The Fourth Annual #BookDirect Guest Education Day, recurring on the first Wednesday in February, is coming soon. On February 3, 2021, short-term and vacation rental providers and independent hotels will join forces with a singular message: There are many advantages to bypassing third-party channels/OTAs (i.e. Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, and Expedia) and booking directly.
2020 brought with it a multitude of new travelers searching for vacation rentals, but many of these guests don’t yet know that the best prices, the best properties, and the best experiences aren’t found on the OTAs; they are found by booking direct and booking local.
WHAT IS #BOOKDIRECT GUEST EDUCATION DAY?
The idea for the campaign originated four years ago in a discussion with several large vacation rental management companies exploring ways to educate consumers about the value of booking vacation homes directly instead of on third-party channels. The urgency for education increased as guest/traveler fees increased—along with the consequential confusion among guests—on Vrbo, Airbnb, and TripAdvisor.
What if hundreds of vacation rental providers sent out the same message on the same day about the benefits of booking direct?
As a result, #BookDirect Guest Education Day was born.
The campaign’s goal is for vacation rental shoppers to see multiple messages across social and email channels on the same day promoting the many reasons to book their vacations directly with managers or homeowners.
With frequency as a driver, providers can educate guests about why they should #BookDirect. On social channels, it only takes a few thousand mentions on a single day to create a “trend.” In email, vacation rental travelers often have stayed in several vacation rentals in the past and would likely receive similar email messages from multiple VRMs in a short amount of time when a large number of VRMs send #BookDirect email messaging on the same day
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
This only works if we all participate, and all you have to do on Feb. 3, 2021, is:
- Use the hashtag #BookDirect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or LinkedIn to bring attention to the many advantages of booking vacation rentals directly with managers or homeowners instead of on third-party channels. (Bonus points for TikTok videos!)
- Send out an email campaign to past and prospective guests with a message about the value of booking direct, booking local, and booking smart.
#BookDirect Guest Education Day is a collective education effort, and VRMs are encouraged to leverage their own brands in communications. This day is for you. The idea is to use your own graphics, customer list, and benefits and to direct people directly to your company’s website and/or social pages.
“I think the timing of this campaign is impeccable,” said Tim Cafferty, president at Sandbridge Blue Realty Services and Outer Banks Blue Realty Services and cofounder of the popular podcast Sarah and T. “The message has resonated with consumers and vacation rental managers alike.”
April Salter, chair of the Association of Vacation Rental Operators and Affiliates said, “[Vacation home owners and managers] are a creative and determined group, and they’re excited about putting advocacy into action. #BookDirect Guest Education Day is a chance to shout out to the world that booking direct is better for owners and managers and for guests. This is a chance to work together to get out the message.”
Other ideas to Leverage #BookDirect Day
- Create a #BookDirect special or promotion.
- Create a landing page on your website about the value of booking direct and instructing guests how to book direct.
- Work with local and feeder-market media sources to educate consumers about the best ways to book vacation rentals.
- Encourage local destination marketing organizations (i.e., CVBs, chambers of commerce, and state tourism organizations) to join in promoting their direct connections to lodging providers.
- Share your campaign with us at VRM Intel, and we’ll help spread the word.
- Use this initiative as a launchpad internally to brainstorm about ways 1) to convert guests that come to you from an OTA into direct bookers in the future, and 2) add breadcrumbs to your OTA listings to help guests find you directly.
Does is work?
Using Keyhole for tracking, last year’s performance was strong with 78,532 posts and over 166 million impressions on Twitter and Instagram alone. Besides educating guests about the value of booking direct, the campaign has the additional benefit of reaching millions of consumers to get them to start thinking about booking their next vacation. With visual images and spotlighted properties, guests start dreaming about their 2021 travels.
For most vacation rental managers and owners, the #BookDirect movement is not a one-time pitch. Instead, it is a launchpad for an ongoing campaign to let travelers know the following:
- When travelers book on large vacation rental websites (like Airbnb, Vrbo.com, and TripAdvisor), they are paying substantial fees to use these sites.
- Many of the best homes are not listed on these third-party websites.
- Local managers and homeowners know the properties and the area better than anyone and can better match travelers to homes and help plan better vacation experiences.
- Travelers can find out about special offers that cannot be found on the big websites.
- Managers and owners can better help guests optimize dates and budgets to fit their needs.
- Travelers with special needs and requests can work directly with owners and managers in a much more personalized way to guarantee an amazing vacation for their family or group.
According to Vince Perez, vacation homeowner, property manager and founder of Fetch My Guest, “Guest education is important because travelers appreciate and expect transparency when making important vacation decisions.”
Perez added, “We believe it is important that travelers get the best value for their vacation dollars. We don’t believe charging them hidden fees on vacation rentals that will drive up their cost by hundreds of dollars is the answer. This effort gives the vacation rental professional community a voice in educating the travelers on what is taking place and how it impacts the market—and their pocketbooks.”
Heather Bayer added, “Demand for vacation rentals is rising as this type of accommodation becomes a mainstream choice. Supply is critical to this trend, so it’s important for travelers to know that the OTAs don’t show the entire inventory. Giving them the information on where to find the best accommodation at the best prices and with the best people—the owners and managers—is what they need to create the best vacation experience.”
As investors and analysts examine the vacation rental industry, it is worth noting that the supply is controlled by individuals and local, independent property managers who are capable of and accustomed to voting with their feet.
“It’s been exciting to see the newsletters, posts, images, and tweets that they’ve developed and are sharing across their networks,” Salter said. “I think the message to OTAs is that vacation rental owners and managers have a voice, and they intend to play a major role in shaping the future.”