More and more Airbnb hosts are realizing that they need to diversify their Airbnb marketing and advertising. Airbnb is a nice launching pad for new hosts and properties. But, if you want to move to the next level of lodging, you need to diversify and increase your presence. In a past blog post, I answered clients questions on which OTA’s (Online Travel Agents) they should work with. Each OTA has a niche and a following. Read here more about choosing an OTA. In addition to understanding the right channel for your property, you need to understand the infrastructure that you should start creating to be successful on these channels and to eventually own your identity and business. I just want to clarify that the use of the word Airbnb used in this post is meant to refer to a property listed on Airbnb. Many hosts refer to their property as an Airbnb, not as an independent property. For this article, Airbnb is used to convey a property on Airbnb, not the platform.
Let’s dive into Airbnb Marketing: What you need to know about being on the Big OTA’s
- You need a reservation system with a channel manager. If you are going to be listed on different channels, you need technology to organize the flow and the bookings. There are different ways to do this. You can have a reservation system and add a separate channel manager, you can have a reservation system that includes a channel manager, or you can have a reservation system and just independently link to individual OTA’s. There is a system for everyone. SuiteRev can help you figure this out. Price and experience are a big determining factor here.
- Expedia Group and Booking. com both have partner portals. Both of these companies have designed their portals to help you maximize revenue and service. Just as in Airbnb, you can see what competing listings are priced at and review suggested pricing. The OTA companies reach out to each and every guest and ask them upon check-in how service was. You are updated if the guest responds, and you can reply with instant reply’s or write a personalized note. These updates from the guest can be used to solve any issues the guest might have during their stay. This is a function that is not in Airbnb.
- The ability to join group marketing. In the partner portals, you can sign up for joint marketing or create your own special for the week, night or last minute. This is a really great tool to use when you want to fill rooms last minute or during the high season. An important key here is the big OTA’s have global reach and an amazing amount of followers. This is where the travelers are and your special will be in front of them if they show an interest in your geographical location.
- Higher commissions than Airbnb. You will have to do a cost analysis for this one, but most likely it will be a benefit for you.
- Expedia Group and Booking.com are considered the end of the funnel. In sales, there is a theory of the funnel. The top of the funnel is when someone is looking at different places and considering a trip. The big OTA’s have proven time and time again that they are the place where the traveler goes to buy the lodging, not necessarily look. Trip Advisor, on the other hand, is not as far down the funnel. Many use the TripAdvisor platform to plan a trip.
- You will need a more professional presence with a brand and assets. A website, logo, and niche should start to develop if you are going to be in the professional arena of the OTA’s. Your property will be in front of hundreds of millions of people. Create something that is lovely to look at. A website will also help you obtain direct bookings in the future.
- You need a database. You will need to collect your new guest’s email upon arrival. The big booking engines do not show guest emails in confirmations to the property. There is an OTA specific email, just like Airbnb. It is important to have the client contact information so you can start to develop your own network and direct market in the future.
- You need quality pictures, square footage measurements, and better descriptions. Expedia Group, for example, wants you to have at least 4 pictures per room, pictures of common areas and pictures of all bathrooms. Here is a link to the suggested requirements.
- You cannot put OTA’s on autopilot. Each month you will receive an invoice for commissions. The report will need to be audited. You will need to confirm that each and every reservation was paid for and that each guest arrived. In some cases, you will have to confirm the commission rate. Did you sign up for a network special with a higher commission? Did the cancellation get noted in the portal? You have a very short reconciliation period. If you let the invoice go unchecked, you could be paying more than you should be. SuiteRev has a monthly service to audit your OTA accounts for you.
- Be ready when you turn that channel on. The reservation will come in and you will see an immediate uptick. The important thing here is to not turn that channel on until you have all your systems in place. Make sure your pricing is accurate and your rooms are ready to go. If you need to hire staff, get that in motion.
- Design your property to AAA requirements. This is a simple way of knowing you are supplying what travelers expect. Here is a link to the star ratings.
As with all new business endeavors, this step is exciting. A new avenue of advertising opens up new revenue and new doors for you to grow. But also with all new business endeavors, you should walk with care. There are policies and terms that should not be taken for granted. When you play by the rules, you will optimize your experience on the channels. The OTA’s do penalize you for not following T&C clauses. You should follow the price parity clause of keeping consistent pricing through all your channels. (In another blog I will address how to get around this without being penalized). You should also start to build your own identity. Ultimately, you should get more direct bookings. Just as Airbnb was a launching pad to the big boy OTA’s, The big boy OTA’s are a launching pad for you to grow and become more independent. Let’s talk about making your Airbnb a solid business in the lodging marketplace. Call SuiteRev today.