22 Jan 2021
If you’ve been visiting the Outer Banks for many years, you may remember a time where local rental companies printed out elaborate catalogs of vacation homes to help travelers find a rental. When it comes to owning a vacation home in today’s world, there are many different ways to make your property visible to potential renters thanks to the internet’s recent explosion of OTAs (online travel agencies). While that sounds great, it also means that keeping up with the rental marketplace has grown competitive and somewhat complicated. While it seems like a simple concept, landing vacation rentals on OTA websites really isn’t that simple as uploading a few pictures, throwing up a short description and hoping for the best. Luckily, when you utilize Seaside Vacations as a property management company, we partner directly with various online travel agencies to ensure your home gets the maximum exposure to potential renters and you don’t even have to lift a finger!
What is an OTA?
An OTA is an online travel agency, or a third-party website for vacation rentals. Some of the biggest players in this industry include Airbnb, Vrbo, Booking.com, and HomeAway, and chances are, you’ve maybe even looked for a vacation rental on one of these sites yourself. These companies do not act as a property manager but rather as a virtual travel agency providing hundreds and thousands of accommodation options to the potential traveler based on their individual travel needs. OTAs are convenient because they offer vacationers the ability to easily comparison shop by searching hundreds of rental options at once in any set location, rather than needing to visit each property management company’s individual website.
Can’t I just manage my property on OTAs myself?
Optimizing your marketing is one of the many reasons you should sign up with a property management company for your vacation rental. Between setting up your property, creating your listing, maintaining your calendar, answering customer questions, dealing with complaints, and handling all of the billing, managing a successful vacation rental on your own can be extremely time-consuming, complicated, and expensive. In fact, the average host spends between 30 and 40 hours managing their home on Airbnb alone. To stay above the competition, you will need to list your property on more than one OTA which means that you must take each of those steps required to manage your property listing on multiple sites individually. To complicate the matter, each OTA website is different and comes complete with its own unique user interface, regulations, and associated fees. This can make even the most organized homeowner’s head spin.
Why does Seaside Vacations work with OTAs?
Users who are searching for a vacation rental on an OTA expect clear pricing information, plenty of options, and an easy-to-use system. Luckily, this leads to OTA websites continuously improving and optimizing their algorithms and user experience. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of their existing platform to get your home out there? When you utilize Seaside Vacations as your property management company, we will handle listing your home on OTA websites for you.
In our office, we have a dedicated OTA manager to help guarantee the right vacationer can find your home. To do this efficiently, our property management software integrates directly with our OTA partners to ensure uniform marketing, real-time interactions, and ultimately, ensuring maximum exposure for your home. Even though we manage the listings through our integrative software, the listing will still appear to be a normal OTA listing to the potential customer.
How does the process work?
Potential renters browse for the right home and when they are ready, they can simply book online through the OTA. Every few minutes, our calendar system is synced. Whenever a booking is made, a real-time availability check is performed as a backup just to make sure there have been no other bookings on a different platform since the last time the calendar synced. When you manage your OTA listing yourself, there is a high chance for double reservations because your booking calendar is different on each site. In other words, you would have to manually check between various OTAs every time a new reservation is made.
We also provide our own lease agreement to the renter implementing the same terms and regulations as stipulated in the leases we provide guests who book through us directly, which are terms you are already familiar with by being a homeowner in our program. We also handle all the accounting for the reservations through OTAs but these are not managed in a separate location. The rental funds are all run through our trust account and our coinciding software to make it easier for guests to know what they owe and for you to know what you’ve been paid. We collect and remit the taxes for you and compile the income on your annual 1099 the same way we do with reservations made directly through our own website. Additionally, because of our integration with the OTA platforms, all of the home descriptions, amenities provided, and other important features of your home are synced with our property management system to ensure uniformity across the board.
In order to increase visibility for your home, we also optimize our listing rank on the OTA search platforms by providing enhanced content, professional-quality photos, quick responses to inquiries, and fostering a thorough review process. Since most OTAs allow a host to review a guest, we do this for you, thus encouraging the guest to leave us a review in return. We also respond to negative reviews when necessary, and in the case of disputes, we work with the OTA to directly handle guest refunds and contest refunds if we do not agree with the OTA’s decision.
Which OTAs does Seaside Vacations use?
When you sign a property management contract with Seaside Vacations, we will automatically list your home on each of the OTAs that we work with. Currently, our property management software integrates with Airbnb, Booking.com, and Google Vacation Rentals. By Spring 2021, we will also be listing our homes on Vrbo and HomeToGo.
Other owner benefits
Even though the bookings are made through the OTA, since we manage this process for you, there are many added owner benefits:
- From answering inquiries to solving issues, we handle all guest communication.
- We analyze your home’s potential rental income and our market competition to create a competitive pricing model.
- We handle all aspects of a guests stay from check-in to check-out including cleaning, keyless entry, and maintenance.
- We have a team on stand-by for after-hours service and emergencies.
- We have a well-established set of “House Rules” to help deter potential guests who may not take good care of your home.
At Seaside Vacations, it is our goal to take the complication and the confusion out of listing your rental home on online travel agencies. If you’re a vacation rental owner or plan to become one in the near future, learn more about the benefits of partnering with Seaside Vacations!
About the Author: Jessie has been coming to the Outer Banks since she was just 5 years old. She loved it here so much that she finally relocated in 2018. Now her mission is to show the world that the Outer Banks is an incredible place that everyone should experience. When she isn't working, you can find Jessie hanging out with her friends, chilling at home with a good book, or discovering a new Outer Banks adventure.