4 tips to compete with OTAs
May 11, 2022

4 Ways Vacation Rental Managers Can Compete With OTAs

Competing against online travel agents (OTAs, for short) in the vacation rental industry can feel a little like Don Quixote battling his windmills: a fruitless endeavor. But just because these hospitality giants have big budgets and big reach does not mean small- to medium-size vacation rental management companies like yours can’t compete. 

In fact, you have a secret weapon that OTAs can’t touch: A deep, intimate knowledge of your market, your inventory, and what kinds of guests want to experience it. By tapping into this wealth of knowledge (and a few solid marketing strategies), property managers like you can give even the biggest OTAs a run for their money. Here’s how.

Firstly, It’s Not Totally ‘You Against Them’

If you come into the vacation rental management business with the goal to never, ever, ever rely on an OTA to attract guests, you’re actually doing more harm than good. OTAs are not the villain, nor should they be treated as such. In fact, business-savvy vacation rental managers know that the best way to compete with an OTA is to, in fact, use OTA services to ramp up their own business. 

Capture Repeat Bookings From Bookings On Your OTA Listings  

Diversifying your channels is one of the best ways to reach your desired audience and eventually entice them to book directly. In fact, when used strategically, vacation rental listings on OTA sites can give your properties the exposure they need to attract guests who are still vacation shopping with more general search terms.

Once you have the booking, it’s time to make the magic happen. Providing your guests an exceptional experience will make them more likely to book again next time—maybe even directly with you. This is where some smart marketing moves can make all the difference. 

Get Creative With Your Keywords

If you’re looking to compete with some of the biggest OTAs out there, you need to start thinking outside the box when it comes to your organic search terms. Travel giants like Vrbo and Booking.com have completely taken over keywords like “[location] vacation rental” and the like. So relying on those kinds of popular search terms will get you lost in the crowd. 

Do a little research and some creative brainstorming to come up with keywords that are desirable but perhaps a bit more specialized. Think about your market (beachside? Lakeshore? Slopeside?), the kind of inventory you’re renting (are they Cabins? Cottages? Tiny houses? Mansions? Condos?), and the audience you want to target (Couples? Large Families? Remote Workers?). Getting really specific can help inch you closer and closer to the top of the search page for your coveted audience. 

Give Your Guests a Branded Experience 

One of the biggest challenges vacation rental managers face when competing with OTAs is the popularity—and universal adoption—of the brand. “Airbnb” has become synonymous with “vacation rental” just the same way that “Kleenex” has become synonymous with “tissue” or “Jacuzzi” with “hot tub.” A guest that books one of your listings on Airbnb, then, will make the natural cognitive leap to assume that you are Airbnb, Airbnb is you, and so on. 

Your job is to differentiate yourself from the OTA, standing out as a unique experience in your guests’ mind. 

This doesn’t mean slapping your name and logo on every surface in your properties. Your brand is more than your signage, your brand colors, or the voice and tone you use when speaking to guests via email (though those things are important, too). Your brand is the story you tell your guests, the experience you provide, and how that experience reflects the values of your business as a whole. 

In the Home

One of the fun parts about giving your guests a branded experience is that you get to lean into what makes your rentals and your market special. Whether you own tiny beachside cabins or massive mountain chalets, take this opportunity to highlight the amazing community and share that with your guests through small local gifts, decorating with themed art, or offering an insider’s perspective on some of the best attractions your area has to offer.  

In Your Messaging

Providing your guests personalized, relevant messaging from initial inquiry to check out and beyond is one of the best ways to compete with OTAs. Not only does it give you a distinctly human feel that guests can relate to, but it also helps keep you top of mind when they start thinking about their next vacation. 

On Your Website

Of course, one of the best places to distinguish your vacation rental management company from an OTA is on your own website. Now’s the time to tell your guests a little bit more about who you are—as a property manager and as a team. Make sure there’s plenty of validation via five-star reviews and an easy way to book directly. 

Stand Apart With Dynamic Pricing

When it comes to competing with OTAs, your pricing may end up being a valuable secret weapon. For both guests and property managers, direct booking offers a better nightly rate (and therefore, a better return on investment), mostly because neither the short-term management company nor the guest has to shoulder the fees associated with OTAs. But that means your pricing has to be on-point at all times. It needs to be flexible, adjusting to even the smallest market factor, and attractive enough to capture both advanced bookings and last-minute trips. That’s where dynamic pricing comes in. Dynamic pricing uses algorithms to take those factors into account and make those adjustments instantly, making sure that your listings are always getting in front of the right guest at the right time. 

Rented’s team of revenue management experts live and breathe dynamic pricing, and they can help you stay on track to optimize your listings and attract more bookings without relying solely on OTAs. Reach out to one of our professionals to hear how dynamic pricing can help you compete with OTAs, book a demo here.

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