Guest relationships

Reducing Risks and Gaining Control: The Importance of Direct Guest Relationships in Vacation Rentals

Jim Sterling
Customer Success
August 28, 2023
5 Min

Vacation rental hosts have undoubtedly benefited from the rise of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) like Airbnb,, and VRBO. These platforms have provided hosts with exposure, ease of booking, and a steady stream of guests. However, it's crucial to recognize that reliance on third-party OTAs carries inherent risks and downsides. In this blog post, we'll explore these challenges and discuss how taking control over direct guest relationships can mitigate them.

Commissions and Fees: The Silent Profit Eroder

One of the most apparent downsides of third-party OTAs is the commissions and fees they charge. These costs can significantly eat into your profit margins. For instance, a 10-20% commission on each booking means you're losing a substantial portion of your earnings.

Mitigation: By establishing a direct booking system, you can eliminate these fees, allowing you to retain more of your hard-earned income. This extra revenue can be reinvested into your property or used to offer competitive rates to guests.

 Lack of Control: Limited Flexibility and Rules

When you list your property on OTAs, you often have to abide by their terms and conditions. This can mean adhering to their cancellation policies, payment methods, and refund processes, which might not align with your preferences or property's unique needs.

Mitigation: When you engage with guests directly, you regain control over your property's policies and operations. You can set your own cancellation policy, manage payments as you see fit, and provide more personalized service to your guests.

Guest Data Privacy: An Overlooked Concern

When you rely on third-party OTAs, you may have limited access to guest data, which is crucial for building long-term guest relationships and marketing efforts.

Mitigation: Collecting guest data through direct bookings ensures you have the necessary information to engage with guests personally, tailor your offerings, and provide a more customized experience. This also enhances guest privacy as you have direct control over data management.

Increased Competition: Standing Out in the Crowd

Third-party platforms are flooded with vacation rental listings, making it challenging to stand out. Your property may get lost in the sea of options, impacting your bookings.

Mitigation: Building direct guest relationships allows you to differentiate your property, tell your unique story, and highlight what sets it apart. This can be a compelling factor for potential guests who appreciate a personalized touch.

Dependency Risks: Vulnerability to Platform Changes

Overreliance on third-party OTAs can make your business vulnerable to platform changes or policy shifts. If an OTA alters its algorithms, commission rates, or terms and conditions, your business could be significantly impacted.

Mitigation: By diversifying your booking sources and investing in direct guest relationships, you can reduce your vulnerability to changes in third-party platforms. This ensures greater stability and resilience for your vacation rental business.

Conclusion: Taking Control for Long-term Success

While third-party OTAs offer undeniable benefits, vacation rental hosts must recognize the risks and downsides of over-dependence on these platforms. By actively seeking to build direct guest relationships, you can mitigate these challenges and regain control over your business. Direct bookings provide more flexibility, data privacy, and revenue retention, setting the stage for long-term success and sustainable growth in the competitive vacation rental market.

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