How to take your vacation rental business multi-channel
Thinking about adding more distribution channels to your vacation rental business? Everything you need to know.
Published on 10 Aug 2021
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Many smaller property managers begin their STR journey by listing their properties on a single channel - usually Airbnb, VRBO or booking.com.
However over time, your homeowners may decide they want more visibility for their properties and ask you to list their homes on multiple channels. The question then becomes: do you need a channel manager, or can you get away with linking calendars through iCal?
In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps you need to take when going multi-channel. Our suggestion? Keep it lean and prove demand on other channels before committing to a channel manager or property management software. However, when the bookings start flowing in, get ready to invest in software to avoid drowning in complexity.
How to go multi-channel:
Delay as long as you can
If you optimise your listings well on a single channel, you will likely be able to generate very strong occupancy & revenue for quite some time. Take this opportunity to focus on growing your portfolio with minimal operational complexity.
Set up your profile on your new channel (Airbnb, VRBO, Booking.com)
Do this properly in order to maximise your listing performance. Fill out all the required information and build a trustworthy account, otherwise it’s barely worth the effort. If you need a payment gateway to charge credit cards, we recommend Stripe.
Create your listings
Don't forget to add high-quality photos, interesting and detailed descriptions of the property as well as all the relevant amenities.
Set the pricing
When setting your pricing, factor in the additional administrative effort required per channel. We recommend pricing Booking.com at a premium because you need to handle payments & refunds and there is minimal guest verification. Don’t forget to set up your discount and cancellation policies to maximise bookings.
Sync Calendars using iCal
You don’t need software for this. A quick Google search of iCal connection between Airbnb, VRBO and booking.com will tell you how to sync your calendars.. This is a MUST as it will prevent double bookings, which is a primary concern at this early stage.
Now wait for the bookings
When done right, the above process should help you see an increase in your bookings. That's when the real challenges with multi-channel begin. Each channel has a different workflow, different reservations, different guest messages, different payment processes and the list goes on. Before you know it, you are trying to remember when to charge the remaining balance for a VRBO guest whilst processing a cancellation on booking.com and trying to send check-in instructions to a guest via Expedia.
So now what? It's time to invest in software.
Find a good PMS (property management system) that suits your needs
We suggest you avoid pure play channel managers as they often don’t support your workflows and cost a lot. We recommend hometimeapp.io. We built this for smaller managers who want something that’s easy to use so they can focus on growing their business. We offer a free trial so you can test it out before you decide to purchase it. It also has accessible pricing tiers for when you want to consume more sophisticated features, later on.
Connect all your channels to the PMS
Connect Airbnb, VRBO and booking.com to your software in order to send reservations, messages and payments funnel through to one place.
Ensure you are using sophisticated pricing
We certainly recommend using a pricing tool, or even an expert revenue management service such as Hometime, to ensure you are maximising revenue across all channels. Some channels have shorter lead times than others while some have higher nightly rates but more flexible cancelling policies. Be sure to take all of this into account to get the most out of your listings.
Setup automated messages & guest check-in
Not all channels are as robust as Airbnb and provide check-in instructions in each listing. We suggest that all guests, irrespective of the channel, receive check-in instructions automatically. The free Hometime tool has a beautiful digital guest guide and automated message templates.
Setup automated payments
If you need to charge a guest’s credit card, we recommend automating that workflow. Some PMS tools provide charging solutions, which work for new reservations, modifications, security deposits and refunds.
Monitor channel performance
Depending on your location and portfolio mix, some channels will likely perform better than others. Make sure to prioritise the channels that are delivering high value bookings.
Set up your direct booking site
This is a topic for another blog post however, once you’ve reached this step, you are in a good position to maximise bookings through multiple channels and start building your guest database for remarketing & direct bookings.
The above is a very brief outline of the key steps it takes to go multi-channel. As you can see, as your business grows, the complexity of using multi-channel increases and so it is crucial to have good systems in place.
For more support related to property management of short term rentals, get in touch – we love to chat! email@example.com