In this week’s episode Chris and Ritchie show how to optimise your listings on sites such as airbnb and booking.com. Hereby increasing bookings and therefore profit. These sites already have a huge amount of traffic, listing your property in the right way can have a huge impact on you Serviced Accommodation business. Have a listen to this week’s episode and find out how to effectively get set up on OTA’s and optimise your property listings.

Show Notes:

The Serviced Accommodation Podcast is a show brought to you by Chris Poulter and Ritchie Mazivanhanga aimed at new and experienced property investors alike. With each show we help you Start, Systemise and Scale your Serviced Accommodation Business.

If you would like to ask us a question or discuss anything in this episode, please join our Facebook group and ask away. To listen to more episodes or get more information go to www.thesapodcast.com.

 

Transcription:

Hi I’m Chris.

Hi I’m Ritchie.

Welcome to the Serviced Accommodation Podcast.

Today we’re going to be talking about online travel agents and how to optimize your listings.

Today, we’re going to be talking about OTAs, online travel agents and there are different OTAs out there but we mainly use two and these generate the majority of bookings for our company.

We use booking.com and Airbnb, there are lots more out there but those are the two we’re going to focus on today because they generate the most bookings for us and other people we know. So the basics of an OTA are that when you list the property on there, they take bookings on your behalf, you pay them a commission and they have a large market- they tend to have large marketing budgets you know tens of millions, hundreds of millions easily. And because of these large marketing budgets, they generate a large volume of bookings which we as an individual would not be able to do.

The first OTA we’re going to talk about today is booking.com and booking.com are the largest online travel agent in the UK and Europe and they tend to have various segments, not just one particular focus or niche market. They tend to have various segments, you’ve got the leisure market, people coming over on holidays, visiting friends and family and you got business, guests and business guests are mainly corporate and you’ve also got contractors, people who come to work in the area and anything in between really.

Booking.com is mainly built around hotels so you’ve got the corporate type experience. It’s very impersonal and guests often don’t respond to emails or phone calls. You know it’s like a business transaction – bish bash bosh, you know they don’t tend to have the back and forth interaction.

To get set up on booking.com then you just need to register a new property on the extranet and if you have an existing log in for booking.com then you can do that with your current account or if you’re new to booking.com then you can register the new property and they can set you up a new account in the process.

Now the problem around this is that once you set up the account they then say okay that’s great we need to check that this property actually exists and they send you a code in a post to authenticate the property and of course what normally happens is the code disappears. So when you hear people kind of complaining about it on Facebook with booking.com it tends to be that this is kind of the issue which people experience to start off with is that okay I’ve got this property, it’s been sat empty for two months because I can’t get on booking.com that kind of thing. So beyond that, once you do have the property listed and ready to go, you do need to tell them to actually switch on the CVC code because for some reason they’ll start passing you the credit card details from the start but not the three digits on the back.

Sorry that does not make any sense. How are we meant to take payments if you don’t know their CVC code?

Well who knows but that’s booking.com and their infinite wisdom for you.

So not only do they not give you the CVC code to start off with and you need to phone them up and request that they switch that on which is normally quite easy but also when you first list the property you’re not able to set it to prepayment. So obviously there’s different payment terms that you can have you might say I want to take payment when they book, it might be a week beforehand, two weeks beforehand. Well actually when you first list a property on booking.com they will only let you take payment on the day.

Okay.

Which obviously is not an ideal situation.

And how long does this last before you can take prepayments?

Well, how long is a piece of string? Basically they have something called a trust rating and it completely depends on the number of bookings that you have, the reviews, the length of time and everything like that. It can take anything between say three and nine months before a new listing kind of reaches that trust status and they will let you take prepayment.

And how can you fast track that process and get trust?

