24 Replies Latest reply: Jun 10, 2019 10:34 PM by kmcbhense RSS

    Let numbers do the talking

    u0999 Premier Contributor

      This is my 3 bd cabin from 2015 -2019. TN Smoky Mountains. Nights booked by source.

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        • Re: Let numbers do the talking
          georgygirl1955 Senior Contributor

          thank you for sharing

          • Re: Let numbers do the talking
            ohst8er Premier Contributor

            Interesting.   Did you go to other sources because you were booking less on VRBO?  Or do you book less on VRBO because you are going to other sources?

             

            We book exclusively on VRBO and have since 2015 (when we started), and our occupancy and ADR goes up every year, but I know you are not alone in YOUR assessment.  I'd love to understand why some markets do better than others at this. 

              • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                u0999 Premier Contributor

                I can answer partially. It is because late 2015 or early 2016 vrbo has made some coding mistake when they prevented google bots from crawling/indexing  listings. So that made bookings plummet . I was saved by VHR (simple sub service at the time). In addition to service fee that affected bookings tremendously in early 2016, they also did away with "advertising markets". That was the second blow. It may affect different locales differently, but was pretty devastating for mine. Thing is , my properties are in unincorporated county. My postal/zip is the same as county and county seat which is 15 miles away (and with the rest of the county unless is incorporated town). My nearest town is Gatlinburg with city limit less than 2 miles as crow flies. So we used to have to advertise as "Gatlinburg" ( and that is what tourists search for - they do not know all the county/Google intricacies of zip codes vs actual locations). Vrbo/ha removed advertising markets/neighborhoods, and my properties started to fall into the unknown.

                 

                I do not know what was chicken or the egg (i.e my vrbo bookings falling because of diversifying), but I'll tell you I was not about to sit around and wait for some manna coming from vrbo in a form of them finally fixing their snafus with Google and otherwise. I took matters in my own hands by diversifying.  The third blow was that one of my cabin's location on VRBO was incorrect for another 8 months even according to vrbo's new algorithm of using postal address (My postal address is Sevierville and they kept putting it in Pittman Center , which no one besides locals knows what it is and no tourist ever will search for).

                I would say after all said and done, it is vrbo who should worry - going from roughly 85% bookings to 32% should cause THEM to question their business model. 

                • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                  kiawahbill Contributor

                  We are similar, we book exclusively through VRBO,  We've used the platform since '05 and in the past two years we've been able to raise rates and set records for revenue.  Since we are on an island there isn't any location confusion.  Also, there are only about 100 properties in our category so ranking doesn't really matter.

                   

                  That said I think we are complacent about diversification.  Our plan is to build our own web site by the end of the summer.

                    • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                      ohst8er Premier Contributor

                      kiawahbill, we have over 7,000 listings in our area.   It isn't VRBO exclusively that is the problem, because if it was, it would be EVERY location.  There are many, many factors that could come into play, though I will concede to the above mentioned issues about location.  People who have never been to "fill in your location here" have no idea how it should be mapped/listed, and that's what's happening with some of these search parameters. 

                       

                      Am I complacent about diversification as well?  Probably.  Do I see a need to do anything about it right now?  No.

                      • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                        timthek Active Contributor

                        kiawahbill ohst8er

                        Don't be complacent. Diversify as soon as possible to protect yourself. If you wait until you "have to" it may be too late. We've seen too many VR owners have their bookings drop off a cliff due to a policy or algorithm change. Everything was great until one day it wasn't.

                         

                        It can take a year or more to get other avenues up and running.....far better to have them in place now than to do it when you are in trouble.

                         

                        Thankfully I had a local/regional site that came online when VRBO added their service fees and by the time I needed it, they were in full swing. I also built my own website 2 years ago. And thank goodness. As of two weeks ago I had zero VRBO bookings for 2019 (now I have 2 weekend rentals in the offseason).

                          • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                            kiawahbill Contributor

                            Thank you for the great advise!  100% we need to do this.  Was there a site you used as model (to build yours)?

                              • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                timthek Active Contributor

                                I built mine using a WordPress Template that I paid like $40 for and spent a few days learning WordPress. There's a great "how to" complete with videos available FREE through Vacation Soup that will get you up and running in a few hours (OK, the basics can be done in a few hours but then there's all the tweaking....). Alternatively, some people just use a service like Wix or Weebly to get up and running fast.
                                I also recommend setting up a Facebook page for your rental and posting in FB groups for vacation rentals.
                                If there are local/regional VR rental sites in your area I'd check them out.

                              • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                u0999 Premier Contributor

                                I could not agree more. It is all good till one fateful day when it isn't. Some snafu in algorithm makes one's listing plummet/to be not found through no fault of owner. I heard the choir of people advising me the obvious stuff ( pro photos, description, IB, acceptance) - I know they mean well but don't they realize that all those things are all done done done and they had no effect to correct the situation?  If an owner thinks it cannot happen to THEM, they may one morning awake to a rude surprise. It can be YOUR listing that falls victim to some algorithm quirk next. And you won't be able to do a d@mn thing about it because a) you would not know until there are falling bookings and b) vrbo won't likely to acknowledge that there is an "issue" (coz it is not "issue" to them - your listing is just a statistic in a sea of other listings).  Diversification takes time, so better start now when you don't HAVE to. When you HAVE to, it is emergency. If someone is interested, my site done using sitelio and ownerrez widgets. It is also linked to Facebook pages  and Google my business listings.

