Build a Brand that Gets You Direct Bookings
Online travel agencies (OTAs) like Airbnb and VRBO can help you fill up your calendar.
However, have you ever imagined a world where you don’t need OTAs? A world where the majority of your reservations come from direct bookings?
This world can be your reality.
The hospitality experts listed below joined a Touch Stay webinar to discuss how they drive direct bookings:
● Monica Edwards (host of Morehead Manor in Durham, North Carolina)
● Katherine Daniel (host of Little Quarme Cottages in England)
● Tyann Marcink (host of Branson Family Retreats in Branson, Missouri)
● Mark Simpson (founded Boostly; a company that helps hosts like you run a more profitable business)
● Arthur Colker (founded StayFi; a vacation rental WiFi service that collects data and helps hosts fill up their calendar without OTAs)
Proof this bunch knows what they’re doing is 88 percent of Little Quarme Cottages’ reservations were direct in 2021 and 95 percent of Morehead Manor’s are direct.
Not having to depend on OTAs won’t happen overnight, but making the following strategies part of your brand can eventually get you there.
Billboarding is having more availability outside of OTAs to motivate guests to book their stay directly through you. Branson Family Retreats blocks off most of its calendar on OTA sites so guests book their trips directly through the company instead. This allows Branson Family Retreats to avoid paying OTAs’ fees for its bookings.
Branson Family Retreats’ pricing on OTAs versus its own site are dramatically different. Tyann says her vacation rentals cost $500 to $900 more on VRBO than the site. By booking their stay through the site, guests can save 50 percent.
This amount of savings makes booking a stay directly an easy decision.
Personalize the Experience
In the five years Katherine has owned Little Quarme Cottages, she’s experienced about a 40 percent increase in bookings she receives directly. A large reason for this is because she personalizes the guest experience.
Part of Little Quarme Cottages’ guest experience caters to Katherine’s many guests who bring dogs. At first, the cottages’ yards didn’t have fences, so guests’ dogs could’ve run off. Katherine built fences so guests’ dogs can safely frolic in the English countryside.
Moral of the story: give your guests what they want, and see how it helps your business.
Embrace Your Vacation Rental’s Locality
Now you can see why we talk about helping your guests become part of your vacation rental’s locality so much.
Katherine says she and her husband strive to be “experts on the local area” for guests. Monica has a lot of guests who have been in the car for hours and want to walk somewhere upon arrival. Since she knows the area so well, she recommends the go-to spots to them.
Showing you’re an expert on your vacation rental’s local area on your social media accounts, website and more can show them booking their stay directly with you is worth it.
Create an Exclusive Loyalty Program
Only offering a loyalty program to guests who book their stay directly with you can move guests away from OTAs and boost your repeat business.
One of Katherine’s first initiatives after she bought Little Quarme Cottages five years ago was to offer guests loyalty discounts. This helped her reach a repeat booking rate of 59 percent.
Start gaining momentum for your loyalty program (maybe a subscription) by creating one only guests who directly book their stays can enjoy.
Also remember how the little things can inspire their loyalty.
Going Direct is the Way to Success
Remember that running a vacation rental is a long-term business. So, even if you don’t immediately see the financial returns you want, stick with it and see how hard work pays off!