Yeah. So what we found is that although they don’t advertise them, booking.com do have local area managers. These are people who are kind of in charge of resolving issues in a particular area and they do regularly visit the area which they’re controlling although they’re not usually based in that area. So what you can do is you can request a visit from the local area manager to come and look at your property and they’ll then be able to approve your listing without having to wait for an account code. Now they do also have the ability to white list your account. So when they come down I would very much sweet talk them and see if there’s any possibility at all that they can whitelist your account because once your account is white listed like ours is, then actually you can add properties almost instantly. It’s not quite instant, you submit your listing and someone from the office gives you a ring just to confirm details and then it’s ready to go live once they’ve activated on the phone. So it’s nearly instant but it’s not quite and it’s nearly always less than 24 hours. But what’s really fantastic with being white listed, not only do you not have to wait for the code anymore but actually you can also take pre-payment from day one on all your new properties and obviously from a cash flow point of view that makes a massive difference.

Normally booking.com pass you the credit card details for you to take payment yourself.

And preferentially with a CVC code !

That would be good and would be nice with a CVC code. Alternatively payments by booking.com allows them or gives them authority to take payment for you and then they pay you in arrears.

So payment by booking.com, it’s kind of got its benefits and its drawbacks doesn’t it Ritchie?

Yes it does.

But we don’t use it personally. The reason being that I think the drawbacks on it are the cash flow. Obviously if you’re not getting paid till the next month after the bookings completed then that’s not brilliant for your cash flow side of things. Also it does mean that if there’s a problem with the booking and for instance you have to take £40 from the credit card to pay for some damage or repairs that kind of thing. Well with payments by booking.com it’s not that easy to do that.

No, it’s a lengthier process.

So we prefer to actually have the guest card details ourselves.

We’re in control that way.

Yes we’re in control.

Now on the flip side the positives of it are that you’re not having to kind of mess around taking payments etcetera and guests details it happens quite often they enter incorrect details or that it’s not enough money on the card. And also on top of that you’re protected from chargebacks because booking.com are taking on that whole risk for you.

So you’re guaranteed to receive the payment come what may.

Absolutely so there’s kind of positive, there’s negative and it’s really down to you as to what you think is most beneficial in your situation.

And booking.com sometimes use virtual credit cards and these can only be billed on the day of their stay and only for the amount of the booking. So yet again if the customer causes damage on the property and you need to charge their card, you need to bill their card then you can’t do this with virtual credit cards.

And like you said the pros, one of the pros of this one is that you’re guaranteed to receive the payment come what may.

Yeah. And in a way it’s like it’s like payments by booking.com but for individual bookings and the cash flows kind of speeded up a little bit because okay you can only take it now on the first day of their stay but at least then you can take it to the exact day. Yeah definitely. So in that respect a lot of the benefits and drawbacks are similar in terms of being protected from chargebacks but you know also with the virtual credit cards if this damaged then you can take it off the virtual credit card can you?

No.

So once a booking has been made booking.com will enforce the booking. If guests need to stay elsewhere or if they need to be relocated elsewhere then they will charge you the difference. Booking.com tend to side with the guest when a dispute arises so if you have a problem guest or if you have any issues back and forth the guest, booking.com tend to take the guest sides straightaway.

We had an issue not long ago where a guest turned up into a perfect flat, one of our best flats really you know really good looking property and I think this person knew how to play the system. So they turned up into a flat, they had been in constant communication with the property manager prior to arriving. The turn up to the property, open the door and they phone up booking.com straight away and then they cancel the booking directly with booking.com. So they didn’t think of phoning the property manager or they knew how to play the system, they were just then relocated elsewhere and they stayed in like a five star hotel because their bill was expensive – how much was it Chris on a nightly basis?

It was £575 over two nights.

Over two nights exactly. Yes so not cheap, not cheap at all. The thing is booking.com tend to side with them so we’re currently going through the process at the moment and yeah we’re disputing this and we’re hopefully going to get our money back but booking.com begin by taking sides with the guest.

Exactly and the first we even knew about that was just an invoice and a bit out of our account for £575 which is not what you’re expecting. In fairness I expect we’ll be successful on the appeal because we’ve got photographs of the apartment which show it’s all fine but it is a very good example of their kind of attitude on things and typically how they’ve operated in the past so it’s something to be aware of and careful of.

Yes.

When we consider how to optimize our listing with booking.com then really we want to consider looking through the guest’s eyes at how they’re going to view our listing and how likely they are to actually book the property and with booking.com we really want to focus on making sure that people are clicking through into our listing from the search engine.

