Tina Villis

IS AIRBNB ALL IT IS CRACKED UP TO BE?

Christmas in July

For those of us in Southern Australia, July is generally the coldest month of winter, leading us to celebrate ‘Christmas in July’. These festivities emulate the atmosphere of the northern hemisphere winter. So that means hearty food like roasts, and warm drinks in front of fireplace. In that spirit we’d like to explore a ‘hot topic’, something that everyone is talking about world-wide, worth as much as $42billion, is captured in one word: AIRBNB.

Diamond Christmas Crackers
Airbnb; all it’s cracked up to be?

As many of you may have booked and stayed in a property advertised through Aribnb as a guest, or are thinking of using Airbnb to rent your property and become a host, I thought it was timely to discuss some of the opportunities and obstacles, as we ponder the question – is Airbnb all it is cracked up to be?

The word Airbnb is on everyone’s lips. Similar to Uber, Airbnb is part of the sharing economy, with the brand operating as a framework for those who actually possess the product. Airbnb simply facilitates contact between hosts and guests, although even this is changing. The undeniable truth however is how from the company’s humble beginnings it has continued to rampage across the holiday rental market, forcing the old hands to reconsider their operational models. It has spread so quickly that “Airbnb” has become a verb; people are saying “let’s Airbnb it!” When I talk to people about Australian Luxury Stays and explain that we provide short term holiday rental accommodation, they respond by saying “oh, you are Airbnb?”

Airbnb is still growing at a jaw-dropping rate at 100% year on year growth in Australia, leaving other major Online Travel Agencies like HomeAway well behind.

So what caveats should a potential AIRBNB HOST be considering?

  • The biggest issue is the limited ability to screen guests or in some cases, to even talk to them before they book. Yes, you can check guest reviews if there are any, or resort to searching social media for their footprint, but this is an unsatisfactory checking mechanism.
  • The massive growth of Airbnb equates to a saturated holiday rental market, which means that competition is rampant and occupancy rates lower.
  • Letting strangers into your home might not mesh with everyone; even if it sounds good on paper, the reality of the experience can be confronting.
  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst; a simple search reveals an abundance of Airbnb horror stories, however, these extremes aside, hosts must prepare for the inevitable over-crowding, cleanliness issues, unadvised parties and noise complaints from neighbours.
  • If you are reliant on an OTA such as Airbnb for your visibility, you are tied to their fate; you will want to keep an eye on relevant legislation and remain prepared for the wind to change.

 In turn what should an AIRBNB GUEST be considering?

  • There is always a danger online that what you see you might not get on arrival. A mild example might be a photo of a barbecue pictured in the listing not being present in reality. It doesn’t hurt to confirm with host.
  • Learn about your host before booking, and engage with them once you have. Courteous, effective communication should be your host’s first step to welcoming you for your stay.
  • Refund policies vary from listing to listing; for cancelling at short notice, you may be out of pocket even with extenuating circumstances.
  • There may be issues with an inexperienced host who has not considered safety precautions, for example, potential trips and slips, or the property lacking a fire extinguisher or fire blanket… or enough toilet paper for a full house.

The big thing to remember for both hosts and guests are the commissions charged by OTAs – as much as
5% to the host and 13% to the guest. 

The long term goal is the growth and encouragement of the #bookdirect movement, but of course not everyone has the facility and must rely on third-party listing sites. This will save you money whether a host or guest. As a host, your own website may be seriously worth considering. Guests of course are encouraged to do the research! Booking direct can make for significant savings, but also potentially a better accommodation experience as you interact with your prospective host.

At Australian Luxury Stays screening guests is one of our most important tasks; we encourage phone communication so there is the smoothest possible experience for both the guest and the owner, but we like to ensure that our guests are as comfortable as possible as well!

Meanwhile, the Airbnb band wagon is certainly trundling along despite the pitfalls. With over 100 million stays in 2017, it may be worth further investigating to decide if Airbnb is really all it is cracked up to be – for you.

