Listing on major OTAs puts your properties in front of millions of global travellers, increasing your chances of getting consistent bookings.
However, for some property managers, the price of this exposure is a reduction in the control they have over their rentals. This is especially problematic for luxury property managers, who need to be able to review guests before accepting bookings, have flexibility when setting cancellation policies or pricing strategies and maintain consistent branding across their listings. This is harder to do on major OTA’s, which has resulted in a shift towards smaller, more specialist sites that can provide the control property managers need.
But what if we told you it was possible to reap the benefits of big OTAs without sacrificing control of your rentals?
In this article, we’ll dive into tips for maintaining control of your vacation rental business, including using the Request to Book feature (newly released on Vrbo and Airbnb and spreading fast).
The pros and cons of partnering with major OTAs
Listing on major OTA’s can be an effective way to increase your properties visibility and attract a wide range of guests. Benefits include:
- Wide exposure and global reach: Major OTAs have extensive global reach and user bases, which means your property can potentially reach millions of travellers from around the world.
- Ease of Use: These platforms are user-friendly, providing tools, tips and 24/7 customer support, making it easier than ever to list properties.
- Reviews and Ratings: Major OTA’s have established review systems, which can help build credibility and trust with potential guests.
- Built-In Trust: Travellers often trust well-known OTAs because they have established reputations for reliability and safety.
But whilst the positives of listing on major OTA’s are compelling, there are also aspects which can prove difficult for property managers:
- High Commissions and Fees: Major OTAs typically charge significant commissions and service fees for each booking. These fees can impact a property manager’s revenue.
- Cancellation Policies: While major OTAs offer standardised cancellation policies, they may not always align with a host’s preferences or property type.
- Loss of Brand Identity: On major OTAs, listings tend to follow a standardised format, which may limit a host’s ability to showcase their property’s unique features and brand identity.
- Instant Booking: While this feature can be a pro, it can also be a con if hosts prefer to have control over who stays in their property. Instant bookings can lead to unvetted guests, which may not always align with the host’s criteria.
These cons can be summed up as a loss of control: on major OTA’s, hosts often have limited control over various aspects of their listings, including pricing, refund policies, and communication with guests. In many cases, this is not a problem for hosts and the pros far outweigh the cons.
But in some cases, especially for luxury properties, this loss of control can be problematic. For example, instant booking may simply not be possible if you need to seek permission from the homeowner for the requested dates, or communicate with guests to explain house rules, make sure they’re a good fit, and verify all identity documents before confirming a booking.
But now, major OTA’s are taking note. Vrbo and Airbnb have both launched Request to Book features to allow luxury property managers to benefit from the exposure of larger OTA’s whilst still ensuring a good match between guests and their property.
How to balance exposure and control with Request to Book
On Vrbo and Airbnb, Request to Book is now available, and it’s the perfect way to benefit from the exposure of major OTAs without worrying about losing control.
And stay tuned – Request to Book will soon be launched on another major channel, making it even easier to increase exposure for your luxury properties!
The Request to Book feature works similarly for each channel.
- When you activate Request to Book, guests will not be able to book a stay at your properties with one click. Instead, they’ll have the option to message the host with a request to book for their desired dates.
- After receiving a request, you’ll have 24 hours to review the message, communicate with the potential guests, and confirm or decline the booking. This 24-hour period should be enough time to get to know your guests, verify their documentation, and get permission from homeowners if necessary.
- Bookings won’t be blocked off on your calendar until confirmed.
Note that when using Request to Book, it’s especially important to keep up with your guest messages so you don’t miss the 24-hour window to confirm a booking.
How to set up Request to Book.
You can easily switch your properties to Request to Book through our channel manager. Here’s how to do it:
In Vrbo, the booking request feature is called “Quote & Hold.”
To turn on Quote & Hold for Vrbo:
- Go to the Services tab and click on My Services
- Select the dropdown arrow next to Vrbo
- Go to Account Settings
- Under Vrbo Booking Policy, select Quote & Hold
- Click Save.
*Vrbo reserves the right to decline properties that do not meet their established criteria for Quote & Hold.
Airbnb: Request to Book
For Airbnb, contact our Support Team and request a to switch from Instant Booking to Request-to-Book.
To enable Request-to-Book you must meet the following requirements:
- Your properties must run on the Sync Everything mode.
- Your properties must not be available for instant bookings on any other sales channel.
Once Request to Book is activated, guests will see a Reserve button on your listing, and after they click this they will get the Request to Book option on the bottom of the page.
You can confirm or decline booking requests from Airbnb withon our platform and via the API.
If you reject the request to book, you need to provide a reason for the rejection.
Other ways to stay in control while listing on large OTAs
Setting your properties to Request to Book is one way to retain more control of your properties. But, there are other things you can do to ensure you stay in control:
- Process your payments as the Merchant of Record — You’ll benefit from having more control over finances, flexibility to set your payment schedule and terms, and be less at risk of declined or delayed transactions. With Rentals United, you can be the Merchant of Record for all channels that allow.
- Own your listings and reviews — Some channel managers take over your listings, which means your properties won’t appear under your business name on listing sites, and it’s harder to establish your brand and build trust with guests. With Rentals United, you always retain full control and ownership of your listings and reviews.
- Collect guest data — Collecting data (and permission) from guests means you can add them to your email list and include them in marketing campaigns. You can also encourage them to join a loyalty or referral program and get more repeat bookings.
- Create a direct booking website — OTAs are a great source of bookings, but having a website gives you the option to get some direct bookings as well. When guests book directly, you keep all the profit and can set your own terms and conditions. You can publish a beautiful vacation rental website in minutes with our My Website.
- Track your data — Analyse your performance data to see how well your properties are performing and which channels are working best for you. With our data platform Elevate, you’ll get in-depth performance and market data, plus AI recommendations to help you make better decisions and steer your business in the right direction to grow.
Get listed on large OTAs today with Request to Book
If you’ve been hesitant to list on major OTAs because Instant Book isn’t compatible with your business, now is the time to update your strategy.
By using the Request to Book feature you can reach millions of travellers without compromising your values.
Stay tuned for updates on even more opportunities to use Request to Book on major OTA’s!
Contact our team today using the form below to get set up on Airbnb and Vrbo!