Researching accommodation options is often top of the list when planning a trip. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of ways when it comes to booking a short-term rental. While many people turn to online travel agencies like Airbnb, Vrbo or Booking.com, there's a growing movement toward booking directly with property managers. From cost savings to a more personalized experience, we’ll be discussing why you should consider booking direct and how to find a property manager’s direct booking site.
When you book direct, you are, as the phrase suggests, eliminating the middleman and entering into a relationship with a short-term rental business directly. This is in stark contrast to booking a short-term rental through an online travel agency (OTA) like Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, etc.
OTAs have done an incredible job accelerating the adoption of vacation and short-term rentals. They have modernized a form of accommodation that is as old as time, built trust through brand and marketing, improved discoverability of listings and wrapped the experience up into a streamlined and user-friendly interface. This however comes at a cost. Both hosts and guests are charged a service fee to use these platforms ranging from 20%-35% in total. To make things worse, host service fees are typically passed on down to the guest in the form of increased nightly pricing, even if it looks like there’s no fees for guests during booking. One of the major contributing factors that encourage guests to book directly is the rising cost of listings. As major OTAs become increasingly focused on growing value for their shareholders, so do the costs incurred by hosts and guests.
There are a number of reasons why you should consider booking directly with a short-term rental operator. Here are the top 5 reasons why you may want to avoid an OTA the next time you travel:
Cost Savings: Travelling is an added expense to your everyday life back home. Saving 20%-35% on your accommodations by booking directly with a property manager rather than through an OTA allows you to spend your hard earned money on creating memories and the experiences that bring you joy.
Better Communication: Booking directly with a property manager allows for direct and efficient communication, making it easier to personalize your experience, ask questions about the listing and area and resolve any issues that may arise during your stay.
Personalized Experience: Property managers can offer more personal touches, such as local recommendations and insider tips, compared to what is available through a generic listing on an online travel agency.
Diverse Payment Options: Short-term rental businesses are becoming more attuned to providing guests with the ability to book using a variety of payment methods outside of your standard credit card options. These now include cryptocurrency, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Wise, PayPal, book-now-pay-later solutions and more.
Support the Local Economy: By booking directly with a short-term rental operator, you are supporting local economies and small businesses rather than putting money into the pockets of online travel agencies.
Who doesn’t want to save on service fees when booking accommodations? One of the challenges when it comes to booking direct is that it can be difficult to actually find the perfect short-term rental in the city you’re traveling to. In addition, asking a host to communicate outside of the channels provided by an OTA like Airbnb is a big no no. Hosts will never take this risk, because they could get their account suspended or banned for trying to circumvent the service fees.
Instead, here are a couple of great ways to find their direct booking site:
Look for Clues: Professional short-term rental businesses will often leave clues on an OTA's listing page, signaling to guests that they have a direct booking site. These clues include a brand name which may be included in the listing description or host bio. Read through the listing to see if you can find a business or brand name and then do a quick Google search for their direct booking site.
Apps: You can use helpful applications like the one our friends at Cherry created. Cherry is a Google Chrome extension that you can check when browsing an OTA listing. Once installed, click the extension while still on the listing page and the browser extension will point you to the host’s direct booking site, as long as they are already registered with Cherry.
Direct Booking Directory (DBD): The DBD is an open-sourced listing directory aimed at making it easier for travelers to find and book short-term rentals directly with professional hosts. Created by Dtravel, the DBD is a community-driven and temporary solution to what will soon be a user-friendly metasearch built to return only direct booking sites. Looking for direct booking sites in a specific city around the world? Use the filter options in the DBD to quickly browse the growing list.
Trip Extension: If for whatever reason the host doesn't have a direct booking site and you decide to book through an OTA like Airbnb, then you can always choose to extend your trip upon arrival. Property Managers will often give you a better rate that excludes the platform fees charged by an OTA. Of course, this tactic requires flexibility as you do risk that chance of missing out on an extension should another guest book ahead of you.
Digital Nomad Groups: Digital nomads are evangelists when it comes to booking direct. With a bit of research you can find vibrant communities of nomads sharing information specific to a particular city in Facebook, WhatsApp, Slack or Telegram groups. Pop-in to the group, introduce yourself and let everyone know what type of accommodation you’re looking for. Chances are you’ll find an incredible deal and even learn a little bit about where you’re going before you arrive.
Bonus (Travala.com): Coming soon - In the near future, you’ll soon be able to use Travala.com, the world’s largest blockchain-based OTA to search and book any direct booking site powered by Dtravel’s booking engine without having to pay additional fees. In addition to avoiding those pesky platform fees, you’ll be able to book directly with a host using a variety of payment methods including cryptocurrency. You can read more about the upcoming partnership here.
We believe that booking short-term rentals directly is a win-win for everyone involved. As a traveler you avoid the service fees associated with OTAs and can enjoy an unfettered guest experience. If a host has a direct booking site, chances are they take their business very seriously. Where professional short-term rental businesses win over an OTA is better rates, a curated guest experience, and relationship-based customer service.
The next time you decide to travel, try booking direct and you’ll quickly find out why more and more people are moving away from OTA platforms and hunting down a host’s direct booking site.
As a company, Dtravel is focused on helping professional short-term rental operators, reduce their dependence on OTAs, and gain more control over their business through a modular booking engine that can be added to any custom-built site as well as our easy-to-use, modern website builder. In the near future, we’ll be launching traveler centric products and partnerships focused on improving the discoverability of independent short-term rental businesses. Help contribute to the #bookdirect movement by sharing this blog post with your friends, family and local communities!