• Deborah Book Direct Show

#Book Direct ... Dissected

The whole concept of direct bookings stirs questions like “How can I compete with the OTAs?”, “I don’t know what to do or where to start?” and “Why would I bother when the OTAs are sending me bookings?”.

The idea of breaking free of the OTAs and starting to stand on your own can be a daunting thought for some. But as they say, the journey of 1000 steps starts with the first step. The whole journey seems huge, but if you look down and focus on each step, one at a time, you’ll be far along the journey before you know it (and from experience, I know that methodology works). So, let’s break the journey down into steps. Small steps.

1. The Why. Get your head around direct bookings.

By listing and accepting bookings from OTAs, you are helping them build their brand. Your product is growing their name, their business, their brand.

However, at any time they can behave in a way that doesn’t suit you. Granted you did initially agree to join on their terms, but you have no power or voice to disagree or change the course of decisions they make. You are literally working under their control. They ‘own’ you and they ‘own’ your reviews.

What would happen if they removed your account from their site? What would you have left? This is not a random scenario meant to scare you. This has happened numerous times, where an account has been closed, bookings cancelled, with no explanation. Who would you rather had control of your business?

'How one can survive and thrive after having your listings cancelled by the OTA'

Robert Nunez of Co-Host Expert will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.

2. How will Guests find you?

To be out on your own means that you have to have an online presence. Think of your website as a front door to your business, your shopfront. Having your own website isn’t something to be feared or to be nervous about.

These days there are many options, from do-it-yourself sites, through to websites provided by Property Management Systems (PMS) and lots more. Learning to stand on your own two feet will take some learning and time to establish, but it isn’t rocket science. And once you learn to stand on your own, you’ll be running in no time!

'Anatomy of the perfectly optimized vacation rental website for increasing booking conversion'

Dennis Klett of Lodgify will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.

'How to build your own direct booking website for less than $100 - no coding required'

Alex Caravitis of Syncbnb will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.

3. Be like them.

What do guests like about booking on an OTA? Initially, it’s because of the brand (see next point). Secondly, these sites make it easy to look, then book. Your website should offer this same service. You want your website visitors to look, then book too. You need to offer this booking capability to capture bookings in that instance. This can be a stand-alone service, or one that runs through your PMS.

Instant bookings have their place. We all know the benefit of having immediate confirmation. However even if you are not comfortable with instant bookings, if you offer it and then discover there is an issue with a group of/guests, you can cancel. Since the booking came direct to you, there is no penalty to do so. So, you can offer instant bookings, you can still screen your guests, and you can cancel them penalty free. Of course, cancelling a booking is never ideal, but if a guest has ignored or overlooked your house rules, or terms & conditions, then you have every right to cancel if they are not a good match for your property.

Accept bookings on your site, it’s the next step.

'Using technology to drive more direct bookings for your short stay agency'

Andy Jones of iPro will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.

'Direct is Best. And Technology is Essential'

Adam Clarke of Room Racoon will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.

4. What is a brand?

We all know the big brands. Do you have a brand? Do you think you’re too small to have a brand?

The one thing that the smaller independents have as an advantage IS our brand. But let’s think of it another way. When a guest books on Airbnb, where is the personality? Their website doesn’t interact with you. You look, you book. It’s simply a transaction. The difference as I see it is our brand is our personality. We can inject our personality (which we do naturally) into our business, and into the dealings with our customers. Our personality IS our brand. Do you have a passion for your business, for this industry? Do you have a passion to give guests the best experience possible? Then that is your personality and that is what guests will feel as your brand. Let your personality shine.

'Brand Storytelling - Using the power of story to drive bookings'

Louise Brace of Rental Tonic will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.

5. Who are you?

When you step away from the OTAs, you are expecting website visitors to “meet” you and fall in love with your offerings. But who the hell are you, and why would they trust you? We’ve all heard the horror stories of guests arriving to vacant lots instead of their holiday villa. My own home was discovered advertised on Craig’s List in Finland, and I certainly didn’t advertise it there! No one is safe from scams now, neither guests or managers & owners.

In our case, we know we are real, but how do we convince a website visitor or guest of that? With my (small) business as an example, the reviews on my website stretch back to 2006, and my properties are seen on numerous sites, including my own. But one thing I do once a guest books is to send them a “Thanks for your booking” video. My face, talking to them, thanking them for their booking, explaining the emails they will receive before they arrive, info they need to know and finish with telling them that I am always there to answer any questions. Now they know who Deborah is when they receive emails or reach out with a question. A shortcut to trust perhaps. Show your face.

'Standards and Professionalism, customer expectations in the new world'

Merilee Karr will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.

'Consumer Trust and the Guest Experience during Covid and Beyond'

Michael Friedman will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.

'Converting Enquiries into Rentals through Consumer Trust'

Chris Maughan of I-PRAC will be presenting at the Book Direct Show.

6. Get word out.

Once you have set up your website and you are able to take bookings direct on your site, it’s time to get word out. But the number of steps in marketing your website is a staircase in itself, with lots of different steps. There are many avenues to explore including Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, Google Ads and YouTube, so learn about each one and get something in place before looking at the next one.