You might rent out your spare bedroom on Airbnb or you might operate 10 vacation rentals in Florida. Independent of how many short-term rentals you have, you should look into increasing your direct bookings. Exclusively accepting bookings through the popular platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.com will give you some securities. For example, Airbnb provides 1 million liability insurance if a guest gets hurt on your property. However, as a good host you should have additional protection anyway (Read: Understanding Liability Insurance for Your Short-term Rental) as well as set procedures of how to deal with rowdy guests and cancellations.
So with a clear strategy in place for what happens if something goes wrong, you do not need to entirely rely on the big online travel agents to bring in bookings. Being present on as many platforms as possible is a good strategy to maximise your reach for a full occupancy. However, this comes at a price – usually taking the shape of commission or a service fee. Therefore, it will be of interest to also draw in direct bookings. Read on below for our top tips.
Establish How Guests Can Book Direct
Make sure to establish a working system of how you will accept direct bookings. Are you renting out a converted garage and are happy to manage direct bookings via email and a spreadsheet? Or maybe you operate multiple holiday homes and are considering an online booking engine which integrates into a channel manager? You might even have a designated website for vacation home. Whatever you decide, define a clear process for managing bookings and stick to it.
Get Those Return Visitors
You have done a great job hosting your guests, they left you an awesome review and now what? If they want to stay with you again, would you want them to go through a third party once more? If you do not want to pay a service fee or commission, invite them to book direct! After they have left a positive review, shoot them a message if you can add them to your email database for any future offers.
Similarly, if someone sends an inquiry and your rental is not available, offer to add them to your database for future promotions. Then if you are experiencing a slow period utilize that database. It does not have to be an elaborate newsletter. Think a short email blast about available dates, pricing and how ‘direct bookers’ get the best rates.
Additionally, you can also place information about how guests can book direct with you in your welcome folder. Alternatively, put up an eye-catching poster or ad letting new arrivals know about the ease of booking direct.
Be Active on Social Media
You can rely on your preferred listing sites and their algorithms to promote your offering. Or you can take matters into your own hands and shout about everything that makes your vacation rental awesome on social media. We have already discussed in-depth how to use Instagram and Pinterest as well as Facebook and Twitter for short-term rentals. While being active with high-quality content is a lot of work, you can pick and mix depending on your goals. Also take into consideration how much time you want to invest. For example, Instagram is a great medium get your business discovered since you can use relevant hashtags which potential guests might be interested in (Read: Vacation Rental Operators Who Are Attracting Attention on Instagram). Generally, always check that all your social media pages have a link to book direct. If you accept reservations via mail, provide clear instructions how potential guests can reach you.
If you offer a unique vacation rental – for example, with a unique theme, layout or destination – people will come to stay with you for that. Former guests who have had a positively unique experience, will talk about your holiday home on and off social media. This in turn helps your vacation rental’s discoverability. When people find you off popular booking platforms, you can emphasise the benefits of booking direct and provide a way to do so. However, if your vacation rental is generic and very similar to other supply in the area, travellers are most likely discovering you on third party sides and book with you because your rate is lowest or supply is low.
Bonus tip: Give your vacation rental a recognisable name, so guests will remember and know what to search for on the web. Choose a name that is in line with what makes your short-term rental unique.