By The Hospitable Team
What’s the number one mistake we see new property owners make? Listing properties on a bunch of booking platforms without really thinking it through.
We hear you: your Airbnb listings don’t always get the attention you’d like and your rentals go empty from time to time. But are you sure that listing properties across multiple channels will get the results you want?
Taking on multiple booking platforms isn’t the right move for everyone, so don’t do it if you’re just following the crowd. You could be signing up to a boatload of unnecessary stress trying to keep on top of all those different booking calendars. But it doesn’t have to be this way! There are ways to keep channel management hassle free.
To help you make the right decision about where to get bookings, we’ve been chatting to other hosts about their listing experience, as well as the CEO of Rentals United, a channel management software tool for property managers. Armed with insider knowledge, you can work out if it’s time to start using more channels or simply stick to Airbnb.
Let’s get you the low down on who really needs multiple channel listings and how to make sure yours aren’t a total waste of time.
Hospitable.com lets you connect your Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com accounts while protecting you from double bookings.
The more channels you list on, the more visibility you get?
It makes sense: if you’re listing properties on more than one channel, they’re more likely to get seen by potential guests. But visibility shouldn’t necessarily be your number one priority, especially if you’re a DIY host managing only a handful of listings.
Here’s what to remember about multiple channel listings, depending on what kind of host you are:
If you manage your STR properties yourself
If you manage your vacation rental properties yourself, you’re what we like to call a ‘property owner’. Getting set up on multiple channels isn’t a necessary priority for you. That’s because property owners who list on multiple channels still get the majority of their bookings through Airbnb.
If you’re getting 95% of your bookings through Airbnb, is that other 5% of bookings really worth the effort of maintaining listings across multiple sites?
Keeping up with guest communication across different platforms and syncing calendars to avoid double-bookings is hugely time consuming and will lead to mistakes. If you don’t have the budget for additional hosting tools to automate your workflows, listing on multiple channels definitely won’t work for you.
Here are some common challenges hosts face when listing on multiple channels without reliable host software:
- Clunky communication. Logging in to a different channel every time you need to communicate with your guest is frustrating and causes delays, meaning that you’ll miss out on top reviews. The best solution is to use additional host software that can consolidate your messages into one place.
- Sluggish calendar syncing. Even if you do have a tool to help sync booking calendars across platforms, you’ll need to make sure it’s super fast and reliable. Anything less will cause double bookings and unhappy customers.
- Inconsistent pricing. Savvy hosts will adapt their prices according to seasonal demand and local events, but this can mean wasting time updating your pricing manually across each booking platform. Instead, choose host software that can push smart pricing across your channels automatically.
- Tricky data analysis. If you’re juggling data from all those different platforms, you’re going to have a hard time understanding your financial and operational metrics. You’ll need great host software that can pull all your data into one dashboard, ready for export.
If you’re looking to upgrade your processes, host software like Hospitable.com can consolidate all your guests’ messages into one inbox and update your booking calendars automatically. You’ll even have access to features like smart pricing, data exports, and task management, to help you get the most out of every booking. With the right tech stack by your side, you’ll host smoother stays and get even better reviews.
If you’re from a company that manages STR properties for other people
It’s a completely different story for property managers, i.e. companies that manage rental properties on behalf of owners. These companies are responsible for lots of properties and tend to service specific clientele.
Getting visibility across multiple channels is important to help them build a brand and reach customers in different market niches. Property managers are far more likely to use a channel management tool to help keep on top of all their bookings.
We spoke to James Burrows, CEO and cofounder of Rentals United, to get his perspective on multiple listings for property managers. For his customers, James thinks listing on multiple channels is a must. “Our customers are companies, so they don’t just need more visibility for their listings, they also need more visibility for their brand,” says James. “For them, the more sales channels they get listed on, the more chances they have to reach travelers.”
The thing about property management companies is that they have very specific needs depending on their audience and property type. Got pet-friendly properties? Good channel management software will stop you from barking up the wrong tree by using data insights to recommend suitable booking platforms like BringFido and Pets Pyjamas to help target guests who are specifically seeking that type of property.
“Where I list depends on the property. I currently have 19 active listings [and] mostly we list on Airbnb. If the property has the right insurance then I will also list on VRBO, Booking.com and Direct website.” – Gordon Martin, property manager with 19 listings in Newfoundland, Canada.
Is it risky to list exclusively on Airbnb?
We get it, 2020 was a difficult year for Airbnb hosts. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Airbnb decided to bypass hosts’ preferred cancellation policies and offer a full refund to all guests claiming to cancel due to lockdown restrictions.
For guests, this was the only fair course of action but for hosts, it meant a major loss of revenue and a whole lot of uncertainty about the future. If you were a host in this position in 2020, we feel for you.
Listing on multiple channels doesn’t solve the problem of being at the mercy of online travel agency (OTA) policies, which is why you need a different backup plan for when things go wrong.
So what should I do?
Well, first of all, don’t immediately delete your Airbnb host account. Booking rates dropped by 85% during the pandemic, but since then Airbnb has bounced back stronger than ever with a record-breaking $100 billion initial public offering (IPO).
