Humility – a cautionary tale about OTAs

I was on a roll.  In the second half of 2018, my Sea Zen vacation rental calendars were blocked out months ahead , largely from repeat guests and direct bookings. This was in a tough environment where my competitors were running at around 25% occupancy.

I was succeeding in a tough environment – this  was the perfect scenario for a VR owner.

So with some nervous confidence, I switched off my Online Travel Agency listings to see if I could run my VR rental solely with my own bookings.  I reported in my weekly newsletter.

The hard results

After a few months, my direct bookings slowed and it was harder to fill the calendar. Bookings slowed further.   My occupancy dropped from 95% to around 60% in November.  Ooops!

It seems that I had been getting ‘leakage’ direct to my website from searchers who found my listing on Airbnb, etc and who then found my own website and booked direct with me there.  This leakage dried up when my listings were switched off.

Back to the OTAs

In mid December, with some humility, I switched my OTA listings back on.  Some OTA bookings and more leakage to my own direct bookings.  I was back in business.

Occupancy bounced back to 90% and stayed there.

I have some good plans for increasing direct bookings and later in 2019, I’ll try the experiment again.  Stay tuned.

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In the meantime, I set out on a search to find the holy grail – an inexpensive channel manager to synchronise calendars while you sleep, and a cheap robust website builder. That search was a lot more successful.   More on that next time.

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