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Vacation Rentals – Are Direct Bookings the Best Option?

Competition for market share in the vacation rental market is a growing problem for owners as the major companies, AirBnB, VRBO, Booking, TripAdvisor etc.are able to exploit their dominance in search. At the same time there is a major shift in emphasis away from owners requirements to guests perceived demands.

The days of listing your vacation rental condo or holiday villa on a rental listing site for a fee has disappeared. All the main sites now charge a fee to the guest and a commission to the owner and with this revised scenario bookings are their only source of income. As a result, the need to offer the “best terms” and keeping the guest and rental owner apart until after the booking is secured has become paramount.

Offering best terms really means keen pricing, restricted cancellation options, instant booking facilities and more protection for the guest than the rental property owner. Whilst some of these newer conditions remain, in part, optional it has become clear that failure to conform results in your rental dropping well down the list of available properties in your area.

The need to now keep potential guests and owners apart, to avoid a client booking direct, means that owners can no longer vet guests to see if they are suitable for the property and relying on the information, often limited, the guest provides when making the inquiry. In a further move one company has recently suggested that owners do not show the property name in their listing on their site. The reason clearly being that if the owner has his own website a potential guest, seeing the property name, can “Google it” and then contact the owner, via his own website, and book direct.

So, what are the alternatives to being dictated to by the current major players. One option, of course, is your own website but Page One of Google is already dominated by the big four in both paid and organic search. As a result getting exposure involves high cost bidding in paid search or investing heavily in time to optimize the site in the hopes it might get a high enough placing to be found.

Having a Facebook Page or Group can also help as holidays and travel are social events frequently discussed or mentioned by members. A post can be “boosted” relatively cheaply targeting people whose profiles indicate they enjoy traveling and this can drive traffic to your website or Facebook Page.

Another option could be linking with other property owners in the same area and jointly promoting vacation rentals in a specific geographic area. This might be via a website or Facebook page or both, with a minimal fee cost to have details of your property included along with others. As Google now encourages Local Businesses this type of promotion could well help to move a well optimized local website higher up the organic rankings at a nominal price.

There can be no doubt that direct bookings are better for both the rental property owner and the guest. The guest has no admin fee to pay and the owner no commission. The owner and guest have the opportunity to communicate effectively prior to the booking be finalized ensuring both parties fully understand the terms and conditions and that the rental accommodation will meet the guests requirements. A win – win situation all round.

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