How to Get More Direct Bookings for Your Vacation Rentals: 7 Proven Strategies

Nowadays, guests have countless options to choose from when booking their vacation rentals. And when they head to search engines to find what they’re looking for, you want one of their main options to be booking directly with you.

While the growth of online travel agencies (OTAs) has been valuable in increasing the visibility of your vacation rental properties, you’ve also probably felt the squeeze of the commission that you’re charged when guests book your vacation rental via OTAs.

These commissions can quickly eat away at your bottom line. And, given guests’ ease of access to OTAs, knowing how to get more direct bookings goes hand-in-hand with knowing how to maximize vacation rental income.

Increasing your share of direct bookings involves a mixture of employing the right strategies and solutions. This article explores seven tactics that you can use to increase direct bookings without the extra hassle.

RueBaRue is a time-saving guest communication tool that allows you to attract more direct bookings by building relationships with your guests. Book a demo personalized to your rentals to see the platform in action.

What are direct bookings?

Direct bookings are reservations made by guests without the involvement of OTAs.

These bookings are made directly via the vacation rental property manager’s website, phone call, or email. When guests book directly, you manage the entire guest management process, from booking and payment to establishing cancelation policies and how best to manage your guests (of course, the best way to do this is by using vacation rental tools !).

Direct bookings vs bookings from OTAs

As a vacation rental property manager, you know that having a healthy distribution mix of both direct bookings and OTA bookings is important.

However, there are some key differences between direct bookings and OTA bookings that are important to point out—especially since increasing direct bookings can be a powerful way to boost your bottom line.

Direct bookings: OTA bookings:
Are made directly with you, the vacation rental manager via your website, phone call, or email Are made via an OTA’s online platform
Are commission-free, and provide have lower customer acquisition costs Come with commission fees that can be as high as 20% of the total transaction
Give you the chance to build guest loyalty to your brand and increase your repeat bookings Build loyalty to the OTA, not the property manager
Offer a personalized customer journey Offer a quick, generalized customer journey

Why are direct bookings important?

Direct bookings are important for vacation rental managers since they don’t require commission fees to be paid to OTAs. However, there are several other reasons why you should be interested in learning how to get more direct online bookings, including:

  • You have direct access to guest data. This allows you to personalize each guest’s experiences, which improves the likelihood of return visits, betters your chances of increasing your vacation rental reviews, and provides you with a single consolidated view of each guest profile.
  • You can communicate directly with guests. Many OTAs don’t provide guest email addresses to vacation property managers. When guests book directly, you can interact with your guests personally before their arrival (via email or SMS messaging), and provide them with the information they need to make the most of their stay, such as local area guides.
  • You can establish relationships early. During their stay, you can interact with guests and offer them extra services, such as extending their stay at a discounted price. Once their stay is over, you can send them post-stay messages, offers, and promotions to entice them back to your property. This also helps you increase vacation rental occupancy.

How to get more direct bookings for vacation rentals: 7 proven ways

As you can see, increasing the share of direct bookings can have a massive impact on your vacation rental income and guest relationships. Let’s take a look at a few of the tactics you can get started with to get more direct bookings.

1. Capture email addresses with a guest communication tool like RueBaRue

Guest data is a vacation rental manager’s best friend.

Having access to guest email addresses not only helps you establish relationships and optimize guest experiences but also cuts the time spent on simultaneously communicating with multiple guests in half.

RueBaRue’s Guest Communication Platform offers advanced SMS tools to help you collect guests’ email addresses and use them to your advantage.

For example, with RueBaRue’s form creation tool, which is used for guest satisfaction surveys, you can send SMS messages to guests and receive their replies. Offering guests an incentive—such as discounts on future stays or a special service—and asking them to text you with their email address in return is a great way to ensure you can send them remarketing emails and offers after their stay, and in turn, get more direct bookings.

Preview of RueBaRue’s survey creation tool

Preview of RueBaRue’s survey creation tool to capture guest email addresses.

2. Build relationships with your guests to increase repeat bookings

You already know that existing customers come at a lower acquisition cost. If you’ve provided guests with a stellar vacation experience, they’re more likely to book directly with you than with an OTA.

Good guest experiences don’t just consist of a great place to stay, but of the memorable and distinctive customer service you provide. Ultimately, great guest experiences breed loyalty to your vacation rental company and increase the chances of them making a direct booking with you for their next stay.

RueBaRue makes it easy for you to build strong guest relationships by helping you personalize the customer service you provide. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Guest SMS messaging functionality allows you to send guests personalized welcome notes. Your Guest Dashboard also provides you with a complete view of your guests’ details, such as their names, arrival and departure dates, phone numbers, email addresses, and door codes. You can also use RueBaRue’s automation tool to time messages to match guests’ arrival and departure times, and the vacation rental email and SMS templates to send guests a welcome message.