If you are a property owner considering an Airbnb listing for potential income, we are happy to discuss this opportunity with you. Contact Australian Luxury Stays today!

Wishing you a Happy Christmas in July.

Warm Regards

AUSTRALIAN LUXURY STAYS TEAM

Tina Villis

HOW TO CONVERT GUEST SEARCHES INTO DIRECT BOOKINGS

For many holiday rental owners and short term accommodation managers their main source of booking generation is through listing sites and online travel agencies. The short term accommodation industry is becoming more lucrative than ever and competition is aggressive.

In light of the recent changes in booking sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway, many owners are looking to provide direct bookings via their own websites. There has been a shift in the way guests search by finding properties on the booking sites, and then searching on Google for the same accommodation at a better price.

SO HOW DO WE AS OWNERS AND SHORT TERM RENTAL ACCOMMODATION MANAGERS CONVERT GUEST SEARCHES INTO BOOKINGS?

  • MENTION YOUR BRAND ANYWHERE AND EVERYWHERE

You need a strong brand that is identifiable and easy to find – include it in your listing copy, watermark your photos with your brand, making it obvious to your audience who you really are.

  • OPTIMISE YOUR WEBSITE

Although guests are leaving booking through listing sites in favour of #bookingdirect they still expect their experience to be of a high-quality standard. When guests land on your website you will need to make sure it is perfectly optimised for booking conversion; this means a seamless experience, quick loading time, mobile-friendly, professional photography and most importantly a booking system that allows online payments.

  • GATHER GUEST INFORMATION

Capture guest contact information from guests who have booked via third party booking sites – you can attract repeat guests before the first booking is even over. This will allow remarketing to them via email campaigns and social media marketing.

  • OFFER GREAT BENEFITS TO BOOK DIRECT

Offer price match guarantees, discounts for booking direct, freebies on arrival, for example, bottle of wine, breakfast or picnic hamper, restaurant voucher, an early check-in or late check-out. This makes direct bookings much more worth it!

  • CREATE MEMORABLE GUEST EXPERIENCES

Guest who have a seamless experience when they visit your website are much more likely to convert. So, answer enquiries quickly and in a professional and friendly manner. Respond by email and if you really want to impress them and increase the conversion rate pick up the phone and speak to them directly.

Build a lasting relationship by personalising the guests holiday experience. This will encourage them to come back and book directly for their next booking or recommend your accommodation to their friends.

  • STAY IN TOUCH AFTER DEPARTURE

Promote special deals to gain repeat bookings by email campaigns. Another suggestion is to stay in touch via other means such as Viber, WhatsApp, Skype, Instagram and Facebook building closer relationship.

  • KEEP YOUR BRAND CONSISTENT

Ensure your brand is consistent across all sites, including third party booking sites, on your own website and on social media. This will help establish your brand, create trust and credibility. Just remember that guests will go to a competitor if you have a poor listing especially on the major listing sites.

  • ASK GUESTS TO BOOK DIRECT

Savvy guests are constantly comparing the market to find the most suitable and affordable offer. Every time you speak, email a guest or make contact on social media, mention your website and let them know that they can book direct to avoid fees. As the saying goes “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”

BY FOLLOWING THESE 8 STEPS WILL GIVE YOU THE BEST CHANCE TO CONVERT GUEST SEARCHES INTO DIRECT BOOKINGS.

 

Tina Villis

HOW TO #BOOKDIRECT AND AVOID THE FEES

The word is out about Online Travel Agencies – Airbnb, HomeAway, Stayz, Trip Advisor to name but a few OTAs – all charge fees to the consumer. These fees can be significant, anything from 3% to as much as 20%, often equating to hundreds of dollars on top of the nightly rate. So how can travellers and holiday makers bypass the fees and book directly with the owner or property manager?

