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Book Direct 2020 - The most important blog of the year!

Do you like throwing money in the garbage? Do you like spending money on something that has absolutely no value? Of course not! Today, February 5th, is National #bookdirect day, and it is all about helping travelers understand that they don’t need to give hundreds of dollars in booking fees to companies like VRBO, AirBnB and TripAdvisor. (If you missed our blog post about #bookdirect last year, you can check it out here.)

We consider ourselves the leader for promoting #bookdirect on St. George Island for ourselves and our fellow owners. Over the last two years, SGI Beach Vacations has been focused on the education of our guests and those that visit our area about the benefits of booking direct for their St. George Island vacation rental home. Just two years ago, 100% of our guests at Sand Dollar, Sea Dunes and Serene Dream came from our VRBO pages. Today, that number is closer to 50%. Why is that? Because more and more travelers are finding out the benefits of booking direct.

The #bookdirect campaign began in 2017 when several vacation rental homeowners and managers located across the US started exploring ways to educate travelers about the value of booking direct with owners instead of on third-party channels like VRBO and AirBnB. There was a strong sense of urgency because both VRBO and TripAdvisor had recently introduced booking fees to their platforms (to follow in the path of AirBnB). Just three years later, the #bookdirect movement has gained significant traction, and more and more guests are looking to book directly with owners for their vacation.

Some may ask, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a little money…no big deal.” We would argue that these service fees are out of control!

  • VRBO – 6%-12% - however, we haven’t seen a service fee less than 11% for our guests in more than a year; this is in addition to the $499 subscription fee that VRBO charges owners to list on the site

  • AirBnB – 13%-18% - there are no listing fees on AirBnB, but they make up for it in traveler fees

  • TripAdvisor - 8%-16% traveler booking fee plus a 3% booking fee for owners – according to most sources, though, the traveler booking fee is usually 14%-15%

Over the last six months, guests at St. George Island Beach Vacations have spent ~$7,500 in booking fees on VRBO, that’s $323 per booking! That’s a lot of wasted money!

Hopefully, nobody actually likes to waste money like that, but, as we said, the fees for these platforms add hundreds of dollars to the cost of your trip – hundreds of dollars that can be used on your trip to help the local economy. St. George Island is an oasis in a small rural economy, and hundreds of dollars per traveler can make a huge impact to our small community. That money could be spent on a fishing charter with Hooked Charters or on renting a golf cart at Island Dog Rentals or at one of the many great restaurants in our area like BJ’s Pizza, The Owl Café, or The Station.

Many people ask us, “but how do I book direct?” Travelers can use these simple steps to book direct and save hundreds of dollars in fees:

  • Look for the owner’s name or the property name on websites like VRBO, AirBnB, etc.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

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

This year, at SGI Beach Vacations, we decided to only offer discounts on our homes on our website where people can book direct. In the last few weeks many people have used the steps above to book direct and save hundreds of dollars. One even saved nearly $800 on his recent Serene Dream booking.

You might ask, “Are there any other benefits to #bookdirect besides the huge savings?” Yes there are!

  • Developing a relationship with the owner – You are a guest and developing a relationship with the owner ensures that you are not just another number.

  • Intimate knowledge of the area – Working directly with the owner gives you an opportunity to learn more about the area from an expert. At SGI Beach Vacations, we have our own blog where you can learn about our family’s favorite activities, events and restaurants.

  • Opportunities to book the best homes – By limiting yourselves to just the booking sites like AirBnB and VRBO you are limiting your options for homes. There might be several other options that meet your needs and desires that you are missing out on.

  • Special discounts – At SGI Beach Vacations, we offer 10% off of future stays for all of our repeat guests.

What should you never do?

  • Never tell the owner that you’d like to book direct on the website platforms like VRBO and AirBnB. They can’t do it without violating the terms and conditions of the websites. Do your homework (follow the steps above) and save hundreds of dollars.

As the self-proclaimed leaders of the #bookdirect movement on St. George Island, we are here to help you. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!


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