So many hosts complain about the drawbacks of online travel agencies – but few actually do anything about them. Most don’t even know how!
In an ever-competitive marketplace, Mark Simpson helps short-term rental hosts thrive. After successfully coaching over one thousand hospitality businesses to date, Mark’s current mission is to help one million hosts increase their direct bookings so they are no longer under the control of online travel agencies.
If you’re ready to start taking control of your listings and breaking free from the limitations of online travel agencies, where do you begin?
One of the most important things that you need to do, even if you only have one listing, is to find property management software. There are so many options to choose from, so just look into a few and don’t get stuck in decision paralysis. You can always change your choice later. Once set up, the software will allow you to connect your Airbnb, Vrbo, and even start taking direct payments. To start getting those direct bookings, all you have to do is ask.
But how? And who? Good question! Let’s start with these four words: “Do you know anyone?” This works whether you’ve had guests in the past, have some coming up, or even if you’ve never had a guest before. Start with your friends, family, coworkers, or anyone on social media. Even better: offer a referral bonus to sweeten the deal. It can be an Amazon gift card, a bottle of wine, or – if you know someone personally – a gift that’s perfect for them.
Now that you have your guest info, what are you supposed to do with it? Email is still one of the most powerful marketing tools out there today, but many people have been trained to ignore them thanks to spam in their inboxes. When you’re writing an email, write as if it’s addressed to a pen pal. And when you’re not sure what to write about, start with what’s happening in your business. People stay with hosts because they want to live like a local and understand the history behind the area.
Converting an OTA booking into a direct booking
Let’s say you have check-in time at 1 p.m., but for your OTAs, you change the check-in to 5 p.m. Whenever a booking confirmation comes in – and from whatever platform it arrives – your property management software will automatically send an email confirmation to your guest’s inbox. In that email, you can spell out the check-in process, include your cell phone number, and welcome them to reach out to you with any questions.