Direct booking websites offer property managers a way to show off your property to prospective renters and obtain their reservations without the help (or the fees!) of a third-party listing site.
And yes, it does feel like anytime you try to open a new business, people immediately tell you, “Hey, you need a website!” Do you have to have a website for your vacation rentals? Probably not. Would it help you make more money? Probably so.
A direct booking site is your standalone site to show off your properties to guests, where they can book directly through you, rather than through a third party. This has numerous benefit for your business that we’ll expand on below, but the main thing is that it allows you to control the entire experience that your guests have when booking your properties.
You can opt to include whatever you want in your direct booking website. You have complete creative control! However, we would recommend the following: a photo gallery with images of the inside and outside of the property, along with specific pictures of what makes it special, directions for how to get to your property, as well as how to get from your property to various attractions in the area, and a booking engine.
To take your direct booking site to the next level, you can even include testimonials and reviews from previous clients, any discounts or deals that you may be offering, a bio page that offers some insight into the property owners, and even a blog to help drive traffic to your page.
Isn’t that what I can do on Airbnb or VRBO? Well, no, not quite. While putting your property on a short-term rental platform is a useful action item in its own right, it’s not the same as having a direct booking website. With a direct booking website, you are the owner–this means that what you think is right for the website is right, and what isn’t right, doesn’t need to go live. In other words, you retain the ultimate control of the site, while on other websites, you just control the information that you input.
Yes, building a direct booking website can be a little bit of work. But we think it’s a critical element of your business model. Keep reading to learn why.
One of the most exciting benefits of renting through a direct booking website is that you can use your direct booking site to generate more money for your business. When someone books through your booking engine directly, it means they are paying you, and only you. There is no middleman.
For example, if you list through Airbnb, and a client makes a booking, you still owe Airbnb a percentage before you can start thinking through money earned. If a potential renter books straight through your website, you won’t have any fees to contend with.
Put shortly, direct bookings offer you more control over your business by allowing you to work with your consumers directly. This renders it the most impactful channel for a vacation rental business as it pertains to your bottom line.
People are accustomed to working through online travel agencies (like Airbnb) for their short-term rental needs. However, there truly is no “one best channel.” What this means is that the more channels you list your property on, the more chances you have to generate revenue and more flexibility in how you run your business.
Generally speaking, if people do not opt to create a direct booking website, it is because they feel like it is too much work. But hang in there, we’ll tell you how Futurestay can take this action item off of your to-do list.
Look, we’ve talked about this a little bit before, but the chance to put more money in your pocket makes us want to talk about it a little more. Although OTAs help you get the word out, let’s call it like it is: they run on fees, each one somewhat different from the other.
What are these rates? Fair question.
Let’s look at an easy example here. Say you’re renting your three-bed, two-bath home in the suburbs for $100 each night.
But with your own direct booking website, you make the full $100. Now, that may not sound like too much on its face, but let’s say your property runs at a 61% occupancy rate, meaning your property is rented about eighteen or nineteen days out of the month. With this example, you’re saving a minimum of $56 but could make as much as $475. Take that high number, and you’re saving nearly $6000 a year. A couple of years of that, and you can be one more property closer to complete financial freedom!
While OTAs ultimately do give you exposure, and subsequently, bookings, having your own direct booking website takes away those extra expenses by a long shot. Even if you’re only saving twenty dollars, that’s money in your pocket, that can either be yours to spend or yours to up your investment potential with. Best of all, once your direct booking site is gaining reservations, you will be increasingly less dependent on these booking platforms for the success of your business.
At the end of the day, this is your business and nobody else’s. With a direct booking website, you retain the ability to tell guests anything you want about your property. No need to work within the guidelines of different platforms–if there is something special that you think will get people in the door, then you get to display it, front and center, on your own website.
Additionally, we live in a media age. Potential renters will be enticed by videos of your property, content showing guests having a great time, and even videos talking about the fun things there are to do in your area. With your own website, you can feature elements like video content, 3d walkthroughs, customer highlights, and more. By telling your story, you can make your property more appealing than the competition, and add to your profits.
While many people who book through a short-term rental platform have access to find their booking again if they enjoy their stay, there is a truly small amount of brand awareness that you can work into your listings. Building your own website is a chance to highlight your own brand, so that users remember how to find you, and look for your properties when they are looking for a place to stay. Clients who enjoy staying with you in one property may remember to check your website to look for different properties, properties in new cities, or even to rebook the original property that they enjoyed so much.