                                  • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                    kiawahbill Contributor

                                    Your site looks great, very professional, well done!  Thank you for providing this

                                    • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                      reaches2beaches Contributor

                                      Very nice. I had a site built a couple years ago, but I am not very happy with it. Did you build this on your own, or did you use a company? I have multiple properties and I have difficulty getting pricing to carry over from something like the VRBO websites to my website and the other platforms without entering each sites rates in manually. Integration is severely holding me back. My site is Reaches2Beaches.com and looks very outdated and extremely basic compared with yours.

                                        • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                          u0999 Premier Contributor

                                          I used to have a wordpress site built by someone, I didn't like the site. This one I built myself using sitelio, they have pretty nice sitebuilder that is easy for non pro but also allows integration of things like schema markup for SEO. I use ownerrez as those rate/book/calendar/ quote/reviews mechanism and it also lets you push rates to vrbo, airbn and booking dot com. You can even specify a percentage, if you want, by which to increase or decrease your rates on a given platform (i.e you can make your Airbnb rates be 5 % higher or lower than your direct rates, for example). If you have 5 properties or more you can have full direct integration with trip advisor and vrbo ( they have the requirement of having 5 properties). there is a direct channel manager API integration with Booking with no minimum properties.

                                            • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                              reaches2beaches Contributor

                                              Thanks so much. I am not a web guy by any means. What do you mean on full direct integration?  is that something you have with VRBO since have less than 5 as well?

                                                • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                                  u0999 Premier Contributor

                                                  No, I have so called "channel bridge" i e I can export rates and import bookings and payment data. If you have 5 or more, they are piloting direct integration (API) now where it is directly connected into vrbo and you can even take payments via your own processor, not yapstone. I cannot do API but I can push rates and pull bookings with all payment and guest data.

                                              • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                                timthek Active Contributor

                                                I don't think your site is that bad. You could make it look more updated just by changing some of the colors and text, and updating/swapping some of the photos. Looks like a basic WordPress site to me. If that's the case, making changes and adding features is pretty simple through the use of plug ins.

                                      • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                        greggt Senior Contributor

                                        Same experience, don't know all the reasons why but our percentage of Home Away/VRBO bookings have dropped dramatically. They are the only paid listing source we used:

                                        2017.   82%

                                        2018.   59%

                                        2019.   29%

                                        • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                          timthek Active Contributor

                                          Like watching Pacman die....
                                          VRBOfailgraph.jpg

                                            • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                              u0999 Premier Contributor

                                              here is from today's date (does not count completed stays) through as far as I have reservations. All 3 cabins combined. Number and % of nights booked.

                                              Blue Mountain Cabins is my own website/direct

                                              So is Facebook but those are the ones who found my ads on Facebook and booked direct ( so it is also a direct category).

                                              Interestingly Airbnb was maxed I think at 26% for one cabin but the other two were in single digits so the average stands at 8% now.

                                              .

                                               

                                            • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                              u0999 Premier Contributor

                                              4 bd year 2019, percent of rental revenue. So direct and Facebook combined (which are both direct)  exceed vrbo.

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                                                • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                                  linky17 Active Contributor

                                                  Proof that hard work + self-managed = reliably performing platforms CAN pay off.  Congrats to you.

                                                   

                                                  Betting that -- for this property? -- your 'blue' will increasingly eclipse the 'purple.'  Wondering, too, what % are 'repeats' and/or Guest referrals via direct?

                                                   

                                                  Thanks for sharing.

                                                    • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                                      u0999 Premier Contributor

                                                      Thank you. repeats / referrals are very small percentage (nature of market and size of property). It is actually blue and turquoise together (~49%), and it already eclipsed the purple (~41%).

                                                        • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                                          linky17 Active Contributor

                                                          So, if "repeats / referrals are very small percentage (nature of market and size of property," can I infer that you've achieved accuracy in > location < via your website + FB efforts?  As I recall, Vrbo proved sadly inaccurate in 'placing' your cabin(s)?

                                                           

                                                          If 'location' wasn't the corrective driver: what was?

                                                           

                                                          BTW ~ (again) I'm "betting that your 'blue' + TURQUOISE will INCREASINGLY eclipse the 'purple."

                                                    • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                                      captmarkhd Senior Contributor

                                                      I Don’t have any cool pies but I can tell you that Vrbo and HA have utterly died for me as well!

                                                      All the way until this last winter, Vrbo accounted for 90% of all bookings with the other 10% being filled by direct, ABB and Booking.com

                                                      by last Oct my high season was half filled and by Jan the rest of

                                                      my high season was filled to 85%, normal occupancy for this time of the year again 90% thanks to Vrbo.  But my second busiest season, June-August where I normally run at about 50% occupancy (45n filled) is dismal, only 18n booked and none through VRBO. I have had 6 reservations come in since April, all but one was through ABB, the other one from Booking, where the heck is Vrbo and HA??? My page views on Vrbo and Ha are in the toilet, 135per month where they used to be in the 1,000’s. My page views through ABB are holding steady at about 300 but I’m getting some bookings from them.

                                                      To try to salvage my season I even lowered my rates by $60pn (2017 rates) and still no increase in activity with HA!!!!

                                                      • Re: Let numbers do the talking
                                                        kmcbhense Contributor

                                                        2020 will be trending downward even more, or should I say spiral out of control.  With the additional huge increases in VRBO service fees, even more potential guests will be running, not walking away. It will too late for them to realize, that if they actually lowered service fees, it would increase bookings, and thus add more income to there bottom line.