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Time to Save Some Money and #BookDirect!

Following a big increase in demand for vacation rental homes on St. George Island in 2020-2022, prices for vacation rentals have increased as more vacationers are looking to visit our lovely island. Dr. Beach even named St. George Island the #1 beach in America in 2023 further impacting demand. With prices increasing, why would you not try to save money on your next vacation rental? The key to saving money on your vacation is booking direct!


While today, February 7, 2024, is the seventh annual #BookDirect Education Day, every day should be Book Direct Day. The #BookDirect movement is focused on saving travelers money and creating a better experience on their next vacation by booking directly with the owners. If you’ve missed our past #BookDirect blog posts, you can check them out here, herehere and here.



Despite the significant savings that can be generated, it seems like the discussion on #bookdirect has faded. As popular vacation rental host, Annie Switzer, recently said, vacation rental owners are either 1) getting complacent or 2) waving the white flag of surrender to the online travel agents (OTAs) like VRBO and AirBnB. Well, at SGI Beach Vacations, there is no white flag. We continue to see our direct bookings increase year over year, and we continue to work hard to drive traffic to our website so that people can save tons of money by utilizing our personal touch with bookings. While we continue to maintain our VRBO pages for both Sea Dunes and Serene Dream, more and more people are finding our website and booking direct.


Just yesterday we received a direct booking on our website from Gerald. Gerald found Sea Dunes on VRBO and began looking into the home for renting for his trip in June. He asked his wife to look up “Sea Dunes on St. George Island” on Google and came across the SGI Beach Vacations website. They then decided to book directly with us instead of VRBO and look how much they’re saving! They’re saving ~$1,000 on their vacation by booking direct! Could you imagine all of the t-shirts and oysters you can buy for $1,000?



Over time, we have seen a significant increase in direct bookings for Sea Dunes and Serene Dream. In 2019, before anyone had heard of COVID or a pandemic, we only received 6% of our bookings through our website (plus another 26% from repeat guests). VRBO accounted for more than two-thirds of our bookings. That year, 2019, was just a few years after VRBO started charging travelers a service fee and one year after we built our website. Then, during 2020, we began to focus more on driving guests to our website and the #bookdirect movement (including our first #BookDirect blog). As a result, 54% of our guests that stayed at our homes were direct bookings (either repeat or first time guests that booked direct). Fast forward to 2024 and only 19% of our bookings for this year are from VRBO. In 2023, we estimate that we saved our guests over $40,000 by booking direct!



At SGI Beach Vacations, we believe there are many benefits to booking directly with us:

  • Get a better deal by saving third-party commissions from VRBO and AirBnB - These OTAs can charge as much as 20% per booking in fees!

  • Special offers and last-minute offers (including our 10% repeat renter discount) are not available anywhere else

  • Better communication with our guests - Only when booking direct can you have direct contact with the owner of the home. VRBO and Airbnb strictly forbid this, and we believe it impacts the guests’ experience.

  • Better guest satisfaction and increased trust – When there is direct communication, our guests have greater confidence that they will have a great experience at our homes. We can better address all of the guests’ questions ahead of time putting their mind at ease.

  • Local knowledge – By booking direct, we can recommend restaurants, activities and events around the area to help you plan your vacation.



So, you might be asking – How do I save all of this money? Well, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Once you find a house that you love on one of the major listing sites like VRBO or AirBnB, search Google or social media sites for the property. Most high-quality homes will have names that you can search.

  2. Look through photos and videos of the property.

  3. Reach out to the owner with questions or concerns through their website or social media

  4. Look for a history of good reviews on social media, Google, as well as the listing sites

  5. Be sure you understand property rules and cancellation policies.

  6. Never send cash or money orders and always get a signed rental agreement to protect yourself.  It’s also a good idea to get trip insurance through the host or an independent provider. All reputable vacation rental homeowners should have a rental agreement for guests to sign and a credit card merchant to take credit card payments (in addition to taking cashier's checks or Zelle/Venmo).

  7. Always be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. Honest hosts and property management companies should have an online presence with their own website and/or social media accounts.

 

#BookDirect day isn’t just about a single day in February. Every day needs to be Book Direct Day! Please contact us or check out our calendar to plan your next SGI Beach Vacation.

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