Book Direct: A Better Way to Book Lodging

The #bookdirect movement is getting bigger every year

1/9/20

Have You Woken Up to Booking Direct?

Lower fees. More personalized. Safer.

In today’s world, it’s easy to assume progress is always beneficial, and convenience is always better. But what are consumers compromising in the name of progress and convenience? In the case of Alexa, it’s data ownership. With online media, it’s data security

And in the world of lodging? Progress and convenience came in the form of online travel agencies (OTAs) like AirBnb and HomeAway, but it’s meant higher guest service fees, safety concerns, and hiccups and hassles that can be difficult or impossible to resolve.

But unlike the more complicated examples of data ownership and security above, there’s a fairly simple way to avoid the growing number of problems associated with OTAs: Book directly with the homeowner or property manager. 

What Does Book Direct Mean?

“Book direct” means reserving your lodging on the provider’s website (or with them by phone), rather than through a third-party like Airbnb, HomeAway, or VRBO.

There are of course exceptions: Sites like Luxury Retreats and other high-end rental marketplaces have carved out a niche as exceptional places for luxury travelers to find the best-of-the-best rental homes. They're extremely trustworthy, and have beautiful portfolios. Where luxury travelers may need to adjust the way they search for homes is looking for high-calibre rentals on platforms with less-than-stellar inventory. 

Here are 4 reasons why so many travelers are opting to #bookdirect when planning travel.

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1. It’s Less Expensive

Yes, it is cheaper to book directly with a hotel, and the same goes for vacation rentals. The biggest factor in driving the grand total up on OTAs is the dreaded service fee. In the example to the right, Airbnb’s service fee came out to more than 11% of the grand total, and more than 13% of the total before taxes and fees.

Airbnb uses this fee to “run its platform and offer services like 24/7 support,” but frankly, this is nothing special, and doesn’t seem to keep the issues at bay, anyways. 

One of the most important reasons to book direct really is the clearest to understand: OTAs charge service fees for being a middleman. Do away with the middleman, do away with the service fees, and save up to 15%.

But how do I find vacation rentals without an OTA like Airbnb or HomeAway?

Use a search engine! A trusted search engine like Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo is actually one of the best ways to find vacation rentals and book directly. Here’s why:

  • A company’s Google search ranking is highly influenced by the number of other sites that link to it. This is Google’s way (one of them) of deciding how trustworthy and authoritative a website is. Basically, Google has done a lot of the screening for you, and there are fewer chances of running into a scam. These days, it’s virtually impossible for a known scammer to rank on the first page organically.
  • Google takes location into account. If the vacation rental company doesn’t have a physical, registered address in the destination to which you’re hoping to travel, there’s a very slim chance it will ever appear on the first page. This helps you choose from vacation rental managers who are truly local with boots-on-the-ground support during your stay.
  • You’ll see what others are saying. Reviews on OTAs are certainly helpful, but a Google search will turn up reviews from across the internet, including insights about the company as a whole, not just a specific vacation, destination, or home.

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Pro Tip:

When searching Google, go ahead and scroll past the ads you see at the top. “Organic results” are those that Google sees as the best, most relevant, most trustworthy results, and are located beneath the ads. Conversely, ads are purchased space, much like a billboard. Often the best way to search is to cross-reference paid and organic results. If a company is buying ad space but also appears high up organically on the first page, that’s a great indicator of a trustworthy company/website.

The photo on the left shows which results are paid for, and which are organic, for this specific search term. Thanks to conductor.com for the graphic. 

2. Booking Directly is Safer

In late 2019, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning to travelers to be cautious when renting a vacation home. The announcement provides excellent tips and tricks for ensuring your reservation isn’t a scam, and at the core of the warning is a message to book direct. 

The BBB receives thousands of scam complaints every year regarding vacation rentals, and we’ve even seen it ourselves. InvitedHome uses beautiful, professional photography, and unfortunately, scammers have tried to take advantage of that. We’ve found photos of our homes on other listings on HomeAway and Airbnb, and have had to get in touch with those OTAs to have them remove those listings immediately. It’s a very real problem for consumers on those platforms. 

All that said, scams on OTAs are typically pretty easy to spot. Here’s an example of a scam listing (top) and our listing (bottom). The photo is the same, but pretty much everything else about the scam listing is fishy. Particularly the headline "Beautiful house ! Ski vacantion !"

Still, booking directly with a trusted vacation rental manager or homeowner is the best way to avoid these scams in the first place.

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3. You’ll Get a More Personalized Experience

Booking direct means you’re working directly with the homeowner, or in the case of InvitedHome, someone who works solely on behalf of the homeowner. This connection, which is unhampered by restrictions on personal emails and other contact info typically seen on OTAs, allows for a level of fluidity that isn’t possible when booking indirectly

Take pricing, for example. If you’re looking to book in an off-peak or low-demand period, there’s a good chance you may be able to get a discount.

Industry secret: We’re actively trying to rent homes in the off-season. That’s a great time for you to call in and see what kind of discounted rates we can offer. You won’t find that level of flexibility on OTAs. 

When you book direct, you’ll also have unlimited access to true local knowledge. At InvitedHome, we pride ourselves on offering local suggestions and expertise, because our local teams have lived and worked in their respective destinations for years, or even decades. 

You only get one chance to make your vacation perfect, and you can’t take back a bad experience. Booking directly is the best way to ensure your trip goes exactly as planned.

4. You’ll find special offers and homes not listed on OTAs

When you book direct, you’re establishing a connection between yourself and the homeowner or property manager. Built up overtime, this connection comes with several perks. Here’s a quick rundown of how InvitedHome stays in touch with guests who book directly: 

  • 5% discount to all returning guests, plus the option to lock in current rates for dates far in the future. 
  • Access to new rentals around the country before they’re available to the public via OTAs
  • Email alerts when homes have been discounted
  • Perks, such as free tickets to events, granting special requests, personalized gift baskets, and more.
We’re here to make your vacation the best that it can be. It’s just another benefit of booking directly with the property manager.

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So what’s in it for us?

There’s gotta be a catch, right?
Why are hotels, homeowners, and vacation rental managers pushing so hard to educate consumers on the #bookdirect movement?

It comes down to creating a better experience for the traveler, and hoping we provide such a great vacation that you’ll come to us anytime you travel. And with your repeat business, we’ll personalize your stay more and more every time. We hope to create a two-way relationship that leads to seamless travel planning for you and your family for years to come. 

Vacation rental managers don’t make more money when guests book direct, but guests certainly save money—and you gain a partner in the hospitality industry at the same time.

That’s why #bookdirect is taking off. We want to make sure our guests know that OTAs, though certainly a mark of technological progress and extremely convenient, don’t necessarily mean a better travel experience. And creating the ultimate travel experience for our guests means everything to us.

This year, see for yourself why so many travelers are opting to #bookdirect, and we know you, too, will delight in the benefits.

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