Are you looking for direct bookings and planning to scale up your vacation rental business? Then you should consider having your own vacation rental website.
Having your own vacation rental website can boost your online presence, make it easier for your guests to learn about you, get in touch with you, diversify your sales and marketing channels, as well as create a brand for your vacation homes.
If you are a property manager with multiple properties, and you are considering building your own vacation rental website, this article will help you get started.
Or perhaps you already have your own vacation rental website but feel that something is missing – from functionality to design and user experience. Then this article will also be a good starting point for you to rethink if an upgrade of your vacation rental website is necessary.
We will go through all the factors you should consider – from technical to marketing aspects to evaluate if it is worth having your own holiday rental website.
Let’s dive in!
4 reasons why you need a vacation rental website
Drive more direct bookings
In a nutshell, it’s about driving more direct bookings.
Of course, without a website, you can still receive bookings directly via phone or email. If you are listed with Your.Rentals, you can also have multiple ways to get direct bookings. For example, sharing your listing link via social media to receive bookings from guests.
However, if you are serious and consider direct booking as another revenue stream, a bookable website with a booking engine can make your life much easier. Your vacation rental website can become the hub for all direct bookings. Your guests can search, find and book your holiday rentals in just a couple of clicks. More accurately, your guests can check the availability immediately, book instantly and pay securely online.
Remember, booking on your own website is not just an alternative to calling by phone or sending emails. It is fundamentally changing the way you operate your vacation rental business. A website with a booking engine can help you to secure a booking in a minute without annoying guests by forcing them to send back and forth emails to you, and avoids the risk of losing the bookings to your competitors while waiting for a response.
Nowadays travellers may spend time shopping for their travel, but once they decide which accommodation they go for, they want a smooth and instant experience. Therefore, a vacation rental website with a booking engine is essential in driving direct bookings.
Keep a greater share of your revenue
Many property managers may be satisfied with their booking volume from the online travel agency (OTA) channels such as Booking.com, Airbnb, Vrbo and Tripadvisor. They do not find it worth the time and effort on driving direct bookings.
However, with those OTAs becoming more and more dominant in your partnership, you literally do not have a say – whether it be deciding the commission fee or enforcing cancellation policies (excuse us for the honesty!).
Currently, the channel commissions are ranging from 7%-18% depending on the channel. Airbnb may appear to charge less, though there are hidden costs that many property managers are not aware of. Things may also change after Airbnb’s IPO. According to VRM Intel’s prediction, Airbnb’s transactional take rate may increase.
What can you do as a property manager? Rather than solely using OTA to get bookings, you need direct bookings to diversify your sales and marketing strategy. With a bookable vacation rental website, you can then save the channel commission fees and keep a greater share of the booking revenue.
Establish a brand for your rentals
If you are running a vacation rental business, you probably want to create a brand. So people will remember it and recommend it to others. It is especially true if you are property managers running multiple vacation rentals in popular destinations where travellers come back time and again. Or if you manage properties in a few places, a brand name can mean the same quality of services in guests’ mind.
To help create a brand, what’s better than having your own website? A vacation rental website is not just a showroom of your rentals but actually a representation of your brand. From the design and style, to the look and feel, every bit of your website just helps define your brand and contribute to the overall guest experience.
Create a hub for up selling
Apart from providing accommodations, a website can also enable you to offer other services such as selling event tickets and renting cars. We are not saying you could not sell “side products” without a website, but the up-selling of other services can be very naturally integrated to the booking process if you have a website.
Even if you do not provide those extra services by yourself, this may also give you an opportunity to do affiliate marketing, generating additional revenue for your rental business.
6 things to consider when building a vacation rental website
If you decide to build your own vacation rental website, what do you need to consider? There are many aspects like design, functions and technical support. At Your.Rentals, we have a professional team that specialises in travel and vacation rentals business. We understand your needs and how to market your rentals.
Professionally designed website templates
What is a professional design? Is it a website designed by a professional designer with nice images, graphics and layout? Not really. That’s just one dimension of it.
In fact, a professional website should be designed with user experience and booking conversion in mind. What does that mean? Apart from being beautiful and nice, the website should be designed in a way that understands how travellers and guests behave online, how they search and find accommodations, and what makes them more likely to book.
For example, should you show your properties on the homepage, or just provide a search bar and require your guests to insert the dates and number of guests before they can see your properties?
In which part of your website, should you show your reviews? Should your reviews be linked to original sources such as TripAdvisor? Or is it better not to encourage guests to leave the page to read reviews?
On your property listing page, what cover photos should you show? Should you provide “similar properties” at the end of the listing page? Should the booking widget move along when your website visitors scroll down the page? Should your listing page be opened in a new window or tab?
There are indeed many tips and tricks. Based on the understanding of your target audience and guests, and our experience in vacation rental online booking, we can work together with you to design how you “welcome” and “engage” your guests starting from the moment they land on your website.
The design (or website template) you choose should also be device responsive. That means it looks good no matter which devices – desktop, mobile or tablet – the guests are using. A mobile friendly website (website template) is particularly important nowadays when Google and other search engines prioritise mobile experience.
In addition, the website template should provide the search engine optimisation (SEO) elements including title, headlines, meta-descriptions and keywords for you to fill in. Therefore, you have more control to boost your organic traffic. Check out how to use SEO to drive more direct traffic for more details.
Integration with your booking system
A fully bookable website should be integrated with your booking system, so that all the properties’ listing information, calendars and bookings are synchronised. With Your.Rentals’ Website, all the information is updated and synchronised simultaneously at the time when bookings are made.
Therefore, any update made by you in Your.Rentals such as listing information changes will be reflected in the front end on all sales channels and your own website. And any bookings made by your guests on any of your channels or your website will also be reflected on all the others. The calendar is fully synchronised. No repeated work for you. It saves you time and energy.
Secured and various online payment options available
As mentioned above, one of the reasons why you have your own website is to have a secure payment system for you and for your guests when receiving direct bookings.
For guests, the most common payment methods are credit or debit cards (MasterCard, Visa, American Express) and PayPal.
For property managers, you can receive payout via PayPal, bank transfer and Payoneer.
In short, the payment gateway should be fully integrated with your website, and follow the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).
Securely hosted and encrypted with SSL security technology
With online fraud becoming more common these days, it is of the utmost importance that your website is SSL certified so that you gain trust from your customers. By ensuring your website meets security standards (and letting your guests know that), you enable them to feel confident in booking directly with you.
Indicate SSL certification and add secure gateways icons at the footer of your vacation rental website. Plus, detail it on the Contact us page if necessary.
Domain name and web hosting
A domain is the online address of your website. It is your unique identity on the internet. For example, google is the domain name of the site www.google.com.
Your own domain name forms the website url. This gives you and your business a professional look.
Depending on the domain, it can cost as little as a few EUR per year or much more depending upon whether it is a premium domain.
In addition, you also need web hosting to store your website’s files when building a website. After you get hosting, you should update your domain name settings and point it to your web hosting service provider.
Multiple languages available
Whether you are targeting local tourists or international travellers, you will definitely want a website that enables you to set multiple languages and currencies if you need.
Should I have a website for my vacation rentals?
With the above, you can then see if the return would be larger than the cost you need to cover. Doing the calculation will give you more confidence to make a decision.
Needless to say, having a website is a key part in building your vacation rental business.
At Your.Rentals, we have a dedicated and professional team to build vacation rental websites. Usually it takes less than a week to deliver a website if all content materials are well prepared. Chat with our Account Manager and see if they can provide a special offer for you.