A lot took place over the last year in the world of vacation rentals. 2017 brought on a lot of change and many new challenges for all involved in the vacation rental market. These rapid changes even had software providers scrambling for solutions to keep up with the ever-changing vacation rental by owner market. Many vacation rental providers also had to make drastic changes to their businesses and processes. This is Tripz.com’s year in review and what we see coming for the year ahead:
The OTA Invasion
The sale of HomeAway/VRBO may have been announced late in 2015 but the effects of that acquisition hit hard in 2017. Owners and managers alike had a good idea as to what was to come when the announcement was made, but did little to prepare for ensuing changes. The changes started simple yet frustrating with the introduction of the service fee to travelers. However, that was the tip of the iceberg regarding the drastic changes that effected vacation rental providers.
So, what were the changes that impacted the industry most? Well the most basic and likely damaging difference was taking away the identity of the provider and open communication. Providers advertising with HA/VRBO can no longer openly communicate, share links, exchange contact info, and must solely communication through the HA/VRBO Platform. This created major issues not only for providers but for the integrated software providers that have systems in place to share documents, links, quotes and more and no longer have a direct email to do so. A couple more changes in the vacation rental world are the work arounds and patches to keep business functioning.
Following the communication breakdown and the ripple effect caused in the industry by this big change, all providers were forced to enable the online booking feature on HA/VRBO if they were going to continue advertising. Now this is not a bad move per se, however, statistically as much as 40% of transactions in private accommodations occur by check…. not an ideal situation when trying to check out online for many travelers and providers. This was a decision made by HA/VRBO to ensure that they can collect their service fees from travelers, in addition to making the site more functional for travelers.
We won’t get into the changing algorithms of their Best Match and the industries view of the impact that had on many providers, and we will also leave the newest announcement of the Match Back commission alone until the effects of that are better known.
Airbnb has always stayed true to their model and it’s always been a part of the platform that travelers pay service fees. No breaking news there. The bigger news is the shift of many vacation rental providers looking to add more property listings for their homes due to struggles with HA/VRBO. This is not a bad thing, but it’s well known the tools on Airbnb are not the best for large property managers, as that was not the initial conception or purpose for Airbnb. However, it’s becoming the norm as more Super and Mega Hosts are popping up.
The shift of larger providers moving to Airbnb is not a detriment, unless you’re a single home owner who is likely getting drowned out by the onslaught of these Mega and Super Host. This also means more travelers are being subjected to higher rental rates due to Airbnb’s service fees. Much like HA/VRBO, when you advertise your vacation rental on Airbnb you can only communicate through their platform and cannot share links, contact info, or any other form of info not available locally on Airbnb.
The one positive with the influx of homes onto Airbnb is the hope you will get more affluent travelers and those able and willing to pay the advertised price. It’s well known that users on Airbnb are prone to look for discounts and if vacation rental providers do not discount their rates, the traveler will move to the next listing. It can be a frustrating environment unless providers simply price below market value.
The New OTA Life
With all the changes to the big two of HA/VRBO and Airbnb, what was 2017 like in the vacation rentals space of OTA’s? Well, for one, commission is the new subscription, leaving vacation rental providers scrambling to find an outlet to advertise that can generate bookings without stifled communication while avoiding commissions. They are also fighting against their guests being charged a service fee which effectively raises their rates, and doesn’t provide any added value to the traveler’s vacation. Tripz.com has seen a significant increase of properties coming from owners fed up with giving up large percentages in commissions, having their guest charge unnecessary service fees, and worst of all communication controlled and monitored. Tripz.com is giving back control of advertising to vacation rental providers and aiding in their long-term success.
2017 – The Year of New Websites
Given the invasion of OTA’s in 2017, the vacation rental industry saw a rise in focus on new websites and improving existing ones. We are not talking about listing sites trying to emulate what Tripz.com is doing in offering a solid platform with true open communication, direct bookings and no service fees or commissions. No, we are talking about the vacation rental providers and their focus on having a stronger web presence or and web presence at all.
It’s true, many of vacation rental providers had little to no online visibility and were reliant on sites like OTA to drive their business. This of course was a glaring mistake considering the shift of advertising platforms into booking platforms with a focus on commissions and service fees. What we saw is a major shift in focus of these providers to look internally for ways to improve their businesses and increase rentals outside of the OTA’s
This meant for many establishing a web presence for the first time. For others, it meant adding content and value to their site in the form of points on interest, and blogs. We saw a big push for vacation rental providers to navigate the SEO algorithms and attempt to gain more organic traffic to their properties. Tripz.com as an advertising platform aided in this push by ensuring all properties advertised on Tripz.com included backlinks to the providers websites to help them build domain authority on their properties, brand, and house names. Tripz.com also rolled out Branded Profile Pages for vacation rental providers to provide even more online exposure. These Branded Profile Pages allowed users to choose their branded URL’s and create more value for their brand and more links to their site and social media outlets.
Integrations and Large Property Management Companies Soaring
All this change, coupled with vacation rental providers searching for new outlets has brought integrations to the forefront. If a provider has 20 properties listed on 5 or 6 sites they are now trying to keep up with 100+ ads. Without integrations or at the very least iCal links keeping the calendars up to date this is quite the laborious task. This takes away from what a vacation rental providers true job is, providing a quality vacation experience for guests.
As mentioned earlier many vacation rental providers are barely getting a quality web presence, let alone having the resources to set up integrations. Granted, many property management software’s have many integrations already in place but are not always a simple plug and play, and do come at a cost.
Certain facts have led some owners and even property managers to throwing their hands up in surrender. They have let larger entities take these processes over. Now, you get into companies like Evolve Vacation rentals who will take a vacation rental provider’s home, push it across several distribution channels and charge a 10% commission. There are slightly different takes from other larger providers like TurnKey Vacation rentals and Vacasa, and all have their variations to the property management approach and marketing.
So, What’s Next?
There are a couple things we know for sure. Vacation Rental providers will continue to look for ways to stay relevant and build their brand and web presence. Integrations will continue to be a point of focus not only on the advertising side but the operations side as well. Finally, vacation rental providers will be looking for new sources to produce bookings where they are not trapped into commission models and their guests being forced to pay service fees.
As vacation rental providers get ready to tackle 2018 and make these changes, many are taking advantage of the open platform Tripz.com gives them with open communication with guests and direct bookings without all the fees. In addition, Tripz.com is helping providers with their branding and SEO to ensure clients stay relevant and have the tools needed to grow rather than spinning their wheels to increase bookings by 10% or more only to have that taken right back in commissions.
2018 should be an exciting year in vacation rentals and no doubt will see a ton of change.