Preview of RueBaRue’s guest SMS messaging tool

Preview of RueBaRue’s guest SMS messaging tool.

Unique digital guestbooks, with your company’s branding, are filled with everything guests need, including directions, parking information, instructional videos for entering properties, tips on what to pack for their trip, and more.

Preview of RueBaRue’s digital guestbook tool

Preview of RueBaRue’s digital guestbook tool.

Local area guides, which are customized area guides, act as pre-trip planners packed full of your insider local knowledge to help guests discover the best of your local area.

RueBaRue's Local Guidebook example

An example of a branded local guidebook.

3. Send your guests email reminders to rebook your rental

When preparing for their vacation, guests want the heavy lifting to be taken care of for them.

The better you can relieve guests of the legwork involved in booking and scheduling their trip, the better chances you have of increasing direct bookings.

As part of RueBaRue’s guest SMS messaging functionality, you can use the “Schedule Ahead” feature to create emails that are sent automatically on a date of your choosing. This feature is valuable for reminding guests to rebook the property for the upcoming season.

4. Create a loyalty or rewards program

Loyalty and rewards programs are not just for show. In fact, a recent study shows that 84% of loyalty program members have made a redemption from their programs.

This statistic alone shows how crucial loyalty or rewards programs are as a tool to help drive direct bookings, and encourage repeat stays.

The types of rewards you can offer vary, but will usually include:

  • Discounts on guests’ next stay
  • Free breakfast/dinner
  • A welcome gift
  • Free nights stay

While rewards programs cost you very little, they can be incredibly valuable in driving the success of direct bookings.

5. Make it easy for guests to book directly through your website

Your online presence is extremely important. Crucially, if you want to get more direct bookings, your website needs to not only be functional, but website visitors must be able to make bookings as easily as they can via an OTA.

Here are a few ways you can make sure your website is optimized for a great user experience and easy direct bookings:

  • Make sure your website is mobile responsive. 45% of travelers now use their mobile devices to book vacation accommodation.
  • Make it user-friendly, and don’t overcomplicate the booking process. Limit it to two or three steps at a maximum.
  • Include a rate checker that potential guests can use to compare pricing from your website to prevent them from searching for alternate rates via an OTA.
  • Ensure your website has integrated with a payment processor that enables credit card processing.

6. Offer guests better perks and add-ons when they book directly

Special offers that guests can’t access via an OTA increase the likelihood of them booking directly.

If potential guests can access extras or freebies, they’re likely to choose to book directly rather than with an OTA. Incentives such as late checkout, an additional free night when they book a certain number of nights, and discounts on activities in the local area can all help with making sure they choose the direct booking route.

7. Shine a spotlight on social proofs

One of the reasons guests turn to OTAs is the availability of social proof e.g. guest reviews and ratings. Offering guest reviews on your own website—especially on the homepage—helps bolster trust in your vacation rental company.

Plus, potential customers view guest reviews as a key factor when choosing their accommodation. Ratings, positive reviews, guest testimonials, guest photos, and case studies are all great examples of how to entice guests to book direct with you. You can also advertise these proofs across your social media platforms, such as your Facebook page.

Example of vacation rental guest reviews

Guest reviews give first-time guests the confidence to book directly. Credit:

Frequently asked questions about how to get more direct bookings

Is it better to get bookings on your website or through OTAs?

Direct bookings are great for creating guest loyalty and increasing repeat bookings. It’s important, however, to create a healthy balance of direct bookings and OTA bookings. OTAs provide vacation rental properties with a high level of visibility, meaning more guests are drawn to your properties.

How can I increase direct bookings for my vacation rentals?

You can increase direct bookings by capturing guest email addresses, building relationships with guests, sending guest reminders, creating loyalty programs, optimizing your website, offering additional perks, and highlighting social proofs. You can also invest in email marketing and SEO strategies.

How do I get more bookings?

It’s important to continue to invest in a direct marketing strategy to increase direct bookings, as well as continuing to advertise your properties via OTAs. Investing in both channels gives you the best chance of attracting more guests to your vacation rental properties.

Learning how to get more direct bookings is incredibly valuable for vacation rental managers

Direct bookings lower guest acquisition costs, and we’ve given you seven ways to kickstart your journey of getting more direct guest bookings.

Plus, you can offer guests what OTAs can’t: both a great purchase experience and a personalized customer experience. Once guests have used the OTA booking engine, they have no further loyalty to the platform. From the moment guests book directly with you, you can make their experience one to remember.

Remember, it’s important to create a direct booking strategy, but it’s also important to use the right tools to be able to compete with OTAs for brand loyalty.

RueBaRue is a time-saving guest communication tool that allows you to attract more direct bookings by building relationships with your guests. Book a demo personalized to your rentals to see the platform in action.

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