Benefits of Direct Booking Vs Airbnb or VRBO
I have been a short term rental host for several years now, and I’ve learned a fair amount about the ever changing OTAs (Online Travel Agents), such as Airbnb, VRBO, Expedia, Booking.com, etc. These OTAs certainly have their purpose and have helped the vacation rental market explode. However, they also charge a number of hefty fees. When looking at my historical rental data, it appears that the two main platforms, VRBO and Airbnb have generally charged a range of 10% to 15% of the booking cost as a “Guest Service Fee”. Airbnb now has a simplified pricing structure where this 15% fee is not shown to the consumer, but it’s typically added on within the property management software and deducted from what the host receives. With these added fees, it can be significantly cheaper to book a vacation rental directly with the owner or property manager.
Communication through the booking platforms can also be a challenge. Have you noticed the vacation rental sites block a host and renter from seeing each other’s contact info until a guest has booked? Airbnb even blocks email address after a booking. That’s intentional, because they don’t want you to bypass them to avoid their fees.
Believe it or not the vacation rental world existed long before Airbnb made it famous, and direct bookings were how it was done back in the day (think Gatlinburg, TN 30-40 years ago). We are seeing a huge resurgence of direct bookings since renters and hosts have become fed up with high fees and intentionally blocked communication by the OTAs.
So how do you book directly? While many places are not setup to do so, most are. If you happen to find a property you really like on one of the booking platforms, often you can just Google search the property title and you will find a website specific to that property. For example our property title on Airbnb and VRBO is “Eagle Camp Lodge – Northwoods Log Home – On Willow Flowage” If you search the whole title or just Eagle Camp Lodge, you’ll quickly find the website EagleCampLodge.com and see that the pictures are of the same property. You can book directly from our homepage and boom you saved yourself $500 in 30 seconds. Or if you have questions, you can simply contact us via phone, text, or email to get more info. We are not unique, many hosts have a similar website and some clues as to how you can find them within their VRBO and Airbnb listings, you might just have to spend a couple minutes searching.
There are a couple benefits to using an OTA though. They do provide some financial protection to the guest if a property was grossly misrepresented or listing is fraudulent. However, many credit cards will offer similar protections against fraud. Also, the obvious reason so many people use these platforms is the searchability of properties. They are great for searching, mapping, and filtering the amenities you want.
I’d encourage you to consider a direct booking for your next vacation rental (at least spend a few minutes seeing if the property you like is available directly to compare cost). If you are a short term rental host, I’d encourage you to setup your own direct booking site if you haven’t already. You’ll save yourself and your guests money as well and have more streamlined communication with your guest. The goal is better communication and fewer fees resulting in a more satisfied guest!