In light of the recent $3.9 billion dollar sale of HomeAway comes changes.
Lots and lots of ch-ch-changes.
Most recently, HomeAway has added travelers fees to the checkout fees on all of their network websites. It means a very simple thing: your guests are now shouldering the load of HomeAway’s new marketing expenses and taking money out of their wallet.
Critically, it means that your guests are now going to realize several key elements.
- Guests are getting the same rentals for more money — booking direct offers no difference an experience compared to booking with the listing sites.
- Fees are now a deciding factor in vacation rental pricing — now a clear divide in the hotel vs vacation rental space is the addition of consumer-facing line item.
- Smart guests will look for a reason to book direct, but HomeAway will attempt to limit this by any means necessary.
The message is getting more clear: savvy guests will look to owners to provide a direct booking experience that saves them money. Here are a few ways to communicate the value that direct-booking provides.
By far the best way to convert former guests is with an email marketing campaign. With the proper segmentation, you can export guests who have stayed with you and booked via VRBO/HomeAway and then encourage them to “Book Direct”. Booking direct with you will let them save cash, let you offer up better service and let you build your brand even more.
Sending an email marketing message to past guests to let them know about the change is the best way to educate guests about the changes happening right now. As an extra boost, you can take your average booking price and show your guests the amount they’ll save by booking direct. Average weekly rates for many of my clients are around $1,400 — by booking direct, you’ll save $140 in travelers fees from the big listing website.
Copy is the forgotten marketing medium that’s not as exciting to talk about, but can make a huge difference. Bringing in your USP to your ad copy is a great way to stand out in the crowd with your ad messaging for Google AdWords, for example. You can use both Callout Extensions and Sitelink Extensions to mention your “No Travelers Fees” copy. By creating a landing page (or blog post) that shows how much you’ll save by booking direct and avoiding fees, you can explain the situation in detail and convince your guests with stellar copy on how to book direct.
Writing a blog post can be a fantastic way to share that you’re a no-traveler fee rental business. To best get this blog post in front of your guests, promote the post via Facebook Ads to allow for as many of your fans to see the blog post.
I’d recommend promoting the Facebook post to current page fans as well as a custom audience from all of your past guests that booked via a listing site within the past 18~ months. For more information on Facebook Ads, check out my post on campaign ideas.
Due to the fact that HomeAway is hiding their fee until checkout, savvy guests will look for the fee there from now on, even if you’ve never charged the fee before! Adding a small disclaimer is beneficial to let the guests know that you don’t charge any traveler fees, instead likely only charging the needed taxes and cleaning fees. A simple call-out or other element on your website will help communicate this to guests.
Phone traffic to your business is perhaps the best 1-to-1 marketing messaging you’ll ever get as a vacation rental manger: don’t waste it. When potential guests call, make sure to let them know that booking direct is a great way to get the best experience: pay less for the same rental. Once guests are educated about how to best book and proceed with their reservation, you’ll be more likely to convince them to book direct.
How Are You Dealing With Travelers Fees?
I hope the list above gave you some quick-start marketing tactics you can work on to get more guests booking direct. Building your vacation rental brand isn’t a one-time event, it takes years and lots of interactions with guests just like the ones above. Digital, personal, 1-to-1 and even copy all play a role in the trust you’re looking to build. That being said, do you have a tactic to let your guest know? I’m all ears in the comments below.