The Book Direct Movement - And other Vacation Planning Tips!
Book Direct is simply cutting out the middlemen fees. Simple.
- You, the guest, save money when you Book Direct
- The Hospitality Owner saves money
- You get better, local (not overseas) customer service
- The Owner gets better information
- You get personalized ideas and help with your vacation, plus support local businesses.
- The Owners get to share their pride in their community with visitors
Hotel vs Vacation Rental? Still Book Direct?
Sometimes a hotel is the perfect way to go. Like a quick one night stopover on your way to somewhere else. But when you are coming to the Grand Circle to do the Parks and explore the endless red rock trails and all that Southwestern Utah has to offer, you are gonna need a few days.
We are all about the beauty of the Vacation Rental experience.
But even Hotels now are educating travelers to Book Direct. From small boutique hotels to large chains like Hilton and Marriot, from Vacation Rental owners to B&B associations, hospitality owners and managers are educating travelers about Book Direct.
The Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals has asked travelers to Join The Movement
Hoteliers have joined forces with Vacation Rental owners for #BookDirectDay the first part of every February to help spread awareness through social media. Not just that one day, but every day.
We understand when putting considerable $$ down on a vacation we all need assurances. Especially in this day of scammers everywhere we turn. I’m sure you have seen them on social media and the news. We all have cause for concern. So how do you plan your next vacation?
Booking Your Vacation
Most travel accommodation bookings happen in one of two ways.
- You the Traver, look online. The first 2-3 pages of Google will be one of the big OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) and their paid ads, such as VRBO, Airbnb, Homeaway, etc. You find a great place to stay and book through that middleman platform.
- You do a little more research and find a great place to stay and book directly with the owner of that VR (or Vacation Rental) Property. (Go to the bottom of this page to find ideas on how to do that "little more research"!)
Let’s talk about those two differences -
Why Book Direct?
Pricing and Payments - Let’s get the biggie$ out the door first!
Straight up - the best price will always be when you book direct – no service fees or commission added on for the middle man!
So here is the deal on why the price varies - Airbnb and VRBO/Homeaway charges each guest a variable service fee on each booking.
- - As owners, we can not even tell you what that service fee is going to be. They do not show us. All we know is they have “Algorithms” that determine your fee according to “the current dynamics”
From Airbnb Help Page: “This fee is typically under 13% of the booking subtotal. The fee varies based on a variety of booking factors and is displayed to guests during checkout before they book a reservation."
Great. So most folks can plan on somewhere under 13% in extra service fees from Airbnb.....?
As an owner, I also pay Airbnb an additional 3-5%.
In December 2016, VRBO and HomeAway were both purchased by Expedia for 4 BILLION dollars.
Now, Expedia needs to earn back that money. Open your wallet, that commission is coming from you.
Prior to 2017 Owners paid a flat rate to Vrbo for listing on their site. Now owners pay a flat rate or a Pay-Per-Booking rate AND our guests get to pay a fee. Don't know how much.
From the Vrbo help page “How is the fee calculated? The service fee is a percentage of the total amount of the reservation, excluding taxes and refundable fees. The percentage rate may change from time to time. Generally, the higher the reservation amount, the lower the percentage of service fee.”
Great. So most folks can plan on between 6-12% in extra service fees from Vrbo.....?
As an owner, I also pay Vrbo an additional 8-9%.
Booking.com has no traveler fees, Yay! Oh wait, Booking.com charges owners a 15% commission. I promise you are paying that. Owners must add that commission to your price or they are not going to stay in business.
As an owner, I pay Booking.com 15%
- The large, OTAs will tell you that theirs is the ONLY safe way to rent a Vacation Rental.
Please rest assured, all of our Credit Card processing is safe and secure, done by Stripe or PayPal. You enter the info and submit on our easy, professional reservation software. We never see your number and only use the most secure portals.
Would you rather send a check or Venmo and get a 3% discount? We can do that!
Want to split your booking in two separate payments? We can do that.
We have even been known to take cash at the door (gasp 😀). Whatever makes you the most comfortable. (After your initial deposit to secure your dates)
- Owners do not receive your OTA payment until the day after you check in with Airbnb, and VRBO has recently changed to 3-7 days after you check-in instead of “at time of payment”!? (I promise this has owners on edge, yikes! What are they doing with your/my money all that time?)
Most homeowners will try really hard to keep all those add-ons to a minimum. There are a few we may not have control over. Taxes or HOA resort fees are a couple. We may have some say over cleaning fees and pet fees, but for us remote hosts, we are in the hands of those good housekeepers that we want to keep.
- - The price advertised on the OTAs is SELDOM the price you end up with. And we owners have no control over that! They love to give you an “average” price that often includes high season and low season rates. Plus those ambiguous “Service” fees that mysteriously go up and down….
- - Most Short Term Vacation Rentals will charge a separate cleaning fee. Why do they do that and Hotels do not? Argh, a pain point for all of us!
Hoteliers have many rooms to keep up so can keep a full-time staff and often pay housekeeping extremely low wages and roll it into their rates. Vacation Rentals have far fewer turnovers, yet still need to keep good, reliable housekeepers.
