Booking.com Bidding Restrictions – What Exactly Are They?

What are the Booking.com Bidding Restrictions that have been removed?

You may have received an email by Booking.com over the last few days. The subject line reads “URGENT | Updated GDT”. It advises that they have now removed their Bidding Restrictions. If you have been left wondering what they are, you’re not alone! So what are these Booking.com Bidding Restrictions and why should you worry about them?

What did the email say?

The image above shows the full wording of the email. The key paragraph is the one below.

1. Remove the Bidding Restrictions from our agreement with you. This means that you are free to bid on Booking.com via online search engines if you wish to, which is in line with the recent EU-ruling on this topic. The removal will apply to all accommodations.

“URGENT | Updated GDT” email by Booking.com dated July 2019 advising removal of Bidding Restrictions

What does it all mean?

Many hosts seem to have been left perplexed by this email. Does it require them to do something? Well, the answer is yes! – that is, if you want to increase your direct bookings! To find out more about what it means exactly, our team at Zeevou contacted Booking.com. While as a channel manager we are one of their Premier Connectivity Partners, it’s not always clear even to us what their changes mean! Unsuprisingly, it was excruciatingly difficult to get any further details from them. What we did manage to ascertain is the fact that while this all started due to EU laws, the change is being rolled our worldwide and will be effective as of today as Booking.com’s policy in any country around the globe.

What’s changing and why?

They were vague on which piece of EU legislation caused the change. We ended up having to call multiple times and talk to various representatives and account managers. Everyone kept giving conflicting information. To conclude, it turned out that there used to be a restriction which meant you were not allowed to bid for Booking.com’s name on paid search results on search engines such as Google. This restriction has now been lifted.

Restrictions on keyword bidding on SEO, SEM and Paid Search have been removed. Each Partner is now free to bid on any search term on online search engines. This includes the freedom to bid on “Booking.com” for its own web marketing advertising. 


In practice, this means that partners can: 
– bid on “Booking.com” or other trade-mark protected words; or
– bid on generic search terms (for example, bid on “hotels in London” on Google).

Follow-up email received from Booking.com after further enquiries

Hence, if you carefully set things up, you now stand a chance to show up higher than Booking.com while using their own name or a generic name as a keyword for your ad. What’s better, according to Google’s guidance, the search result ranking is not all about how much you’re prepared to pay.

The most important thing to remember is that even if your competition bids higher than you, you can still win a higher position — at a lower price — with highly relevant keywords and ads.

https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/142918?hl=en

And how does this affect me?

So, what’s next? With the changes that Google is introducing to Google Hotel Ads moving over to Google Ads, this is now a space that you should really be giving adequate attention to.

We suggest it’s time to get your marketing skills brushed up, and start bidding on generic search terms as well as considering doing so on Booking.com’s for your area! If you need help in figuring out exactly what to do, take a look at the Boostly Academy – the best way for a hospitality owner to improve their #BookDirect marketing and increase their occupancy levels.

Increasing Occupancy Levels Using Google

Wondering how to increase your occupancy levels using Google?

Increasing your occupancy levels can be given a boost if you learn how to use Google to your advantage. Besides organic SEO, Google can help you increase occupancy levels in other ways. Continue reading below to find out how.


Google My Business Listings are a fantastic tool for driving more business to your SA property. They act as the front window for your business on Google. Aside from the information you put in, they also display reviews and allow guests to book directly from the search engine.

If you haven’t already claimed your Google My Business listing, SEO+ have a great article about how you can do this. Once you’ve done that, these are the steps you can take to optimise it so it works perfectly for your business.

I encourage all of my hospitality clients to do this, as it is a great way to get in front of your ideal guest when they start their “booking process” I have a full podcast series about this.

Make sure information is up to date on Google My Business to help increase your occupancy levels

How to Increase Vacation Rental Occupancy Levels using Google

Fuel Travel mentioned in their blog on the topic that your Google My Business Listing acts like a virtual storefront. This is your opportunity to sell your business to future guests. You therefore have to keep all of your information accurate. If you already have a listing, check from time to time that all of the information on it is accurate. It can be easy to forget any minor changes that might need to be made throughout the process of owning a business. Your Google My Business Listing should be as up to date as the sign outside of your property.

