This article will be talking about the different Online Travel Agency (OTA) platforms, the different booking platforms, namely Airbnb, VRBO and booking.com. We’re going to walk through the pros and cons of each one of them when you should use each one of them and which ones are best. So if that is something you’re wondering about, you’ve been curious about, you want to know more about, keep reading below.
Let’s start with the most popular one, Airbnb. So Airbnb is a really, really great platform. It is our personal favorite. It’s definitely where we recommend people start out if they’re looking to host a space or a property on short-term rental or if you’re looking to manage other people’s properties, that is ultimately just going to always be the number one place to start. The way that you want to look at a booking platform overall is that it’s really just a booking engine. It’s sort of like a marketing platform for your property. Now, each one of these marketing platforms does come with additional bells and whistles. So for example, with Airbnb, you get their host protection policy, which the air cover, it covers you for up to a million dollars worth of damages that a guest might cause.
That’s a really nice bonus. They also have a whole bunch of features built into their platform that allow you to better screen guests, make sure they have good reviews, all that sort of thing. So there certainly are additional bonuses on top of just the marketing they provide to you, but really that’s the main distinction there. That is really what the platform is there for is to be a marketing platform. They also do payment processing. Again, that’s fantastic as well, it takes some of the burden off our plate of collecting and paying taxes to the state and cities, but the marketing is really the main value added and the main difference between the different platforms. And that is ultimately also what’s going to cause you to want to expand out to other platforms is if the point of constriction and you having your property perform as well as it could and getting more bookings is getting more distribution, getting more marketing. So the reason we like Airbnb the best is a number of reasons.
The main one though is that they just have the biggest market. They just have the most people on there looking for properties like your typical short-term rental. Now, booking.com as another example, has a ton of people visiting there every single day looking for places to stay. However, booking.com is typically where people go to find hotels. Now, over the last number of years, they have built up way more of an audience of people looking for short-term rentals, and they’ve kind of distinguished themselves as also offering short-term rentals on their website. However, they were initially designed and built for hotels. And so a lot of people know booking.com as the place to go to book hotels, not necessarily the place to go to book short-term rentals. You can think about it. When people say they’re getting a short-term rental, they oftentimes will say, let’s book an Airbnb.
Airbnb has just become synonymous with short-term rental. So the majority of people that are looking for a short-term rental property are going to be looking on Airbnb first and foremost. So what we have seen is that when people list their properties on Airbnb, if they’re only listed on one platform, whether it’s Airbnb, VRBO or booking.com, they’re going to get a landslide more bookings on Airbnb than they will on any of the other platforms. So Airbnb is fantastic for that. We also really like that they do all the payment processing for you, makes it really nice and easy. It’s the easiest from a user interface perspective. They’ve got the best user interface for someone looking to just set up their property, start getting bookings, start taking guests. They really do make it incredibly easy. So Airbnb gets our vote as the number one platform to list on out of those three. But with that said we want as much exposure as possible so we use all 3 platforms for our clients.
Now, if you are looking, have a hotel equivalent listing, we do actually think booking.com is a phenomenal sort of second option. And what I mean by hotel equivalent is think about your one bedroom or bachelor condo that’s in a downtown or urban area that’s going to be a really kind of neck and neck. You’re going to be directly competing with hotels, but you do have a leg up on them because you have a full kitchen, your unit, maybe there’s some other amenities that you’ve got. And so if you’re going to be sort of in that same market segment as hotels, then booking.com can be a really great place to list your property because those people that are going to booking.com to look for a hotel can potentially book your place. Whereas if you have a rural, like a cottage four bedroom home, no one’s going to be going to booking.com looking for a hotel room and is going to then make the jump to book a four bedroom rural getaway.
It’s just not really going to happen. So booking.com really good for hotel equivalent properties. Now there is some nuance to using it. It’s not going to be nearly as user-friendly as Airbnb from the hosting perspective, actually getting yourself set up, your property set, accepting payments, all that stuff. So booking.com is another good option, but mostly for hotel equivalent properties.
Vrbo on the other hand is another good option, but not so much. It’s kind of the opposite. It’s the opposite of booking.com where it’s another good second option or alternative if you’re looking to get more exposure for your vacation rental listing. Because again, V R B O, it stands for Vacation Rental by Owner. And so the majority of the people that are going there are looking for vacation rentals. They’re crowd tends to be people that are more kind of used to booking like a vacation rental in Florida, that sort of thing.
