That is the question posed by a number of holiday cottage owners recently following the recent increase in AirBnB service fees to owners. The initial opinion of many owners has been to continue on with AirBnB but also to look for new ways to generate more bookings directly. Here are a 7 great tips to help owners get more direct bookings.
AirBnB Service Fees Have Gone up to 14% plus VAT
AirBnB host service commission fees have changed recently having gone from 3% up to a flat rate 14% (if you choose ‘Instant Booking’ or have channel manager set up). Guests will no longer be charged a ‘service charge’. This will bring AirBnB more in line with the other major on line travel agents such as Booking.com etc. Now the actual cost to owners of a £500 booking via AirBnB will go up from £18.00 up to £84.00 including VAT.
The first move is make sure you include all AirBnb service fees in your price. This is an option that you can select on your AirBnB hosting panel. This will increase your overall headline prices.
Your next move is to look at new ways to increase your direct bookings to reduce the impact of this price increase and your reliance on bookings via AirBnB and Booking.com etc. Here are a 7 great tips to help you get more direct bookings.
7 Great Tips on How to Get More Direct Bookings – Quick Overview:
- Improve Your AirBnB & Booking.com Listings to Stand Out From The Crowd
- Google ‘My Business’ – Does Your Cottage Appear Top of the Google listings
- Update your Website – Keep it Fresh, Striking, Aspirational & Make it ‘Easy to Book’
- Become the ‘Local Experts’ & Let The Cat Out of the Bag
- Find Good ‘Niche’ Websites / Local Directories to Market Your Holiday Homes(s)
- Email Marketing – Communicate Regularly with Your Existing Guests
- Be More Active on Your Facebook Page – News Updates, Share Content & Boost Posts
All of these a great inexpensive ways to help you generate more bookings directly. All you need to do is put together a plan, invest some time and effort then watch the bookings roll in.
What Percentage of Your Guest Bookings are Booked Direct with You?
Ideally most cottage owners would prefer the majority of their holiday bookings to be direct with them. This would save considerably on commissions and enable you to be in more control of your bookings and your customers.
Number one is maybe a bit of surprise however, but it can work very well if you have everything else in place.
1 – Improve Your Airbnb & Booking.com Listings & Stand Out From The Crowd
Roll with it and take advantage of their huge marketing power. Create a great 1st impression, update your listing with your very best photos of your cottage. Be accurate, compelling with informative content and local information. Aim to achieve ‘Superhost’ status to gain higher rankings.
Let guests find their perfect holiday cottage online, yours! Then allow human nature prevail. Most savvy ‘bookers’ will check to see if they can find the price cheaper elsewhere. If you have done the basics right then they will then find your cottage directly. You have probably done this yourself, I have done so many times and got many a good bargain direct with the owners.
‘Book Direct at the Best Prices Available’ – Make sure your cottage or business name on your AirBnB (or Booking.com) is the same as you market it. Update your Google ‘My Business’ listing and ensure your website is good to take direct bookings. You could even encourage guests with a ‘Book Direct’ offer or provide local incentives. We all love a deal and most guests would much prefer to book direct with the owners particularly if the price is the same or cheaper. Then watch the direct bookings roll in.
2 – Google ‘My Business’ – Does Your Cottage Appear At The Top Of The Google Listings
Make sure your cottage is found when potential guests search for holidays in your immediate area and location.
‘Google’ your own holiday cottage name and location and your Google ‘My Business’ listing should appear at the top of the Google search every time. If not then with a little bit of work it can do quite easily – For more information see ‘How to Get More Direct Bookings with Google My Business’.
This is often overlooked but a very powerful and essential tool. This is a free listing where you can have all your business and holiday cottage contact information appear. It can include your website, telephone number, headline photos of your cottage and locality and a summary of property information. This will appear for anyone who searches either directly for your cottage or your immediate location.
