With so many options like Airbnb, HomeAway, and FlipKey, what are the best sites for homeowners to list their vacation homes? What vacation rental sites should homeowners use to make the most money? Should homeowners and property managers use a channel manager?
We asked Amy Ochoa of LeisureLink to weigh in. Here's what she had to say:
The vacation rental industry continues to undergo a fundamental revolution. The digital era has transformed how consumers search, share, and book a property, and it is now imperative—not optional—that vacation rental property managers and homeowners focus on an online strategy that is cost-effective, generates more bookings, and protects rate parity and price integrity while reaching the broadest audience of consumers.
Ideally, your vacation rental should be listed on multiple online travel sites, including the top OTAs (online travel agents) like Booking.com, Airbnb, HomeAway, Orbitz, and Expedia. This increases exposure, allows you to maximize the availability of your vacation rental, and keeps it booked during peak seasons and off-season.
Although some of these OTAs do have overlaps in thier audience, each targets a different demographic or group. For your rental to be seen by as many people as possible, you have to list on multiple sites, and here's why:
1. Distributing your inventory will always increase occupancy.
While distributing your inventory will always increase occupancy, managing an extensive set of online partners and channels can be incredibly difficult and time-consuming. Many vacation rental managers deal with four or more extranets on a daily basis, and the opportunity cost and manual effort of doing this is enormous.
To effectively manage the online distribution landscape, you need a reliable technology partner that can help you expose your available inventory on a large scale to the best online travel sites. Once you have the technology in place, you can focus on perfecting how you manage your availability, inventory, and rates to maximize revenue per available unit.
2. It will keep your listings updated.
Descriptions and pricing should always reflect the current market, time of year, and any other specific circumstances about the listing. Always be aware of other listings in the area, events going on, seasonality, and general rental and hotel pricing of your competitors. This will ensure that you are maximizing bookings as well ADR. If the listing is perceived as overpriced, it will be hard to attract enough interest. If it is too inexpensive, you will be leaving money on the table.
Channel management is a key element to a successful distribution strategy.
3. Proper inventory allocation via online channels will ultimately help drive optimal profitability.
You have to consider which rates and unit types should be distributed through specific channels to maximize ROI, and a channel manager will keep one calendar for you that has all of your bookings from every website in one place. This will also enable you to pool inventory and rank higher on the OTAs sites. You will also be able to work more efficiently, as a channel manager such as LeisureLink will consolidate accounting and payment as well as scheduling and rental platform management.
4. Ultimately, listing your property on OTAs and other online travel will also boost your direct bookings.
This benefit, often called "the billboard effect," involves a boost in reservations through the your own distribution channels (including your website), due to the property being listed on the OTA website.
Finally, keep an eye on your conversion rate. If you are finding that your property is generating views, but not attracting as many bookings as you would like, it is time to review your listings to see why they are not converting.
Check your headlines and descriptions to make sure they are punchy and informative without being too dry or hard to read. Highlight your property's most unique selling point. The devil is in the detail, so consider hiring a professional to write up your listing for you if you feel writing in not one of your strong points. Keep an eye on your competition to see what they are offering that you are not. Are they offering freebies to their travelers that you can also include as an incentive to book?
If you really want to increase conversions, focus on your photos. When your potential guests are busy browsing for vacation rentals online, their attention span is actually quite limited. People's brains become lazy very quickly, so once they have narrowed down their goal to find the right destination, type of accommodation, number of bedrooms, etc. they will simply find the best looking property with the nicest pictures. Remember, you only get one shot at making a great first impression, so make sure you have photographs that have a real impact.
What are your preferred listing sites, and why? Let us know in the comments below!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rented.com.
Salt Lake City-based LeisureLink’s distribution services offer vacation properties the opportunity to distribute to top online travel agencies like Expedia, Booking.com, Airbnb and HomeAway, all the major GDS players and top travel sites. Suppliers can manage their online distribution from one platform – optimizing rates, availability, specials, and content changes. Leisurelink’s specialty consulting services leverage industry experts who understand travel distribution and maximize revenues. LeisureLink consolidates all accounting, payables and receivables with a single, source of payment, providing clarity to the often-complex accounting issues. LeisureLink helps companies make more money and save more time.
For more information, visit LeisureLink.com.