This information should also be enticing. Odd Dog Media highlight the importance of having an engaging business description. It should have all the important information from your business – but have a little fun with it. This is your chance to set the tone for your business. It’s the first thing that many potential guests will see, so let them know exactly what your business is about. Keep your writing appropriate to the kind of guest you want to attract.

Use the booking button

This feature is highlighted by Moz, who suggest this is of utmost importance for hospitality businesses. By including a booking button, guests won’t even need to leave Google to book a stay at your property. With many potential bookers these days seeking to secure their accommodation as quickly as possible, this adds another level of convenience and makes it easier for them to simply book it on the spot.

You will need to make sure you have a scheduling platform that is compatible with Google. They have provided a handy list of these platforms. There’s also a list of platforms they will be working with soon, so if you are already with one of these you can just wait it out a little bit. The Google My Business Listing will draw all of the pricing, dates and room information from these platforms, so make sure that information is also up to date.

Get more reviews on Google

Google My Business Listings Help Increase Occupancy

With Google set to become the largest platform for finding reviews, you should already be encouraging guests to leave them there anyway. It will also help boost your Google My Business Listing and thus help you in increasing your occupancy levels using Google. Drive Traffic suggest that you can include a link to your review page in emails you send to the guests after their stay. It could also be a good idea to include a handy review button on newsletters. This will remind any previous guests that have not already posted reviews.

Reputation Loop also mention Google’s feature where you can respond to guest reviews. This allows you to interact with customers after they have left you a review. If it is a very good review, a simple thank you will go a long way to show customers you care. For negative reviews, pick out any of the issues they have and make it clear that you are working to fix them. This shows future customers that you are invested in their experience. It is also great for remarketing, as guests are more likely to return to businesses they’ve had positive experiences with.

Including great photos helps in increasing occupancy levels using Google

As mentioned by Ice Portal, visuals are probably the most important content you need to consider. These will be the first thing potential guests will notice. Keep the images on your Google My Business Listing up to date and high quality. If your photography skills aren’t the best, bringing a professional in is one of the best investments you can make. You want them to be eye catching, but also to show off how great your property is.

Google have quite precise specifications for images on the platform, and Travel Tripper have a good guide for this. They also emphasise the three main photos your business needs to have – a profile photo, cover photo and logo photo. Your profile photo and cover photo are the most important. Make sure the photo that best shows off your property is the profile photo. Cover photos are great for wider shots where you want to take in a large space, such as a lobby or outdoor area. The logo needs to be square so it fits in perfectly with Google’s platform.

Keep everything consistent to help Google increase your occupancy levels

Increasing Occupancy Levels Using Google

Not only should your information be accurate, but it should be consistent across all the platforms you use. Raj Nijjer highlights the importance of having the information be the same on directories and search engines on Search Engine Watch. This prevents your potential guests from being confused as to what is accurate and boosts your rankings.

Pick A Web state that the most important step to ensure this is to make sure your NAP data matches the data on your website. NAP stands for name, address and phone number. These are three details most important to guests, as well as the information Google algorithms take into account when promoting your Google My Business Listing. Google takes into account all of the information from your business across the web – not just what you enter. Updating everything makes sure this remains correct on your listing. If you run multiple properties under the same business name, make sure your website has addresses and phone numbers for all of them.

It can’t be said enough – this listing is your virtual storefront. You should be performing regular maintenance on your online presence, so make sure to add this to your routine. By keeping the information accurate, reviews positive and images enticing you will start to notice a significant improvement in bookings. This is one of the easiest ways to pull your business away from relying on OTAs.


I hope you have enjoyed this guest blog for Zeevou about ways of increasing your occupancy levels using Google. If you want to come and find out more about Boostly, then head over to boostly.co.uk.

I recommend everyone joins the Hospitality Community Facebook Group. 

To follow my journey, I record daily vlogs on my Instagram account where I show you how you can increase your direct bookings and document how I am taking on the Online Travel Agents on a daily basis. Follow here

Remotely Controlling Number of Guests Staying

Remotely Controlling Number of Guests – Three Steps

Remotely controlling the number of guests staying is not the easiest of tasks. We’ve all heard of cases of guests who book for a handful and then show up with a whole bunch of other guests. If you run an annexe to your house as an Airbnb, there’s obvious ways of ensuring that this doesn’t happen. However, if you are a vacation rental management company remotely administering properties, that’s not the case. Even for more established serviced apartment companies that may be operating unstaffed aparthotels, it’s not always straightforward how unauthorised access can be controlled.

