On the Lookout for the Perfect Booking Channel for your Apartment?

Especially when you are starting, it is hard to create momentum and have direct bookings on your holiday rental. OTA’s (Online Travel Agencies) help you get bookings. That is because these platforms have gathered massive popularity and travellers all across the globe will log in to them to search for the best deal.

How to choose the best booking channel for your holiday rental in Barcelona?

There are downsides to using them, however. One of which is they interfere with your branding. When competing with other apartments, your brand doesn’t matter. You will get stuck in a system of ratings, prices and reviews to rank the highest. Should this be a downside? When you first start, it shouldn’t. Through this system, you can compete with big players in the field. However, in the long term, you want to be building brand equity to stimulate direct bookings.

Another downside is the commission you have to pay them. Retivo researched on OTA’s in 2016. The results? Only 53.8% of property owners who participated in the survey were satisfied with the use of OTA’s. Most of the participants were unhappy about their commissions (35%). That is why when comparing the different booking channels, we will focus a bit on the price you pay to use them.

Before we go ahead and go to the comparison part, we would like to add that betting on only one horse is never a good thing. If you choose to put your properties online on one of these, you are also depended on them. If they fail, you fail. So choose wisely.

Booking.com

Booking.com
Pros:

Let’s start with the platform which attracts the most traffic. Booking.com is a great way to get your holiday rental in front of as many people as possible. With an overwhelming 40 million monthly visitors, they will certainly help you with that.

A/B Test

Part of their dominance is their well-oiled marketing engine. It is a well-known fact that they stand out in everything related to marketing. They have a complete team committed to executing small experiments all day. Every time you enter the website you might be in one of these A/B tests. This is will stimulate bookings, therefore this can come in handy for you as a property owner too.

The main strategy of Booking.com is to have the lowest prices against its’ competitors. That is why they don’t charge a commission to the guests. If this is aligned with your strategy, this is something to take into consideration.

Cons:

Booking.com doesn’t ask for commission on the guests’ side. That means you are the one paying for it. The platform has the highest commission rate of the platforms we are discussing in this article. So that is something to take into account. Generally, commissions are 15% but in big cities like Barcelona, commissions are between 17-20%.

Booking.com has loads of visitors indeed but its’ focus is not only on renting out apartments. Travellers can go to the website to book hotels, flights, rental cars and airport taxis. holiday rentals are only a small bit of their overall focus. That is why your apartment isn’t only competing with other apartments but also with hotels, hostels and bed & breakfasts.

When using the platform you are required to allow instant bookings. This makes it harder for you to vet guests. All the other platforms in this article have the option, but it is not required.

Listing Price Host Commission Guest Commission
Free + 15 % (in Barcelona 17 – 20%) None

HomeAway/VRBO

HomeAway
Pros:

HomeAway has multiple booking channels and VRBO is just one of them. Working with HomeAway will allow you to have exposure on multiple channels. Some of the channels they own are in a niche market. This can be a good thing if you want to cater to a specific audience.

HomeAway itself became popular in the rental of houses and villas. So the platform might be better for holiday houses by the beach. It rather targets bigger groups or older couples. VRBO is similar only the apartments listed there are a bit bigger and tend to have a bigger garden. This is ideal for families with children. So because these are more segmented you know how to market your apartment on each booking channel.

HomeAway also has the benefit for you to choose how you want to pay commission. You can choose to pay a yearly subscription of $499 or pay per booking. This flexibility might have some advantages. As you decide what makes more sense for you.

Cons:

HomeAway is mainly targeted as a rental portal for holiday houses. Although you will also find urban apartments on it, people are mostly not there for this reason.

In 2015, HomeAway was bought by Expedia. This might give them an even more professional look, but changes are coming. We decided to write this as a negative because we are still not sure what direction they are taking. If you are first starting it might be a good idea to wait around a bit.