Now the reason that that’s the case is could we have a limited amount of control over the actual listing on booking.com. Therefore the more people who we can get from the search engine to our page the more bookings we will get. So when we’re looking then at how to optimize how our listing is viewed when people search through for results we really want to be thinking about the kind of value proposition to what we offer people. So how do they perceive the value of the property and the price compared with the kind of competition that people around you who they might also book with.

And when we’ve kind of looked at that really there are four main factors we need to consider.

First of all the price and the review rating are probably the main factors involved in that. So people kind of making this kind of trade off against okay so I’m looking for a reasonable priced stay but I don’t want to stay somewhere really horrible. So maybe searching through and kind of sorting by the lowest price and then looking for the lowest priced possible property but with a decent review rating so maybe ignoring anything below 6.5 or 7 and then going okay so what options do I have now.

Okay. So they’re slightly looking to compromise the price at a later stage based on the review yeah?

Yeah absolutely and I think people have a value proposition which they put together on that. They might then go okay so I’ve got a choice, take hotel rooms for instance. I’ve got a choice of £60 for a kind of BnB which is rated quite highly at 7.5 or I’ve got £70 for kind of four star hotel which is rated really highly at 9 out of 10. Now some guests are going to go with the BnB, some guests are going to go with the hotel but there’s a value proposition there which people are kind of looking at and they’re comparing review ratings and price.

I spoke just now about sorting by price. I think that is the way that a lot of guests do it, probably 70 to 80 percent of guests do sort by lowest price first. So it’s really important that when you’re looking at this value proposition, you’re constantly searching on booking.com for your property, you’re sorting it by price and you’re looking at exactly the same screen that your guests would look at when they can when they might be considering booking your property because really that’s the best way to look at it through your guests eyes.

Yes it is.

To actually do the same search that they would. And when you’re looking at that like I say you’ll see that the price and the review rating are a trade off, how do I compare with competitors? What do I need to change to kind of offer a better value proposition?

But the other two factors which are also important are the property type and the photo.

So when we’re looking at the property type then it’s very important that we’re able to show the full value compared to other listings because what quite often happens is that people might list the apartments on there but they just put down apartment. It doesn’t say two-bed apartment, three-bed apartment or that kind of thing. Now if you imagine that you’re searching two properties and they’ve got a similar review rating, they both look nice, they’ve got a similar price and this is still in the search engine and you look at it and one says two-bedroom apartment and one’s just shared apartment. You’re much more likely to click on the one which says two-bed apartment. It’s clearer to you the value that it offers. Nowthey might both be two-bedroom apartments but you only know the one which is listed as a two-bedroom apartment. So with the property type we’re always very conscious of what it’s listed as because that’s what will actually show when people search. So it’s really important that you can show the full value of your property there.

Again if you’re competing with hotel rooms then that’s really great if you’ve got a two-bedroom apartment compared to whether it’s one or two hotel rooms, that’s going to add extra value beyond what the review rating has on there.

Finally the photo is another important factor. And making sure it stands out from your competition is very important. So for instance if you’re mainly competing against hotels we tend to recommend to people put a photo in there of a living room because you’ll be highlighting the space which you offer and the comfort which you offer which people aren’t ever going to get from a hotel room.

If you’ve got a lot of other apartments on there then you want to make sure that your photo stands out whether that because you’ve got a nice comfy picture of the bedroom or you’re shown that you are the more spacious or you’re focusing on any element which is really going to make it stand out.

It could be colour, it could be anything really.

Make sure these photographs are professional. Get a professional photographer to come and sort these out.

Definitely, I think its one area where you really don’t want to skimp in any way. I’d be quite happy to pay £250 for a professional photographer if I knew it was massively better than one at £100, now the chances are you’ll be able to get a very good one at £100 but yeah like I say if it was that much better I’d be quite happy to pay for it. Yes because what’s that? You know £250, a couple of nights bookings in the apartment you’re going to get more than that in the first month from getting better photos.

The reason we tend to optimize the way Chris just mentioned is because you tend to have limited control over the text on your listing. So booking.com is translated into various languages and because it’s translating into various languages they just pick and use set phrases from your text.

