The Ultimate Guide to Vacation Rental Direct Bookings [2024]

If you're thinking about taking direct bookings for your vacation rental, here's how to get started and how to successfully drive more bookings — and avoid any headaches.

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Taking direct bookings is one of the best ways to take your vacation rental business to the next level. Direct bookings can supplement your Airbnb, Vrbo, and other OTA bookings, reduce fees, and encourage more repeat bookings.

In this guide, we’re going through each of the steps you need to take to start making direct bookings a significant part of your vacation rental business strategy.

The Benefits of Direct Bookings

Getting set up to take direct bookings requires a little bit of extra work. So why bother? Here are a few key benefits to taking direct bookings.

Reduce fees – While listing on sites like Airbnb and VRBO is a great way to get exposure and bookings, being completely dependent on these sites for bookings has its drawbacks as well. You are at the mercy of their fee structure (like Airbnb’s 13% guest fee), and they determine your ranking in their search results. This means you can remove booking fees (and offer a discounted price for direct booking) or keep the fees for yourself.

Keep your traffic – Also, any traffic you send to your listing, through your own marketing efforts, will be shown a list of recommended alternatives to your property, which appear at the bottom of your Airbnb or VRBO listing.

Reduce dependency on OTAs – With your own direct booking website, you can eliminate your dependency on online booking platforms like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com. While listing on sites like Airbnb and VRBO is a great way to get exposure and bookings, being completely dependent on these sites for bookings has its drawbacks as well.

Getting Set up for Direct Bookings

Before you start taking direct bookings, there are a few things you’ll want to have in place first.

Insurance – Most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover vacation rental activity. If you’re renting your property outside of platforms like Airbnb, it’s essential that you have short-term rental insurance coverage. Check out our list of short-term rental insurance companies, or get a quote in 5 minutes from Proper Insurance.

Direct Booking Software – From a technical standpoint, taking direct bookings is very easy these days. There are tons of vacation rental management software options that allow you to take reservations, accept payments, and sync your bookings across multiple platforms. The features to look for are a direct booking engine or a website builder (to accept bookings and payments) and a channel manager (to avoid double bookings). All of our recommended PMS options include these features.

Pricing Software – Pricing tools like Wheelhouse or Beyond aren’t essential for taking direct bookings, but we highly recommend using dynamic pricing software to maximize your revenue. Here’s our list of the best pricing tools.

Contracts – You should have a legal contract or “Terms & Conditions” that your guests must agree to when booking. In some areas this is legally required, but either way, it’s a good idea to protect yourself and your property. Make sure the vacation rental booking software you choose has this option. Most do.

Taxes – Platforms like Airbnb usually collect the required taxes for you. Taking direct bookings means you’re responsible for collecting and submitting taxes. You can learn more about the taxes collected by Airbnb to get an idea of what taxes you should be collecting and reporting on your own.

How to Get More Direct Bookings

And now you’re ready to start taking direct bookings. But unless you have a marketing strategy in place already, don’t expect the direct bookings to start pouring in.

With repeat guests, friends and family, and guests you find through your own marketing, you may be surprised how many direct bookings you can start to get. And this number will increase over time as you continue to market your property, provide a positive experience for your guests, and benefit from even more repeat guests and word-of-mouth marketing.

To get more direct bookings, here are a few great places to start:

Repeat Guests – Keeping direct contact (whether through email or social media) with your past guests is a great way to encourage repeat bookings. This is also one of the main benefits of direct bookings — you’ll no longer be paying booking fees for guests who were going to book with you anyway.

Social Media – If you have an Instagram following or an active Facebook page, you’ll want to promote the link to your direct booking website. Check out our guide on social media marketing for vacation rentals.

Email Marketing – Email marketing is one of the best ways to market to past guests. If you have an email list of past guests, it’s easy to market to them. We recommend starting an email list (you can use software like StayFi Vacation Rental WiFi). Check out our post on vacation rental email marketing to get started.

Website & Blog – There are lots of ways to drive traffic to your website through search engines like Google. Once you’ve created your website, check out our vacation rental content ideas, as well as our guide on SEO for vacation rentals to turn your website into an effective marketing and direct booking tool.

We hope this helps you get a better sense of what you need for direct bookings! For more ideas on how to get more direct bookings, check out our Vacation Rental Marketing Guide.

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