Updated: Apr 20, 2021
Sick of Airbnb overruling your cancellation policy?
Looking to charge guests for damages without having to beg an Airbnb support team member?
Want to make an additional $150 for every $1,000 booking?
It’s 2021 and time to take control of your short-term rental business.
As much as Airbnb and other OTA’s are a great way of achieving new bookings...
Unfortunately they own your traffic AND your bookings.
Which means you have to operate by their rules.
The great thing about “Direct Bookings” is that you have full control...
You don’t need to pay any booking commissions.
Now, there’s a few ways you can facilitate direct bookings...
So first I’ll run through the pros and cons of each option...
Then my recommendation and how to do it while limiting your liability.
(It’s important to remember that the OTA’s have their own terms of service for guests to abide by. So if you try and take bookings direct, you need to be covered.)
Option #1: Direct Booking website
So there are two ways you can get a direct booking website.
You could choose to engage with a web-developer, who will build you your own custom website where you can take direct bookings.
This will cost you anywhere from $1,000 upwards.
Alternatively, you can do it yourself!
“But I don’t know ANYTHING about creating a website!”
That’s okay, you don’t need to!
Website development has changed a lot in the last few years.
There are platforms like “Wix” which provide you with ready-made templates you can plug in, change some photos and you’re good to go.
Simply go to Wix.com.
Then create your website from their list of templates.
Here's what I'd recommend for a direct booking website...
Select "Business" templates:
Then select "Create Your Own Website With The Developer":
Then search "rental" in the top right hand corner to display some great holiday rental templates you can use:
Once you select the template that you like the best, you can edit it within the Wix editor.
I’d recommend giving Wix a go before engaging with a developer.
Basic plans are free if you use their domain, or you can opt in for their premium service from as low as $14 a month.
Who knows, you might find it easier than expected.
Full control over bookings
No booking commissions
Costly if you hire a developer
Learning curve required to build yourself
Requires self-marketing for bookings
Option #2: Houfy
You may have heard other hosts preach about the new website “Houfy”.
Think of Houfy like a hybrid between Airbnb and your own direct booking website.
You can get started for free by listing on their “marketplace” and they don’t charge any commission on your bookings.
If you wish to create your own custom booking website (with unique URL), you can do it for $59 to $99 a year.
Recently they’ve also released a new feature for hosts who wish to receive “additional exposure”.
Depending on your area, you can be looking at $10 to $20 a month for this boost in visibility.
You can list your property on the website very easily by pulling your data directly from Airbnb and instantly start taking direct bookings.
Houfy is a great first step for anyone looking to explore the possibility of direct bookings.
Easy to get started
No booking commissions
Can get bookings without marketing
Although they don’t charge commissions, you’re still relying on a third party platform for your bookings. Therefore you don’t have complete autonomy.
Option #3: Channel Manager Direct Booking Website
Looking for an option that will cost you nothing to get set up, not charge a cent in booking commissions and still have full control over your bookings?
Then a channel manager is your best bet.
Outside of the VAST array of benefits of using a channel manager, many offer to provide you with your very own direct booking website that will instantly sync with all your calendars.
Although not very customizable, it has everything you need to get up and running, create a custom domain and start taking bookings.
Personally, I use HostAway as our channel manager and direct booking website.
This is a great tool if you have a large portfolio of properties and are looking for a customizable approach to managing your properties.
HostAway will cost you $500 to get set up and around $35 a month per property.
If you’re looking for a cheaper and simpler option, I’d opt-in for YourPorter.
It costs you nothing to get set up and only a small monthly fee of $7.
I’ve used both options and both will provide you with an easy to use website for direct bookings.
Both are super simple to get set up. They pull all of your data from your Airbnb listing and auto-generate your website.
No up front cost
Small Monthly fee
No booking commission
Easy to get started
Not very customizable
When booking through an OTA (Airbnb etc), guests must agree to the booking websites terms and conditions.
If you’re using a direct booking website, it’s up to you to set your own rental terms and conditions.
The following information is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer so please seek your own professional advice before making any decisions. This is simply the methods I’ve used in the past and what’s worked for me.
There’s a couple of methods we’ve used to protect our properties with direct bookings.
The first was simple to use an “eSign” provider such as “DocuSign”.
Where a guest will want to book direct, then you send them a contract via email which they can instantly sign online to bind them to your terms and conditions/ rental agreement.
We have this agreement on our direct booking website (much like you’d see on Airbnb), where a guest must check the box before booking, saying they agree to our terms and conditions.
That way, we don’t have to send a contract to every new guest.
Long story short, I’d recommend reaching out to a lawyer who can advise you on the best way to proceed.
Just make sure you’re covered in case anything goes wrong!
Getting Bookings On Your Direct Booking Website
Getting set up is the easy part...
Now it’s time to drive traffic to your website to get you some bookings!
This is easier said than done, which is why channels like Airbnb are so popular!
With their 58 million monthly active users, you don’t need to promote your own listing, as they’ll do all the heavy lifting for you.
It’s a different story when it’s your own website.
It’s entirely up to you to drive your own traffic to your listing.
Now, there’s a million and one ways you can do this, so I’ll just touch on a couple of easy ways to get started on this blog.
First things first...
Once you’ve established a relationship with a guest, why would you get them to book through Airbnb the next time round and pay the booking commission.
A great way we’ve seen to get repeat bookings is to text message guests after they check out, offering them a discount code to book direct next time.
Make it clear that their friends can use the code too.
Even if you give a 10% discount, you’re still making 5% more than you would if they booked through Airbnb.
Plus, you have full control over the booking.
But how do you get NEW bookings?
In my personal experience, I’ve found the best way to do this is through paid Facebook ads.
First, work out what your average booking value is...
Then multiply that by 0.15 to determine how much you can pay in advertising to acquire a new guest, and still break even.
For example, your nightly rate may be $250, with a minimum 4 night stay.
Therefore your booking value would be $1,000.
So you could spend $150 on advertising to get one guest.
Now, if you spend 15% of the booking value on marketing, you won’t actually MAKE more than you would from a booking make inside of Airbnb.
But it’s YOUR booking.
You have total control over payments, damage claims, cancellations and how you want to operate YOUR business.
As your short-term rental business grows, it’s important to slowly rely less and less on third party websites and start OWNING your bookings.
If you have any questions on how to take payments or on any of the topics above, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d be happy to help.
If you're looking to learn more about how to maximize your Airbnb's earnings, click the link below to join me for my next free training event, where I'll go into detail on how we've helped hosts increase their earnings by up to 112%:
Co Founder of BeyondBNB.io