7 Best Ways to Get Direct Bookings for Your Vacation Rental

Nov 02 2022
vacation rental research reports data

Get tips on how to use Hostfully to optimize your vacation rental business and make more profit.


What’s in this article?

Your direct booking website is a great marketing tool and potentially a major source of revenue. It lets you build relationships with repeat customers without going through online travel agencies (OTAs). That means you can avoid their fees and take control of your property management business by using guest contact information you already have.

But your website may not be living up to its potential if you’re not getting many direct bookings.

From search engine optimization to social media promotion, there are a number of ways to get more direct bookings for your vacation rental.

In this article, we’ll share the best ways to get direct bookings for your vacation rental so you can generate more revenue.

CTA to get more direct bookings

Why you need a direct booking website

Your direct booking website is a great tool to build relationships with potential guests and increase your profits.

Here’s why you need a direct booking website:

  1. Save on OTA fees

  2. Collect guest data

  3. Independence and control

  4. Marketing opportunities

  5. Let your brand shine

1. Save on OTA fees

OTAs usually charge high commissions and booking fees – annually, monthly, or per booking – for you and your guests. Most Airbnb hosts pay a 3% fee, and guests pay around 14.2% of the booking subtotal. Airbnb hosts with API connections have to mandatorily pay a host-only fee of 14–16% or higher.

Similarly, Vrbo charges 3% payment processing, 5% commission fees on the rental amount, and additional fees charged to the guest.

This cuts your profits and doesn’t leave much room for marketing or other necessary costs for running a vacation rental business.

When you set up a direct booking website, you get to keep more of your revenue. So you can use this extra income to improve your business by reinvesting in marketing strategies or improving your rental properties.

Screenshot of a Booking.com listing of the Boston area with the map view
OTAs may get you more eyes on your properties but they cut into your profits. Source: Hostfully

2. Collect guest data

Usually, OTAs don’t share guest data other than first and last names. This limits your ability to market to your guests and get repeat business after they’ve checked out.

When you set up a direct booking website, you have the freedom to ask your guests for data like their contact information, rental history, where they are traveling from, and the reason for their stay.

You can use this data to create targeted marketing campaigns.

For example, you can offer a special discount to business travelers coming to your area for a conference. Or you can send an invitation for the guest to come stay with you again a few months after check-out.

3. Independence and control

OTAs have certain formats, character limits, amenities lists, and rules that you have to follow.

With your direct booking website, you can share as much or as little information about your rental property as you want.

You can provide information like:

  • Why you started a short-term rentals business

  • The history of your property

  • Your favorite things about the area

  • Multiple photos and videos without worrying about file size or format restrictions

You can also set your own cancellation policies, pricing, and minimum stay requirements.

Here are a few examples of short-term rental descriptions to inspire you.

Plus, when you have your own direct booking site, your business is not wholly reliant on the whims of OTAs who could change their model, raise rates, or even ban you from their platform over a technicality.

4. Marketing opportunities

While OTAs provide a visibility boost and drive traffic to your listings, you lose the ability to attract repeat business and get referrals when you don’t have direct contact with your guests. And repeat guests are valuable because they know what to expect from your rental property and are more likely to leave positive reviews.

With your direct booking website, you can create a loyalty program or offer rewards for referrals and run targeted email campaigns to get repeat business. You can also upsell guests on other products and services, such as airport transfers or activities in the area.

5. Let your brand shine

Building your brand is important for any business. It helps you attract new customers and get repeat business. But your own brand can get lost when you use an OTA as they promote you under their branding, not yours.

Your direct booking website is an extension of your brand.

You can choose the color scheme, font, photos, and overall design to reflect your brand and help it stand out from the competition. Another reason VRMs like direct booking and branding is because it differentiates you from average Airbnb hosts and makes you look more professional.

Landing page of a vacation rental business with search fields and a mountain range background
Let your business’ distinct style leave an impression on guests with a direct booking site. Source: Wydaho

How to increase direct vacation rental bookings

Leveraging OTAs, social media, and marketing channels to get in front of potential guests is important. It can indirectly help you get traffic on your website.

Here are ways to increase direct vacation rental bookings:

  1. Leverage visibility on OTAs

  2. Be active on social media

  3. Reward loyalty

  4. Optimize for local SEO

  5. Make it easy for guests to book on your site

  6. Don’t confuse guests

  7. Use email marketing automation

1. Leverage visibility on OTAs

OTAs like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com are a powerful way to get in front of potential guests. So, you can get creative and find ways to drive that traffic to your own website for more direct bookings.

