If you’re a vacation rental owner or manager, you know that direct bookings hold the key to success in the ever-evolving world of travel and hospitality. With online travel agencies (OTAs), such as Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com, and third-party booking platforms dominating the market, it’s crucial to equip yourself with the knowledge and strategies necessary to drive more direct bookings.
Gone are the days when relying solely on third-party platforms was enough to fill your rental calendar. Today, guests are increasingly seeking unique and authentic experiences, and they often turn to direct bookings to find them. By empowering yourself as a property manager to accept direct bookings, you can establish meaningful connections with potential guests, build lasting relationships, provide personalized service, and even cut costs associated with third-party commissions.
On May 23, 2023, Alvar De la Viuda, Lodgify’s Instructional Designer, teamed up with three exceptional vacation rental hosts as special guests for an insightful webinar packed with insider tips on skyrocketing your direct bookings for your business.
He was joined by Daniella Derin, owner and manager of Skol Apartments Marbella, who generates 90% of her bookings for her 90 units directly through her website. She was accompanied by Kerri Gibson, who founded Chalets Hygge in Quebec, Canada, and has a 70% direct booking rate, and Katie Bleifer Jones, the owner and manager of Villa Eros, who also has a 90% direct booking rate with her luxury one-bedroom villa business in Kefalonia, Greece.
If you missed out on the webinar, don’t fret! This article brings you the chance to dive into the invaluable knowledge shared by our experts by recapping the key topics discussed. Furthermore, whether you were there in person or not, now you can access the webinar at your convenience.
Alvar began the webinar by presenting Lodgify with a brief explanation of our all-in-one property management software before passing the mic to his guests, allowing them to introduce themselves and their vacation rental businesses.
The guest speakers then went on to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of direct bookings in relation to their own personal hosting experiences. Some of the key advantages mentioned are listed below:
Why do we want to become more independent from OTAs, what are the advantages?
You have more control over your insurance policies
The host gets to own the entire customer journey, from booking to checkout
You are not forced to be reactionary to changes to OTA business strategies.
You have more control over the type of guests you attract and accept
You are in total control of your cancellation policies
However, this implies some consequences that might not be desirable for everyone. What are the main drawbacks of getting away from OTAs?
The direct booking strategy requires more time and effort
The constant need to update your information
Need to be aware of what’s going on in the industry
Google algorithm changes can see your website move down the search results
Alvar then asked the guests to give their views on how to begin a direct booking strategy. Daniela kicked off the discussion by suggesting hosts start straight away, working on SEO and being active on social media by engaging with their audience through posting, commenting, and interacting with other users.
Katie added that registering their rental on Google My Business and using Google Analytics to track their website performance would help shape their strategy before Kerri urged hosts to build trust with their audience through creating engaging content.
They then go on to share ideas for marketing and building a brand for a vacation rental business, covering key concepts such as an email marketing list, providing special offers, WhatsApp marketing, and partnering with local tourism boards.
However, the discussion certainly wasn’t anti-OTA. Our expert guests also debated ways to balance a direct booking strategy with an OTA strategy, emphasizing that using Lodgify’s PMS (property management system) to connect their OTA listings can be a successful middle ground.
After sharing tips on how to enhance the guest experience to encourage repeat guests, they offered advice on the best ways to collect website visitor data, such as through Enso Connect and Mailchimp.
Question: Can you apply similar direct booking strategies regardless of your location?
Answer (Daniela): It is obviously much easier if you are based in a location that attracts repeat guests. However, if you can become the reference for vacations in your area, then the majority of direct bookings will come to your business.
Answer (Katie): I agree with Daniela. It’s crucial to build a direct booking strategy regardless of where you’re located so that you’re not overly reliant on OTAs (online travel agencies, such as Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com)
Questions left unanswered: Lodgify replies
Question: I like using OTAs as they free me from payment and fraud headaches. The host review system also helps protect my property from harmful guests. How can I get to this comfort level from direct bookings?
Answer: With Lodgify! We have great integrations with apps and software like Know Your Guest that will give you that comfort. Also, as Daniela from Skol Apartments pointed out, with direct bookings, you have more control over the type of guests that go to your rental, it’s easier to reach your target audience.
Question: Is it advisable to have your own website when you only have 1 property listed?
Answer: As our guests said, it’s always advisable to have your own website as soon as you can, not only to drive direct bookings but also to build your brand. The Lodgify Website Builder is an easy yet highly effective tool to use to do this.
Question: How do you collect email addresses from guests who book via OTAs when considering data protection?
Answer: This is why having a vacation rental website is great. You can collect data from your potential guests by providing a voluntary online form on your website for the customer to enter their details so they can subscribe to your newsletter, for example. You can then use this information to build your email list.
Until next time
For even more tips and tricks on increasing your direct bookings, you can download our ‘Ultimate Guide to Increasing Vacation Rental Direct Bookings’ here.
If you enjoyed this webinar and would like to learn more about being a host in the vacation rental industry, please let us know in the comments below what topics you’d like to see discussed in the future.
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