Frequently, several vacation rental owners overlook the concept of accepting direct bookings as a result of the high organic traffic and the authority of the vacation rental websites such as Airbnb or Booking.com. Even though these websites acquiring a commission, it is a sincere belief that this “small” loss of profit is merely part of the industry. Today, we are going to show you otherwise.
To accept direct bookings you need to build your own vacation rental property website that takes reservations and payments. Then you have to promote the site, to drive visitors to your online page with the goal to convert them to guests. Easier said than done, but don’t worry I will let you know how you can build your website and start accepting direct bookings.
Based on recent market research we saw an increase of 7% to direct bookings from 2016 to 2018. The majority of travelers 67% are booking their accommodations mainly through travel agencies. The other 33% were direct bookings, those who came in via the websites of specific accommodations. The industry experts expect that the direct bookings will continue to increase as more and more travelers prefer the direct approach and personalize service.
The technology is moving with breakneck speed in the tourism and hospitality sector. As the industry grows, the automation tools and software are involving to help the vacation rental owners to market and manage their properties with more efficient ways. Exploring new opportunities to reach more travelers and as well provide five-star service to their guests.
In the following paragraphs of this article, I will outline the reasons why you will want to accept more direct bookings in the future, what are the benefits for you and the how you can achieve them!
What Are The Benefits of Accepting Direct Bookings?
To start with, the usually high commissions that vacation rental websites take (regardless if that’s on an annual or per-booking basis) are a challenge for every homeowner. It is not your challenge alone; your guests are also entitled to pay a hefty fee to use the platform.
To put it differently, they’re paying far more for the very same service and vacation rental property. If they booked directly, definitely would not cost quite as much. Each vacation rental website offers their fee structure for hosts and guests.
On the other hand, in the event your website processes direct bookings (we refer to them as direct since you handle them directly, without the involvement of third parties or intermediaries), you are going to receive the total profit, without sharing your earnings with the travel agencies.
Therefore, you will have the ability to offer a far better price to your guests. Your guests will also receive a higher value because they will also save from paying a fee to the third parties or intermediaries. This practice is what we call win to win!
In addition to the obvious financial benefit, accepting direct bookings is the best approach to make sure you look after every detail. It helps as well to create a more personalized experience for your customers. And naturally, you take the full control of your business!
You can benefit of the money you save from the vacation rental sites commissions, and invest that money into enhancing your services like offering a welcome basket, more comfortable bed mattress or providing breakfast at your home for your guests. These little details will benefit you to create loyal guests and receive more positive reviews, and in return will undoubtedly encourage other travelers to book your property!
On a side note, you can also take advantage of the money you save, and invest them into your marketing strategy to promote your properties website. You can use different IM strategies to generate more leads for your properties and convert them into customers.
How Can I Accept Direct Bookings From Guests?
If you wish to receive direct reservations, as a first step you are going to need a website that allows you to accept bookings and payments.
You have three ways to achieve this:
- The first way is to hire a professional to design and build the website on your behalf. The positives of this option are that you will receive a tailor-made and bespoke site, but it will cost you a lot of money and time.
- The second option is to use a CMS website builder like WordPress and install a booking engine and payment gateway. If you are not a tech-savvy, then this option is definitely not for you.
- The third option is to use specialized software for vacation rental businesses, most of them are offering drag and drop site builder, pre-installed calendar, booking engine, and payment gateways to accept credit cards or other payment methods. With this method, you can save time and money, as well as benefit from more pre-installed automation tools specialized for the vacation rental industry.
With the recent growth of the vacation rental market, many services have surfaced which can cover specific and generic needs of vacation rental hosts and property managers. That’s why are so many options out there but which one is best suited for you?
To chose the software that best benefits your business, you will need to be sure it offers all the various tools to manage your property efficiently and your website with ease.
For example, the software you will choose needs to have:
- An easy to use website builder
- Provide you with the flexibility to write an engaging content/description
- Include a photo gallery of your property
- Add a call-to-action button which leads guests to make their direct booking (necessary to achieve your primary goal).
- Contact form for your guests to contact you
- An efficient and hassle-free booking engine which makes the checkout process a positive experience for the guests.
- Provide guests with payment methods by credit card, PayPal, etc.
