Online travel agency (OTA) fees have been known to take up to 20% of listings’ nightly booking rates. That’s a fifth of your profit gone before you’ve even factored in the cleaning of your short-term rental, supplies and amenities, or your team’s paychecks. So, what if you didn’t have to pay this commission? What if you could fill your rentals without sacrificing all of that hard-earned profit? 

Introducing the direct booking website: your very own platform where travelers can book your short-term rentals without a middleman (OTA websites). 

But, you may be asking, how do I get the same booking rate as the big players like Airbnb or Vrbo? We’ve pulled together everything you need to know to be successful in setting up a direct booking website, so you can do just that. 

Rule #1: your website can’t be slow 

This is non-negotiable. Consumers have been known to leave websites before even clicking away from the home page. They’ll also abandon bookings halfway through. Why? Because we live in a world where everything is instant and anything that challenges this will be quickly left behind. Lookers will move on to the next option.

To avoid this first hurdle, ensure your website is up to speed. That it’s easily accessible on both desktop and mobile devices. Simple to navigate. Streamlined (reduce the number of clicks to get to a listing). And, of course, appealing. 

Rule #2: photographs are invaluable 

Another huge factor that plays into bookers’ first impressions of your website is the design. What your home page looks like can speak volumes. Is it sleek and professional? Or clumsy and outdated? This can be the difference between prospects exploring your site further, maybe even booking, and leaving in a single second. 

Photography plays a major role in these first impressions, especially since over two-thirds of the population are visual learners. This means they’re influenced more by photography or images than written descriptions. Keep this in mind when creating your short-term rental listings. How can you appeal to these visually inspired bookers? Use high quality photography to represent your accommodations. 

Guests will want to see each room, the bathroom, property features (like smart home tech), the outside space (if there is one), the overall aesthetic of the rental they’ll be calling home for a short while. So, be sure not to miss out these details. After all, high quality photographs can boost conversion rates by up to 30%

Rule #3: personalization is your gateway 

Direct bookings offer property managers a unique opportunity to connect with guests. With no middleman, you’ll be able to communicate with bookers right from the start of their journey. 

And the best part is you can use this to increase your listing’s appeal. Maybe through a discount that’s only available through your direct booking website. Or maybe you offer better nightly rates for direct bookers as no OTA fees allows you to cut your overheads. Either way, personalization with incentives can be a great gateway to converting lookers into bookers. 

What’s more, this personal touch will continue to benefit your business down the line (think better reviews and return on experience guests). And speaking of reviews, having guest experiences visible on your website can also increase conversion rates. 

Increase your visibility with a direct booking website

Not yet convinced? Let’s take a look at the challenges rental listings on OTAs face:

  • Getting lost in the crowd of competitors (Airbnb and Vrbo have seen a huge acceleration in new supply already this year, with available listings expected to climb by 21%)
  • Limited space to describe a property and its features
  • Restricted on number of photographs 
  • Lack of control over cancellation policies or house rules
  • No brand awareness 

But with a direct booking website you lose the noise of competitor listings. You’ll have ample space to provide high quality photos and detailed descriptions (so you don’t have to leave out key amenities which may be exactly what potential bookers are searching for). You’ll have full control over policies, rules, and discounts. Not to mention the chance to build your brand and boost consumer awareness. 

And don’t worry about the set up of your direct booking website, with an all-in-one software for channel management you can easily sync and pull across listings from OTAs like Airbnb. 

Need an extra boost? Check out Google Vacation Rentals

If you’re worried about drawing traffic into your direct booking website, why not list your rentals through Google Vacations Rentals (GVR). This is not an OTA but a way to market your direct listings on a global distribution level. With this tool in your back pocket, your listing will be at the forefront of a looker’s travel journey, as GVR results rank on the first search page. 

To gain this increased visibility, partner with one of Google’s connected vacation rental managers. 

Key takeaways 

Direct booking websites present short-term rental property managers with a unique opportunity to connect with consumers, save on hefty OTA fees, and use extra profit to encourage conversion rates, improve the guest experience, and better your business. 

Who we are 

Uplisting is a short-term rental property and channel management software built specifically for helping managers scale their businesses. Designed with you in mind, our all-in-one system helps you grow your short-term rental revenue and streamline your business. 

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