Direct Booking Sites: The Key to Making More Money

Let’s get the facts straight. You’re not just a host, you’re a business owner.

As a short-term rental business owner, you’ are taking on all the risk in exchange for what should be complete control over your business and the exponential rewards associated with providing an incredible experience for your guests.

If you don’t have a direct booking site (DBS) then this post is for you.

If you already have a DBS then you might want to consider upgrading, at the very least, your booking engine.

For any STR business owner who wants to increase their earning potential, keep reading…

WHY DO I WANT A DIRECT BOOKING SITE (DBS)?

We’ve all heard it before.

“Airbnb canceled all of my bookings during the pandemic, without notice or relief support.”

“My listings have been randomly suspended without cause and I can no longer accept bookings.”

“I just received a penalty and have no idea why.”

“My payouts are delayed… “

and on and on…

A direct booking site (DBS), gives you, the operator, complete ownership and control over every aspect of your short-term rental business. With a DBS, you can reduce your dependency on online travel agencies (OTAs) like Airbnb, own your guest relationship, become the merchant of record and earn more profit on every booking.

With more and more guests discovering your listing on an OTA then hunting for a DBS to avoid the astronomical fees, you would be doing yourself a disservice if you:

  1. Don’t have a direct booking site
  2. Have a direct booking site with a poor guest experience

Your direct booking site is the first and most important touchpoint. It’s your opportunity to convert a prospective guest and guide their experience by telling your host story.

Even if you want to rely on OTAs for demand generation, you can still use a DBS to increase profit by processing bookings through your DBS:

  • Every time you have a guest who wants to extend their stay
  • When guests want to rebook
  • When a guest wants to book directly with you and finds a way to share their contact info

WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN CREATING A DIRECT BOOKING SITE (DBS)?

Before deciding on how to create a DBS, you should consider the following:

Mobile First: The majority of guests search and book using their phones. Your DBS should be optimized for a mobile first browsing experience.

PMS Integration: Your DBS should integrate with leading property management systems (PMS) like Hostaway and Uplisting, enabling you to manage all of the most popular booking channels, including your DBS from one place.

Booking Engine: Your DBS should leverage a booking engine that is optimized for listing discoverability, speed and conversion.

Customization: A DBS is a guest’s first impression of your business. You should have the ability to elevate their experience by customizing your site to better tailor messaging and tell your brand story.

Payment Options: Allow guests to pay the way they want. Offering diverse payment options opens up your audience and increases conversion rates.

THE 3 BEST WAYS TO CREATE A DIRECT BOOKING SITE (DBS):

When it comes to setting up a DBS, there are some pretty good options out there. Let’s look at the top 3.

  1. Custom Build: A custom built DBS is tailored for your business. Priced between $5,000 to $20,000+, a custom built DBS is typically built with Wordpress and leverages a basic booking engine developed by a PMS. If built by an STR professional, your custom DBS should feature all of the plugins and customization features you need to successfully drive bookings. One thing to consider is ongoing developer, server and plugin fees. For custom builds, Boostly is the market leader.

  2. PMS DBS: Property Management Systems like Hostaway and Uplisting come equipped with a basic DBS builder, allowing you to be up and running with minimal effort. Your only cost here would be the monthly subscription to your PMS, domain fees and any other marketing techstack. Unfortunately, direct booking sites are not the core business of a PMS. Since a PMS is in the business of providing property management support, the free builders offered are often limited in customization, design and guest experience.

  3. Dtravel: Dtravel is an innovative direct booking website builder that allows hospitality operators to create a modern DBS without code or recurring fees. Similar to the way Shopify has changed the way businesses sell products online, Dtravel is changing the way short-term rental operators accept bookings. With Dtravel you get an easy to customize mobile first site on top of the industry’s most advanced direct booking engine. To use Dtravel, all you have to do is signup and connect your Hostaway or Uplisting account. Dtravel’s pricing is interesting. They take a small fee with each booking instead of charging monthly, but for early adopters, return this fee in the form of TRVL, a cryptocurrency. TRVL gives operators the opportunity to benefit from the success of a product they actually use. If you don’t want to hold the token, then you can simply exchange it for your local currency.

