Distribution is arguably the most crucial aspect of vacation rental marketing. If your vacation rental distribution strategy is not as effective or dynamic as your competitors’, you will lose market share and see your bookings plummet.
Furthermore, the tactics that worked yesterday may not work today. While before the pandemic, it may have been enough to list your rentals on a few popular channels, upload some nice photos and frequently adjust your prices, now, vacation rental distribution is even more complex than ever.
To help you organise your thoughts about how you’re going to approach distribution in 2022, we’ve created a guide that explores all the aspects of vacation rental distribution that we think will make or break your strategy this year. Let’s get right into it.
Vacation rental distribution strategy: What should you focus on in 2022?
For the past few years, vacation rental distribution has been about much more than just listing your rentals on a handful of online travel agencies (OTAs) and syncing your calendars.
Property managers have been focused on finding ways to:
- Become less dependent on OTAs and increase direct bookings on their own websites.
- Expand vacation rental distribution to niche listing sites and other alternative channels.
- Take advantage of new, untapped distribution opportunities such as Google vacation rentals.
The common thread in all of this is diversification. The more channels you get listed on, the more visibility you’ll have and the more bookings you’ll get.
This strategy has worked well for property managers around the world, especially during the pandemic. Those who had diverse sources of bookings had an easier time navigating the wave of cancellations than those who’d put all their eggs in one basket.
However, this year, having a diverse marketing mix and a multi-channel distribution strategy is not going to be enough.
The demand for vacation rentals is increasing, but so is the supply. The competition on OTAs like Airbnb, Vrbo, Tripadvisor and Booking.com is fiercer than ever – and these sites are still the number one source of bookings for most property managers.
As a result, the only way to outrun your competitors is to be extra diligent about how you’re presenting your listings on OTAs.
In 2022, your vacation rental distribution strategy should focus on:
- Ensuring that your channel manager has reliable, robust API connections to the big OTAs.
- Periodically health-checking your listings to make sure that they’re visible, bookable and putting their best foot forward on OTAs.
- Using a combination of distribution and revenue management data to optimise your listings/rates and maximise your profits.
Let’s talk about each of these in detail.
Using a channel manager to automate your vacation rental distribution
Next to your property management system (PMS), your channel manager is the most important piece of software in your tech stack. Not only does it allow you to automate the synchronisation of your calendars, availability and pricing across all your channels, it also determines how your listings are being displayed on OTAs.
Your channel manager is your main source of truth. Most of your listing content lives there and is being pushed to your connected channels. Same with your availability, rates, discounts and promotions, amenities and more.
That’s why it’s essential that your channel manager have r eliable API connections that are well-maintained and frequently updated by the software provider’s tech team. Otherwise, you won’t be presenting your OTA listings in an optimal way, and you’ll fall behind your competitors.
Pro tip: How do you know if your channel manager has high-quality connections? Check for Preferred Partner badges! If channels like Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com and Tripadvisor recognise your provider as a Preferred Software or Connectivity Partner, that means your channel manager’s connections are up to scratch.
For example, OTAs often roll out updates to their platforms to help property managers increase their conversions. These could be anything from new Covid-related amenities to discounts and promotions.
Such updates need to be implemented by your channel manager too, or else, you’ll have to log into the channel’s extranet every time you want to take advantage of a new tool, which is time-consuming and inefficient.
At Rentals United, we go to great lengths to give you access to all the tools you need to increase your booking and revenue. For example, we add new OTA amenities to our channel manager as soon as they become available and offer extensive Booking.com Promotions and Opportunities.
If your channel manager doesn’t frequently update its API connections or implement new tools, 2022 may be the year you have to switch providers. We know that can feel like a daunting task. Check out our guide to switching channel managers if you need more information.
Health checking your listings
Once you’ve made sure your connections are stable and up-to-date, the next step is to health-check your listings.
What we mean by that is: Are your listings displaying correctly on your connected distribution channels? Does the frontend match the backend? Do guests see the photos, availability, amenities, prices, discounts and max occupancy that you want them to see?
At Rentals United, we offer various tools to help you stay on top of your listings’ health:
- The Quality Checker is a tool that automatically identifies missing fields in your listing content. This allows you to fill in the gaps quickly so your property can go live on a new sales channel without delay.
- RU Data Studio Property Health Cards are a new addition to our revenue success product. They let you generate a report based on your property data and pinpoint the adjustments you need to make to improve your conversion rate.
- Listings Quality Score is a new metric we’ve incorporated into the Property Health Cards. It’s a percentage that provides a globalised score of your listings across all your sales channels, based on factors like revenue outlook, amenities, days since the last booking, photo count and property occupancy.
These tools allow you to improve your workflows and efficiencies as you concentrate your vacation rental distribution efforts on optimising your listings.
Of course, you can also perform periodic health checks on your listings manually. It’s going to take up quite a bit of time, as you’ll have to go through all your listings on all your sales channels, checking the frontend (not just the backend!) to make sure there are no discrepancies in how your photos, amenities, max occupancy and other property details are displaying.
However, it will be worth the time investment because you may notice errors that are preventing your listings from appealing to travellers and, thus, getting booked.
Combining vacation rental distribution with revenue management
Last but not least, if you truly want to improve your vacation rental distribution this year, you need to align your distribution and revenue management strategies.
If you think about it, these two aspects of advertising vacation rentals go hand-in-hand. You can have the most well-thought-out revenue management strategy and the best prices in the world, if your listings are not showing up on sales channels in the best possible shape, you’re not going to get bookings.
Don’t let all the hard work your revenue management team does go to waste. Here are some tips on how to make sure that doesn’t happen:
- Establish clear lines of communication and alignment between your revenue management and distribution teams.
- Use distribution data to inform your revenue management decisions. Fine-tune your rates based on metrics like booking performance pickup, booking windows and cancellations, which may indicate a change in market demand.
- Don’t forget about your vacation rental reviews. These often get left out of conversations when talking about distribution and revenue management, but they’re instrumental to optimising your presence on listing sites and increasing your conversions.
Supercharge your vacation rental distribution in 2022
Vacation rental distribution is a dynamically evolving field. If you want to stay ahead of your competition, you constantly need to learn new tricks and use new tools to improve your listings’ potential for conversions.
This year, distribution managers will be focused on ensuring reliable channel connections, health checking their listings and combining distribution with revenue management.
These strategies will give you a competitive advantage, allow you to increase your bookings and occupancy and hit your revenue goals in 2022.
FAQs about vacation rental distribution
What is vacation rental distribution?
Vacation rental distribution is the process of listing your rentals on multiple distribution channels (such as OTAs) to increase their exposure to potential guests. Property management companies use sophisticated vacation rental distribution strategies to optimise their presence on listing sites and maximise conversions.
Why is multi-channel distribution important for property managers?
Multi-channel distribution allows property managers to have multiple sources of bookings and revenue instead of relying on just one OTA such as Airbnb or Booking.com. Listing your rentals exclusively on one platform is risky: listing sites can change their commission rates or terms and conditions at any time, which could have an impact on your business’s bottom line.
What are the top vacation rental distribution channels?
The top distribution channels that most property managers should get listed on are big OTAs like Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com and Tripadvisor. Depending on your location, audience and property type, you should also get listed on local and niche channels, metasearch platforms like Holidu and HomeToGo, as well as search engines like Google.