1. Find Out Who Will Be Staying

Ask your guests ahead of time to provide the names of those who will be staying. Make sure to keep a full guest register (in some countries this is even required by legislation). Moreover, make sure to clarify to the guests that they will not be able to get access for anyone other than the names that have already been submitted at the time of booking, unless they agree otherwise later on with yourself. If you don’t want the hassle of record keeping, take a look at Zeevou Book‘s 5-step booking confirmation process which takes care of this for you.

2. Collect Digital Signatures

Once you have the guest register, you want to elicit a further commitment from the guest. Make them sign to say that they will not exceed the list of guests provided. You can at the same time get them to agree to all your other terms and conditions. While it is difficult to do this upon arrival, you can collect digital signatures from the lead guest at the time of booking via a digital signature service. Signable is an affordable option, and is legally binding.

3. Supervise Your Property

If you follow the two steps outlined above, it will have been made clear to the vast majority of guests that you’re not going to accept any nonsense. However, you will find that there are still those who are going to try their luck and pretend that they’re compliant on all your paperwork. Occasionally, they may even commit fraud to do so. To ensure that your property is safe, you may wish to install a Ring doorbell. This will allow you to have a live video link with your property at any time, and monitor who’s entering and leaving it.

However, monitoring your CCTV requires an active presence. This is where Noiseaware can come in helpful (use the coupon code “zeevou10” for 10% off). Their noise detection product will alert you if noise in your property exceeds a certain level. Just make sure to have a team of people ready who can stand up to the guests if you get an alert, as it may well be a full-blown party!


Can You Fully Remotely Control the Number of Guests Staying?

Will this help you completely eliminate all issues with guests staying at your property? No. Will it help you in remotely controlling the number of guests staying at your property? Yes. Following the above steps can help you in reducing the chances of extra guests who have not paid staying, or a rowdy party being thrown and your place getting trashed.

Which 5 Sites Bring The Most Bookings?

Which 5 sites bring the most bookings is a question that is often asked and discussed within hospitality circles. Any hospitality owner will be aware of the importance of driving their direct bookings. At the same time, it is common knowledge that it is not sufficient to only count on them. Almost no short term accommodation provider can survive without advertising their offering on Online Travel Aggregators (OTAs).

The detailed breakdown of actual figures depends heavily on where you are located and who your target market is. However, below is a rough guide as to which sites will get you the largest number of bookings flowing through (ranked alphabetically rather than in order of importance):

1. Agoda

Agoda is Asia’s largest online travel agency, so it’s sure to bring you some good bookings. The number of bookings you receive may not be as high as some of the others on this list. However, its customers generally seem to be happy to pay high price tags for properties that they like. Hopefully this will land you the odd high-value booking!

List your property on Agoda by clicking here.


2. Airbnb

Airbnb is a very large listing site based in the USA. It started off as Airbed And Breakfast (the idea being that you could rent out spare rooms in your home to travellers. The site has quickly grown to become one of the largest listing sites for entire homes. It is very popular with tourists and travellers. More recently, Airbnb has been attempting to cater to business guests. It has also launched Airbnb Plus, a hand-picked list of curated homes.

List your property on Airbnb by clicking here.


3. Booking.com

Booking.com is a relatively young company, and it has grown aggressively over the past few years and is now the leading booking site for hotels and alternative accommodation providers such as holiday homes, vacation rentals and serviced apartments in Europe. Most channel managers and property management systems link to Booking.com. It can bring a large amount of bookings with a healthy mix of leisure and corporate customers.

List your property on Booking.com by clicking here and get 5 commission-free bookings!


4. Ctrip

Ctrip is probably the least well-known out of this list of sites. It is China’s largest online travel agency, so if you list on here make sure to try and cater to things that Chinese guests may find appealing. Top tips include providing slippers and pot noodles. Make sure to take a close-up photo of a pot noodle and add it to your listing. If you’re ready to tackle this massive market and are up for a challenge in how to attract a larger number of guests, you want to look into this.

List your property on Ctrip by clicking here.


