Being a small business owner of a property can feel like a one-man-band who has to drum, hoot and holler for every booking that comes through, but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to do it alone. That’s why it’s not just smart, but necessary to advertise your B&B, vacation rental or boutique hotel on multiple travel sites. Read along to learn how to navigate and manage your inventory across channels and increase your bookings all year long.
You may have a beautiful website that details every inch of your property, which you’ve likely invested lots of time in perfecting. It probably provides a comprehensive understanding of the wonderful experience a potential traveler should expect, but unfortunately, that’s not enough. None of that matters if nobody’s visiting your website. You need traffic—specifically, a high volume of traffic—to be sent to your website because the conversion rate for the top 20% of the travel industry is only around 2%*. Which means the vast majority of the remaining 80%, has a sub 2% conversion rate, going as low as 1/10th of a percent. The more people who are introduced to your business means the more people who will inevitably book.
Now that you know the average travel industry conversion rate, you may be wondering, “how does this impact me?” This is important because it puts your business in perspective within the travel industry. Knowing only 20% of the entire travel industry gets a 2% conversion rate means that to be competitive, not only do you have to drive more traffic to your website for each booking, but you also need to optimize your sales funnel and spend money on advertising and marketing. Even if you were successful in increasing your impression share, you’d still be working harder for a smaller piece of the pie since you’ll still be converting at a lower rate with a smaller budget.
That means that the big players in the travel space are garnering a majority of bookings, which is where online travel agencies (OTAs) come into play. They have massive budgets, a huge staff, and dedicated teams that all work towards the goal of converting each prospective traveler into booking, and it shows. Expedia creates and shares a plethora of data and insights around traveler research. They invest in ensuring they understand each market and how to best serve them. So it’s no surprise that as of 2017, 39% of all bookings are made through OTAs with the expectation that those numbers will rise. Per Phocuswright, OTA’s market share will reach 41% by 2020, which is over $81 million in gross bookings.
But, this isn’t David versus Goliath. You’re able to list and reap the benefits of all of the OTAs’ hard work and big budgets. They’re only successful when you’re successful, and they’re confident they can get you bookings. This is reinforced by the fact that most OTAs are set up as a commission-based model. If you’re not making money, neither are they, so they are always looking to make sure every property listed is getting booked in every market. In other words, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
You want to list across multiple OTAs because you want to get in front of as many travelers as possible. People have brand loyalties and preferences with OTAs, just like any other industry. They may earn loyalty rewards, enjoy the user experience, feel comfortable and familiar with a particular brand, or maybe they just have their credit card saved. Another reason you want to make sure you’re listed across key channels is that OTAs can have different traveler demographics. Even though from the surface it may seem like OTAs are all the same, looking to capture every traveler in the market—and while that’s true—you may have noticed that each has a distinct brand and has carved out a specific identity for itself. Some may be targeting a young millennial audience looking for new experiences, while others aim for an older demographic looking to travel while sticking to a budget. Not to mention preference based on geography, global audiences have distinct preferences to different brands. For example, Booking.com is the most downloaded travel app in Europe, but not in the U.S.A. Regardless, you want to capture every opportunity that comes your way, and you don’t want to miss a booking just because someone is searching on Expedia and you’re only listed on Airbnb.
Does this seem like a lot to manage? It is. Multiple listings mean setting up individual accounts, uploading availability, and most importantly overseeing each account and ensuring it all runs smoothly without any hiccups. It’s a tedious, time-consuming process that has the potential for user error when copying and pasting all your information on repeat. Luckily companies have evolved to accommodate the needs of the modern host with tools that serve as a channel manager. This functionality acts as a hub and allows you to connect and list your availability across multiple websites from a single location, avoiding all of the pitfalls of double bookings and not maintaining up-to-date information across different listings.
A channel manager is a paid feature, but don’t let that deter you. What you get is worth much more than what you invest: a streamlined business model that exponentially grows your global reach with a high rate of return. Plug-in and start getting ready for all your new guests!