What does it mean to a vacation rental homeowner?
Direct bookings is one of the things we’re most proud of. It’s a strategy that impacts and filters down to everything we do. It is also one of the main reasons Property Owners choose to partner with us.
You get what you pay for, we all know this. With third-party sales and commissions, you’ll always find someone that will do something for less. Wouldn’t you want more bookings at a higher rate rather than fewer bookings at a lower rate? Net rental revenue is important, and with direct bookings, we are able to command higher rates for your property.
As a homeowner, you have significant expenses regardless of if your property rents or not: Property tax, insurance, HOA dues, electricity to run the pool, and AC. You are significantly better off partnering with a Property Manager (PM) who is able to properly market your home.
Don’t cut corners towards becoming a successful vacation homeowner.
What happens if your property manager relies solely on third party bookings?
As a homeowner you just want your rental booked, right? Should you care where those bookings are coming from?
Anyone can list properties on HomeAway or Airbnb. If your PM boasts about their marketing when all they’re doing is the same as everyone else, it’s not much to boast about. Successful integrations apply to everything a PM does. When a PM is charging you much higher commissions by relying on third party bookings and other OTAs (Online Travel Agents), it means more people are taking a piece of the pie.
Ask your PM about their direct booking efforts. Does their site perform?
Third parties have changed immensely since introducing booking fees to guests. Now they hide the PM from the guests since they don’t want anyone to know they, themselves, are more expensive. This also means the PM no longer receives guest emails. When guests call the number on a listing, they reach a third party call center, not the PM like before.
Without direct bookings, a PM no longer needs a sales and marketing team. Since they no longer get calls or emails, they cut back on staff. Now they’ve become even more reliant on third party bookings, investing less in their own brand.
What are the long-term impacts of third-party reliance?
What if that third party turns around next year and informs the PM they’re increasing their commissions and fees? There’s nothing that the PM can do as they’re totally reliant on them, combating lower rates and shorter stays. This has already happened to the hotel industry.
Third-party sites have terms that favor the guest, such as cancellation policies favored into ranking algorithms. We want to be guest friendly too and encourage bookings, but at the same time, we have an obligation to the homeowner.
What you need to consider
When interviewing prospective PMs, ask if they offer dedicated sales agents who have no other responsibilities than booking your home. A PM who doesn’t bring in enough direct bookings can’t justify a dedicated sales position; instead, they have someone juggling sales calls with a larger number of wide-ranging responsibilities. It’s difficult for someone to be optimally positive and motivated when also having to deal with pest control issues or backed up toilets.
Reversely, who can assist guests better? A dedicated guest service team with no other responsibilities or duties than making each guest’s experience the best possible, or someone too busy taking sales calls?
Everything great about our company for owners and guests stems from our strategy to focus on direct bookings.
Who is more committed and invested in their homeowner’s success? A PM who just puts up a free listing and pays a third party commission, or a PM who is paying for thousands of clicks to their website, recouping that by having their agents convert leads to bookings.
A Direct Booking Strategy Leads to:
- The creation of a guest services team
- Investment in sophisticated software such as dynamic rates and yield management to gain leads and convert to bookings
- Introduces staff working late shifts to cover more hours of booking opportunities in different time zones
- Office open until midnight to facilitate last minute check-ins and late calls from guests in need of assistance
- Keeping an in-house and local maintenance team working 7 days a week for an instant response not reliant on contractors who have their own schedule
Multifaceted Online Marketing
It takes a lot of time, money, and effort to build a successful brand and online presence. Our in-house marketing team and digital media professionals continually work on improving our websites.
Not everyone can offer websites that have been successfully delivering bookings for years and earned an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for organic placement in online searches. The Orlando vacation home rental industry has intensely competitive keywords with hundreds of PMs competing for a top placement in search engines. It takes a large budget of paid search traffic campaigns to accomplish this. Very few can deliver.
Where is your PM putting their money?
It’s very easy for PMs to make bold claims that their marketing is the best, but how many can back it up? It takes a large marketing budget to steadily grow a company to justify a large sales team, something new PMs lack. We don’t just talk the talk, we invest hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in driving traffic to our websites and converting that traffic to bookings for our property owners.
A Dedicated Reservations Team
Marketing and web traffic is only part of the puzzle. We have a motivated sales team lead by a manager who utilizes very sophisticated lead management tools to convert that traffic into bookings. Calls are recorded and scored then utilized in one-on-one coaching sessions to ensure agents provide guests with the best service possible.
A Caring Guest Relations Team
We send out surveys because we really want to learn about the guest experience. We’d like to know if the guests need anything during their stay so that we have the opportunity to correct any issues before it’s too late. Using multiple methods of contacting guests such as pre-arrival greetings, welcome phone calls, visits, emails, texts, website chats, and instant messaging via in-house tablets, we let our guests know we are friendly, accessible and happy to assist them.
Happy Guests – Returning Guests – Multiple Bookings
Our local team can guide potential guests to a property that best suit them. Our team knows our properties, resorts, and the area intimately so they can provide answers. It’s that personal touch a call center can’t duplicate. It’s also in the details of the home where professionally designed and printed signage guides the guests in all manners of the home.
We are very motivated to earn the guests repeat business and referral to friends and family.
Direct bookings also mean full control. A third party that just wants to get any bookings to earn their commissions are not the ones who would have to be dealing with any issues that can arise. If there was a group looking to book a home for a party that could lead to damage to your home, who is more likely to let that slip through?
Don’t get us wrong – Third Party Bookings are important
We don’t neglect third party sites but work diligently to uphold a seamless reservation process with our affiliates. We leave no stone unturned and list on the prominent sites in the industry. They all make up a piece of the puzzle and complement our bookings without dominating our focus.