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Not What It Seems - Lodging Newsletter January 31, 2021

By Wm, May
Published: 01/31/21 Topics: AirBnB, Branding, Channel Management, Lodging Newsletter, Vacation Rental Management, Vacation Rentals Comments: 0

If you are one of our lovely and gratefully appreciated property owner clients, you may not need to read this letter. You have hired us so you can sit back, make maximum income and let us handle all the details, interruptions, unexpected events and, even, political disruptions. Geez.

But, if you are not a client or if you just want to know what is going on in the vacation rental industry, then this month we rant on a bit about Online Travel Agents (OTAs), how we work to maximize their effectiveness and minimize their negativ es.

For example, you may be aware that the formerly "couch surfing" website AirBnB, now focused greatly on vacation rental advertising, continues to dominate the gossip. They are just one of the hundreds of websites on which we list lodging properties and from which we get a steady stream of guest bookings.

In December, AirBnB "went public", offering to sell its stock on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. It was baffling. How does an investor value a company that had 2.25 billion dollars in revenue and a negative profit of 697 million dollars! Wow.

We want to let our clients know we have never operated like that. Service businesses - like vacation rental and lodging management - are not wildly profitable. We don't bleed money. And we are not counting on a big stock market score to survive.

Unlike AirBnB, we don't grow for the sake of becoming world famous. Maybe it's old fashioned, but our goal is to take care of owners, guests and staff members. Your property's future is safe and secure with us.

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All About Channels - Accepting bookings from AirBnB, VRBO, Booking.com, Expedia and many others (the industry calls them Online Travel Agents "OTAs" or "Channels") is expensive. Most charge the property and the guest a commission. So, long ago we adapted and created software that marks ups rates so that guests pay those.

Expensive - Some five years ago, we were hired to launch rentals at a new resort, and it was a huge success. Thousands of nights were booked at a property still under construction. Each time a guest checked-in at the front desk, who had booked through an OTA, they were told or given a form that explained that they paid 15 to 20% too much by booking through a channel.

Repeat Visitors - A funny thing happened the following year. Of all the OTA guests who returned, 75% booked through an OTA again and paid too much. Foolish yes, but those customers fell for the OTA hype and that just reveals the power of marketing.

Complications - Channels increase costs in other ways. Their guests are not self sufficient - such as they may not answer phone calls, don't read driving directions, can't turn on TV's and generally expect instant service, even at 3 am. That may be reasonable, if the "host" of the couch you are surfing is sleeping in the room next door, but more difficult when homes can be spread out many miles from staff.

Book Direct- For years, there has been a campaign asking managers to avoid advertising on channels, or at least to decrease the portion of business they accept from them. Unfortunately, that is just foolish.

Branding - OTA's have convinced people that they have all available properties in their catalogue (so to speak), that they have the lower rate (which is clearly untrue), and that they get special perks like Points (that can be used for more travel - after you earn a few billion of them).

Performance - Channels do offer one compelling advantage, By demanding the hated percentage, at least they only get paid when they send us rental income. In decades past, conventional media, such as newspapers, radio and TV, took the ad dollars without so much as a wink of a guarantee.

Newbies - It must be admitted that OTA's have another advantage. They can bring in new guests who have never rented a vacation rental home before. This expands the market for everyone. The steady growth of the industry over the past two decades is a direct result of travelers discovering the joys of renting a private home.

Conversion - So, it becomes our job to convert those channel guests into direct booking guests. It's better for them, better for properties, better for owners and, certainly, better for us to. We do that with printed "Table Tents" in the homes, including Book-Direct reminders on all emails, and even by reminding guests in phone conversations.

We won't stop the tsunami of OTA growth, but we can improve the situation for every home we serve.

Author: Wm, May, Vortex Managers
Blog #: 0810 – 01/31/21
Sponsor: Vortex Organization – We train quality people to help run unique Inns, Resorts and Vacation Rental Management companies, in an industry that has been a webby net of technology combined with good old fashioned property, guest and owner services. – VortexManagers.com

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