Which have been professionally translated.

Oh yes they’ve been professionally translated but yeah, they’ve only got set phrases that they’ll be translated by professionals. And if you look at your text on your listing on booking.com and you don’t like it and you want it changed we suggest submitting one change at a time because if you just submit loads of changes or numerous changes in one go that tends to just get ignored and it gets put on the back burner.

If you gives them some copy, they’re not going to put it on there, that’s not the way booking.com works.

So yeah just submit one change at a time.

And then what they’ll do is they won’t put that exact text on there. But at least that way they’ll kind of make the effort of trying to find the phrase which matches it the most and putting that in there. They’re not going to do that for a whole paragraph or even more text.

What you do have control over on booking.com is you can virtually have unlimited photos on there. You know so use this to your advantage. We don’t tend to put more than 25 photographs on there and that’s for a reason, we don’t want people to get put off by a number of photos. But yes you can take pictures of every little feature that you’ve got on the property that works to your advantage and that makes you stand out like Chris said in the previous one in optimization, that makes you stand out from your competition and shows what you have to offer.

And another thing we’ve been experimenting with recently is putting floor plans on our photos as well because although you can tell a lot from a property looking at the photos quite often obviously you don’t get questions on booking.com before booking. But we see on Airbnb for instance we get a lot of questions about bed configurations, sofabeds, all those kind of things. Now if you can show people in advance what the configuration is, where the beds are, what rooms are shared, where the sofabed is, etc. etc. then you can answer a lot of those questions and you’ll get a lot more bookings from it.

So floor plans with the furniture.

Yeah. So when we talk about having floor plans on there yeah absolutely show where the furniture is on those floor plans etcetera etcetera.

The other thing you have control over on booking.com is the property and the room features.

So the property features and you’ve got the room features and it’s always great to highlight the room features you know if the properties got an ensuite bathroom, if you’ve got shower, you’ve got a bath tub, you got a sofabed.

Kitchen, which you won’t have in a hotel room so it’s important to highlight that.

If you provide things like toiletries, that you provide tea, coffee, just highlight those things. Those are features that the property offers.

Yeah. And if you don’t tell people about them they won’t know about it.

No no. You don’t know what you don’t know.

The second OTA we’re going to talk about today is Airbnb. Airbnb was started in 2008 and has had a high growth, it’s one of the most disruptive businesses in the industry. It now has over 150 million users and 3 million listings across the world. Airbnb mainly attracts tourists and leisure users however their business plans are to focus more on business style guests in the future so they’ll be more focusing on the corporates.

Yeah. But certainly for the moment and there are obviously exceptions to every rule but we predominantly see it used by people for leisure travel.

Yes it is yeah.

So I’m sure most people are already familiar with Airbnb and setting up an account. But it’s important to remember that when you set up an account you will need to verify yourself both through telephone number and email address. And on top of that if you need to go through further verification then you need to either connect a social media account like Facebook or present them with a photo ID.

Now with Airbnb setting a listing up is very different from booking.com, it’s nearly instant. I say nearly instant as they tell you it is but it’s not, it kind of takes 24 hours once you’ve submitted your listing for it to actually propagate through all their Web servers which means that although you can see the listing straightaway, if you actually search for your property it’s not showing up straightaway. So it is nearly instant and as soon as you’ve got that up and running you can start take bookings, there’s no kind of waiting for CVC codes to come through or anything like that because of course they deal with all the payment side of things.

One thing to bear in mind with Airbnb is that they have a feature called cohosting and they introduced this relatively recently and it’s one that we use quite extensively because what it does for us as a management company is it allows us to separate out different clients and have different host accounts but then have one cohost account which we use to actually manage all those properties. And it just reduces the risk a little bit because it means that if there’s a problem with one property and it gets some bad reviews for whatever reason, that’s not going to impact all the rest of your properties. So even if it’s just you yourself you might want to think about maybe using a few host accounts and then have a cohost account to kind of separate out a little bit of that risk.

Another thing which a lot of people say with Airbnb is that you can use it can’t test demand, put test advert on there etc etc. I mean I have to say this is not something I’ve ever recommended. The reason being is that Airbnb take a very dim view of that because they don’t want fake properties on their website, they don’t want to waste people’s time inquiring going on a property which doesn’t even exist.

