There’s a big controversy among vacation rental owners and serviced apartment operators over direct booking websites vs OTAs. OTAs and other types of booking channels are the most immediate sources that’ll help you increase your property’s visibility and bring you more bookings.
However, over the course of recent years, the increase in the OTAs’ commissions has raised a sense of dissatisfaction among property managers and investors. It’s been some time that they don’t feel working with OTAs is a win-win relationship anymore.
On the other hand, with the fast-paced growth of the hospitality industry, more and more travellers tend to search, analyse and book online. Therefore, the dominance of OTAs, especially the big ones like Booking.com, Airbnb and Expedia, has expanded. So, you might come to the conclusion that there’s no way for you to succeed if you don’t list your property(ies) on at least a couple of booking platforms, besides having your own direct booking website.
Like any other decision in life, choosing whether to work with OTAs or not has its own pros and cons, and we’re going to discuss this matter in this article.
Direct Booking Websites vs OTAs
Advantages of Listing Your Short Term Rentals on OTAs
We’re not suggesting that without working with OTAs, you cannot have your own customers and fill your properties throughout the year. However, it’s a challenging task, especially at the beginning of your business. As you embark on your professional journey, you need to showcase your property to more and more people, and you need to do this in the right place.
Your social media platforms and a well-structured, user-friendly direct booking website helps a lot. But first, you have to grab the attention of some travellers and then these platforms will bring you revenue. But an OTA or a booking channel has its own audience. You just need to do some research and find the one that is fit to the needs of your target market and advertise your properties there. So, a great number of potential guests is what an OTA can offer you, particularly at the beginning of your path while it seems like a back-breaking task to do.
Believe it or not, travellers tend to leave reviews on OTAs more, and they also scan other reviews on these booking platforms before choosing the right accommodation for their stay. So, as a serviced apartment operator, vacation rental owner, or a hotelier, you can simply benefit from these reviews, evaluate your business based on them and if you do well, you can attract more potential guests. Moreover, positive reviews will make your rentals more visible via better rankings on the OTAs.
More Accessibility to Global Customers
Foreign customers are mostly more comfortable with working with OTAs and booking through them as internet limitation or language problems may cause them difficulties in booking on your direct booking website.
By presenting a wide range of serviced accommodation and hotels, OTAs let their customers have access to an endless variety of choices and rates and make up their mind after they’re done with the comparison.
But you should remember that sometimes this process gets too confusing for them as the number of OTAs increases every day, and some of them offer irrelevant options that may not be worth it for target customers.
Advantages of Direct Booking Websites for Property Managers
When it comes to direct booking websites vs OTAs, the high commission and fees that OTAs usually charge both guests and hosts for (annual, monthly, per booking, etc.) is nerve-wrecking. This is why running a direct booking website sounds such an appealing idea because even if you have to pay someone to set a qualified website for you, it’s only a one-time cost, but with OTAs, you have to pay a considerable amount of your revenue constantly.
If you’ve built your reputation and gained your customers’ loyalty, you can simply advertise your direct booking website through different marketing strategies and platforms. This will help you get your property in front of a large audience without having to pay a penny as commissions and save all your earnings for yourself and the growth of your business.
You Can Re-invest the Saved Money into Your rentals
Did you know you can save 15-25% of your income the moment you stop paying OTAs commissions and fees? You can invest all this money in the betterment of your business. Expand your portfolio, hire more qualified staff, or raise their salaries as you know the satisfaction of your staff members is equal to their efficiency and ultimately your business’ progress.
If you want to come up with plans for this extra money, you’ll find a whole limitless world of ideas in front of your eyes. You can offer your guests tech gadgets, much better experiences, welcome packs, free breakfasts and a whole bunch of other options and perks.
At first, you might think that this money won’t go directly to your pocket, but remember, better guest experiences bring their loyalty and make evangelists out of them. They’ll be your unpaid advertisers. So, at the end, investing your money in a better guest experience pays off, but paying commissions to OTAs is just money leaving your pockets with no guarantee as to your ultimate success.
When working with OTAs, you cannot collect your guests’ real email addresses and other effective, accurate guest databases. However, when you have access to related information such as their personal profiles, preferences and needs, you’ll be able to provide them with personalised experiences, which is the most effective way to increase the possibility of repeat guests. This way, you can deliver tailor-made offers that no one can say no to.
The other benefit is that you can also personalise your email marketing campaigns based on the needs of your target market. Enticing emails that include personalised information gives your audience a sense of exclusivity. Moreover, you can offer your own VIP loyalty programs, promotions, and special discounts to even your first-time bookers.
Making Your Own Brand
Even if you start with one small property, you have high hopes for your business. Of course, all people are not ambitious at the same level, but we all have dreams of having our own brand. This won’t happen if you focus too much on OTAs. On the other hand, with a sufficient direct booking website, you can easily create a logo, have your own brand colours and implement them in the design of your website. You can also think about the character of your business, hire content creators and ask them to fill your website with the content related to the unique identity of your business.
How to Get a Direct Booking Website
If you haven’t had the experience of having a website up and running, you need to hire a professional person to do that for you. It all depends on your budget and your marketing strategies. If this is an important matter to you, you can simply choose a PMS that offers a direct booking website as part of its free or paid packages.
Also, you can always search and find information about how to build a direct booking website or the SEO tips that can make a difference in the ranking of your website. Whatever your decision is, having a direct booking website is not a point to miss.