Using your business name across all listing sites will help bookers know where to find you. For example, if you have a beach house in Florida, and your brand name is “The Sage House,” make sure that your title and photos on the OTA reflect that, rather than listing as just “Florida beach house.”

Savvy travelers may well know to leave the OTA and search for The Sage House online in search of more information about your rentals.

If you’re using multiple OTAs, make sure that your photos and descriptions are consistent across all of them. You want potential guests to be sure they’ve found your main website.

Screenshot of an Airbnb listing page with a map and tiled listings
Be sure to put your name in your listing so that guests can find your direct bookings site. Source Airbnb

2. Be active on social media 

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are great places to share photos, videos, and information about your rental property, brand, and the local area. You can also use social media to run targeted ads and get in front of potential guests who might not find you otherwise.

For example, if you’re running a special offer or want to attract guests during a slow season, you can target your ads to people who live in certain areas and are searching for vacation rentals.

Make sure that your social media accounts are linked to your direct booking website so that potential guests can easily find more information about your rental property.

Post regularly and interact with potential guests who comment on or share your posts. You want to build relationships and get people excited about staying at your rental property.

3. Reward loyalty 

Loyalty programs are a great way to increase direct vacation rental bookings and repeat business. You can offer a discount to guests who book directly on your website or sign up for your loyalty program. This is a great way to get people to return to your rental property repeatedly.

You can also offer special perks to loyalty program members, like early check-in, late check-out, or a complimentary bottle of wine. These little extras will make your guests feel valued and appreciated, and they’ll be more likely to book directly with you in the future. Make it easy for potential guests to sign up for your loyalty program by including a link on your direct booking website.

You can also promote your loyalty program through social media and email marketing campaigns.

4. Optimize for local SEO 

To get more direct bookings from your website, you need guests to be able to find it, wherever you–and they–are.

Search engine optimization (SEO) ensures that your website appears as high as possible in search engine results. And the higher your website appears on Google, the more likely people will find and click through to your listing.

There are a number of things you can do to improve your local SEO, such as:

  • Update your Google My Business (GMB) entry to manage your online presence, including on Google Search and Maps

  • Ensure that your business name, address, and contact details are consistent across all social media platforms

  • Make sure your GMB entries contain large volumes of pictures with associated meta tags to give context to the search algorithms

  • Optimize online directories and map data across Apple, Yelp, Bing, Google, TripAdvisor, and other platforms

  • Use a tool like Revyoos to add guest reviews to your site for better search rankings and credibility

  • Perform a local SEO audit frequently to check what more you need to achieve your SEO goals

Screenshot of a search for short term rentals nearby the searcher
Increase your direct bookings by optimizing your local SEO. Source Google

5. Make it easy for guests to book on your site 

Once you’ve drawn potential guests to your website, you need to make it easy for them to book a stay. Include clear calls to action (CTAs) on each page and make sure it’s easy to book.

The fewer steps there are, the more likely people are to complete their booking.

You don’t want potential guests to get frustrated and give up before they’ve had a chance to book a stay at your rental property.

You should also consider offering multiple payment options so that potential guests can pay in the way that’s most convenient for them. For example, you might offer the option to pay by credit card, PayPal, or bank transfer. Giving potential guests more payment options makes it more likely that they’ll complete their booking.

6. Don’t confuse guests 

If you’re running a vacation rental business but also offer services to other people, make it clear which section of your website is designed specifically for guests.

If, for example, you’re also advertising your services as a property manager, don’t confuse potential guests by sending them to that section of your website instead of listings pages.

If this is you, consider having separate pages on your website for guests and second homeowners. This will help ensure that potential guests can easily find the information they’re looking for, making it more likely that they’ll book a stay at your rental property.

7. Use email marketing automation

Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch with past guests. And the key to successful email marketing is automation. This saves time and manual errors and lets you set up sending schedules so you can be consistent.

There are several different types of content you can include in your automated email campaign, such as:

  • Special offers and discounts

  • Promotions for your loyalty program

  • Newsletters and updates

  • Insider tips about local events, attractions, and activities

  • Tips for planning a vacation

  • Behind-the-scenes peeks at your rental property

When setting up your automated email campaign, you’ll need to decide how often you want to send emails and what type of content you want to include. For example, weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on your business goals.