TLDR; SUMMARY - WHAT IS THE BEST DIRECT BOOKING SITE SOLUTION:

If you don’t want to break the bank on a complete custom build then Dtravel is the clear winner. There is zero risk to using the product. All you need to do is connect either your Uplisting or Hostaway account and you’ll be up and running in a few minutes. If you already have a direct booking site or custom build then you can still use their booking engine.

Dtravel is a modern and customizable DBS, but why is their booking engine superior?

  • Mobile-first and lighting fast, which improves the guest experience
  • Modern design and smooth user experience improves trust and drives conversion
  • You earn meaningful rewards with each booking
  • Ability to offer guests diverse payment options including cryptocurrency
  • When guests pay in crypto you receive instant payouts
  • You can control who pays the credit card processing fee
  • Offer upsells and add-ons at checkout to grow revenue on every booking
  • Attract a growing segment of digital nomads and crypto travelers
  • Access to a new demand channel through their partnership with Travala.com, the largest cryptocurrency online travel agency in the world

Dtravel has been working alongside professional short-term rental businesses to build their product. If you have any questions, want to test their product or need help swapping out your booking engine, then you can book a call with their team here.

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Just a reminder to the new folks here: Cyn and Tom are the owners and admins for this forum. Their posts are not subject to the usual rules about spam or affiliate links. They are, of course, allowed to monetize their own site for their benefit.

Please don’t flag their posts.

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An interesting post thanks for the information.

I was interested in understanding where the huge cost figures come from for developing your own website for direct bookings. I’ve used Wordpress with relevant booking plug ins and Stripe for payment including templates, plug ins and hosting it cost me around £400.

What’s the 5 to 20K figure based on ?

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I’m reading that I can book a call with DTravel. If I do I’d ask these questions. Does anyone have suggestions for other questions?

How does this compare to using OwnerRez?
Is it either/or – OwnerRez or DTravel?
When I hear ‘crypto’ these days I cringe a bit, don’t understand it. If I go with DTravel will I get real money for everything?

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This is for a custom built website where it’s built just for you and your brand. This is the premium end for property managers who might have more luxurious properties, or a larger portfolio. There’s the upfront fee plus ongoing maintenance.

For Wordpress, neither the templates nor the booking engine/widgets are optimized for short term rentals specifically so they don’t have a lot of customizations specifically for this industry nor are those templates focused on maximizing conversion, which is what a premium direct booking solution would do.

Hopefully that helps.

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OwnerRez is a property management software (PMS) that offers a website builder. Dtravel would integrate with PMSs like OwnerRez that would make it easy for a property manager to create a direct booking site in minutes using all the listing info in the PMS. The difference between Dtravel vs. the direct booking sites that PMSs offer is Dtravel is focused on just direct booking sites and on designing with maximizing conversion and helping increase revenue from direct bookings. For example, they have add-on features that property managers can customize as an offering and guests can add to a booking (e.g. renting sports equipment, cars, extra cleanings, airport pickups, etc). They also have more payment options like Google Pay, Apple Pay and crypto, which appeals to millennials and Gen-Z who tend to prefer to book direct to save money.

Totally understand on the crypto payments. This is an option but you can choose to turn it off. There’s a Stripe integration so you can choose to only accept credit cards if you wish. All crypto payments are made in stablecoins, which are cryptocurrencies backed 1-1 by the US dollar that you can transfer to a crypto brokerage to sell and withdraw the funds into USD, the same way you would if you were buying stocks.

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After years of hosting I have finally got my own DBS it’s not brilliant but’s a start, I have been marketing it on FB in the last couple of days and Im using a link tracker so I got a few hits, 48 I’m not expecting bookings just yet as my calendar is almost full into April,
I do keep all my past guest details in a Whatsapp group I’ll be posting it out to them,

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