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from the vacation soup blog

Why You Get No Direct Bookings From #bookdirect Day

Today is the 6th of March, exactly one month after #bookdirect day.

In this article, I’m looking at the difference between #bookdirect day and direct bookings. I’ll also share a case study of an owner who has an 82% occupancy rate – with every booking coming directly.

#bookdirect day was a huge success with 1,000’s of vacation rental owners and managers creating blog posts, posting images on social media, emailing past guests and taking part in raising awareness of the benefits of booking directly with an owner.

If you are reading this article then you probably took part yourself.

But here’s my question to you…

What have you done since book direct day that will bring you more direct bookings?

Taking part in #bookdirect day will raise awareness across the board but it won’t bring you direct bookings. So you need to ask yourself a simple question. Do you want to take part in #bookdirect day or do you want direct bookings? (you can want both of course).

Getting direct bookings takes work.
The ex Lakers player Wilt Chamberlain said “Good things come to those that work” and that’s very true in our business (any business in fact).

If we all did nothing on #bookdirect day then we wouldn’t achieve our goal of educating guests of the upsides of direct bookings.
The same goes for our day to day marketing.
If we do nothing with our websites, don’t write blog posts, don’t post regularly across social media and we don’t email past guests how can we expect direct bookings?

So what can you do?

Meet Sandra

Sandra and her husband own a vacation rental in Kissimmee, Orlando.

It’s a fiercely competitive location. There are over 57,000 competing vacation rental properties listed in the area on HomeToGo alone.

I started working with Sandra around 5 years ago when I introduced her to the concept of social marketing

Sandra spent a lot of time posting short articles that would help potential and fee-paying guests. In fact, Sandra probably posted 5 days a week for a year. Just short mini posts like this one

And this one

These posts turned Sandra’s website into something above the norm. It’s become an destination hub where visitors can find a ton of information about Disney and many, many other things in and around Orlando and Florida in general.

You can see Sandra’s guide to Florida by clicking on the image below

So, what about bookings?

Sandra doesn’t list with any listing sites (well, she lists with Tripadvisor so that she can collect reviews but she doesn’t rely on them for bookings. In fact, she’s never had a booking from them).

Sandra and her family spend 6 weeks at the property each year leaving 323 nights available for rent.

In 2016 Sandra rented 195 nights – That’s an occupancy rate of 60%

In 2017 Sandra rented 219 nights – That’s an occupancy rate of 68%

In 2018 Sandra rented 265 nights – That’s an occupancy rate of 82%

So far Sandra has 200 nights booked this year (by the 1st of march)

That’s 879 nights booked directly in 3 – 4 years (depending on how you look at the dates).
That’s around 125 weeks.

If these bookings came through Airbnb they would have cost Sandra over $3700.
Sandra’s guests would have paid over $15,000 more in ‘service fees’ collectively.
In fact, the average direct booker saves over $150 by booking direct with Sandra.

If these bookings had come through Booking (.com) they would have cost Sandra a whopping $19,000

A Much Bigger Benefit

Airbnb are in the process of changing their pricing model.
As you can see from the message below, they are moving away from their service fee model and ‘offloading’ the fees to the owner.

Airbnb want owners to absorb the booking fees so that they can compete with the ‘no fees’ approach of Booking(.com).
They want owners to absorb a 14% service fee.
Yep – You’ll be paying 14% for your bookings from Airbnb.

Now in reality owners will of course raise their prices by 11 – 14%

But Sandra doesn’t need to do this

Because all of Sandra’s bookings are direct she’s not affected by the changes at Airbnb. Her pricing will remain the same while those around her suffer from a price hike.

Last year, HomeAway announced plans to implement similar changes where the so called ‘service’ fee will be paid by the owner


Sandra’s Bookings

All of Sandra’s bookings come through Facebook, her website and many are repeat guests. Sandra is also a member of Vacation Soup.
In fact Sandra was getting so many inquiries that she couldn’t accommodate them all – So she started a Facebook group.

That group has generated 1600 bookings (that’s bookings, not nights) in the two years since she started the group.


The Takeaway

There’s no secret to any of what I’ve shown you in this post.

Taking part in #bookdirect day won’t bring you direct bookings

If you want direct bookings you need to work for them.

Sandra adopted a social marketing approach and committed to it

Her prices are lower than those of her competitors because there are no ‘service’ charges being added by the big listing sites.

Have a good look at Sandra’s Florida guide to see what she has been posting and you’ll see how she has transformed her site from a self-serving property brochure to a personal travel guide that helps visitors make decisions about what to see and do when on vacation.

As the big listing sites implement their commission changes, owners that are booking directly will be offering far greater value for money relative to those that rely on the OTA’s.

What are your thoughts on this?

Are you actively adding content to your website?
Are you happy with the upcoming changes in Airbnb’s pricing?

Leave your comments below. We’d love to hear your views

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