Ok so you have a place you are Airbnb’ing and now you are ready to increase your bookings. That either means spending money on your own website and advertising to get direct bookings or getting your place onto the other booking sites Online Travel Agents (OTA)s or maybe both. This article is intended to help you choose where you want to list your property. For online bookings visit our other article should I set up a direct booking site (Coming soon)?
The world’s number one STR and hotel online commerce platform Siteminder publishes a booking revenue maker’s list. The top 10 booking platforms for 2021 for all accommodation types, STR and Hotels are, in order:
2. Direct Bookings
3. Expedia Group (Stayz, VRBO, Homeandaway)
4. Global Distribution Systems (These power the more traditional Travel Agent Network)
5. Qantas Hotels
7. AOT Group
10. HRS (Formally Lido)
Looking down the list if you are not seriously tapped into the accommodation industry you will see several key booking avenues that are probably not relevant to you; Global Distribution Systems for one.
So for most STR operators, targeting the leisure market where are you likely to get the majority of your bookings from and as such where should you put the effort to list:
The largest OTA in the world, with over 28 million properties listed. You can find everything from luxury hotels to apartments, entire homes and glamping. The reach of Booking.com is so huge if you get it right this can easily be your number one source of guests.
However Booking.com can also be expensive with a commission rate of between 12-21% plus a
Genius program that requests you discount your properties by 15-20%. So if you are not careful you can be giving away close to half your room rate to booking.com and their guests. Another drawback of booking.com is their payment terms. If they collect money on your behalf, you can be waiting 10+ days after other platforms to receive it. Their support is also “almost” non existent unless you do quite a lot of business with them, it took us ages to actually speak with someone initially.
However the good news is that booking.com is probably one of, if not the, most flexible booking
platforms available. They don’t seem to penalise your ranking if you mark up your property’s price to offset their discounts, booking.com also let you charge the guests yourself which offsets their payment terms and they let you screen/vet your guests without interference. Bookling.com also have the best promotion tools available (albeit most are focused on either discounting your listing or paying booking.com a higher commission), however they really let you drive attention on times you need to fill.
Booking.com have consistently delivered a good level of guests to our properties and more
international visitors than any other platform. If you are only going to list on two platforms, I think booking.com should be a strong contender for your second choice. You will however need to utilize a channel manger so you can drive these bookings and managing your costs.
Host Extension have proven strategies to drive bookings through booking.com and manage costs.
Expedia network (Stayz, VRBO, Homeandaway)
The Expedia network is the second largest in the world and the group have been aggressively
pursuing market share. Stayz is particularly active on social media in Australia and has been
contributing very strong booking volumes. VRBO’s customer support is good and they provide a lot of control over your listings and terms.
There are again two ways to list with Expedia. The first is where you manage your listing within their environment and here they provide quite a good level of tools allowing you to compare prices, run promotions set discounts etc. The second is where you connect through a PMS or channel manager and you manage your own rates, billing and terms. Here you get complete control and depending on your software can still offer a range of discounting options, however unlike booking.com you loose the ability to run promotions which increase your listing’s exposure. If obvious discounting (ie 33% off this weekend only) is not a key part of your strategy then this should be of no concern.
On Airbnb you would be used to logging out and searching to see what page your listing is on, maybe almost obsessively if your approaching page one… However you would be wasting your time on the Expedia network as their algorithm works out how to display your listing for each and every searcher, so for you your listing may appear on page 1 but I might see it on page 5.
Airbnb is so synonymous with Short Term Rentals the name Airbnb has almost become the eponym of the larger Short Term Rental industry “I make great return’s Airbnbing my place”.
Airbnb consistently drives guest bookings. Uniquely they have a guest and host review system that can be useful and offer host property insurance.
However it is not advisable for hosts to solely rely on guest reviews or Airbnb’s insurance. Hosts should vet all of their bookings and have adequate insurance cover.
The second largest platform in Asia Agoda is an important part of your distribution strategy if you are targeting visitors from Asia. As international tourism recommences you are likely to start seeing more bookings coming out of Agoda. The platform is pretty easy to use however make sure you double / triple check your cancellation settings, in our early days of listing on Agoda we had a number of cancellations and were left with a vacant property and no revenue.
Tripadvisor claims to be “the world’s largest travel community”, however they are less established when it comes to travel bookings. Don’t expect to be inundated with bookings from Tripadvisor however at just 3% commission any booking from Tripadvisor puts more money in your pocket. And with 460 million visitors to the website each month it is a great place to showcase your property and get your brand out there.
I strongly recommend getting your property out there as much as possible, to do this you
really do need to invest in software or have the right partner.