Throughout the industry’s history, online vacation rental distribution has been dominated by customer-facing platforms. Websites like Airbnb and HomeAway address travellers directly, essentially cutting B2B travel buyers out of the game.
However, as the demand for vacation rentals grows, this has started to change. GDS’s are no longer a prerogative of hotels.
Thanks to innovative tech solutions that aim to bridge the gap between short-term rentals and B2B buyers, property managers can now cast a wider net.
They can extend their distribution to retail travel agencies, wholesalers, tour operators, airlines, corporations and more. In turn, travel operators can respond to the needs of their clientele and offer them a large inventory of vacation rentals.
To find out more about this exciting shift, we asked our friends at B2Book, who built the pioneering solution to B2B distribution for vacation rentals, to share their wisdom.
Travel agencies may sound like a thing of the past – but they are far from it.
There are many reasons why people still book their holidays through travel agencies. They want expert travel advice, good deals on packages, face-to-face conversations and tailor-made travel experiences.
You may be surprised to hear that, in a 2017-2018 study, 33% of Millennials said they were looking forward to hiring a travel agent with the next two years. Of all generations, Millennials are the ones you’d least expect to book trips offline. And yet, they value the transformative travel experiences that agencies can arrange for them.
Agencies and other travel operators are important channels that have always been available to hotels through GDSs. But why have vacation rentals been missing out?
According to Fabio Bufalini, CCO & Co-Founder at B2Book, it’s because of the historical lack of tools to connect short-term rental suppliers with B2B buyers. This is the problem that B2Book, a global apartments distribution system for the B2B market, is trying to solve.
“We partner with travel agents in two main ways. Firstly, we have network agreements in place in Spain and Italy (we’re also starting in Israel and other countries soon), where we had approximately 2,000 travel agent registrations in 5 months. Secondly, by integrating with wholesalers who distribute to thousands of travel agents through their channels,” says Fabio.
B2Book aims to level the field and give vacation rentals the same global distribution opportunities as hotels. It opens up the way for property managers to access new markets and diversify their distribution with alternative channels.
The platform allows for direct contact with travel operators as well as the end customer. Property managers can decide what cancellations policies and commissions they want to apply.
It’s easy to see why short-term rental property managers need to be present on a variety of channels in today’s competitive market. But why are travel agents and other operators interested in expanding their accommodation portfolios?
“In a time when saving is one of the main selection criteria for a trip, it becomes important to offer a type of accommodation that allows families and groups of friends to be able to keep costs down,” says Giorgio Monti from Cinecittà Viaggi e Vacanze, one of B2Book’s travel agent partners.
According to Giorgio, the demand for vacation rentals is steadily growing (30% of Cinecittà Viaggi’s accommodation-only bookings are for vacation rentals), and apartments equipped with kitchens can provide truly cost-effective options.
“Until now, it was difficult to work with vacation rentals because there were no B2B channels specifically for this kind of product.”Giorgio Monti, Cinecittà Viaggi
“Until now, it was difficult to work with vacation rentals because there were no B2B channels specifically for this kind of product that would have allowed travel agencies to offer villas or apartments at the same market prices published on traditional OTAs, get good commissions and not run the risk of sharing our customers’ personal data with B2C giants like Booking.com or Expedia,” he explains.
The way Giorgio sees it, B2Book is the ideal solution, because it provides them with a large portfolio of vacation rentals, direct relationships with property suppliers and net payment. Since it’s a B2B only platform, B2Book is not a potential competitor for travel agencies and they can be trusted with customer data.
“In 2019, 22% of requests were regarding apartments. A year before – only 16,7%.”Tetiana Kondratenko, Vitiana
Tetiana Kondratenko, CEO at Vitiana, a B2B wholesaler that serves over 3,000 travel agents, agrees that integrating with a tool like B2Book is essential.
“In 2019, 22% of requests were regarding apartments. A year before – only 16,7%,” Tetiana says.
This goes to show just how much the demand is increasing. Vitiana serves the CIS market, offering hotels in 174 countries – and now, they’re expanding their offering with short-term rentals.
“Apartments are very popular among families, ‘live like a local’-style travellers and business travellers. We believe that B2Book will provide agents with a comfortable booking tool, professional support and wide portfolio,” she adds.
Besides travel agencies, there are a whole host of other opportunities for B2B distribution for vacation rentals.
Fabio tells us that B2Book is looking into opening up even more channels.
“We’re working on API integrations with OTAs and airlines that are missing vacation rental inventory. We’re also looking at corporate welfare agreements.”Fabio Bufalini, B2Book
“We’re working on API integrations with OTAs and airlines (we are starting a pilot in specific US locations with JetBlue) that are missing vacation rental inventory.”
“We’re also looking at corporate welfare agreements, like the one we’ve done with Poste Italiane. We are one of their partners and we distribute our inventory to their 130,000 employees on their intranet. We’ve built a B2C platform for them, which, of course, we can use in our future corporate welfare agreements,” Fabio says.
Opportunities are endless, and the interest of B2B buyers in vacation rentals is only going to increase.
To grant easy access to their services, the B2Book team is constantly working on establishing API connections with large property managers. They also work with a select number of vacation rental software providers that integrate with their platform. Rentals United is happy to be one of the Channel Managers that can get you listed on B2Book.
Ready to start getting bookings from travel agents? Find out how to connect with B2Book through the Rentals United Channel Manager!