There are a lot of REALLY smart people in the vacation rental game right now and I thought it would be great to get three of them down, on paper, predicting what we’re all about to see next. Below you’ll find the opinions of three gurus: it’s most interesting how their two views often overlap.
One of these gurus is Jay William, President & CEO, VillaMarketers. Having been involved with vacation rentals for a while now, Jay has a tremendous perspective on where the industry has been and where it’s going. And when I asked him what we should expect from 2013, here was his response:
“I think we’ll see more booking engines in 2013 being used and implemented across the board. Sites like Booking.com allow renters to book a vacation rental without having to verify availability or deal with the hassle of negotiating a rental. Within 2 minutes travelers can book a vacation rental: now that’s easy and travelers like easy.
I was speaking with our partners HolidayLettings.co.uk last month and they were just getting ready to drop their new feature of online booking. HolidayLettings is owned by Tripadvisor who also owns Flipkey (which already offers this option). It seems we are moving toward “Hotelifying” vacation rentals with VRBO sites offering “real” online booking.
Homeaway & VRBO announced their “Book It” feature in late 2012 so this is likely to be a feature implemented by more owners and used by more travelers in 2013. The entire industry is likely to follow the lead as smaller listing sites and owners implement this feature within their websites just like the big boys.
We’ve also seen an increase of request for automated booking systems from owners and managers wanting to simplify their booking procedures.
Although online booking is not a new concept, it is now becoming increasingly popular for booking vacation rentals.
Of course online booking has its challenges, as owners need to keep their calendars up to the minute, which is often overlooked by owners as they advertise on many sites. Technology is making online booking easier but it will not be foolproof and I predict there will also be plenty of double booked properties in 2013.”
[Note: I asked Tom Hale, CPO at HomeAway, what would be the most influential trend of 2013 and his response was, “It would have to be the year of “online booking.”]
In addition to Jay’s foresight, I also asked Jonathan Murray, Founder & CEO of MyVR.com, what he thought 2013 would bring, and he too believed it would be in the online realm.
“Everyone now has online bookings,” Jon revealed, “but online transactions are a still surprisingly low % in this industry according to several studies I’ve seen.
Jon confided in me that he thinks that 2013 is the year that online transactions take off for two main reasons:
1) He explained how there’s a huge movement towards the direct booking button. Instead of the typical back and forth between owner and renter, a direct booking button allows rentals to get booked immediately. In fact, HomeAway just sent out a $50 incentive for folks to turn it on. He points out that Airbnb has used it as well and several sites are now determining a property’s ranking based on whether or not they accept direct bookings, so there’s a huge inventive to turn it on.
2) Second, Jon points out that several listing sites are moving towards the free listing model, where owners can list for free, but must run the payment through the listing site in order to get paid. (Airbnb has been doing this a while, HomeAway has told investors they are working on that, HolidayLettings just announced it, FlipKey is using this model to win back owners who have previously canceled on them…etc.)
Jon believes these things will all push more and more bookings online, many of them of the direct booking nature. And at his own company, Jon has had a ton of customers ask to add bookings to their websites, which he’ll be rolling out shortly to complement all his marketing tools and website builder.
Considering the strong opinions of Jon and Jay, I wanted to get some input from a representative of the online booking industry.
And there you have it! These are three people in the industry who know waaaaay more than I do. And so if you were wondering about the most influential change of 2013, you need look no further. If you’re a vacation rental owner, get yourself some online booking engines ASAP. And if you’re a company offering online booking services, know you’re on the right track!
Matt Landau is the Founder of the VRMB and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings.
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