The #bookdirect movement is a push back by independent property owners and their managers against the huge corporation (Google Travelocity Expedia Tripadvisor etc.) that are attempting to dominate the travel industry. Platforms like Aribnb, VRBO and HomeAway all charge the traveler and the lodging owner a fee.
Back ten years ago VRBO was a subscription service. We paid a fee of around $500 and VRBO listed our property. We got about 80% of our leads this way. Since then the rates have risen and now VRBO and others take five to ten percent of each rental plus 3% of every credit card transaction. They even take 3% of direct deposit and debit funds. They basically insert themselves into what should be a transaction between guest and owner. To make matters worse they even stoke fear of dealing direct when a large majority of fraud is actually on their websites.
If this fee seems worth it to you then go right ahead and book with them. But if you suspect that maybe that fee is not worth it then read further. At lease know what is at stake. The more you know the more you grow.
Here are the top 7 reasons why you should book direct.
1. BOOK DIRECT TO SAVE MONEY
Big sites such as Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and TripAdvisor add a high percentage of booking fees to the reservation total. Booking directly with the owner or manager cuts out any middle-man or commissions.
In addition the OTAs (online travel agencies) also charge you up to 11.7% Mass Tax on their booking fees, adding insult to injury.
2. BOOK DIRECT FOR DIRECT CONTACT WITH THE MANAGER OR OWNER
Only when booking directly are guests guaranteed direct contact with the person responsible for the property. This means they can get in touch – without obligation – to inquire about services and amenities before committing.
3. THE BEST PRICE ISN’T ON THE OTAS (online travel agencies)
Contrary to popular belief, OTAs and aggregator sites (such as Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia etc.) don’t actually provide the best price for travelers. Guests can save hundreds on commissions by booking direct and booking local.
4. LOTS OF THE BEST VACATION RENTALS AREN’T LISTED ON THE MAJOR SITES
Due to the high costs associated with using big sites, some of the best homes with the highest demand aren’t even listed. Take popular beach resorts in North Carolina as an example – only 30% of homes available for rent can be found on these websites. Guests shouldn’t limit their search to OTAs and aggregators, or they could be missing out on the best properties. Have you ever noticed that the best local restaurant is often not on OpenTable? It is the same thing with OTAs.
5. MANAGERS AND OWNERS HAVE IN-DEPTH KNOWLEDGE OF THE DESTINATION
When booking direct, managers and owners can become a kind of free destination guide. They know the best activities, restaurants and service providers. They may even have local partnerships or discount deals which can save travelers more money.
6. IF GUESTS HAVE SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS, A MANAGER OR OWNER CAN HELP
Whether the family needs an accessible vacation rental or a pet-friendly option, a manager or owner will work with the guest directly to meet all their needs before they commit to a booking.
7. OWNERS AND MANAGERS WILL HAVE MORE SPECIAL OFFERS DURING NON-PEAK TRAVEL TIMES
When travelers communicate directly with the owner or manager, they will be the first to find out about special offers, discounts or exclusive deals.
This information was provided mostly by Lodgify. They are a company that provides services and support to independant vacation home property owners. Full disclosure – we do not use them at this time.
Some recent observations on Airbnb and VRBO added 3/27/2020
I have known all along that Airbnb collects money from a guest to make a reservation. What you may not know is that Airbnb holds onto that money and uses it to fund its operations. I have to wait until after the guest is in the house for Airbnb to “start” their payment to me. This is a terrible practice but I put up with it because Airbnb brings me guests that I normally might not be able to find.
VRBO’s practice was to send me the funds at the same time that the guest would pay. This helps me fund the mortgage, taxes, maintenance, and insurance that are annual expenses. VRBO has recently changed their payment systems to the same ones as Airbnb. In other words, they hold your money that should be going to me. It has also come to my attention that VRBO is also delaying refunds for reservation cancellations.
All of these are red flags. If these behemoths go bankrupt then what happens to all the money they are holding?
I am not saying this will happen but guests should realize that guests owe the landlord the rent. A guest is taking a risk if they choose to pay the rent to a 3rd party who does not, in turn, pay that on to the landlord.
I am also not saying that this could not happen to a smaller operator. There is always the chance that a homeowner could do something nefarious. It just goes to show that you never know. That’s why trip insurance exists.