Recent events have underscored the danger to vacation rental owners of relying on a small number of listing site giants.
We’re all familiar with the benefits of using a listing site to promote and market our properties. But at the same time, we need to be mindful of how easy it is to fall into the trap of listing site dependency.
Independent owners are more vulnerable
Independent owners without the marketing budgets of larger companies and groups are more vulnerable. To the point where they can sometimes be ‘controlled’ by a big listing site. Effectively, they are instructed on how they will operate and what terms and conditions they will accept.
As they come to rely on the listing site or sites as their main source of bookings, some owners find they lose control of decisions affecting management of their properties.
Recent events we heard about involving household names in the industry illustrate clearly how the power of the listing site can undermine even a thriving vacation rental property.
Owner was delisted without warning
Earlier this year, a vacation rental owner who was signed up with four listing sites under the TripAdvisor umbrella was informed without prior warning that the sites on which his business was built were deleting his listings forthwith.
The deletions were apparently made by TripAdvisor, Flipkey, Holiday Lettings and Vacation Home Rentals on grounds of safety and security. The unfortunate owner had been the victim of ‘hacking’ on two separate occasions. The sites claimed the action was necessary to protect their customers.
The owner was summarily dumped. This, in spite of having used all four listing sites for a considerable time – six years in one case. The withdrawal was without regard for the success of his listings which drew many five star reviews from guests. Imagine how that feels when you have come to rely on these listing sites?
The rising power of the listing site
Other recent events reinforce the idea of the rise of the listing site at the expense of the independent vacation rental owner. The owner who is, ironically, pivotal to the whole industry. These might include HomeAway’s unilateral decision to impose guest fees. Airbnb’s sudden delisting of selected property owners without any consultation. Airbnb’s decision to pay occupancy taxes on behalf of owners whether or not the owners wanted this.
So, how do we address this problem of listing site dependency? The good news is that there are solutions. With a little forethought and preparation it is perfectly possible to enjoy the benefits of reach offered by the listing sites without falling under their control.
I’ve always believed passionately that we vacation rental owners should safeguard our independence. Not only to avoid this very situation where listing sites can command our actions, but so that we can keep more of the income generated by the properties we own.
Property management software providers can help
Key to this is having our own websites plus a secure capability to accept guest payments direct to our own accounts. These vital facilities are available to independents from online providers of property management software (PMS) services. As CEO and founder of a property management software company Homes and Rooms, I see plenty of subscribers having their cake and eating it, so to speak. Using the sophisticated online tools available to them, they are able to exploit the benefit of a big listing site while retaining a high degree of independence. The loss of a major listing site might be a nuisance in the short term, but it would not bring down their business.
Now is a good time to think how you might react should your listing site suddenly delist your property or dramatically increase their fees. How would it affect your business? Do you have the capability to readily tap into other sources for guests?