5. Expedia

Expedia is a massive group that owns dozens of other sites, and distributes your inventory across all of them. This site can help you attract a fair amount of corporate clients. However, as there are often many systems involved in the distribution of inventory and retrieval of bookings, it is not always easy to make contact with the guest booking the accommodation ahead of time, so if there is no reception at the property, you need to spend some more time and energy in trying to make contact with the guest through Expedia once you get a booking.

List your property with Expedia by clicking here.


Note: Some of the above sites manage payments and security deposits for hosts, others manage them partly or not at all. If you wish to automate the distribution of your rates and availability, retrieval of bookings and processing of payments, security deposits, communications, and guest vetting, you may wish to take a look at Zeevou Book‘s 5-Step Booking Confirmation Process.

Which 5 Sites Bring The Most Bookings? Is Yours One Of Them?

In this article we have been talking about 5 OTAs and large listing sites where you should be advertising your properties. This will help you increase your occupancy levels for your short term rental. However, the number one site that you should be focusing on is your own website. Promoting this correctly will help you drive direct, commission-free bookings. Many softwares for Serviced Accommodation operators or Guesthouse/B&B owners will automatically generate a website for you (for example, take a look at Zeevou Show).

Always Book Direct

However, not every provider will give you a website that is good enough to rank highly on search engines such as Google. Moreover, it will not necessarily provide a good booking engine. You should be looking for one that allows you to offer promotions or voucher codes for direct bookings. You may be unhappy with what your channel manager or property management system currently has on offer. If this is the case, take a look at the Boostly Websites. Furthermore, Boostly allows you to easily set up your own #bookdirect website which will attract the attention of bots and humans alike. Finally, it allows you to link that up to your booking engine to convert interested visitors to your site into paying guests.

NB: If you’re looking for a hands-off solution, then you may wish to enquire about the Boostly Done For You Websites. If you’d like to find out more about this service, which includes a free marketing review, fill in this form and a member of Boostly will reach out to book in the job and explain the process.

7 Top Tips On Scaling A Serviced Accommodation Business

How To Grow Your R2R Serviced Accommodation Business

Scaling Your Serviced Accommodation Business is not an easy task. You may have successfully set up a handful of units, and are keen to replicate your success. Now what? Short of cash? Perhaps not, read on to find out how you can fast-track your growth.


Scaling Your Serviced Accommodation BusinessA bit about me… My first encounter with property management was 2.5 years ago, when I attended the Serviced Accommodation Masterclass with Touchstone Education. Prior to that, I had no property experience, and worked as a sales manager for a large corporation. I was fed up, couldn’t see a future in it and felt like a slave to the job, which a lot of people reading this will probably relate too. This is why I invested in my education.

Forward the clock 2.5 years, and I have 37 Serviced Accommodation units, with a mix of Rent 2 Rent, managed properties and some properties that I own. The biggest question people always ask is “how did you scale so fast?” I answer that it’s down to the strategies and techniques I use to keep my running costs and set up costs low. By focusing on a certain market, I also minimise operational costs. This means I am maximising my profits, which in turn allows me to invest in more serviced accommodation units.

I’m always clear when I train people: I’m not an all-round property expert, but I am an expert in this particular strategy. I 100% believe it’s the best technique to generate a quick cash flow. Many people want to use property management to get out of their day job, or to increase their cash turnaround. When buying properties, this can take time and the gains from a buy to let property may only be a couple of hundred pounds per month, so you would need quite a few of them to make it worthwhile. Rent 2 Rent and serviced apartments, on the other hand, allow you to get your operation up and running and start earning money fast. This will allow you to scale back other activities and focus on the things that really matter to you.

Fast-Track Scaling Your Serviced Accommodation Business

1. Never Pay A Deposit

This is a deal breaker for me. If a landlord makes me pay a deposit, I will walk away from the deal. What sense as a business owner does it make to have money tied up, doing nothing? None! You have to remember, you’re the one offering the great deal to the landlords, not the other way around. You need to know how to position it correctly to them. Once you do that, you will never pay a deposit again. Not paying deposit means that your initial outlay cost is cheaper, and you can therefore use the deposit money to set up your next unit.


2. Never Pay Rent Upfront

In fact, you should always get 1-2 months’ rent free, again, if you know how to position it correctly. My goal is to always have money coming from bookings before I have to pay the landlord anything. You need to get into the mind-set that you have this amazing offer for the landlord. Once you know how to sell the deal, it’s easy to get 1-2 months’ rent free. When you have saved yourself 1-2 months’ rent, and also saved on the deposit, you can use this cash to set up further units.