And so there’s not nearly as many properties on V R B O as there are on Airbnb and there aren’t as many guests that are looking on V R B O, but there are still people looking and typically those people are looking for whole home listings and are willing to pay a little bit more typically is what I’ve found. So you can command a bit higher rate on V R B O, but you’re just not going to get as much volume of traffic to your listing and therefore you’re not going to get as many bookings.
How to expand your business
Now the next question becomes when should you actually expand? Should you just launch on all three of them right out of the gate? Hey, what’s the downside in that? Should you expand slowly? And our answer there is that you really want to focus on solving the point of constriction in your hosting business, whether you’re managing other people’s properties, managing your own space, you really want to look at your goal, look at where you’re at and figure out what is the main point of constriction here.
And so what we see people doing often is they list their property on Airbnb, they’re not making as much money as they want, and so their initial response is, okay, let me list it on booking.com and V R B O so that I can get more bookings and make more money. And though that seems logical at face value, it’s actually really illogical because in most cases what’s happened is the reason that that host isn’t getting as much revenue as they would like on Airbnb has more to do with their pricing strategy or their listing optimization or other factors and not so much to do with the amount the volume of traffic actually going to their listing. So in other words, if you take a machine that is fundamentally broken, think about it like a car. If you take a car and the engine’s broken, pouring in more gasoline to the fuel tank is not going to make the car go any faster or further, it’s just going to fill it up with gas.
And so similarly, if you have an underperforming listing where the photos aren’t optimized, the listing isn’t optimized, the pricing isn’t dialed in, and you expand that out to VRBO or booking.com, you’re just going to be getting more gasoline on that fire, you’re going to get more people seeing this fundamentally underperforming listing. So what I generally recommend people do is I always like to do a deep dive with people and ask them, let, let’s look at your photos. I’ll just look through their photos and nine times out of 10, their photos could be better. And then the next thing I want to look at is the listing headline, the listing description, the rest of the kind of body of the listing and see, okay, is that actually optimized? Then from there, we can look at their pricing strategy and their pricing strategy.
Essentially you want to make sure that you’re pricing your property appropriately for the different seasonal periods of the year, different days of the week, all these different factors. And so 99 times out of a hundred people aren’t doing those main key things properly, and when they are at that point, that’s when it makes sense to go and expand out to VRBO and or booking.com or other platforms because at that point you’re taking a machine that actually is running as well as it possibly can run, and now you’re just filling it up with more gas so it can go further. It can go better. And so that’s ultimately when you want to expand to other platforms is when you’ve really got things dialed in. And what we recommend doing is expanding out to VRBO or booking.com after Airbnb, depending on the type of property that you have.
So if you have a hotel equivalent property, you’ll want to go on Airbnb first, then booking.com. Second, if you have a vacation rental listing, you’ll want go on Airbnb first and then VRBO second. And then the important thing to remember as well, this is a really big mistake I see people make as well, is that they just go and expand out and they think it’s going to be the exact same. And the reality is there are nuances to each platform, both in the way that they operate and in the way you want to optimize your property on them. So you can’t just go and expect that you’re going to take your listing on Airbnb, port it right over to VRBO without changing anything, use the same exact pricing and do everything the exact same. There’s definitely a lot of similarity, but there are a few key differences and nuances to the way they work, the way you collect payments, the way you should be screening guests, the way you should optimize your listing, the way you should set your pricing.
There’s slight nuances to each of those, so make sure that you don’t just go in blindfolded and try to do the same thing on both platforms. It just isn’t going to work nearly as well. And so if you do all that properly, then what’s going to happen is that in most cases, the lion’s share of your bookings are going to come from Airbnb and then you’re going to get some more coming in from VRBO or booking.com, kind of filling in those gaps. Now, we’ve also talked about on this channel, another way to do that to fill in some more of those gaps is to get repeat bookings through your own direct booking platform. So that’s a way of what we do is we like to collect email addresses from every single guest that stays with us, and then we can send an email blast out to them to invite them to book again and do it directly through our own direct booking platform so we can avoid that 15% fee that we’re paying to Airbnb or whatever other booking platform.
Sunny Vacation Rentals
If your looking to get into the vacation rental market here in Southern Utah. Give us a call we are licensed real agents and can help you find the perfect income producing property give you advice on managing the property or if you want a hands-free experience let us manage it.