In 2023 the short-term rental market continues to mature, but there are as always challenges and opportunities for hosts and property managers. In this article, we’ve collected some takeaways from our joint webinar with Booking.com where we have discussed how hosts can make sure their booking volume stands out in 2023.
Increased competition from hotels
More travellers are finding the convenience of booking and staying in short-term rental accommodations attractive (25% of EU citizens).
A Eurobarometer report across all parts of travel in Europe gave insights into why guests use platforms to book their holidays. And 89% would recommend booking a short-term rental via a platform like Booking.com.
However, the home segment (short-term rentals) on Booking.com is still not as well-established as the more traditional hotel segment.
Hotels are experiencing a huge resurgence, with incredible new packages and product innovations. They are becoming more and more creative as they tap into travel platforms, providing travellers with creative experiences to make their stay even more enjoyable.
Many private hosts on the contrary are setting their listings with tight restrictions, resulting in limited availability of their short-term rentals.
In addition to making your short-term rentals available, optimizing property listings and adapting pricing decisions based on market dynamics should be a priority.
Tips on how to win the competition
To stand out from the competition, hosts and managers should:
- prioritise availability, especially on key dates and big events
- avoid restrictions that limit visibility in search results
- adopt flexible booking policies, such as offering one-night stays
Booking.com place immense importance on the concept of sustainability, so make sure to make it a part of your offering
In other words, advance on the OTA platforms management, become more flexible and you will reach a wider range of customers.
Attention to the cost-conscious travellers
With the current economic climate, people are more aware and careful about how they spend their money. Change your positioning and you will attract cost-conscious travellers.
Guest portrait according to Booking.com
People adhere to their financial limits when travelling, even if certain trips have become more costly than before (airline tickets have doubled compared to pre-Covid level).
Tips on dealing with cost-conscious guests
What you can do to optimize your occupancy rate:
- set special prices for longer stays
- tailored packages/services based on the needs (e.g. last-minute offers)
- optimize listings for the domestic market
These strategies should help keep your occupancy rate stable and your revenue healthy in 2023.
Flex your cancellation policies
Cancellation policies are a key factor for travellers when booking short-term rentals. Guests want to know what they are paying for and expect transparency in pricing. They are also seeking flexibility, especially when it comes to cancellation policies.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Booking.com have implemented a multi-cancellation policy with varied rates so that hosts can choose from three different policies.
Initially, non-refundable bookings only made up around 5% of total reservations on Booking.com; however, the number since then has risen to more than 20%. This means a four-fold growth in nonrefundable bookings – within two years!
As a host, you should consider integrating non-refundable policies into your cancellation strategy. Combining them with other policies proves to be extremely beneficial according to Booking.com statistics.
Rate plan setup recommended by Booking.com
Fully flexible rate
The trend is shifting towards long-term planning and early booking. Guests are becoming more comfortable with booking in advance, which allows them to plan their trips with more certainty. Therefore, providing flexible booking options is essential.
This rate tends to be more expensive, but customers are willing to pay more for peace of mind. It is also the most popular rate on Booking.com, converting more lookers into bookers.
Another option for hosts to offer is nonrefundable rates. This cancellation policy can reduce cancellations by at least 9% and boost bookings by 5%.
The price for nonrefundable rates is generally lower than a free cancellation rate, making it more compelling for guests looking for the best value when booking their stay.
It is essential to view nonrefundable rates as a discount or an offer to guests. Price-sensitive guests will be attracted to this rate, allowing them to stay within your website or property page.
Early booker rate
The early booking rate plan is another way to secure bookings in advance. Offering rates five to fifteen days before arrival is usually the least expensive.
Property managers can have two setups of early booking rates:
- for guests booking 15 days before arrival
- for nonrefundable policy
By doing this, you will reduce cancellations, as customers are more committed to their reservations.
If you’re having difficulty determining the right cancellation policies for your listings, don’t sweat it! Reach out to Your.Rentals’ support team and they’ll provide helpful guidance or even configure your listings for you.
Proposed solutions for long-term revenue and occupancy goals
Country rate is a Booking.com setting allowing discount prices for guests browsing from specific countries. Using the country rates makes it possible to reach an even broader audience in your desired location.
As a host or property manager you can set up country rates for a particular country during a particular time. For example, when guests from the United States are looking for accommodations during special events like the Super Bowl, your listings with US country rates will appear higher in search rankings and have an increased probability of getting booked!
By leveraging the power of countries and staying abreast of upcoming events, smart hosts can position themselves for success and maximize bookings.
Activating mobile rates is also a great way to increase bookings. It has become the fastest-growing segment of hosts on Booking.com, with an average increase in bookings of 26%.
Before the pandemic, mobile rates were typically recommended for properties located near airports or central stations to capture last-minute reservations.
After COVID-19 people are getting used to booking accommodations while on the go from their phones. In Stockholm, for example, over 70% of bookings are made from mobile phones.
So mobile rates are becoming a must-have setting for property owners in 2023.
Seasonal sales campaigns
Seasonal sales campaigns, such as Black Friday and Easter campaigns, vary between regions and seasons. It is best to discuss with Your.Rentals account manager to determine which campaigns are available to you.
These premade campaigns come with set structures, such as a minimum discount and a specific period, making it easier for Booking.com to market them as a special campaign.
By participating in these campaigns, short-term rental accounts can receive better tagging and visibility on the search pages of Booking.com. Partners with these campaigns will appear at the top of search results.
The visibility and impact of each campaign may vary, but they provide a great boost to your exposure on Booking.com.
