If you’re a holiday let owner using an agency to manage your bookings, you’ll know how expensive that can be.
What’s more, using an agency to manage your bookings can reduce your flexibility and pricing control.
The alternative is for holiday let owners to manage bookings independently.
That might sound like a risk. However, with rising costs and competition, having complete control of your bookings and profits might be the way forward.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the advantages of escaping the agency trap and going independent.
I’ll also give you some powerful strategies for boosting the profitability of your holiday rental property.
1. Invest in Your Holiday Rental, Not in an Agency
I work with many holiday-let owners, and a large number face the same dilemma.
They’re tired of paying booking agency fees and commission and feeling like they don’t own their online business presence.
They’re also worried that bookings will suffer if they leave the relative security of an agency contract.
It might be time to think about making that leap for many holiday-home owners.
Holiday Lets are all About Investment
Do you build a relationship with an agency and rely on their platform? Or do you invest in your own website?
It’ll depend on how serious you are about building your business.
By signing up with an OTA, you’re investing your money in their company.
You might be able to spend your money more productively by investing in a holiday rentals website of your own.
Working with a specialist digital marketer who understands the market can transform the potential of your holiday let.
If customers are booking directly with you rather than through a third party, they’ll invest in you. Depending on your experience and requirements, that might be a more financially rewarding model.
2. Grow a Holiday Let Business With a Unique Brand
One of the advantages of signing up with an agency is that potential customers know and trust their brand. They’ll head to the booking agency website and find a holiday let that meets their needs.
That works for the customer, but it might not be convenient for holiday-home owners like you.
The problem is that when customers do this, they aren’t building an understanding of your brand.
They’re reinforcing their relationship with the agency instead.
As one of many holiday letting properties featured on a site, it’s impossible to establish a unique identity or brand.
Without that, your business doesn’t have the potential to grow.
Give Your Holiday Rental A Chance to Grow
After all, having a unique brand is essential for building a holiday let business.
Standing out from the competition is key to attracting guests. Developing a solid brand is the perfect way to do that.
You’ll certainly benefit from the generic authority of being featured on a good OTA site. You’ll just find it hard to stand out from the crowd.
So, what’s the answer?
It’ll depend on your budget, your acceptance of risk and your long term goals.
However, building a brand identity on your custom website can give you the authority and individuality you need.
You could focus on the location, the property’s history, or the unique features that make it special. You can optimise your bespoke text to appeal to your target guests.
That way, you don’t need to worry about standing out from the crowd.
3. Control Your Marketing and Reach Your Customers
When marketing your holiday rental, an agency will treat your property the same as all the others they manage. That means you’ll get the same marketing focus like everyone else.
That’s alright if your business is just the same as everyone else’s. But if you’re a holiday let owner with something unique to offer, you might need more of a bespoke option.
If you’re not entirely controlling your marketing strategy, you won’t grow your holiday let business. Working with a booking agency to develop a bespoke plan is unlikely because that’s not cost-effective.
Why give that power away?
Create Your Unique Email Campaigns
Controlling your bookings and maximising your profits is the key to managing your holiday rentals. You get complete control over your marketing by supervising your holiday rental bookings.
Creating engaging email campaigns and sharing promotions for your holiday cottages is a powerful strategy that doesn’t need agency involvement.
You’ll reach your past guests and future customers directly, promoting your property in ways that appeal to them.
That’ll build those all-important customer relationships, leading to repeat visits and excellent word-of-mouth marketing.
4. Embrace the Technology That Other Holiday Let Owners Don’t
Many owners list their holiday homes on agency sites because their online knowledge limits them.
At least, they think it does.
Using an OTA requires less technical knowledge and hands-on engagement with software packages. Generally speaking, it’s a hassle-free and straightforward process.
That’s appealing to many holiday let owners, and it might be the right decision in some cases. Those with limited time, technical confidence or understanding might be better off leaving booking and marketing to an agency.
Work With Experts and Fill Your Calendar
However, once holiday-home owners understand the bespoke bookings packages available, it’s never as complicated as anticipated.
Learning how to manage bookings systems helps many owners engage more fully right across their business. That’s great for them as individuals and highly profitable for future bookings.
Taking the time to work with experts and set up your site correctly means you’re likely to outrank your competitors.
5. Customise Your Bookings Systems to Suit Your Needs
If you’re working with an OTA, then hopefully, you can make changes to the availability of your property easily. Your needs are likely to change over time, and you should work with an agency that recognises and supports that.
Sadly, that doesn’t always happen in a way that works for many self-catering accommodation providers.
What’s convenient for you isn’t always convenient for an agency. It’s not always easy to change things like pricing and availability, and flexibility can be hard to achieve.
The real problem is that agencies don’t manage your holiday home. They prioritise the success of their own business. So when you sign up to an OTA, they’re naturally less invested in your holiday homes than you are.
Use Your own Booking Management System.
The alternative is to use a bespoke booking management system. One that allows you to oversee your bookings and benefit from the income.
A booking management system like Supercontrol is an excellent example of a user-friendly platform that integrates well with your website.
Using this option takes more engagement than handing the process over to an agency. You might find that the rewards more than make up for it.
You can find out how much a WordPress travel website should cost you here. It’s a platform that works perfectly with this type of booking management system.
6. Learn the Power of Lead Generation for Holiday Rentals
Holiday letting owners are used to expenses eating away at profits. It’s how the business works.