Airbnb is undeniably popular with guests, so it’s a great place for new hosts to get started and build their business. If you’re still worried about relying entirely on OTAs, you should consider implementing a direct booking strategy.
“You cannot be tethered to OTAs indefinitely. Your prices will fall and your guests will burn you out. Instead build your online marketing strategy and book direct as much as possible.” – Natasha Assa, host of two beach-side homes in NYC.
What are the benefits of direct booking?
If you’ve never built a website or really thought about your marketing strategy, getting set up to take direct bookings might seem pretty intimidating. However, there are many benefits to taking direct bookings:
- Your house, your rules. You’ll get more control over booking terms and conditions, and won’t be forced to follow anyone else’s cancellation policy.
- Repeat bookings. Rather than messaging through an OTA, you’ll get the opportunity to build a relationship with your guest with more personalized messaging. You can keep them engaged with newsletters, special offers, and discount codes for referrals.
- Payments the way you like them. You’ll make more profit on individual bookings since you won’t have to pay any commission to an OTA. You may also find that the extra freedom means you can offer more competitive rates and flexible payment plans for guests too.
- Fewer cancellations. OTAs emphasize messaging like ‘free cancellation’ to give guests a sense of flexibility, but it comes at the price of host security. With the right direct booking strategy, you’ll find that guests are more committed to their purchase and less likely to cancel at the last minute.
“I want direct bookings to be a tool for me (mainly as a booking & payment collection platform) so that I don’t have to pay service fees for rentals that Airbnb didn’t get me.” – Anonymous host on the Airbnb Profit Club Facebook group.
Want your direct booking strategy taken care of? Hospitable Direct will soon be available to help you start taking direct bookings without any of the stress of building a website, taking payments, or screening guests yourself.
What should you consider before deciding where to list?
Whatever kind of host you are, understanding your market will help you make an informed decision about where to post your listings. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to this, so it’s worth considering the following:
Where your properties are based could impact how potential guests discover your listings. For example, hosts who are based in Europe should be on Booking.com, while US hosts will find more business on Airbnb.
Pro tip: If you’re not sure how guests are finding rentals in your area, you could ask around. Find out who else is hosting locally, and ask them about their booking trends.
What’s your type? Whether you’re taking bookings for gorgeous country villas or chic urban apartments, you might find one channel more appropriate than another. For example, if luxury camping trips are your thing, you’ll need to find out how to become a host on a glamping site like Glamping Hub.
“For our flagship listing I am listed everywhere; Airbnb, VRBO, Booking.com, as well as a few other places. While for me Airbnb does all the heavy lifting, having these different sites available provides more options for booking and more revenue for the property.” – Gordon Martin.
Who’s your ideal guest? If you want to prioritize certain visitors, like traveling nurses or solo female tourists, there are specific channels for these markets. As James Burrows explains, guests like this will favor niche sites over major OTAs because they want to be sure their needs will be taken care of.
“The big OTAs are focused on providing as many reservations as possible. On the other hand, niche channels attract a specific type of traveler, for example, luxury or LGBTQ+ guests. If property managers want to reach these types of audiences, they need to expand their distribution beyond the mainstream channels.” – James Burrows, Rentals United.
Using certain channels wisely will help you attract unique guests. Then, once your relationship is established, you’ll be able to encourage repeat business and direct bookings in the future.
Hospitable.com tips for understanding your market:
- Speak to your guests. Making light conversation with your guests will make them feel welcome and help you understand who is booking your property. For more formal insights, you could even send them a quick survey after they complete their stay.
- Speak to other hosts. Don’t underestimate the natural hospitality of the hosting community! They may be your competition, but there’s a wealth of online forums, Facebook groups, and host influencers out there sharing best practices and helping each other grow.
- Consult the data. Get help understanding your market niche with vacation rental data insights from tools like AirDNA or Rentals United Data Studio.
So, should you list on more than one channel?
You want to grow your business and make your rentals more profitable, but being a great host is about understanding your market and choosing the right strategy for you and your guests.
Listing on multiple channels may be a top strategy for property managers, but that’s not to say it’s right for you. Property management companies want to build a brand and reach large audiences across different niche markets, both of which are goals that suit the multiple channel approach.
Meanwhile, if you’re a property owner getting most of your bookings through Airbnb, listing on multiple channels could be an unnecessary headache. Taking steps towards direct bookings could be a much better strategy for you.
If you do decide to list on multiple channels, a channel manager like Hospitable will help you manage your bookings across your chosen sites. Hospitable.com even integrates with Pricelabs for dynamic pricing across your booking platforms, meaning boosted revenue and less admin for you.
Hospitable.com is ideal for property owners looking to make their processes more efficient and offer a great guest experience. Meanwhile, bigger property management companies with 100+ listings may find Rentals United a better fit for their needs.
Whatever your business goals, take the time for market research. Your guests will love feeling like you understand their needs, and your business will just keep growing.
Hospitable.com lets you connect your Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com accounts while protecting you from double bookings.
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