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#Bookdirect - Why it Matters and What You Need to Know

A movement has been taking place over the last few years. This movement started when Expedia purchased Homeaway in 2015. Homeaway had a simple model. The company would charge a flat fee to vacation rental owners in order to list on their website, and the homeowners would leverage Homeaway/VRBO’s wide reach to attract renters to their vacation homes. At SGI Beach Vacations, we started with Sand Dollar on the VRBO platform in 2011 and were very happy. However, the model has changed…and not for the better! This movement that I mentioned has several names – Listing Site Independence (LSI), Building your VR Brand and others. All of these are focused on one thing, educating the renter that Direct is Best.

Courtesy of Jodie Bourne

#Bookdirect is not about a war with the online travel agencies (OTAs) like VRBO and AirBnB. It’s about leveling the playing field and educating consumers that there are other options to paying the high fees to websites like VRBO, AirBnB and TripAdvisor. Did you know that AirBnB charges booking fees as high as 15% of the rental amount and VRBO charges as much as 12% (and sometimes even higher!)? On a large home at peak season rates that can mean $600 or more could be going to these bookings sights! But there is another option…booking direct.

At St. George Island Beach Vacations, we started our move into the #bookdirect movement almost one year ago today (February 5, 2018) when we launched our own website. If you haven’t read our very first blog, please check it out here. The real driver of our decision was to save our renters more money, provide a better experience for our vacationers and help people come back to our homes again and again. While we were focused on Listing Site Independence, we hadn’t even heard of the first annual #bookdirect education day that took place just two days after our launch on February 7, 2018. Ever since our launch last year, we’ve focused on educating vacationers on the benefits of booking direct.

When you book direct with the homeowner, you can develop a relationship with the homeowner that can help you know that you’re not just a number or some other renter. You are someone that is going to take care of their home and treat it as their own. Have you ever felt a little “sketchy” when making a purchase or even renting a home? Contacting the owner directly can give you the peace of mind that you need to have a relaxing trip.

Owners have intimate knowledge about the destination too. As you’ve seen we write regularly about our favorite restaurants, activities and events that are happening on St. George Island. Without the interaction with us, the owners, you would never get that information to help you plan your perfect trip to St. George Island.

By limiting your search to just the big listing sites like VRBO and AirBnB, you might also be limiting your ability to find the best home in your vacation destination. While St. George Island is generally dominated by Homeaway/VRBO listings there are other options out there that might fit your needs even better. At St. George Island Beach Vacations, it has been our goal since we started our website last year that we eventually move completely away from VRBO. Guest education is the key driver of that!

We hope that all of our renters of Sand Dollar, Sea Dunes and Serene Dream book direct. In addition to the benefits above, we also reward our renters for booking direct. For all past renters that book direct with us, we offer them 10% off of our posted rates for life. There is no need to pay hundreds of dollars in service fees and miss out on discounts. Total savings could be $800-$1,000…why waste that opportunity?

“How do I book direct?” you might ask yourself. It’s really easy:

  1. Look for the owner’s name or the property name on the OTA website

  2. Do a Google search. For example, search “Sea Dunes St. George Island.” Many serious homeowners will have their own website or Facebook page for their properties.

  3. Contact the owner by calling the phone number or emailing the owner on the website. You could also reach out to the owner through Facebook or a no-fee listing site.

  4. Talk with the owner, get comfortable with them and do your research on the property (check reviews and history of the property).

  5. Always make sure that there is a written agreement/contract defining the dates and the price.

  6. …And then Book it!. It’s easy and you’ll save a ton of money!

Just this week we've had a guest follow this outline and book Sea Dunes. Way to go Carl!

Courtesy of Annie Switzer

The online travel agencies like VRBO and AirBnB have changed their business model and this has been detrimental to both guests and homeowners. The ability to contact each other directly has been eliminated, fees are getting outrageous and these sites do not allow for the renter/owner relationship to develop beyond just being a number. We’re intently focused on changing that. Will you join us?

If you have questions about navigating the path to getting the best deal on your vacation rental property on St. George Island please contact us. We’d love to help!

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