I understand where they’re coming from with that.

Well definitely, yeah yeah absolutely and with the resources they have at their disposal they’re constantly working on ways to detect when this is happening. And we’ve seen it a lot that if you set up a test listing and then you decline a lot of inquiries in a short space of time they will not just take down that listing but they will suspend the account while they look into it.

So not a slap on the wrist, they just shut you down.

Yes exactly. Pretty much and so first of all we say to people it’s probably not worth the effort. Second of all we say look if you are going to do it just make sure you set up a separate account to do it, it’s not on your main account because obviously if you’ve got 10 properties listed on there and they suspend your account, that could have a massive impact on your business.

And make sure that their test account is not linked to your main account.

Yeah definitely completely new and separate.

Unlike booking.com, Airbnb always take payment for you and they settle to your bank account after the first day of the stay.

So it’s kind of a bit like the best of both worlds really from payments by booking.com in terms of the benefits of being protected from chargebacks and those kind of issues. But the same time okay it’s not brilliant cash flow because you might take a booking three months in advance they still have the cash in your bank account but it’s not bad it’s like waiting until next month. At least you’ve got the money fairly promptly from Airbnb.

That’s it. Airbnb guest expectations are very personal. So the communication is personal, they tend to reply to e-mails. They tend to reply to text messages, it’s back and forth communicating with them because it’s an experience, the whole personal experience.

They often ask questions beforehand as well, you know about the property, about the area.

Not just one question! It is back and forth back and forth back and forth. But you need to make an effort because that is it is an experience for them, it’s not just, they’re not just coming down to stay. It’s a very personal experience for them.

Yeah. And their enjoyment of the stay almost seems to come as much from that kind of communication and relationship build up as the quality of the property.

Yes that’s it. And the thing is with the constant communication is you will tend to alleviate, to overcome problems or any issues that the guests are having. If you overcome those in a short space of time then they will leave you, they are more likely leave you a better review so it’s all about constant communication.

Yeah when we first started using Airbnb we had a bad review, reason being we were used to dealing with hotel guests and the communication levels are completely different, with Airbnb guests it is very personal. They will ask loads of questions and it’s back and forth and back and forth you know and the review itself on Airbnb was mainly on the communication, not on the property or anything else it was mainly to do with the communication.

Yeah. Well we learned that one quickly at least!

They are used to regular communication. You have different points of contact. Yes.

The other thing with Airbnb guests is they tend to expect the exact room or apartment that is shown on the listing, beit the same beds, the same curtains, same layout – they expect the same property that they booked.

It’s a bit of a weird quirk this one isn’t. But you know we’ve found like for instance you can have two pretty much identical properties, you know spec-ed out the same with the same furniture, same finishing and everything like that but people will still comment oh well it wasn’t the one on the photos.

No and they’ll start by saying a great stay, had a lovely stay, beds were comfortable, lovely area. And then they said yes but it wasn’t the same one on the photo and for that they give you how many stars?

I think we had one once where they gave a one star and they said it was a wonderful stay, really enjoyed it but it wasn’t the one that I had photographs of.

Yes that’s it! It has to be the exact room or apartment that they’ve booked.

Many managers don’t tend to integrate well with Airbnb. The one we use, Toki has got full integration and it makes life very easy.

Yeah otherwise you kind of have to set it to inquiry only.

That’s just a long winded process.

And being a newer platform I think a lot of a lot of the older property management systems don’t necessarily integrate particularly well.

With Airbnb when we’re focusing on optimizing our listings, we’re focused a lot more on our actual page than our listing because with Airbnb we do have more control over what we’re showing people and that starts with text really, where we can write full text ourselves.

They don’t just pick out certain phrases and translate them no, you’ve got full control.

Very refreshing compared to booking.com and what that means is it’s a huge opportunity to kind of show people what your service is, what you’re offering, to set their expectations at the right level because obviously setting expectations is absolutely critical to making sure people have a great customer experience, give you a good review, feedback into that kind of loop of improving your business. And also it gives you the opportunity to kind of create the emotion which you need to do to kind of create a sale. I mean a lot of people and even today we’ve been talking about how you know you are evaluating different things and making a kind of decision around purchasing based on a value proposition and weighing this up against that that. But ultimately purchasing is actually an emotional decision and so the emotion will always trump the judgment when it comes to that.