3. Don’t Pay Upfront for Furniture

Without a doubt, this is the most expensive part of setting up a serviced apartment. But there are multiple ways you can do it in order to be more cost effective:

a) Lease Furniture

There are many companies out there who will let you lease furniture. This means you pay them a monthly fee instead of paying £5-7K upfront to furnish your property. Again, this helps with the cash flow and avoids high initial costs, leaving you with further money to invest in more units.

b) Furnished Apartments

There are lots of apartments out there that are already furnished, and in a pretty much in turn-key condition for use as a Serviced Apartment. You could add a few soft furnishings to put your own design stamp on them. I have multiple apartments which came fully furnished, and have only spent £200-300 on soft furnishings before taking them live for bookings.

4. Correct Power Team

It is VITAL if you want to scale your business to have a solid power team around you. Having the correct cleaners, maintenance, and guest relations teams means that you will not get dragged in to the nitty gritty of operations. If you are both running your business and worrying about cleaning and maintenance, you will not be able to focus on scaling up.


5. Managing Director/Operations Manager

I hired an operations manager when I got to 4 properties. I quickly realised that I was terrible at systems, organisation and did not enjoy that side of the business. What I was good at was bringing on new properties, doing deals with landlords and constantly sourcing new business opportunities. As I had zero concerns about the operations side of the business thereafter, I was able to focus on growth and scaling the business.


6. Bookings

You may be able to scale your Serviced Accommodation business and build up an impressive portfolio of serviced apartments, but the bottom line is that if they are not full, you will not generate a profit from them. You need to make sure you are setting up apartments in the correct areas, where you know there is a demand for your target market. Do not go mad and set up properties all over the place, then run them half empty. Start in one area, systematise operations, fill up your units and duplicate your success elsewhere.


7. Focus On Direct Bookings

Running a Rent 2 Rent Serviced Apartment business means you need to watch your margins. Paying 15% to Booking.com is a hefty chunk, and if you service the apartments every 2-3 days your operations costs are going to be high. I usebooking.com as a lead generator, but always try to convert the current guests in the apartment to a direct booking so that I don’t have to pay a 15% commission to online travel agents. I only focus on the contractor market, where most of my bookings will stay from anywhere between 3-18 months, with no booking fees and 1-2 cleans per week. This keeps operation costs low, which maximises my profit.


I hope these tips help. If you want to connect please do so on the following:

Scale Your R2R SA BusinessGrow Your Hospitality Business

Scaling Your Serviced Accommodation Business with Gordie Dutfield

Startup Grind Shortlists Zeevou for European Conference

Startup Grind Shortlists Zeevou

Startup Grind has shortlisted Zeevou. As a result, it is amongst only 100 companies that can exhibit at the European Conference. This will take place on June 6th 2019 in London, UK. This acknowledges Zeevou as one of the most promising start-ups from over 1000 entries.

About Startup Grind

At the Startup Grind Europe Conference over 3,000 startups, investors, and innovators will converge in London for discussions around the future of startups, venture capital, artificial intelligence, fintech, and more.


https://www.startupgrind.com/europe/

Startup Grind is a global startup community designed to educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs. Most importantly, Google for Entrepreneurs powers the program. Na’ím Anís Peymán, Chief Revolutionary at Zeevou said:

Comment from Zeevou

Na’ím Anís Peymán, Chief Revolutionary at Zeevou


It is very encouraging that they selected us as one of the most promising European Startups of 2019. Noteworthily, this happened before our website was even up and running! Both this shortlisting and the feedback that potential users have provided indicate that our product is truly world class. We believe that we will be able to disrupt the hospitality industry.

What is Zeevou?

Zeevou is a highly innovative property management system which also offers a channel manager as part of the package. The resulting product is a centralised hospitality management hub. It allows managers of short term rentals and owners of hospitality businesses to automate their processes. This allows them to grow their business while minimising additional staffing costs.

Moreover, all packages provide a free website. This allows for commission-free direct bookings as a bonus. Finally, Zeevou Direct acts as a centralised booking platform for all Zeevou Hosts. Thus, they can advertise at a discounted rate through what is effectively an online travel agency (OTA). Hence, they can ensure that they do not fall foul of rate parity regulations. At the same time they can offer discounts for direct bookings.