It only takes listening to a couple of earnings calls from publicly traded hospitality companies to know how important direct bookings are to hotels, airlines, cruise lines, OTAs, and vacation rental companies. Each and every major hospitality brand is investing heavily in pushing itself up higher in the customer funnel as performance marketing costs skyrocket and as managing consumer expectations becomes more important. Moreover—for vacation rental providers—direct bookings result in higher stay values, larger booking windows, and longer lengths of stay. For example, the average stay value (ASV) for direct bookings is more than double the ASV on Airbnb (source: Key Data) (see more data below).
What is #BookDirect Day?
Annually on the first Wednesday of February, #BookDirect Guest Education Day is a non-branded campaign in which vacation rental providers (managers and owners) use email and social media to educate their networks about the many advantages of booking direct.
This year it falls on February 2, 2022, and this is the fifth year we’ve come together as an industry to educate guests.
Objective: Use your own brand to contact and educate your guests and reach out to your networks about the many benefits of booking directly with you.
How to participate: The beauty is how easy it is. Simply send an email to your guest/lead database and use social media with the hashtag #bookdirect outlining the many advantages your guests receive when they book directly with you.
Examples include: Lower costs, no OTA fees, access to better/more homes, help with travel planning, local recommendations, expanded customer service, exclusive offerings, and more alternatives for late checkout/early check-in/stay extensions.
Why the #BookDirect Day Campaign Works
Vacation rental travelers are likely to be connected with multiple providers through email and social media. When vacation rental providers come together to send the same message on the same day, the increased frequency of the message has a larger chance of breaking through the noise and resonating with guests.
Why it Matters
In a post-COVID world, we’ve seen a substantial decrease in direct marketing efforts among vacation rental managers. It seems that any new entrant can list their homes on Vrbo and Airbnb and generate bookings. With the increase in demand for vacation rentals, this strategy has worked well enough for many vacation rental managers and homeowners. New companies do not yet understand 1) the higher value of direct bookings, 2) the risk of OTA dependency, 3) the increased ability to better manage expectations and communications with direct bookings, and 4) the stability that repeat guests provide for the property manager and the homeowner.
#BookDirect Guest Education Day serves as a reminder that direct bookings simply mean more with:
- Higher stay values
- Longer stays
- Longer booking windows
- Better communication with guests
- Less risk
- Better customer experiences
Let’s look at some data from Key Data over the last four years, including ASV, average length of stay, and average booking window.
Higher Average Stay Value
The average stay value (ASV) in the US for property managers in 2021 was $1,915 for direct bookings, $925 on Airbnb, $1,714 on Vrbo, and $679 on Booking.com. at $925. On average, it takes two bookings on Airbnb to equal one direct booking. Over the last four years, the percentage difference has remained fairly consistent across channels.
By comparison, the average daily rate (ADR) in 2021 was $320 for direct bookings and $229 on Airbnb per Key Data.
Longer Average Length of Stay
Part of the reason for this is that consumers who book directly stay longer on average. For US property managers, the average length of stay (ALOS) for a direct booking was 5.8 nights, while the average stay was 4 nights on Airbnb, 4.8 nights on Vrbo, and 3.1 nights on Booking.com.
Longer Average Booking Window
Another key advantage of direct bookings is that direct consumers book earlier—by a lot. The average booking window for direct shoppers in the US was 83 days. In contrast, the average booking window was 32 days on Airbnb, 64 days on Vrbo, and 28 days on Booking.com. For consumers, this also means that many of the best homes are not even available on OTAs by the time they go on these sites to book.
Managing Risk and Guest Expectations
Vacation rental providers have significantly more control over direct bookings.
- Set and manage guest expectations
- Upsell with special offerings
- Better communicate with guests before, during, and after the stay
- Control cancellation policies, refunds, and date changes
- Improve the guest experience
- Educate guests who have never stayed in a vacation rental before about the differences between private home accommodations and hotels.
- Limit OTA dependency
Whether or not your company chooses to participate in the 5th Annual #BookDirect Guest Education Day, we strongly urge you to take this opportunity to 1) compare the value of direct bookings with those coming from OTAs, 2) educate your guests about the advantages of booking directly with you, and 3) put a strategy in place to convert OTA bookings into long-term repeat guests.