Direct booking websites are considered the holy grail of the short-term rental industry – property managers can skip the commissions paid to booking platforms and exercise complete control over their listings – but a website alone is no guarantee of a full calendar.
With millions of travelers already browsing sites like Airbnb and Vrbo every day, hosts do not need to put much effort into finding potential guests on major booking platforms. The same cannot be said for a direct booking website: Just because you build it does not mean they will come.
Direct booking websites require hosts to invest time (and sometimes money) into marketing efforts, but property managers report that the work pays off quickly. Although your direct booking website won’t receive the same exposure as a listing on one of the main online travel agencies, property managers can still put their listing in front of the right audience with a bit of strategy.
Plus, when less than a quarter of all property managers offer direct bookings according to Rent Responsibly's 2022 State of the Short-Term Rental Community Survey, a website is an easy way to set your property apart from the competition.
You may not be trained in marketing, but as an independent property manager you're already used to wearing many hats – what's one more? Use these five tips to reach potential guests outside of the major listing platforms.
Every marketing campaign needs a memorable logo that can be associated with your brand. You don’t have to hire a graphic designer – there are plenty of free, pre-made designs on websites like Canva. Browse through thousands of options for inspiration and find a logo and design that matches the personality (and maybe even the color scheme) of your property. Establishing a brand around your rental helps guests remember you when they're thinking about their next vacation.
A Facebook or Instagram page for your short-term rental can be a fun way to reach new guests, but be prepared to put in time and effort into growing your audience. Social media requires consistency in order to be effective. If you’re willing to give it a try, consider asking guests to tag your page when they share photos from their stay or ask for permission to share their reviews to your page.
Before you start a social media presence for your short-term rental, collect a library of photos and videos you can share on your pages. Without good content, a social media account won't reach many new guests.
Tourism bureaus and lifestyle publications in cities across the U.S. publish guides or directories to help visitors find places to stay, so property owners should look into what is available locally and request a link to their property be added. A small fee is sometimes charged to be listed in these resources, but may be worth the investment.
Local businesses may also be willing to partner with your rental property. If you offer a cabin in the woods, for example, consider reaching out to outdoor recreation attractions in the area and offer their customers a small discount. In exchange, you can leave information about the business for your guests to explore.
Instead of attempting to lure potential guests onto your website, why not find them where they're already browsing? About 40 percent of travelers said they begin their travel research on Google, even if they ultimately book through another platform.
Vacation rentals started appearing in travel search results a few years ago, but Google Vacation Rentals now makes it easier for travelers to browse short-term rentals and hotels without leaving the search engine. When a user searches for a phrase like “places to stay near Miami,” a list of available properties as well as a map and availability calendar will appear. Users can then narrow down properties like they would on a traditional OTA by selecting a date range, budget and specific location.
As many travelers begin their vacation planning by researching destinations online, Google Vacation Rentals allows short-term rental owners to reach guests earlier in the process – but landing a spot in the search engine isn't so easy.
Because Google Vacation Rentals requires a complex integration in order to accurately display all the details of a short-term rental property in search results, from the general location of the property to the nightly rate, it is not possible to list individual rentals on Google.
Google Vacation Rentals will only consider a custom integration for property managers with more than 5,000 properties, so the only way for independent short-term rental hosts to have their listing displayed in the search engine is to work with an approved connectivity provider.
Futurestay is one of the only trusted short-term rental software solutions that allows small property managers the opportunity to be listed on Google Vacation Rentals. Since Futurestay's Booking Engine is already connected to Google, you can use Futurestay's drag-and-drop website builder to create a website and get listed on Google.
If you’re serious about growing your short-term rental business, paid advertising can be a smart investment. Digital marketing can be complicated and it is easy to waste money on advertisements that never reach the right people, so consider hiring a professional to help set up your campaign. Popular advertising options for short-term rental include local tourism sites or directories, Facebook and Google Display Network. Depending on which advertising platform you’re using, you can target your ads to different audiences (like people who have searched for rentals in your area in the past, or those that are interested in family vacations).
The easiest way to secure reservations for your short-term rental through a direct booking website is by reaching out to past guests, especially if you can offer a discount for being a loyal customer. Choose from one of the many free email marketing tools available and add your past guests to your email list. Send out occasional updates about your property (with pictures!) or special offers when occupancy is low, and you'll see direct bookings flow through to your website.
Although remarketing to past guests is one of the top sources of direct bookings for independent property managers, it can also be challenging. Many major listing platforms require guests and property managers to maintain all communications within their app or website. Although this does help protect both parties, hiding personal contact information like emails and phone numbers ensures the guest will need to use the same app in the future if they want to return.
So, how do you contact past guests if you can't access their contact information through other platforms? Easy: Try StayFi.
StayFi is a tool that allows property managers to collect guest email addresses or other contact information through the Wi-Fi login page – similar to what is commonly used in hotels and airports. StayFi’s mesh WiFi system is easy to install and allows you to monitor all of your WiFi networks remotely, including receiving outage and occupancy alerts.
Not only can StayFi help your guests stay connected at your property, but the service can also help you collect a list of visitors that you can add to your email marketing list.
Futurestay has partnered with StayFi to help independent property managers build their brand and their business. Use code FUTURESTAY for 50 percent off your first three months of service.