The best booking is a direct booking. It’s every property manager’s most profitable and preferred channel, however, it can seem elusive with the prevalence of online travel agencies (OTAs) like AirBNB, VRBO, and Booking.com. These websites offer incredible exposure for your portfolio and billions of dollars in potential revenue, but relying on them as your only source for bookings can be a major pitfall. There is a better way. Embracing direct channels is actually the best way to maximize revenue and beat your competition. With a thoughtful distribution strategy, you can have your cake and eat it too.
The Advantages of Direct Bookings
Having a diverse revenue-stream strategy is essential for your portfolio as a vacation rental property manager. In addition to listing your properties on online travel agencies (OTAs) like Airbnb and Booking.com, it’s important to have a reliable, easy-to-use website to capture direct bookings.
A website with a direct booking engine allows you to have more control over your business while maximizing your revenue, and the advantages boil down into three main benefits:
- Take financial control of your business: When guests book directly from your website, you will reduce fees taken by OTAs & lessen your dependency on them.
- Maximize revenue: You can keep more of what guests pay and use it to reinvest in your business.
- Elevate your brand: Keep your branding front and center with potential guests on your direct booking site.
Where Direct Bookings Should Fit Into Your Strategy
As the growth of Airbnb and Vrbo have shown over the last few years, short-term rentals are becoming increasingly popular with guests who are looking for more space, privacy, and amenities when they travel. You can capitalize on this trend by having a direct booking website that compliments your presence on these platforms.
It’s vital to get as many views on your listings as possible, and you can help drive those views with OTAs. These platforms have a large online presence and bring in millions of people looking to book accommodations every day. However, since typical OTA agency fees total roughly 17%, your distribution portfolio should not depend entirely on them. That could mean tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary fees paid over the course of a year for customers that you could have directly booked. Having financial control over your bookings is another key benefit of direct bookings — if the unexpected happens, you and your guests can work out how best to handle it instead of being subject to an OTA’s policies. Investing in a direct booking method for your portfolio will save you time and money in the long run, as well as allowing you to make deeper, longer-lasting connections with your loyal customers.
We recommend short-term rental managers list their properties on the major OTAs, as these players will get them new customers, in addition to setting up a direct booking website. And we recommend experimenting with one or two niche channels at most. Because what we see in the data is that while more channels are better, at a certain point, you will reach a plateau in bookings increase – usually at about four or five channels.
Become a Master at Managing Multiple Channels
Managing multiple channels is time-consuming and can get expensive. There are also other dynamics at play with OTAs – from changing guidelines to cancellation policies. So we suggest starting with a broad distribution strategy and then capturing that demand from those channels to build a loyal (and profitable) guest base.
Many consider the OTA fees to be the cost to acquire a new customer or guest; however, once they delight that guest by delivering a superior guest experience, they don’t want to pay that fee again
This is where short-term rental managers and owners can take a page directly out of the hotel playbook and ensure they don’t ever repay an OTA for a repeat guest. You can capitalize on organic traffic by directing them to a mobile-friendly direct booking website that showcases your unique properties and makes booking a breeze. You can even consider trying out paid ads that link to your website to encourage future guests to book direct. This is essential for any vacation rental owner or property manager seeking to profitably grow and retain guests.
Set Your Direct Booking Site Up for Success
There are a few things to keep in mind when building or improving your direct booking website. You want to keep guest experience in mind, and you also want to ensure that the site is set up well technically.
When planning a vacation, potential guests demand a stress-free experience. Make sure that your website is flexible, responsive, and optimized for search engines. That way, visitors will be able to find the site quickly, navigate to the perfect property, and book on any device. Keep these things in mind for your direct booking website:
- Ensure that your website is SEO-optimized for your destination and listings.
- Your website should be mobile-friendly to provide the best experience for guests.
- You should have the ability to update your website fast. You can set up self-service web hosting tool, like Wordpress, with admin tools that let you confidently edit, revise, promote listings, add pages, and own your content.
- To measure how well your direct booking site is performing, look for strong improvements to your conversion rates. A strong conversion rate is an indicator of a great direct booking website.
Curious to know more about improving your distribution strategy? Beyond can help with that and more. We power thousands of hosts to get, grow, and keep revenue through our easy-to-use revenue management platform that includes Signal, our vacation rental website builder and direct booking engine. Learn more on our website or contact us.