The fees you pay agencies for online promotion and booking (often across multiple sites) are usually significant.
To add insult to injury, you’re also losing out on the chance to build customer relationships and maximise your profits.
You might not mind that if you feel that the value of working with the agency is worth the fees.
Holiday Lets Thrive on Lead Generation
You might be getting bookings, but you’re probably not building any sustainable lead generation. And one of the best ways to get bookings for your holiday rental property is a powerful lead generation system.
That’s hard to develop when the OTA you’re working gets the customer’s details (especially their email) before you do.
Going solo empowers holiday lettings owners to develop powerful website funnels, with email marketing leading to higher, more profitable bookings.
You can also connect your social media accounts to your lead generation marketing, boosting your profile with minimum effort.
That’s a benefit that doesn’t come with an agency relationship.
7. Use Your Analytics to Boost Your Holiday Let Profitability
Good agency booking agreements can be very profitable. You’ll often get a well-filled calendar, and you can invest the time you save in your business in other ways.
That’s enough for many holiday accommodation owners, but it doesn’t empower those who want to maximise their potential.
Taking control of your bookings also means taking charge of your analytics. That might sound daunting, but understanding your data means understanding your customers.
What are their most popular destinations? What booking fees work best for which age group? Which pages on your website get the most engagement?
Understanding the power of your analytics can boost your holiday let profitability if you use that knowledge well.
That’s why taking this step with a digital marketing company specialising in travel and tourism is so important.
Using Google Analytics in Your Holiday Business
Most people have heard of Google Analytics. It allows you to track your website traffic and see where you get your guests. You can use this information to improve your marketing efforts and reach more potential guests.
Google Analytics can also help you measure your marketing campaign’s effectiveness. You can see which campaigns drive the most bookings and adjust your strategy accordingly.
If you’re with an agency, they’ll control their analytics.
That makes it harder for you to understand precisely where your customers are coming from and what they want.
It’s a compelling reason to add a booking function to your website.
8. Own Your SEO and Drive Customers to Your Business
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) focuses on content that will encourage search engines to rank your site. When a customer searches for properties in your local area, good SEO means that they’ll see your site.
The best booking management agencies will have SEO strategies that draw visitors to their websites. They’ll also have lots of authority as an agency and lots of content for a search engine to analyse.
That’s great news for them, as they’re guaranteed to get hits from prospective customers.
It’s less good news for holiday let owners.
You won’t benefit from any of that SEO authority unless the visitor happens to click on your property.
You’re more likely to build a lasting business by creating your unique SEO rather than adding to the authority of others.
You should aim to be your own authority – no one knows your business better than you do!
Build the SEO Content Your Business Needs
The solution is to build a well-optimised website for search engines and potential guests to find.
You’ll own your business’s online presence and won’t need to rely on an agency.
You can also use other marketing channels such as social media and email to drive traffic to your website. That profits your business, not the agency with which you’re working.
It’ll take a little bit of time and effort. You’ll want to work with a professional who understands the power of SEO in the travel and tourism industry.
But once you’ve built that SEO authority, you won’t need an agency to do it for you.
9. Add Value to Your Holiday Rental Offer
Highly invested property owners know their business is about more than bricks and mortar.
When you welcome guests to your holiday rentals, you provide them with an experience. One they can’t get anywhere else.
From private pools to first-class breakfasts, your offer is unique. Combined with the location, it’s a real asset.
Maybe you provide an outstanding service or organise activities that add value to each visitor’s experience. You’re probably offering extra services and hosting activities that encourage your guests to return.
The problem is that none of that gets reflected on an agency website.
It’s hard to amend an agency calendar when you offer an activity week or block out specific dates for added value experiences.
Even if you can add the content, trying to communicate its value and encouraging bookings as a result is almost impossible.
There’s just not a lot of room for scope or creativity on an agency site.
Use Your Website to Publicise Your U.S.P.
Once you develop your website to the point where you’re efficiently managing your calendar, that can change.
You can effortlessly publicise the extras within your calendar, highlighting the value of all you provide.
Have a look at the website for Oran na Mara. Working together, we’ve built a site that celebrates all they have to offer and integrated it with their bookings system.
By doing so, every activity becomes a selling point, and bookings get taken years in advance.
It’s a great example of how escaping the agency trap can boost a holiday business long-term.
10. Create the Future You Want for Your Holiday Rental
Properties listed with OTAs tend to be static. You can count on consistent income levels, but there’s rarely a sense of moving a business forwards.
After all, an agency naturally places its focus on getting a return from your property in fees. They’re not focused on the long term development and profitability of your holiday let.
That’s precisely where your focus should be; on the future of your business.
Invest in the Fundamentals of Your Lettings Business
Investing in a powerful and effective website is central to that vision, complete with a bookings management system. It’s as fundamental to your business as the fabric of the holiday rentals themselves.
- Putting every aspect of your digital presence in one place gives you control over your marketing and bookings.
- It allows you to build your brand and your SEO authority.
- It allows visitors to view your holiday rental to its full potential and book with you.
Taking control of your online website and bookings strategy is a great way to invest in yourself and your business.
By building a powerful online presence, you’re also building a platform to sustain you in the years to come.
You’ll be able to create the future you want for your holiday rental. That’s an opportunity that an agency just can’t give you.