OTA Report – Calendars and Pricing

Calendars are at the heart of short term rental operations. Get them right, all goes smoothly.  Get them wrong, it can cause grief.  This article compares the main online travel agency calendars and 5 tips to avoid grief.

Airbnb
Calendars are one area where Airbnb is clunky.  The back end used by owners/ hosts is in monthly rectangular blocks, with availability and rate visible for each day.  You can amend individual days easily, but it is harder to change blocks of dates. Minimum stays are also hard to change.

If you want to change many months or an entire year of pricing, then there are some traps for the unwary.  You need to change the base rates first, then the few date ranges with special dates like events and holidays next.  If you then change your mind and change the standard rate, chances are you will over-ride the special dates.  This can mean low rates at your peak times, which will be quickly snapped up by bargain hunters. If you have instant booking switched on, you have a dilemma.  Do you let the booking stand and lose a lot of money or do you cancel and maybe lose your superhost status?

Booking.com
Booking is the best of the bunch.  Its backend has a horizontal table of dates with the availability, rates and min stay in rows underneath.  It also has a tool for bulk changes to these values.  In a few minutes, you can check visually the entire year for mistakes in pricing.
In November 2019, Booking rolled out a new colour coded calendar display, making visual checking even easier.
Booking also integrates very well with most channel managers.

Homeaway/ vrbo/ Stayz
Homeaway has a similar backend setup to Airbnb, that is rectangular monthly blocks.  Blocked out dates are done in chunks of dates, and rates, minimum stays and availability can be very difficult to change in comparison with Booking. It also has less integration with channel managers.

Our rating for ease of use and effectiveness:
Airbnb             3/5
Booking.com  5/5
Homeaway     3/5

Five tips for getting your calendars right
1 Prepare a master reference document that records the public holidays and peak periods for pricing for the current and next year, and your pricing rates for the different OTAs. Also the minimum stays at different times of year. You record your decisions in one place, and avoid confusing ad hoc changes.
2 Change your forward pricing in the right sequence  – first the standard or minimum rate, then the exceptions, and peak rates.  Always take care if you are changing the standard rate that you haven’t overwritten peak rates.
3 Always check pricing for your peak periods after changing a lot of prices – avoid those bargain hunters who find your mistakes and book at crazy low prices in peak periods.  Those mistakes can lose you a lot of money – or your superhost of ranking status for cancellations.
4 Periodically check your minimum stays, and avoid unbookable gaps between bookings.  For example you may have a 3 day gap between bookings, but with a 4 day minimum, the calendar will correctly not let a guest book those dates, so change it to a 3 day minimum.
5 If possible automatically synchronise your calendars via iCal or a channel manager.  Discussed in a previous article

Let me know if you have any other tips

Article written Dec 2019

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