Slash OTA Fees, Not Your STR’s Safety: A New Approach

Slash OTA Fees

When running short-term rentals, the biggest goal of any host or property manager is to attract more travelers and have more bookings to maximize their revenue. This means it is crucial to give each STR property the visibility it needs. That’s why it has become the best practice to use a mix of online booking channels, such as OTAs, to expand your reach, appeal to a broader range of travelers, and diversify your revenue stream.

Why Do You Need a Direct Booking Strategy?

OTAs act as intermediaries between hosts, property managers, and travelers. They are well-armed with technology and have enormous marketing budgets, which can increase the visibility of your vacation rentals. Some OTAs, for example, Airbnb, vet guests using profile verification tools, perform basic background checks, and do reservation screening to reduce risks of disruptive parties, chargebacks, and property damage.

But this also comes at a cost in the form of high commissions that OTAs typically charge for each booking, which can range from 10% to 20% and can significantly reduce your revenue. Additionally, OTA may have strict rules and policies that can limit your control over your rental property, and their constantly changing algorithms bind you.

That’s why many vacation rental hosts and property managers also create their own direct booking websites to sidestep OTA fees and rules, build long-term relationships with guests, and encourage repeat direct bookings.

Today, you can easily launch a direct booking website even if you’re unfamiliar with web development and lack technical skills. Modern vacation rental software typically comes with a built-in website builder that allows you to create a fully functional website using professional templates with an integrated booking engine.

Then, your guests can book your properties directly on your vacation rental website, and you’ll still be able to make a profit while offering your guests a lower price. You’ll also have full control over your property and will be free to set your rules, terms, policies, prices, availability, and payment structures.

What about STR Security?

But accepting direct booking on your vacation rental website also means going without OTA background checks and security processes, significantly increasing the risk of major issues. That’s why vacation rental hosts must screen short-term rental guests who book through a direct booking website before they check-in.

You need to do it not only to prevent serious criminal activity, fraud, or the use of fake ID, which can be detrimental to your vacation rental business. It’s also about preventing damage to your property and belongings, identifying guests who can be potentially problematic, and keeping your neighbors safe. Remember that problematic guests may deliberately look for STR hosts that accept direct bookings because this way, they can sidestep even basic checks performed by sites like Airbnb.

Guest screening typically involves verifying guest’s ID, conducting a background check, reviewing their rental history, and verifying their credit card, which means a lot of manual work. Luckily, there’s a better and more effective solution—you can significantly enhance your guest screening process using technology, and that’s where Autohost comes in.

Intelligent Guest Screening for Direct Bookings

Guest Screening for Direct Bookings

Autohost is a reliable and robust guest screening solution powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. It automatically scans reservations to determine initial risk factors and analyzes hundreds of data points to validate guests’ IDs, saving you a lot of time.
Autohost integrates seamlessly with many vacation rental management systems, including Hospitable Direct, to help hosts build direct booking business and break free from the pain points associated with using OTAs.

Interestingly, 71.5% of Hospitable Direct users choose the Premium option, where damage protection, automated guest screening, and chargeback protection are included so hosts can accept bookings with confidence. This fact shows the need for hosts to feel protected and to have their tech stack working seamlessly together.

With intelligent guest screening, guests are vetted during the direct booking flow, and if the guest is flagged, you can choose whether to accept them. The entire guest screening process is straightforward and guest-friendly—it takes only a few minutes, so the guests barely notice the extra steps they need to perform as a part of their bookings.

Once the guest has booked your property on your direct booking website, they’ll receive a dedicated link to access a branded page on an online guest portal where they go through a series of customizable verifications. Screening AI runs a comprehensive verification assessment, dynamically adjusting the process according to the reservation’s risk level and flags issues and concerns. The process may include ID verification, scanning social media profiles, checking email addresses, phone numbers, device and IP addresses, credit card verification, sex offender register checks, etc.

It’s important to mention that all data remains encrypted and safe, so there is no risk to your STR business associated with possible violations of data protection laws. When the guest completes the check-in process, their reservation is verified, and they automatically receive detailed check-in instructions. But before guests are confirmed, Autohost ensures they sign a rental agreement and provide a security deposit.

AI-driven guest screening will allow you to feel certain that your guests are who they say they are, minimize the chance of parties, property damage, fraud, and criminal activity, and reduce costs from chargebacks and extra cleaning. It can help ensure top-notch security, eliminating unnecessary stress so you can focus on growing your STR business.

The Bottom Line

Building a direct booking website really makes sense because it allows you to be more independent from OTAs, save on their commissions, and take your vacation rental business to the next level. But you should accept direct bookings responsively—without sacrificing property security. That means you should incorporate guest screening into your direct booking strategy using an automated guest screening tool that uses AI and ML algorithms and seamlessly integrates with your booking system to ensure a perfect guest experience.

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