If you’re just starting out in your short-term rental journey, this may not seem critical yet. But please learn from our experience. Creating a website is a manageable first step that will only pay dividends for you as you grow your business. Establishing brand loyalty early, so that your customer base can grow alongside your business, is one of the most critical action steps you can take as a vacation rental owner.
Third-party websites create a barrier between you and your guests. On the other hand, direct booking sites allow you to conduct business with your clients directly. For example, let’s say you know that a particular month is a low time for your rental. You might want to send an email blast to former renters, letting them know about an exciting event in the town the property is located in or a discount you are offering just for that month. With a third-party website, it’s tricky to get back in touch with your past clients, but with a direct booking website you are unlocking the ability to market your properties in a way that isn’t possible on third-party platforms.
There are many different ways to create a direct booking website for your vacation rental business. The goal is to find the method that works best for you without committing to an exorbitant upfront cost.
There are many website builders that can expedite your website creation process without needing to take on a huge expense. Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and WordPress all provide affordable website templates that you can launch quickly and implement to get guests booking as soon as possible. Futurestay, though, has its own website builder, built specifically by short-term rental owners for other short-term rental owners.
Because these companies have already invested so many resources into figuring out how to make a good-looking website, it makes sense to go with their tried and true templates. In fact, Futurestay offers templates on its website builder that you can launch yourself or that you can pay to have built for you, in order to make your direct booking dreams a reality.
Futurestay’s template is built by short-term rental owners for other short-term rental owners. That’s why it comes complete with best-in-class management tools built into the website to help you manage your property. It also works seamlessly with your other booking channels to minimize the work you need to put in to keep your reservations in sync. Best of all, it integrates with Google Vacation Rentals, which allows you to list your property straight on Google–an option that third-party website builders can’t offer you.
On the flip side, some business owners opt to hire a developer to create a custom-coded website to better address their needs. While this does offer you the chance to customize to your heart’s desire, it will impact your bottom line, as custom websites can cost a pretty penny.
If you’ve already got a website, but it’s missing a booking widget, you’ll definitely want to add one. If this is the case that you’re in, consider using Futurestay’s booking widget, which is available for websites built on Wix and Weebly. This integrates cleanly with Futurestay’s management platforms, as well as that of other booking websites.
Such integration is the most crucial thing to ask about when shopping for website add-ons. You’ll want to make sure that you are all set up to avoid double bookings that can lose you guests and revenue.
There are a couple of key considerations that you’ll want to take into account when determining how to best manage your direct booking channel. Continue reading.
With direct booking websites, you have ultimate control over your bottom line. At the end of the day, this allows you to get creative with your pricing. Consider implementing discounts, loyalty programs, extended stays, or even incentives for future bookings. We can’t imagine much better than knowing that the same conscientious renter will spend July in our property for years to come!
We can’t say it enough: your calendars have got to be in sync. Once you cancel on a guest because of a double booking, you’re incredibly unlikely to ever get that guest to book with you again. While this can be done manually, manual work requires a high time investment and leaves too much room for human error. Consider opting for a direct booking channel that manages these reservations automatically, to reduce errors and keep your guests happy.
Booking platforms offer automated emails that cut down on the administration time you’ll spend on each booking. With this in mind, you’ll want to consider how you’ll work around this with your direct booking website. Truly, there are two different routes you can take. With tools like Zapier, you can automate communications based on guest actions. On the other hand, you can use this as an excuse to bolster customer loyalty by reaching out with a quick welcome phone call–you’d be amazed by the difference this small, personal touch can make! With Futurestay's direct booking website builder, these communications can be managed through Smart Connections. When registration is received through your direct booking website, your guest's information will be accessible from your Futurestay dashboard. You can send pre-canned emails our team has put together for you or customize email templates for a more personal touch.
Regardless of what you choose, be sure to have a means by which your guests can contact you. Provide a phone number or email for your guests to access easily.
Finally, don’t forget–you are collecting a bunch of data each time your guests fill out a form! Choose a way to manage this data, so that you can use it for advertising purposes later.
With direct booking websites, the sky is the limit! You have the means to invest more time and resources to ensure that you maximize your booking potential. You can opt to communicate with past guests via email, or sweet gestures like holiday cards. Additionally, you can add a blog to your website to share your guests’ adventures, and use them to increase your visibility on search engines. And if your guests didn’t book on your direct booking website? Be sure to let them know about it during their stay. They’ll appreciate the cost savings too!