Meet Kevin Clausner, SuperControl user and Co-owner of Berehayes Holiday Cottages situated in Dorset. Kevin has kindly shared his experience of finetuning Berehayes marketing mix and explains how booking sites such as Airbnb have kept his business booming all year round.
Two cups of direct bookings, a dash of marketing and a drizzle of support from online travel agents (OTAs) is my secret recipe for ensuring my self-catering properties are bustling throughout the year.
Before embarking on my journey into the land of using OTAs such as Airbnb, I’d have shuddered at the thought. Why would I split the bill with these platforms when direct bookings work fine? Fine being the optimum word. I didn’t want a fine volume of bookings; I wanted a fantastic volume of bookings.
As all great success stories begin, it was my co-worker and wife who pushed me towards exploring Airbnb as a tool to increase our visibility and bolster bookings. I had my reservations – would I lose control? What about commission fees? Will we attract the wrong type of audience?
Throwing caution to the wind, we decided to experiment with Airbnb and put the platform to the test. We selected one of our eight cottages and generated a listing to investigate Airbnb’s capabilities. The proof was most certainly in the pudding. After realising our blind spots during May and September were quickly filling up, it wasn’t long before all eight of our properties were listed with Airbnb, and as they say, the rest is history!
What surprised me the most was how supportive and straightforward Airbnb is as a host. I, like many others, had been spooked by tales through the grapevine about online travel agents and their intricacies. While receiving more bookings is an obvious benefit of utilising platforms such as Airbnb, I found there is so much more to it – I feel like I’m part of something bigger. It’s not only a funnel for demand; much like SuperControl, it’s also a community.
It’s been five years since I first dipped my toes into the online travel agent pool, and I wouldn’t look back. We have spent this time truly fine-tuning our marketing mix to ensure our business has credibility, visibility and consistent demand. Since broadening our horizons, around 30% of our bookings come from Airbnb, 30% from other online travel agents and 40% from direct bookings.
After reflecting on Berehayes experience, I have pulled together my top five insights from harmonising our channels of distribution:
1. Let’s face it, with no hosts; there would be no OTAs! Before refining my marketing mix, I shared fears that booking sites (notably Airbnb) favour guests over hosts. I’ve found that this isn’t the case. Drawing on my own experiences, they really do want to support you and work on your behalf.
2. Airbnb’s two-way review system is truly revolutionary. It provides accountability on behalf of both parties to be respectful, considerate and kind. Berehayes has generated some wonderful reviews through Airbnb, which we now use on our own website.
3. Get savvy with your pricing. Often, the most uninviting element of booking websites is the commission fee. The beauty of integrating through SuperControl is that you can uplift your price to cover additional costs. Over time, I’ve come to realise I spend just as much marketing my property for direct bookings via directory sites as I do in commission fees – it all adds up in the end.
4. Gain guests trust. In the modern world, many travellers want a quick, simple and user-friendly solution. Not only does utilising booking websites increase your properties visibility but also their credibility. Guests recognise and trust big brand names such as booking.com, Expedia and Airbnb – use this to your advantage.
5. There’s no strings attached. My best advice would be to give online travel agents a try! There’s no commitment, and with SuperControl, it’s as easy as clicking a button to remove your listings if it isn’t for you.
While I’m a fan of OTAs in the marketing mix, it’s important to note that I don’t endorse putting all of your eggs in one basket. Direct bookings should remain a key focus for self-caterers. By distributing your eggs in the right places, you’ll be on to a winner.