Housekeepers in our area get $25 hr. for VRs. How long do you think it takes to REALLY clean a two-bedroom, two-bath house? I have done it many times and I promise it is NOT happening in less than four hours! My housekeeper and I pride ourselves on “Super Clean” and our reviews show it.
Can I negotiate?
If someone were to ask to negotiate the cleaning fee - as I recently saw recommended in a Washington Post article - I would just ask them which toilet they prefer not cleaned or which floor they would rather not have mopped or which sheets they don’t want washed…? It really does take that long. But still, I know how we all HATE added cleaning fees. I tried rolling it into the rate for a while, but it put my rate so much higher than all the other area properties I was not even in the competition. So I met guests halfway! My cleaner charges $100 for a turnover, I charge guests half and I pay half. Because I really do want you to have “all the way” clean! And a reasonable rate.
If you find a VR with no cleaning fee, then the owner is doing it themselves and not getting reimbursed, or have rolled into their nightly cost.
- Our tax rate includes sales tax and TRT or transient room tax. Taxes for the city, county and state. Ugh. Death and taxes…… What more can I say. The “added fee” that none of us can do anything about.
OTAs insist on all communication through their site, for your safety. I think it’s to make sure they don’t lose any of their cut of the proceeds. How does talking to me make you less safe??
What it does do, is keep me from calling you to let you know there is a real person here.
It keeps you from calling me to see what are the best tours in our area, or what's my favorite hiking trail. Communication is essential for your perfect vacation!
- If you send me your phone number or email address the OTA will redact/remove the number or email from the note you wrote.
- - If you contact me on an OTA, I am bound to book you on the OTA. And I am fine with that. That is the bargain I have made with the OTA for advertising on their site. We made a deal. So please do not email me from their platform and ask to Book Direct once you see the fees. I cannot do that. I will get kicked off the platform🙁.
- - Most of the listing sites will have some kind of “Booking guarantee”. You may want to do a little scrolling through business vetting sites such as https://www.consumeraffairs.com or https://www.sitejabber.com Check out the value of those "Guarantees".
Some good, some bad, just educate yourself on possible scenarios. Admittedly, there are some bad owners out there. Just remember there are two sides to every story. (Spoiler: Most of those 5-star reviews, are for great hosts with lovely homes, not the VRBO corporation 😀)
- - If you have a problem or a question with the home or area, It is myself, my husband or our housekeeper that will help you with every question and make sure you have everything you need. It will never be someone in a call center on the other side of the world, it will not even be someone in a nice corporate office (even if they did know the best restaurants in Kanab, and they don’t. It’s Escobars by the way.)
- we have a basic Short term Rental agreement we both sign. You promise to treat my home nice and I promise to have everything nice as promised.
- - I will ask for a copy of your photo ID at the time you sign the rental agreement. That way I’m guaranteed you are who you say you are. And you are guaranteed someone didn’t just take your credit card and try and go on vacation with it!
- My home is not “an Airbnb” or “a VRBO”. Even if I do advertise on their site. (But sometimes they like to act like they own it, when they dictate who I may or may not rent to and under what conditions…..sheesh. I wish they would pay their share of the mortgage then….. Sorry, I digress.)
So how do you know if WE are Guaranteed owners with your best interests at heart!?
Good question. Here are some ideas -
- Go to https://www.visitsouthernutah.com/ The Kane county tourism website, you will find The Western Star Bungalow and The Star Garage Studio in their listings. Call and ask to speak to Josie if you would like to ask questions about us. 1-800-SEE-KANE
- Call Kanab city offices 435-644-2534 ask them if John and Sherene McClellan have a current business license for My Star Vacation rentals.
- Go into Honeys Marketplace (largest grocery store) in Kanab, Ask for Susan Honey the owner, ask her about The Western Star Bungalow or The Star Garage Studio. 260 E 300 S, Kanab
- Call me, Sherene McClellan at 435-262-6119 or
- My husband John McClellan at 435-262-1000
We would love to answer ANY questions you might have.
Help me find a "Book Direct" property. Or, how to do that "little more research" we talked about!
- Look for LOCAL area rental sites. Search for "whatever my destination is", "vacation rentals" or "Book direct". Scroll down past the OTA paid ads.
- Search on Fee Free sites such as VacationSoup.com or Houfy.com
- Find a place you like on an OTA, then search the name of the property or owner in search engines and social media. Savvy owners can leave you clues, but direct info is banned from the listing sites. (I had a guest recently follow my breadcrumbs to my website and saved $500 on her family’s stay!)
- Search Local area Tourist information sites
- I have a small list of other trusted great owners from around the world. Might spark your next great adventure! https://mystarvr.com/stays-around-the-world/
So here is a break down of "Booking your Vacation Rental Direct” Pros -
- Cheaper, it really is
- More space than a hotel room for your group
- Kitchens for meal prep if you want
- Real owners, no middle man
- Localized knowledge. We can recommend some AWESOME places
- Flexible payments
- Direct communication
- Some of the nicest properties are not on the OTAs (Some of the great experienced hosts are fed up with OTA greed. Some of us little guys just can’t make it alone quite yet…)
You cannot replace an Owners passion with the Corporate process.
Cheers and Good luck when planning your next vacation, wherever you might stay! -Sherene and John