What is #BookDirect Day?
Championed by Amy Hinote and the team at VRM Intel, the Third Annual #BookDirect Guest Education Day, is February 5, 2020 – and is recurring on the first Wednesday in February every year. With a multitude of new travelers searching for vacation rentals, vacation rental managers and homeowners will join forces for one day with a singular message to let travelers know that there are many advantages to bypassing third-party channels and booking directly with management companies and homeowners.
Why Every Host Should Care
There’s been a lot of chatter over the last year in regards to the inaugural #BookDirect day. Some say it became a movement all about price while the originators maintain it’s all about educating guests on the benefits of booking directly.
To me, I have to agree with the later and personally feel like the movement is bigger even than that. While I do feel that some have been a bit quick to make booking direct ALL about price, I think the spirit and intention behind the movement is what we need to stay focused on. With that, here’s my perspective on it all:
I am a big believer in doing what is right for you when it comes to owning a vacation rental. I hear from a lot of owners who simply cannot understand why anyone would list their home anywhere but Airbnb. I hear from those who refuse to work with Airbnb or HomeAway and only accept bookings on their own website. I hear from those (and personally fall into this camp) who do a combination of it all.
While people tend to have strong opinions on this, I personally don’t believe there is a one size fits all approach to where you market your home. The key is making sure you understand the upside and risks of all options and then make an informed decision that works for you (don’t worry, that’ll be a post for another day). However, regardless of how and where you market your home, the fundamentals of marketing still apply. One of the biggest is to know your value and what you bring to the consumer. In this case, that’s the guest.
I’ve spent my entire career teaching other businesses about this principal yet, when challenged to really think about it for my own rentals early on, it was hard. But, it’s something you simply have to do. If you can’t tell potential guests why they should book your home over the others in your area, how are they supposed to? On days like #BookDirect day, it challenges us all to think about this. That’s just one benefit of today.
Beyond the actual booking source is something greater, though. YOU. It’s all of the time and effort you put into your vacation rentals- whether they’re your own or you manage them for others. Even if you choose to solely market your home using Airbnb or VRBO, once that booking is made their involvement usually ends and your hard work begins.
On my own vacation rental website, I wrote a blog directed at guests about what #bookdirect means to my husband and I. In it, I shared what goes into our process: “Behind every reservation we’re in the background taking notes on why each guest is coming to town; our rock star professional cleaning crew is cleaning every crevice in the home whether it looks like the last guest touched it or not; I am going behind them fluffing pillows, restocking coffee, making sure the key code works; and during your stay, waiting on the ready to answer questions like ‘where can we get chicken and waffles on a weekday?’. It may be a lot of work, but making sure our guests feel welcome from the moment they walk through the front door of our homes is something we love and take pride in.”
With all that goes into making your vacation rental successful, why would you let an OTA booking website own your identity as an owner or manager? Let me share with you an example not related to the vacation rental space to showcase that point:
A few weeks back I wanted a gluten free donut (pre-New Year resolution, for the record). I have my go-to places but I wanted to try something new. I searched “gluten free donut Nashville” on google. I found a place right around the corner from one of our rentals called East Park Donuts & Coffee. They ended up having amazing gluten free donuts AND matcha green tea. Of course, I took pictures, posted them on Instagram, tagged East Park Donuts & Coffee and told everyone about the amazing donut and tea I just had because it was basically like a little slice of Heaven.
Now, imagine for a minute that since I initially found East Park Donuts & Coffee on google, I took a pic, tagged google and told everyone they need to go have a google donut and tea. You’d probably be scratching your head, right?
I know this may seem like a far fetched example but its really not. In this instance, Google was the marketing platform that connected me to my donut but East Park Coffee & Donuts made the donut and the experience. Now that we all want donuts, let’s bring this back to vacation rentals…
Airbnb, VRBO, your own website, referrals from past guests… they are all the marketing platforms that connect you to guests but YOU and YOUR HOME are the experience. YOU and YOUR HOME are the brand. Make #bookdirect day today about that!
For my own vacation rental homes, last year I really debated whether or not to do a special offer for the day or to simply drive awareness using the #bookdirect hashtag. My concern was falling into the “price is the only distinguisher” trap. In the end, my advertising brain won and I decided to offer a free night stay for any 4+night booking in 2019 if they booked any time that week. Here was my logic:
1) People are more apt to share when you have a compelling offer. More shares equals more awareness and that is what today is all about.
2) We just re-launched our website with a new design and fresh content so I wanted create momentum to drive traffic.
3) On our website, we already reiterate why a guest should book directly so I felt like the foundation was in place to do it right and let the promo serve as an urgency incentive rather than the only incentive. And yes, price is one of the benefits we list for booking direct because let’s face it, it’s true.
In the end, I received 4 bookings that week using my trackable code on the website. Overall, definitely not too shabby.
However, this year I have opted to simply keep it simple and more about awareness- no offer. Truth be told, we’re in the middle of a brand re-launch (more on that later but Nashville Vacation Homes is becoming Southbound Stays) and sometime in the next few days our website is going to be flipping over. So… I think it would cause far more confusion for our guests if that happens when they’re in the midst of looking for dates or booking. Likely, I’ll be back with an offer next year, tho
Whatever you choose to do- or not do- I encourage you to think about what #bookdirect really means and to participate in some way. Once you’ve done that, share with your family, friends and guests in whatever way you can: social, email, your website. I’d love to hear what you’re doing to make the most of today.
All the best,