So here are 5 ways to avoid paying fees when you book your next holiday:

  1. SEARCH GOOGLE LOCAL

    Scroll past the paid listings (they say Ad in small letters) and go to the local listings under the map. Click on the search map and up will pop a range of listings for you to choose from based on location. This can be an excellent way to discover local accommodation.

  2. TRY GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH

    If you find the perfect property on one of the OTA sites, try copying the image into Google Image Search; this may reveal the original source of the property.

  3. USE TOURIST AND VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRES

    These centres provide a portfolio of short term and holiday listings, are funded by the local councils therefore the guests can be assured that rental companies and owners are legitimate, licensed and reputable.

  4. SEARCH DESCRIPTION CLUES

    Look for clues in the description on the big sites, check the photo captions and the reviews for any information that can lead you to the direct booking source.

  5. LASTLY – SEARCH ON FACEBOOK

    Most owners and rental managers have Facebook pages. You will then be able to communicate directly with the owner or manager, saving you both time and money. They also have intimate knowledge of their properties and the local area – use this direct connection to your advantage!

 

The final twist in the #bookdirect saga. Most of the finest homes are not even listed on the big websites. I encourage every holiday maker or traveller to find ways to book direct. Aside from saving money, you will have an all-round better experience. More and more of the big sites are preventing contact with the guest prior to making a booking. This lack of ability to communicate directly can be a precursor to a bad experience for both the guest and the owner or property manager.

#bookdirect #bypassbookingfees #australianluxurystays

Tina Villis

#BOOKDIRECT – What’s this all about?

The #BookDirect campaign started Tuesday February 7 2018
– so  what is this all about?

The #bookdirect Movement aims to show travellers booking online that hefty booking fees are avoidable if they book through the owner or property manager’s website. February 7 was Guest Education Day, with the objective to let guests know that it pays to book smart, book local and book direct. There are many advantages to bypassing third party channels like Airbnb, Stayz, Expedia, Booking.com, HomeAway, Trip Advisor and Flipkey. These Online Travel Agencies (or OTAs) are almost entirely removed from the hosting experience. They do not own or manage any properties; they won’t meet you at the property when a possum is running amok in your suitcase. Their business model is limited to connecting travellers with hosts. My aim for this post is to continue spreading the word to the general public; I am concerned that the majority of travellers may be unaware of the fact that when they book through these sites they are paying a higher rate for a lessened accommodation experience!

SO WHY BOOK DIRECT?

  • You save by booking direct – OTAs add hundreds of dollars to your booking total; often as a percentage so the longer the booking, the greater the fee.
  • When you book direct you have direct contact with the manager or owner. Managers and owners have intimate knowledge of the property and destination – you can find out more about the property and location; if you have special needs (say family or a pet), your host can work with you directly before you commit to booking.
  • The best price isn’t on the OTAs, and OTAs can’t negotiate.
  • Many of the best holiday rentals are not listed on the major sites.
  • During non-peak periods managers and owners can offer special deals for you to consider.

Much of the push for #bookdirect has come for VRM Intel in the US, where the trend to remove interaction between owners and guests has already taken hold; OTAs and third party booking sites have made recent changes to their business models that have been detrimental to both guests and accommodation providers (including managers, owners and hosts). Guests who insist on having a more direct relationship with their accommodation providers are reinforcing an important baseline for the industry – one built on open communication between hosts and guests.

#bookdirect #bookdirectmovement #australianluxurystays #propertymanagers #homeowners #airbnbhosts #savehundredsofdollars #saveonaccommodationbookings #avoidbookingfees

admin

#BOOKDIRECT

We here at Australian Luxury Stays value the exposure provided by our third-party Online Travel Agency partners, but the seasoned traveller will know the benefit of coming directly to book!

Aside from saving potentially hundreds of dollars, direct booking allows the guest to interact with the team actually familiar with the property and locale – we’re charming people with a vested interest in providing our guests with the best possible experience!

#bookdirect !

#bookdirect