I just said goodbye Airbnb and Homeaway and Booking

Last week I started my biggest experiment in 20 years of running a vacation rental.  I suspended my Online Travel Agency accounts.  Airbnb, Homeaway, booking.com all turned off.

Independence possible

Yes, I’m having a crack at being independent of the large listing sites.  Is it possible?   I’ll share progress periodically in this newsletter.

Recapping, I’m a small business, with just one rental – Sea Zen Wye River, a luxury rental for couples, with some interesting twists like Japanese styling that make it stand out.  It is the most rented vacation rental in our village, my prices are high.

How will I get bookings?

Loyalty scheme

I have a lot of loyal guests who keep returning year after year.

To put a sharp edge on that loyalty, I have over 600 past guests on my newsletter mailing list.  This is not just any mailing list.  It is a list that has been carefully cultivated over the years so readers are entertained and informed, without any selling.  My readers tell me they enjoy reading it.  They are even happy to keep receiving it monthly, in a world where few would tolerate other travel newsletters monthly.

My loyal guests mull over the newsletter.  I often get emails for bookings attached to a newsletter they received months previously.  The system works well.

Organic website traffic

Sea Zen has its own website and a lot of rich local content that helps searchers find the website and book. There are also several niches that I can promote with modest Adwords advertising.


Periodically, I’ll share the results.  If the experiment doesn’t work, sure I’ll turn the OTAs back on, but I’m in no hurry.

Along the way, I’ll keep tightly in touch with changes in the OTAs via my mastermind group and share any observations.

This is very big step.  As they say, don’t try this at home unless you are very well prepared.  Through this newsletter, you can watch from a distance.  Let’s see how we go.

My Fallback

On a personal note, If I have fewer bookings, it will give more time for family and my Vacation Rental Mastery book that is coming up very nicely.

If you have any questions or comments, please comment below.

To your success.

Rex Brown

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jeremy Godwin August 14, 2018, 9:01 am

    Hi Rex, good on you and I’ll be fascinated to read of your journey. I think most of us feel a little unhealthily dependent on the two or three big booking platforms. :)

    • Rex Brown August 14, 2018, 9:46 am

      Thank you Jeremy, looking forward to it and sharing the journey.
      Thanks also to Matt, Barry, Amy and Allan for the words of support.

      I have a hunch there are already a few folks on the independence journey too, let’s see.

  • Beth Schiller August 17, 2018, 7:02 pm

    Well that’s so refreshing to hear – I’ll follow your progress with interest.

    • Rex Brown August 17, 2018, 9:28 pm

      Thanks Beth, will be fun. I’ll keep reporting results about monthly.
      A few other folks reading these newsletters are also close to going off OTAs, so it may well be possible.

  • Suzanne August 18, 2018, 1:27 pm

    Very, very brave. We have our own amazing website Play Shack with all our listings but I don’t think we could ever go it alone as most guests find us first on the other platforms.

    • Rex Brown August 19, 2018, 7:05 pm

      I’m quietly optimistic, but only based on a lot of past guests reading my monthly newsletter, and rich content on my website giving a slow trickle of enquiries, and a few other steps up my sleeve.
      In a few months, we will see how it has gone.