Adding seasonal rates with Your.Rentals couldn’t be easier: reach out to Your.Rentals team and request the Seasonal campaigns enablement on your listings!
Work-friendly badge by Booking.com
The pandemic has led to a rise in people working from home and seeking more flexibility. There’s a trend on Booking.com where people are looking for accommodations that offer work-friendly amenities. This is particularly true for home-style accommodations such as apartments.
If your property has business amenities like a desk, table, and good Wi-Fi connection, be sure to list them in the extranet.
Booking.com’s work-friendly program promotes such properties to business travellers.
Once you add the required amenities, your property will receive a Work-friendly badge, which will help it stand out and get better visibility for no extra cost.
Booking.com’s Work-friendly badge
Business travellers tend to stay all year round and are more likely to check in on weekdays. By filling out your availability calendar and offering work-friendly amenities, you can attract more bookings and extend your reach. Additionally, your property will be promoted on Booking.com’s affiliates, which sell rooms to business travellers.
Improve your listings’ content
As you can conclude from the remote working example, applying certain amenities to your listing helps you target the right audience and increase visibility in search results.
With well-set-up content, guests will have a better understanding of your property, resulting in more realistic expectations and fewer questions.
What content should be in your focus? The most important are:
- listing’s photographs
Frequency of updates
The Booking.com extranet is a living document but it doesn’t mean it requires daily updates.
Ensure you update content seasonally, such as switching to winter pictures 2-4 months before the season starts (relevant for properties in winter destinations). On Booking.com 32% of guests book this far in advance.
Speaking of regularity, make small tweaks or photo updates when necessary. It could be bi-weekly or occasionally, as the change happens.
63% of potential guests rely on photos to make their decisions. Here’s our expert guide on how to make your short-term rental photos stand out. Here, you can find anything from creative components to powerful selling elements that you can add to your photos.
When updating photos on Booking.com use its inbuilt room differentiation tool, which allows hosts to tag images with amenities according to the guests’ search expectations.
Did you know that at Your.Rentals you can get a FREE listing lift-up on OTAs? We call it Listing Engagement Optimization (LEO) and you are more than welcome to try it out!
Facilities and services
For those travelling by car, 66% need information regarding parking facilities. When amenities are clearly explained along with what is received in return for the price increase, 50% more paid upgrades take place (according to Booking.com).
To enhance your guests’ experience, you can provide them with valuable information about the nearby area, which will enable them to make the most of their stay.
Think about listing your important facilities both on the property and on the room level. That way you can stand out in search results even more.
Sustainability and inclusivity is a trend
Booking.com promotes initiatives on sustainability and inclusivity because as they’ve found out 81% of travellers told they would prefer to stay in a sustainable property.
The Booking.com sustainable travel program recognizes and supports accommodation partners who take sustainable measures.
To be part of the program, partners can go to Booking.com extranet and fill out a sustainability tab with their initiatives and sustainability certifications. Partners who join the program could stand out with the Travel Sustainable badge. They attract travellers who are looking for sustainable stays, generate cost savings, and reduce their environmental footprint.
Booking.com is also working on integrating the API with Travel Proud, a program that makes travel more inclusive for LGBTQ+ travellers.
Partners on Booking.com can complete an online training session to ensure that they can deliver inclusive services and receive more visibility to LGBTQ travellers (Travel Proud badge). Accommodation partners who commit to the Travel Proud practices receive a badge that highlights them as “Proud Certified.”
Accommodation preferences of Europeans
A Booking.com survey of nearly 18,793 European travellers has unveiled some remarkable findings. Here are a few takeaways from the survey:
- Shorter trips have a big appeal, especially for guests from the Netherlands, Belgium, and France.
- 57% of participants in the region prefer to stay in a hotel.
- Apartments have become the second most popular type of accommodation, with 27% of respondents across Europe expressing a preference for them, especially those from Germany, Spain, Croatia, and Sweden.
- 44% of participants expressed their intention to go on a beach vacation in 2022.
- In France, 40% of respondents planned to travel to villas/vacation homes.
- Italians favour Bed and breakfast, 40% of them would choose this option in 2022.
- 53% of travellers would return to the accommodation they enjoyed the last time.
Booking.com survey of European travellers, 2022
How can you use this data? For example, you can implement mobile discounts for French guests if you manage a villa type of accommodation. Or invest your time in earning positive reviews and be open to any feedback from customers.
Once you have a deeper understanding of the OTA settings and upgrade your listings, you can expect a boost to visibility on search pages.
Travellers have become more cost-conscious and planning ahead 2-4 months in advance, so stay proactive in updating your information on OTAs.
Take control of your cancellation policies and establish multiple policies to guarantee more adaptable bookings.
As remote working has grown in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic, travellers are seeking accommodations that provide space and facilities for working.
By taking part in sustainable initiatives such as Booking.com’s Travel Sustainable Program, you will be able to stand out from other competitors and draw in even more customers looking for an environmentally-friendly stay experience.
With this knowledge at hand, you can advance as a host and win the competition on the travel channels!
This comment is on the Booking.com BDC) article.
This is our first season with BDC and so far it’s been very problematic with a 75% cancellation rate. On the advice of articles such as this we offered free cancellation. We have now stopped this as it caused significant issues for our business and operations. I don’t think any prepayment was being taken by BDC, so in effect people were blocking our calendar to shortlist. As soon as we stopped free cancellation we were booked on VRBO where our policy is a 50% deposit up front and free cancellation within 30 days. Unless BDC can challenge this practice by not allowing too much flexibility with things like free to reserve and cancel, along with payment later, many hosts will think as we do, it’s lesson learnt, use VRBO next season and forget the rest.