Listing Price Host Commission Guest Commission
€499 if you decide on an annual subscription Starting at 8% if you didn’t opt for the annual subscription Depends on the total fee. Usually between 5-12%

Airbnb

Airbnb
Pros:

This platform founded in 2008, is a real love brand amongst urbanists and millenials. This makes this an ideal booking channel towards them. Don’t be mistaken though, other demographics are catching up on the trend as they heard nothing but good from their younger colleagues and even children.

Airbnb is also by far the best platform to vet your guests, although it also started with allowing instant bookings, it is not required. Vetting guests for your holiday rental can be crucial, especially when your apartment is in a residential building.

customer experience

As many of the other OTA’s in this list are a bit protective when it comes to letting you contact the guest immediately, Airbnb has a perfect conversational tool. This makes it much easier to have contact with your guests before their stay. This makes it possible to provide a much better customer experience.

Travellers also tend to turn towards the platform for bookings on much shorter notice and short stays too. This is ideal if you want to fill up gaps in between bookings.

For hosts, commissions are great on Airbnb as you only pay 3-5% depending on the total booking amount. They do charge more of the commission to guests. So again, depending on your strategy this might be something you want to consider.

Cons:
rooms

It is not the biggest platform there is, and with Booking.com and Tripadvisor, you are more likely to target a larger pool of potential guests.

Many people still think that all Airbnb’s are rooms in an apartment that you have to share with the owner. Although that is not the case, this makes it harder to target families. They have more trust in websites as Booking.com because apartments can be found among hotels.

Your apartment is also amongst thousands of apartments. If you rent out an entire apartment, your price is more likely going to be a bit higher than a separate room with a shared common space. Unless people are looking specifically for an ‘entire place’, your apartment might not be as attractive when it comes down to price.

Listing Price Host Commission Guest Commission
Free 3 – 5% depending on the total booking amount 5 – 15% charged as a service fee

Tripadvisor / Flipkey

Flipkey
Pros

Tripadvisor has a lot of credibility as it is a go-to place for reviews on all kind of services in the hospitality sector. This also gives their booking platform a lot of credibility. They incorporated their review system in their booking platform too.

Although Tripadvisor is mostly known for the review part of their service, you can also directly book from there. Flipkey is a secondary site that has the same apartments but only has that as a sole purpose. This means you will be listed on two websites instead of one.

Cons

With 38 million monthly visitors you might expect a lot from Tripadvisor. The problem, however, is that they offer a broad range of services. How many visitors are there to book your apartment?

Both platforms hosted by Tripadvisor don’t offer any form of property damage insurance. As you might know, accidents are bound to happen. You can decorate your apartment as much as possible for better durability. It is possible to set a damage deposit. Only if you want extra damage insurance this can be a problem.

Listing Price Host Commission Guest Commission
Free 3% 8 to 14.5%

Wimdu

Wimdu
Pros

Wimdu could be Airbnb’s smaller European brother. The website doesn’t gain the traffic that Airbnb does. It also isn’t a loved brand as much as Airbnb is. However, because this is a growing company with fewer listings on it when travellers go to the website they are more likely to encounter your apartment.

This platform is also the only one in this list that does not charge a commission to the hosts of the apartment. Which is great news if that fits your strategy.

Cons

Yes, the traffic on the website is not as big as the other OTA’s we mentioned before. Maybe you don’t want to spend time on creating all the listings. If you own or manage less than 10 apartments, it might be worth the testing.

Listing Price Host Commission Guest Commission
Free Free 12%

Direct bookings

Pros

Whatever platform you use, it is always a good idea to set up your own booking system. Only when guests book directly through you, you have control of all the communication and you can create the best customer experience and customer service that fits your company.

If guests book directly from you, this also means you don’t have to worry about all the commissions. You have control. Stimulating direct bookings is also the best long-term strategy. This because you have control over whether or not your platform fails.

Cons

Stimulating direct bookings can be difficult, especially with the dominance off all the platform mentioned above. In the end, you might be spending more on marketing budget that you can afford. Your best bet is to stimulate direct bookings with returning guests.

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