So if you can kind of use emotive language or put images in people’s in people’s head you know let’s say you’re kind of advertising for contractors and you could just say something like you know do you fancy coming home after a long hard day at work relaxing on the sofa, switching on and catching up with your Netflix. You know do you fancy being able to do your shopping at the beginning of the week and eat using our kitchen rather than having to eat out every night of the week?

You know you can you can use that to kind of create images in people’s heads where they think oh yeah that sounds nice, start to kind of create emotion oh that would be a good idea, so you can really use that text to your best advantage to make sure that people end up booking with you.

Now you can kind of do that yourself to some extent. But what we tend to find is that using a professional makes so much more sense because they’re experienced, they’ll be able to put together exactly what you need and really drive the sales on your listing and it doesn’t need to cost a lot either.

Not at all, as you say they are professionals, this is what they do day in day out.

Absolutely. We’re not going to do a better job and it’s just like the photography, I would always be happy to pay more, even substantially more because the ROI on that money is going to be huge.

So I mean if you’re interested in who we recommend for doing copywriting, it’s amazing because they only charge £30 for an Airbnb listing. How crazy is that?

It’s not bad when you think about it’s per listing.

Exactly. So if you’d like their details then jump on the Facebook group which is the Serviced Accommodation Podcast Community and we’ll make sure we post a link for you on there.

As well as text, we also have access to photos and we want to do exactly the same as with booking.com, make sure we’ve got some great photos on there, make sure we’re making the most of it and potentially also putting floor plans on there to help people understand the layout of the apartment and whether it’ll work for their particular groups size and the bed configuration.

Now what’s different about Airbnb is that we also have a profile photo on there and again this is really important because we need to make sure that we’ve got a decent photo on there where you kind of look respectable, friendly. You can see your full face very clearly because once you see someone’s face you kind of become a person, it makes them human. Even if you’ve got a photo on their but from a distance, you’ve got a full body shot, well people can’t see a face so you’re not creating that same kind of personal connection. So it’s really important you get a great photo on there for the profile photo because you’d be surprised how much difference that will make. Airbnb is a very personal platform and so people are kind of looking at personal relationships on there. Now what that also means is that they’re quite likely to click on your profile and find out a bit more about you. So what that means is that you should also have some great copy on your profile telling them hey here’s what I do, I love doing this for people, I love helping people with that, just explaining a bit about yourself as well as the services that you offer. And you can offer a video on your profile on Airbnb and that’s a fantastic opportunity to actually start creating that personal relationship before they’ve even got in touch with you because once you’ve seen a video of someone you start- like a photo but even more so – you start to kind of build that kind of personal relationship in a way.

Now reviews are an important factor on Airbnb as they are with many things in life now. But what’s interesting about Airbnb is because it’s quite a personal platform, people don’t generally like leaving bad reviews. So most properties you see on Airbnb will be rated either 4.5 or 5 stars. So what we found is that for Airbnb as long as you’ve got a decent rating, say 4.5 or higher, the rating isn’t so much an issue. With booking.com guests tend to use it as the review score and they don’t necessarily read a lot of the reviews whereas on Airbnb those reviews get read a hell of a lot more.

Like you said earlier, it’s very personal.

Exactly it’s very personal so guests are going to read it and see what people have to say about this stay, their apartment, the communication and everything like that. So what we say is it’s really important to make sure that you have good reviews on there and what people say matters.

So you really need to make sure that you’re responding to all the reviews whether they’re good, whether it’s bad to make sure that you’re highlighting the great stuff which people are saying and that you’re mitigating some of the damage if maybe someone has had something which isn’t so great to say about it. And if you’d like to know more about how you should be responding to those reviews we have a whole podcast episode on reviews where we talk in detail about what format to use when you’re responding to reviews.

The other thing I would say is don’t argue with the guests because you might win an argument…

…but lose the war. And they’re never coming back!