Screenshot of someone writing a marketing email with a summer offer
Automated email marketing lets you tempt past guests back with offers. Source Hostfully

How to create a website that gets bookings 

You can either create a custom-designed website or choose a PMS like Hostfully that offers a turn-key solution to create your direct booking website. Let’s take a look at what you need to keep in mind as you go about setting up your site.

1. Choose PMS that offers a direct bookings website 

A quick and easy way to set up a direct booking website for your vacation rental is to use a property management system (PMS).

Hostfully’s PMS offers a no-code direct booking website template that you can customize to match your brand.

You can upload photos, add your logo, and choose from various themes. Direct bookings sites also include property information, availability calendars, and payments processing integrations.

See here for more on how to create a beautiful, professional-looking direct booking website.

Hostfully's direct bookings site
You can create a beautifully-designed and automated direct bookings site with Hostfully in minutes

2. Get a custom-designed website 

If you want a truly unique website, you’ll need to create a custom-designed website.

This option is usually more expensive and time-consuming than using a pre-built PMS site, but it’s worth it if you want a one-of-a-kind website designed specifically for your vacation rental business.

Custom-built websites also give you the flexibility to put in place an SEO strategy. Plus, if you ever switch PMSs down the road, you can take your custom-built site with you and only swap out the booking calendar widget.

The first step is to connect with a design agency specializing in vacation rentals. Hostfully directly integrates with Hudson Creative Studios and Boostly. Boostly is very cost-effective and  follows its own unique process to get to know your brand and what kind of design would work best for you. Hudson Creative Studios takes a structured approach, interviewing you directly to understand what you’re looking for, as well as optimizing for loading speed with a focus on design.

No matter which route you decide to go, make sure you’re working with a design agency that understands the vacation rental industry and can create a website that’s optimized for bookings.

Once your website is ready, you can embed the booking and/or inventory widget from your PMS. This will allow guests to book your properties directly on your website without being redirected to a third-party site.

3. Think about integrations

Whether you’re using a bespoke website or a PMS template, remember to think about integrations with the vacation rental tech you’ll need to run your business. The bigger you grow, the more important these tools become.  

Some of the essential software integrations that Hostfully offers include:

  • Payment multiple processors, including

    Stripe, so you can handle direct payments, security deposits, refunds, or discounts

  • A PMS booking widget that connects visitors to a booking page from anywhere on your site

  • A review aggregator like

    Revyoos to verify and  manage reviews from across all listings and display them on your site

4. On-site SEO 

On-site SEO refers to all the things you can do on your website to improve your ranking in search engines like Google. While there are many different ranking factors, here are a few of the most important ones:

  • Conduct keyword research for vacation rentals in your area

  • Use relevant keywords throughout your website, including in titles, meta descriptions, and headings

  • Optimize your website for mobile devices

  • Include high-quality photos and videos

Keep in mind that SEO is an ongoing process. Regularly check your website’s performance and update your content accordingly.

Drive repeat business by creating a direct booking website

A direct booking site lets you avoid OTA fees, achieve independence, and drive and reward loyalty and repeat bookings. By generating more direct bookings, you’ll be able to boost your bottom line and create lasting relationships with guests.

To go the direct booking route, one option is to get a custom-designed website through a design agency specializing in vacation rentals and embed a direct booking widget. Or you can partner with a PMS like Hostfully that offers a white-label customizable direct booking website. Hostfully also integrates business tools like a channel manager and dynamic pricing tool, so you can manage your vacation rental business from one convenient and cost-effective platform.

CTA to get more direct bookings

Frequently asked questions about how to get direct bookings for your vacation rental

What are direct bookings for a vacation rental?

Direct bookings for a vacation rental are when a guest books your property directly through your own website or platform, in contrast to bookings made through an online travel agency (OTA) like Airbnb or Booking.com

How to get a direct booking website?

You can get a direct booking website by either choosing a PMS like Hostfully that offers a white-labeled customizable direct booking website or partnering with a design agency that specializes in vacation rental websites like Hudson Creative Studios or Boostly.

What is the best short-term rental site?

The best short-term rental site is one that has an easy booking process, a wide selection of vacation rental properties, competitive rates, and discounts or loyalty programs for repeat guests.

Where can I advertise my vacation rental?

You can advertise your vacation rental on various vacation rental listing sites like Airbnb, HomeAway, or Vrbo, or through social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram. You can also get a direct booking website to increase your visibility online and encourage guests to book directly with you.