On our last joint webinar of 2023 with Booking.com we spoke of how to get more short-term rental bookings in the upcoming year. For the majority of our attendees, 2023 was a good year. 37% felt it was better than the previous one, 47% – the same, and only 16% thought it was worse. But how can vacation rental hosts further enhance performance for an even better outcome in 2024? Let’s break down some key points backed up by the Booking.com insights.
Areas of vacation rental listing optimisation
There are four main focus areas of optimization for your vacation rental property:
- Quality photos
- Rates and cancellation policies
- Ranking and search visibility
By investing your time and effort in these areas you will create a strong foundation for your short term rental business.
You have the power to determine where and how you utilise your assets. We encourage you to broaden the number of distribution channels and aim to maximise your visibility, ultimately reaching a broader customer base.
When it comes to individual listing’s settings strive to use a multitude of successful practices:
- Get listed on many online travel agencies (OTA) or sales channels
- Open your calendar for the next 16 months
- Enable long stays for 30+ days
- Remove restrictions for short stays
- Be available on the high-demand dates
Leverage as many OTA as possible
Instead of limiting yourself to just one or two channels, consider exploring as many as possible. It is fascinating to observe that in the past 15 years, specifically around 2010, OTA bookings accounted for approximately 20% or even less of the global booking market.
Currently, the occupancy rate often exceeds 70% and occasionally even reaches 80%. As a result, it is imperative to incorporate OTA channels into your overall strategy.
Enable long stays
To enhance your experience, Booking.com now offers extended availability for both short and long stays. This means you’ll have the flexibility to book for more than 30 nights.
Stay broad with your min/max stay in your listing settings
Remove restriction for short stays
Avoid imposing long minimum stay requirements. By staying flexible and paying attention to high-demand dates, you can accommodate more guests.
Since the pandemic, there has been a significant reduction in the booking window, which refers to the number of days before check-in that people make their reservations.
Depending on the season, location, and demand, it’s relatively easier to fill gap nights without strict booking rules.
Consider the base price that aligns with the market. Plan discounts and provide relevant information about your property to offer customers clarity and encourage bookings.
It’s OK to capture all photos with your smartphone. While they suffice for now, ensure the resolution is optimal and follow our big article on how to take clickbait vacation rentals photos.
To capture the perfect shot, it is generally advised to explore various angles, leverage natural lighting, and incorporate attractive elements such as flowers or clear blue skies.
The power of influence with a single flower or a vibrant painting
Free photo editing app for your short-term listings
Your.Rentals has good news for those willing to experiment with photo enhancement techniques at no cost.
With assistance from Your.Rentals customers success manager, you can utilise Meero mobile photo app for free. This app helps capture room photos at the correct angle and enhances them.
At You.Rentals you can get free access to a property photo enhancement app
Even if you’re capturing photos on a day with a less-than-ideal sky, technology can step in to enhance your images without the need for a professional photographer.
This is a highly recommended practice for hosts seeking to enhance the quality score of their listing on the property page of Booking.com.
Your.Rentals analysis reveals a significant impact on bookings based on quality scores. Having a score between 90 and 100 increases bookings by 1.8 times compared to scores between 70 and 80. These findings highlight the significant impact of photo retouching.
Easy way to start Airbnb business
Your.Rentals is here to assist you build great vacation rental listings on 50+ channels.
A rate that is not just a price on a listing. It’s a perfect combination of price, cancellation policies (and its options), booking window, and length of stay – that helps the host to show the right price at the right time.
By carefully setting rate plans, you can:
- increase your booking rate,
- minimise cancellations, and
- eliminate last-minute discounts resulting from a lack of advanced planning.
Free cancellation policies
On Booking.com there’s a cancellation policy that allows guests to cancel within a specific time frame before check-in. There are different options for free cancellation, such as flexible time frames, which guests prefer in many cases. Cancellation policy can also be partial and nonrefundable.
Guests can cancel their reservation up to 7 or 6 days prior to the check-in day. However, for the Super-Strict option, cancellation is only possible up to 30 days before check-in, with a partial refund. Additionally, there are a few other options where a portion of the reservation is paid in the event of cancellation.
Booking.com recommends flexible cancellation options, as it is the preferred choice for 73% of travellers. These will have a direct positive impact on conversion and assist in securing more bookings.
If we choose to be more flexible, it doesn’t mean there will be more cancellations. The Booking.com data reveals that offering flexible and free cancellation policies leads to a boost in bookings, positively impacting conversion rates. The cancellation rate across cancellation policies with a Free of Charge (FOC) period remains relatively stable regardless of the cancellation window – 6, 7 or 30 days.
