Mark Simpson, Founder of Boostly, “There’s been too many Thanos-Airbnb snaps over the last three years…”

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By The Hospitable Team

Picture this: you have a beautiful rental property, always ready to welcome guests. You’re tired of paying high commissions to third-party platforms, and you want to take control… but no one is booking directly with you. Sounds familiar? Then you’ve come to the right place! 

Hospitable.com is excited to present the latest Hospitable Hosts podcast, where Andrew Schorr, Product Lead at Hospitable, hosted the podcast alongside Mark Simpson, the Founder of Boostly, to guide you through all the nooks and crannies of going direct. 

Mark is an industry expert, helping hundreds of hosts reduce their dependency on online travel agencies (OTAs) for over a decade. During the podcast, he and Andrew discuss a range of topics related to direct bookings: from exploring the reasons why hosts are moving away from OTAs to the economics of direct bookings, including taxes and refund liability.

Listen to the full episode now and get all the latest industry insights in our Hospitable Hosts podcast! Prefer to read the highlights? We’ve got a summary of the key takeaways below.  

How Airbnb keeps losing hosts to Direct Booking?

Mark and Andrew lead with a simple thesis – Airbnb will always prioritize guests over hosts. 

This was first seen when the pandemic hit and Airbnb changed its cancellation policies. The loss of autonomy and control over your business causes a sentiment of distrust towards Airbnb, leading to the rise of the direct booking industry. At the same time, those heavily reliant on Airbnb experienced the consequences of the platform’s constant rule and procedure changes. 

Mark compares these changes to the Thanos snap from the Marvel universe, where half of the population disappears in a single snap of the villain’s fingers. He explains that there have been many “Thanos Airbnb snaps” over the last few years, including when Airbnb changed its website layout and ranking, and introduced more AI tools to lead the customers’ decision-making. While some of these changes are good, others can be detrimental to hosts.

Building your own hospitality brand to avoid relying on a single platform becomes the only escape for independent hosts. 

Direct Booking: How? Brand, Trust, Tricks, and Automation.

As the conversation between Andrew and Mark creates a whole whirlwind of tips and tricks for advancing your direct booking playbook, they really focus on two major areas of improvement: technical stack (tools) and emotional appeal (branding and unique offering). 

Your Must-Have Direct Booking Tools

For Mark, the ultimate first step to direct booking success is to get property management software, such as Hospitable.com 😉, that connects with all the major platforms and allows you to build your own direct offering. This enables hosts to power all their listings and the direct booking website from one central hub. By doing this, hosts avoid linking their calendars, prices, or insurance to a single OTA, which would drastically limit their business. 

Additionally, Mark encourages hosts to use third-party solutions such as PriceLabs, Autohost, and SUPERHOG (all of which, by the way, offer awesome integrations with Hospitable.com) to make the guest screening and insurance an independent process. The ultimate goal is to take autonomy back from OTAs and utilize tools to better control your business! 

“And this is not like slamming Airbnb. This is just trying to educate hosts. Do not set everything on Airbnb! They make it sound like all you need to do is be on their platform. They even introduce smart pricing and ‘air cover’ which to me is bananas. You’ve got to realize when Airbnb is suggesting a price or insurance to you, it’s only going to benefit one person and one person only – and that’s Airbnb. This is why you’ve got to utilize tools: take your guest screening and the insurance out of there, branch out, and move on. You’re not going to do it all at once. You slowly build in the little things as you’re going.”

Get all you need for a smooth Direct Booking launch with Hospitable

Integrate with our best tools and automate your internal communication, calendars, and tasks for a smooth and easy hosting experience!

Your Must-Do Direct Branding and Loyalty Tricks

Mark notices, being a short-term rental host can be a blessing and a curse in the hospitality industry. While it is easy and, at first, can lead to immediate bookings, it can also make businesses over-reliant on third-party platforms, leading to laziness and neglect of their own branding and marketing. 

To prevent this happening to your vacation rentals, it’s important to start planning branding and marketing from day one, rather than becoming too reliant on Airbnb or other third-party platforms. Mark advises that you should offer incentives to guests for booking directly, such as early check-in or welcome gifts, as it will help re-educate them about why they should book directly. It is not always about competing on price, but on what benefits you can offer guests by booking directly.

“So many people go down the route of thinking that everything is about the price, ‘Price will always win.’ But not everybody looks at rates! A lot of people do. I do. I do see that. But a lot of people will look at incentives as well. Look at the Marriott’s website or go look at Hilton… They talk about early check-in, welcome gifts… DoubleTree got very famous for its chocolate-chip cookies. You too have to think about the incentives you can offer to a guest for booking direct… We’ve created thousands of direct booking websites, and every single website on the homepage talks about the benefits of booking direct. And, you know, every host is different in what they offer.”

Mark and Andrew discuss in detail a whole lot of life-saving tips and tricks in the full episode. Hungry for more? Tune in to our Hospitable Hosts podcast

Hospitable.com and Boostly: Friend or Foe? 

Those familiar with both companies, including our own Andrew, have this question in mind, “​​Boostly’s building direct websites. Hospitable’s doing direct websites, too. Are we competitors?”

While the two definitely share the same goal of helping hosts with ready-to-go direct booking solutions, Hospitable.com and Boostly are actually more complementary than conflicting. 

“It all depends on where you are in your business journey, it’s like playing a video game… When you start at level one, the free website that you get with Hospitable.com is fantastic. But as you level up and you get to that end boss, this sort of levels up your business. You want to start doing things a little differently than where you are at level one, and that’s where we sit.”

Hospitable makes it as easy and quick as possible for hosts to spin up a direct website, with plenty of templates to choose from and a direct booking widget if you want to implement the functionality into a website that you have built elsewhere (such as with Boostly). 

“We work so well with Hospitable and we’re really enjoying the partnership. We work nicely together because we create everything on WordPress and then we work with Hospitable on the hosting tools. So, if somebody wants a WordPress site and they want it to integrate with Hospitable, then we’re the bridge – we do the connections.” 

Looking how to get the most out of your direct booking brand with Hospitable?
Hit this link and get to learn more about the features of our latest Direct Booking solution. 

Curious to listen to the full episode? Get all the latest industry insights from renowned experts in our Hospitable Hosts podcast

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