3 – Update Your Website – Keep it Fresh, Striking, Aspirational & Make it ‘Easy to Book’
Your website is the single most important marketing tool you have to generate direct bookings. Make sure it is as good as it can be.
What do you like to see when you are booking a guest house or holiday cottage in another part of the country? Now look at your own website through the eyes of a potential guest. Does it inspire and give confidence to want to book?
Clear content and good quality imagery are vital to engage bookings. Give your potential guests confidence and any encouragement to book with you directly. ‘Book Direct’ special offers will help. Highlight your reviews, show guest testimonials, include social media news feeds and most importantly have the ability to book online.
It is always a good idea to ask someone else to objectively critique your website for you, they can often spot something that you may have missed. Check it out now and make sure all the boxes are ticked.
More Information – 11 Key Elements to Make a Good Homepage
4 – Become the ‘Local Experts’ & Let The Cat Out of the Bag!
No-one knows your immediate area and what there is to see and do locally better than you. So, why not let the cat out of the bag and let everyone else know what local delights await them. Google loves new, fresh and fun content, why not bring your locality to life by writing a few articles and blogs and about your area.
These blogs / articles, Facebook posts could include:
- Pubs & restaurants our guests love most
- Our favourite recommended places to visit locally
- Great local dog walks with the best views
- Secret picnic locations away from the crowds
- The best child friendly activities nearby
- Where to get the best all day breakfast or favourite coffee stops
- Top 10 ‘Things to Do’ in 48 hours in the area
- A cultural day out in the Cotswolds
5 – Find Good ‘Niche’ Websites / Local Directories to Market Your Holiday Homes(s)
Generate ‘ideal’ potential guests direct to your website via specialist 3rd party websites. See if there are local or specific niche websites where you can have your holiday home listed. You know your own market and what your guests like better than most. Check their rates and see if they rank highly on Google for what you offer.
Niche Ideas include:
- Pet friendly websites
- Great for fishing
- Popular local tourism websites
- Hiking or cycling websites
- Specialist cottage websites such as Independent Cottages
6 – Email Marketing – Communicate Regularly with Your Existing Guests
How often do you communicate with your guests and your database? Surprise them and say hello and update them with your news and offers, once you start keep up the momentum.
You already have many happy guests who you could encourage to return or would be happy to recommend you and share a ‘Friends & Family discount’. Send them a digital postcard of your cottage (or even a real one) with an enticing personalised offer, include your latest news, and add any local events or new attractions. It really is easier than you think.
7 – Be More Active on Your Facebook Page – News Updates, Share Content & Boost Posts
Facebook is a very effective way to generate potential new guests and prospective customers. You can share information, news and offers with existing guests, followers and their friends and family. Encourage your page followers to comment and react to your posts and watch them share your Facebook page with other like-minded friends and colleagues.
Use the highly cost effective Facebook advertising and ‘boost’ a few of your posts, test a few with a minimum spend. Lastly make sure your details are all up to date and that have a ’Book Now’ or ‘Enquire Now’ call to action button set up. Watch your followers grow and get those new enquiries.
Create a Mini Marketing Plan
All of these tips will help you generate more direct bookings for your business. Use AirBnB to your advantage by driving bookings to your website. Draw up a list of marketing actions, plan your activities and make a start straight away to getting more bookings direct.
Encourage new and existing guests to book direct with you by setting up the following:
- Make sure your Booking.com & AirBnB listings really stand out
- ‘Price Guarantee’ – make sure that you guarantee the best possible price
- Highlight the benefits of Booking Direct’ – Special offers & returning guests discounts
- Inspire confidence to book – Showcase your guest reviews
- Have a clear ‘Call to Action’ & ‘Book Now’ option
- Check out your website, Google & any 3rd party listings – be the best there is!
- Communicate with your guests & be active on Facebook
- Answer any question or enquiries you get swiftly
- Promote any local discounts & local recommendations
- Pay attention to the little things & stand out from others
- Bring your holidays to life with great photos & exciting content.