Internal data from Your.Rentals confirms the notable trend of increase in nonrefundable bookings observed in the past two years. This indicates that hosts have discovered the benefits of offering a mix of options to accommodate their guests.
Optimal rate plan from Booking.com
There’s a proposed strategy offered by Booking.com on how to use all these cancellation policies for maximum performance. Hosts setting these rate plans on Bookng.com get 5% or more bookings, 11% higher visibility and 9% less cancellations.
You need to combine three options depending on the booking window and listing price:
- 1-14 days – non-refundable rate with a discount
- 15+ days – early-bird rate for potential travellers booking in advance
- All time – fully flexible rate with a flexible cancellation period
Within Your.Rentals, you can set a combination of 3 different cancellation policies. To cater to a wider market, offering a free cancellation policy at a slightly higher price is advantageous. This way, guests can pick an additional option if they desire. And finally there is a non-refundable option which cannot be reimbursed.
Default cancellation policies in Your.Rentals listing builder
After the pandemic, Booking.com noticed an increase in customers residing abroad for short periods. As a result, competition has grown, with more properties offering competitive prices to cater to this particular customer segment.
So, in addition to your base rate plan, think if you want to introduce Weekly and Monthly rates for these particular travellers. This is especially good to be used for low-season periods, if your property is exposed to seasonality.
Using longer-stay rate plans secures you a calendar filled in advance, a steadier revenue flow, and reduced workload.
Example of a rate plan strategy
We talked about different rate plans in combination with the cancellation policies. Here is one example of how you can build multiple rate plans to max out your bookings.
First, you set the standard rate with your base price and maximum flexibility that you can afford, let’s say 7 days (free 7-days cancellation policy).
Next, you offer the non-refundable rate, where guests can enjoy a 10% discount in exchange for their commitment. It could be even 15% if you are focused on the cashflow.
As an extra step, you can offer an early-bird discount or a Longer-stay discount with 15-20% price adjustments.
Free 7-days cancellation
Promotion or restriction
More than 60 days in advance
Longer stay rate
More than 30 nights
Ranking and search visibility
Booking.com’s dynamic ranking
Every traveller has their own expectations and search preferences. The Booking.com platform receives over 28 million total reported listings with unique combinations of amenities and settings.
The goal for Booking.com is to make a perfect match between the guest request and the most relevant properties. The parameters used for this match are called dynamic data, hence we end up with Dynamic ranking.
For a host, this means that each property is not in competition with the best-in-class properties, but rather with the best options that cater to the needs of every individual traveller.
Booking.com specific settings
For effective multi-channel promotion of your short-term rentals, one should regularly update the listings with all available amenities. This affects ranking, as we mentioned.
But each platform has its own settings, which can make editing multiple facilities from a single account a nightmare.
At Your.Rentals we’ve introduced the new button for Booking.com called Manage Settings.
It allows you to focus on key vital aspects of Booking.com, but may not hold the same significance for other channels.
By providing additional information, you can enhance your property’s ranking on Booking.com and aim for improved conversion rates.
Channel specific optimisations often result in improved reviews as well
Achieving a desirable score can be challenging, but setting realistic expectations in advance with quality content can greatly benefit your service and overall business reviews. Additionally, if you created your listings 1-3 years ago, it’s time for a refresh.
The competition is increasing, as of 2023 there are 7 million listings on Booking.com that are homes. Many businesses invest time in creating appealing listings. We strongly recommend you to also allocate time to adjust the optional Booking.com settings for better results.
Know your market
Understand how the guest booking process works and delve into your direct competitors. Take Booking.com as an example, where the journey begins with a search box. From there, guests select dates, choose a country, specify the number of people, and explore the available results.
Once they click on the listing profile they’re able to get more information and all the details.
From the very first photo to the final amenity mentioned in your description, your listing need to stand out from the competition.
Country rates and mobile rates
You can think of specific seasons or specific countries that you want to attract visitors from. For example, if you want to attract more American customers you can have a specific rate that will show only in that country. This is called Country rate at Booking.com.
Many professional hosts on Booking.com use specific mobile rates to give a discount to people willing to book from their mobile device.
Mobile browsing accounts for up to 80% of all searches and they have a lower drop rate. People tend to be more focused on the booking process and are less likely to switch browser tabs compared to desktop users.
Both Country rates Mobile rates are coming soon at Your.Rentals platform. This means you can stick to one channel manager if you want to go multi-platform and not depend on one OTA like Booking.com.