Because the only response to a review you are communicating with the guests that are actually looking or potential guests that are actually looking to book. You’re not communicating with that particular guest who has left the review.

Exactly and this is what we’re saying all the way through about how you optimize your listing. You consider it through your potential guests eyes. So whether that’s the search engines like we’re talking about before, whether it’s listing here and looking at the photos and the text, does the text make you feel good? Yeah it does it. Does it make you excited? Does it make you interested? They’re great but also the reviews you know it’s not like you say it’s not the person who wrote the review, it’s that guest who’s looking at it they said something about this it can be noisy at night. Yeah. So if you said on there, really apologize you actually stayed down during St Patrick’s Day and there were a group of Irish people around the corner, they’d booked out a private venue which isn’t normally noisy. Do you see what I mean? There can be ways that you could kind of mitigate what people are saying and suddenly you read that as a potential guest and you go oh that’s not going to be a problem then go and book.

Yes so what we do is we think, we mitigate but we have a whole episode of getting better reviews like Chris mentioned earlier.

Yeah absolutely.

The two OTAs we focused on today, booking.com and Airbnb are the two platforms that generate the most business for ourselves and other people.

There are many other OTAs out there, I will however just touch on a few more today, the first one being Expedia. With Expedia you get a reasonable amount of traffic on there. It can be a pain to deal with-

So, reasonable amount of traffic is just for people to understand we found not a lot of bookings on serviced apartments on there. I think with hotel sites where we’d been listed we’d probably be looking at maybe three percent of bookings through there. So this is why there is such a focus on booking.com and Airbnb because although you can get bookings from them, they tend to be fairly minimal but it’s still many times more than probably the nearest competitors outside of booking.com and Airbnb.

And they also force a 10 percent discount for flights packages. So yeah booking comes in, you look at it , its £100 a night comes in and it’s £90 a night and you’re like oh what’s going on here?

Yeah very strange. We’ve had that conversation with them but it’s basically compulsory. We said to them well what if we put up our prices 10 percent and then they started quoting the contract with rate parity and we don’t use Expedia that much really!

Another OTA out there is HomeAway which I used to call home and away!

Or neighbours!

They are very big in the USA and Southern Europe, and so when you’re talking about southern Europe its Portugal, Spain. They tend to focus or tend to get loads of long term bookings. They do however have a weird or strange pricing structure and it’s an inquiry based one.

Yeah it seems a bit weird because when you kind of put an inquiry on there like you going to search for a particular time and date the price which comes up doesn’t really seem to match the pricing you’ve given them. It’s very strange but I mean you do get kind of inquiries through on it still and you can clarify the pricing but that can put people off you know if they’ve been quoted far too high a price or they might have been quoted far too low prices then they’re not happy.

So HomeAway does work for long term bookings and because they’ve got a large international presence, you can get loads of international guests. So yeah HomeAway does work for some parties.

Yeah it works particularly well in larger cities doesn’t it. London, Birmingham, Manchester. Where you’ve got lots of international guests coming in it can be quite effective.

Another one which I’m going to touch on is one of the biggest travel websites out there. They’re not officially an OTA but you can list your property with them and pay a commission on booking them.

This is TripAdvisor.

Well you list it with them and pay commission on booking. It kind of sounds like an OTA to me right!

A travel website they call themselves. The good thing with TripAdvisor is that loads of people go on there for reference and accuracy in terms of feedback, in terms of reviews and you get the guest point of view because you also get guests photographs being uploaded on them.

Yeah I think in terms of reviews it’s probably the most trusted website isn’t it because it’s independent.

No ulterior motives really.

Yeah exactly. With booking.com then of course they want great reviews on there so that you book with them. With TripAdvisor it certainly started off as completely independent so they had no ulterior motive.

So yeah like they say officially it’s just a travel website. Yeah but you can list with them and pay a commission on the bookings.

We’ve talked today about OTAs and how to optimize your listings for them and hopefully you’ve found some tips in there which are going to allow you to get more bookings and make more money.

If you like some direct feedback on how to improve your listings than just join the Facebook group on the Serviced Accommodation Podcast Community and post your links up there to get feedback from the rest of the community.

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