accept direct bookings on their website.
In this article, we’re going to explain why you’ll want to receive more direct reservations from now on and how you can achieve them!
What are the advantages of accepting direct bookings?
First and foremost, the cost of using OTAs is an influential factor. OTAs set high commissions (whether that’s on an annual or per-booking basis) for the owner, and in most cases, for the guests too. Today’s travelers are increasingly aware that they themselves have to pay a fee to use these sites. In other words, they’re actively paying more for a vacation rental property which, booked directly, would not cost as much. Each listing site has its own fee structure, which can be found on our vacation rental websites guide.
In contrast, if your website accepts direct bookings (we call them “direct” because you manage them directly, without the help of third parties or intermediaries), you’ll be receiving the total profit. As a result, you’ll also be able to offer a better price to your guests.
As well as this clear economic advantage, taking direct reservations is another way to ensure you are in charge of every last detail. It also helps you to create a more personalized service for your guest. Not to mention the fact it gives you total control!
You can take advantage of the money you save on OTA commissions and invest that budget into providing breakfast at your property, or preparing a welcome pack for your guests. These small details will help you to generate loyal guests and obtain more positive reviews, which in turn will motivate other guests to book on your website!
HOW CAN I PROVIDE THE OPTION FOR GUESTS TO BOOK DIRECTLY?
If you want to accept direct bookings, you will first need a website that permits online booking. This is where specialized software for vacation rental businesses comes in. Can you create a site with any website builder software? Yes. But not all website providers come with a booking engine as standard. A website that is specifically designed for your business needs will not only allow you to save time and costs, but also help automate repetitive processes and increase your profits.
With the boom in the vacation rental market, many services have emerged which fit the particular needs of owners and managers – that’s why there is no single solution to create a website.
To find the software that best suits your business, you will have to ensure it has all the different tools to make managing your property that bit easier. For example, the possibility of adding a call-to-action button which leads guests to make their direct booking (essential in order to achieve your main objective). Plus, a streamlined booking engine which makes the checkout process easy work for guests. In addition to this, you’ll want to provide travelers with the option to pay by credit card, as well as ensure the website design is mobile-friendly and adapts to any size device. Finally, a channel manager is key in order to synchronize with the main portals where you advertise your property.
Lodgify offers its users all these advantages, with one more: optimized for vacation rentals, yet fully customizable website templates, with an interface so intuitive that it does not require any coding knowledge to achieve the best results.
HOW CAN I ENCOURAGE DIRECT BOOKINGS FROM GUESTS ON MY WEBSITE?
Why do guests still prefer to book their vacation rentals on large OTAs? It comes down to a few key points: they’re credible, secure and there is usually a team on hand to respond to any inquiries or issues. Besides that, travelers also appreciate the ease with which they can compare properties from the same website.
Now, ask yourself this question: how can you compete with this and provide your guests with an improved service?
1. OFFER A SECURE WEBSITE (AND HOME!)
Guests are often afraid that any website that advertises a vacation rental is a scam. To dispel any doubts about the security you offer on your site, make sure that it has HTTPS and SSL encryption. This means that the browser of every possible guest will recognize your website as secure – and any data they enter (such as contact details or credit card information) will be transmitted encrypted.
To ensure guests know that they’ll be able to feel comfortable and safe during their stay, offer them a good option regarding travel insurance for vacation rentals. In addition, be sure to protect your property from damage, too.
2. BUILD A GOOD ONLINE REPUTATION
By this, we mean dedicate time to sharing content on social networks, showing your followers (including potential or repeat guests) that you take your role as owner seriously. As well as this, regular posting signals that, behind the management, there is a direct contact for inquirers who have questions and doubts about the property.
It is also important that you compile a collection of excellent reviews from your guests. You can remind guests to review their stay by sending a friendly email upon departure from your property. Once you receive feedback, you can add reviews to your website so that other visitors can see how much others have enjoyed their time at your home. You can go one step further and ask them to mention you when they write about their stays on social media, and share (with their permission) the photographs they publish on sites such as Instagram.
Another tool that you can benefit from is a vacation rental blog. On your blog, you can write about the area where you are, the events that take place, local cuisine, curiosities and any updates to your property. Although this can take a little time to build up, when you become an expert in your area that everyone trusts, it will be worth it. Plus, it’s advantageous for your website’s SEO – this kind of content will help your property to show up in search results!
3. SHARE OFFERS, PROMOTIONS AND GRANT SPECIAL REQUESTS
Make sure the personal treatment you offer on your website is above and beyond that of your competitors’. In fact, aim to offer guests the best deal when they book direct.
Something that the big OTAs usually can’t offer is special prices – and we all know how much travelers like bargains and unique opportunities! As an owner, you can take advantage of certain events (such as Valentine’s Day or Christmas) and offer exclusive prices to keep your calendar full even during the low seasons. They’ll never be able to compete with you on this!
Another strategy to win over your guests and earn their loyalty is to ask them in advance if they have any special requirements so you can satisfy their needs as far as possible.
Maybe they require a gluten-free or lactose-free breakfast. Or they’re traveling with a baby and require a high-chair and changing table. Going a little further to make their stay perfect will mean you’ll instantly gain their appreciation. Consequently, they’ll praise your service and guest experience in their reviews later on.
Now you have all the keys to start accepting direct bookings or begin to achieve a higher percentage of reservations directly through your website. There is no denying that OTAs and listing sites are a great way of getting your property in front of large volumes of travelers. Becoming less dependent on them, however, is a goal which many vacation rental owners want to (and can!) reach.