At Kigo, we've been building vacation rental software to help owners and agencies market their properties for more than five years. And before that half of our team was managing short-term rentals in France and the United States. It's been an interesting ride, and as anyone who's been in the business for a while can tell you: the vacation rental market has changed tremendously over the past decade.
Ten years ago, the best way to get bookings was through hand-curated relationships with travel agencies and publications, repeat-customers, and great referrals, mostly through word-of-mouth. (In urban markets, there were a few other channels worth pursuing, such as courting companies needing corporate housing for their travelling employees.) At that time VRBO was starting to be a force, but Internet penetration in 2000-2002 was so low that almost no full-time agency could survive solely on it.
Today, things are vastly different. Of course, repeat customers and referrals are still the gold standards, but in a world where billions are connected to the Internet, online-marketing channels are fast-overcoming the old hand-curated relationship model: HomeAway/VRBO, HouseTrip, AirBnB, FlipKey, Holiday Velvet, Booking.Com are the name of the game. In addition to the above, if you are an agency in 2013 you also need to master google adwords, spreading the word online through reviews and testimonials, not to speak of blogging and social marketing. It’s a lot to handle.
Because we help hundreds of agencies manage their websites and marketing, we have a pretty unique vantage point on the industry. The latest trend that we’ve noticed in 2012, has been the proliferation of mid-sized vacation rental listing portals. Using the word “portal” isn’t very accurate, actually, but neither are “marketplace” or “agency”.
What is a mid-sized vacation rental listing portal?
From the customer's perspective, these look like any other agency, except that they have a lot more properties: from 500 to 10,000 or more. The key difference with large agencies, however, is that these portals don't actually manage the properties; instead they list properties managed by local owners and agencies.
Now, this kind of middleman has always existed. It's just we're seeing a lot more of them today. Their specialty is two-fold. On the agency side, they enter into agreements to list properties with agencies and not owners (taking 3-15% of bookings, but are otherwise free to list). They add a ton of value in channeling the right customers to the right agencies, while providing some extra services (e.g., concierge). On the traveller-side, they tend to be very good at niche marketing, especially SEO. They might have a geographical specialty ("Tuscany"), or a reputation based on the quality of their properties ("high-end"), etc. Whatever it is, they market to their niche better than any one agency ever could because of their size and volume advantage.
The biggest reason for the proliferation of these players in the market between the large portals like VRBO and the agencies and owners is that the proliferation of APIs, channel managers, and other technological solutions has made it easier to manage listings onto multiple websites.
Why should this trend matter to you, owners and agencies?
Listing your properties on as many channels as possible is the easiest guaranteed way to increase your bookings and fill your availability calendar. To do this effectively, it isn't enough to use all of the big players, however -- it pays to also list on these mid-size portals. After all, if you’re an owner or agency, you should care most about occupancy and marketing.
The only pain-point in doing extensive multi-listing of your properties is the time it'll take to manage calendars and bookings. Today, however, there are plenty of channel-managers that will do that for you (Kigo's channel manager being a leading example). With a channel manager, each additional listing increases your odds of a booking, and as long as you are careful about picking only high-quality portals and marketplaces, you can expand your reach while keeping control of your brand.
So don't ignore this opportunity and start identifying smaller portals in your market that can help you grow your business. Remember, you only have to pay commissions on actual bookings, so as long as you are using a streamlined channel manager, there is no cost to listing all of your properties on multiple portals and advertising channels.
If you are in the market for a new vacation rental website or better vacation rental software to manage your inquiries, bookings and marketing, consider using Kigo. You can contact one of our vacation rental software experts at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the phone (Spain) +34 512 702 105 ‧ (France) +33 1 84 17 04 18 ‧ (USA) +1 (786) 292-0030