Why We Should All #BookDirect
A Brief History of #BookDirect
If you’re a vacation rental manager, you’ve heard of Book Direct. It started as a VRM-led grass-roots campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of making reservations directly with a vacation rental firm. It had been steadily gaining momentum prior to Covid-19, and now seems to be getting even more popular.
Way back when, the vacation rental industry was, pardon the pun, a cottage industry. It was created by passionate area entrepreneurs, who just knew that guests would enjoy having a more personalized experience and home-like accommodations. And they were right.
Over time, the concept of renting an entire unit (whether it was a condo, apartment, cabin, cottage, or home) caught on. And as the internet grew in popularity and scope, the first OTA (Online Travel Agent) was born.
It was called Vacation Rental by Owner (VRBO) and it showcased vacation rental properties available through their individual owners for rent.
VRBO opened the door to the corporate giants and within a few years, it seemed a new OTA was popping up every week. Expedia.com, Homeaway.com, Flipkey.com, Vacasa.com, Airbnb.com. It gets hard to keep track of them all!
What the average guest doesn’t realize is that these big OTAs with their bigger advertising budgets have challenged our small vacation rental companies. Now that our industry has been hit so hard by Covid-19 and its fallout, it’s more important than ever that guests know the advantages of booking direct. We’re all counting on it.
Here are some of the best reasons to always book direct.
First and foremost, when guests book direct, they save money. Sometimes, a lot of money! OTAs can tack on 5-19% or more with various administrative and booking fees. So, vacation rental managers, encourage your guests to always book direct and save that money for a lovely dinner out or a fun day at a local attraction!
As we all know, OTAs also cost property management companies money, too, with listing fees, service fees, and commissions. It adds up quickly!
When you book direct with an individual property management company, all information is conveyed in clear, plain language. You know what to expect next, you know who you’re dealing with, and you know who to call if you have a question or anything goes wrong. The Lease Rental Agreement is with the actual property manager.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case with OTAs. Some don’t display the individual property management firm’s name or contact information until the reservation is confirmed. Because of this practice, the guest thinks that their reservation is with the OTA, not the individual property manager. Obviously, this causes confusion when a question arises and, if handled poorly, can result in negative reviews.
And speaking of reviews. All reviews are published whether they are favorable or not-so-favorable. So, whether they’re scathing or glowing, no one will ever know they’re actually from your actual tenants or guests of the tenant. Reservation Specialists have a robust reviews program that has increased positive reviews by 30% in most markets!
Area Ambassadors & Personalized Service
Next, let’s discuss the fact that OTAs are simply big aggregators. Reservationists of the various OTAs (if guests can get one on the phone) have no personal relationship to any one area, management company, or property. As a matter of fact, it’s possible that many of them may have never even heard of your destination!
So, here’s the thing. As Property Managers, you are not just the small business owners of your area, but the ambassadors as well. You are members of your community, you share the camaraderie and support of other local businesses, and take pride in what your community has created. Your reservationists are the voice behind the listings!
As ambassadors, you and your reservations team know all the tourist sites, as well as the hidden gems. You’ve also probably eaten at all the restaurants, and shopped in many of the stores, as well. You may have even taken some of the tours or spent a day or two at the local attractions. Your area is in your blood and there’s no one better qualified to steer a guest towards the best, and away from the worst places.
And seriously, do you know any vacation rental company employee/reservationist who doesn’t like telling guests about their favorite things to do, places to go, and restaurants?
This is the personal touch that all guests get when they choose to book direct. You and your team know your properties, areas, and you care about your guests. What could be better than that?