- Ensure that the website is mobile ready and mobile friendly.
- Last but not least, there is a channel manager, as this is critical to synchronize your booking calendar and property with the vacation rental websites where you have listed your property.
Softwares like Guesty and Lodgify are offering to the homeowners and property managers all the above functionalities, helping them build a fully customizable website without a single code to be written. The sites are coming with many automation, secure checkouts and with a user-friendly interface that your guest will find easy to make their reservations.
How Can You Invite Travelers To Book Directly On Your Site?
Why do guests still prefer to book their vacation rentals homes on large vacation rental websites such as Airbnb and Booking.com?
It comes down to a few vital factors:
- Vacation rental platforms are credible and secure.
- Dedicated customer support team.
- Massive list of properties for the guests to choose from.
- Guests can compare properties with ease.
Now, the question you’re asking yourself is how you can compete with this and encourage travelers to book directly with you.
Let me put your mind at ease, direct bookings have a few competitive advantages, can be less expensive for your guests, and you can offer personalized service. Now let’s see how you can overcome the benefits of OTAs.
1. Make Your Website Safe
Make sure that your site has HTTPS and SSL encryption to remove any doubts about the security of your website. The HTTPS and SSL encryption verify your website and business, and your guests feel comfortable and safe browsing and booking through your site.
You can secure your site even further with additional measures to make your website significantly more secure by updating any plugins or extensions/apps you use on your site.
2. Build Your Online Reputation
Communicate through a blog.
Start your blog and talk about the location of your property, the events or local activities that take place, local food and also updates to your property. The blog takes time to drive traffic and to be trusted, but when you have grown to be the specialist in your area that everybody believes, it will be worth it. Additionally, it’s useful for the SEO of your website and helps your property to appear in search results!
Manage your social media.
Today, most people are on social media. Sharing useful and quality content works as an engagement method. Social media websites assist in portraying you as a knowledgeable and experienced host sharing knowledge and creating positive vibes with thoughtful content.
Monitor your online reputation regularly.
With the help of Google Alert, you can get updates on the mentions of your service on various blogs, review sites, and social media channels. Check and maintain your profiles and reviews on the vacation rental sites.
Ask for feedback.
Encourage your guests to leave positive feedback on their checkout and post it on your website. You can remind guests to review their stay by sending a friendly email upon departure from your property and ask your guests to post good reviews about you. Ask them to share their experience with the rest of the world and help your guests understand how motivating it is to hear kind words from them.
Aside from posting your posts on your site, blog and social media accounts, and handling your reviews, you must build your business reputation by utilizing the relationship with other influential platforms.
Let’s figure this out with an example.
Assuming there is a workshop with bed and breakfast hosts, participate in the seminar and come up with issues or solutions to let other professionals know your knowledge and level of experience. Furthermore, you must do guest blogging to link your blog from other relevant sites with more traffic.
3. Promote Your Services & Offers
At your personal touch and make sure the services you provide on your site is above and beyond from the ones your competitors are offering or the vacation rental websites. Offer your guests the best deal by booking directly from your site.
As the owner of your property, and having full control of your websites, you can take advantage of certain events such as Christmas, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and offer exclusive prices to keep your calendar full even during the low seasons. Something that the big vacation rental sites can’t provide, and they’ll never be able to compete with you on this!
As a bonus, you can ask your guest in their booking procedure if they have any special requirements. By satisfying their needs, you can win their loyalty and trust.
Maybe they check-in late at night and they will not have an opportunity to buy grocery to prepare their breakfast so a welcome basket with coffee, tea, and donuts can be really appreciated.
With your personalized service, you can deliver over and above their expectations, and as a result, they will praise your service and guest experience in their reviews later on.
Now that you know more than the basics to start accepting the direct reservations from your website, it’s time to act and build your first website.
If you already have your vacation rental website, I hope that this article was helpful and it helps you to increase the number of direct bookings from your website.
Having your own vacation rental site for your property is a plus because you can benefit from offering a more personalized service, being in control of your reservations, collecting leads for your marketing and making more money.
However, vacation rental websites are an essential part of your business success, since they are an effective way of placing your home in front of massive numbers of tourists. That’s why they are still a necessary evil.