Hey everyone,

I run a web development company in the UK and became interested in building a book and pay system for vacation rental owners. It doesn't exist yet! I thought I'd see if the market wanted such a system before I began working on it.

Over the past few weeks, I've been chatting to rental owners and there are a few common themes:

  • OTAs are generally disliked but many VR owners feel dependent on them.
  • Direct bookings are generally disliked - integrations are complex and VR owners tend to want to screen their guests before accepting bookings.
  • There is already a range of property management solutions that range in price and function. Most VR owners seem very happy with them.

My conversations pointed me in the direction of an improved channel management tool. Love them or hate them, many owners are heavily reliant on OTAs for bookings and synching calendars across multiple sites seems to be a common problem for many of you.

With that in mind, can anyone help me out? Am I heading in a worthwhile direction with this research?

Comments

dannydanny
last year

Hi @jcpeden,

Can you expand on what you mean by a pay & book system in the format of a channel manager. Are you suggesting giving users a "property page" with online booking, however its attached to a channel manager?

I look forward to hearing more about your idea!

jcpedenjcpeden
last year

Hi Danny,

Sorry, I wasn't clear! I started out looking to build a system with which users could easily accept online payments for their VR property. Think a Stripe integration that you wouldn't need a developer to install for you.

However, I discovered that many property owners were either able to do this themselves, didn't actually want to bother with direct bookings as their traffic was too low or didn't want the process to be seamless as they wanted to screen guests before accepting a booking.

Instead, I found that they typically wanted to continue using OTAs. In spite of their high-fees, OTAs deliver loads of traffic to VR owners and only a handful have been able to break away and get enough traffic to their own site to make direct bookings a worthwhile pursuit.

As such, I was wondering how much value there would be in an improved channel management tool as for the most part, these seem very flakey!

RichardVRichardV
last year

I'll jump in as it's of interest to so many owners...

About a year ago we did a survey and received about 600 replies from managers and owners and you are correct, OTA's in general in traditional VR are not appreciated as they have added a layer of financial pain and reduced comms. Bookings are the same generally but the admin on comms is replaced by technical challenges and unforgiving guest expectations on cancellations and price driven by the growth and competition of marketplaces. However, each owner or manager used an average of 2.5-3 OTA's for obvious reasons.

Most managers and increasing numbers of owners, use a PMS system so they can administrate bookings, push to their own webs and via a channel manager (or increasingly direct from PMS) to OTA's.

In my mind, there is less money in the channels as this is data distribution which may see more standardization and increasingly more taken out of marketplaces. The property owners/inventory managers with contracts and the marketplaces will rule the roost and technology companies need to be lean and mean.

Companies charging high %'s for the service >2% on a booking will see their business models suffer. Those that have modeled it on high per unit/per month fees will suffer as the bigger managers go direct to OTA's and even challenge OTA's through volume. Owners who use Airbnb etc. may start to use these businesses own tech offerings. Think ALICE for hotels and Expedia recently. This all starts to cut channel managers out if only 4 or 5 channels are creating bookings.

The industry needs new disruption and that is decentralized low-cost marketplaces and smart voice search that finds the best deals, which are direct. Those that are ready and can adapt to direct online bookings and have the smarts, will benefit.

Smart channel management provided it is low cost and can adapt to the huge variety of data has a space, but questionable on its long-term opportunity. Go to the source directly seems to be the goal from OTA's right now and that makes sense for them as its cuts out middlemen and leaves more margin and has greater controls.

jcpedenjcpeden
last year

Thanks for the information Richard, building a new marketplace has been suggested but isn't something I have the time or resources to do successfully!

Assuming channel management is not a good long-term play, do you think there would be much demand for an easy-to-install payment processor if I could build something?

RichardVRichardV
last year

If you mean a gateway that hooks to a merchant provider such as WorldPay/Paypal/Cardnet or one of the hundreds of providers, then check out Spreedly who do this for a living.

If you mean a new type of merchant, such as Stripe, then these companies are working hard on providing tools and integrations to Wordpress etc.

Its very hard miles and PCI compliance and now data compliance coming and in rentals, the global payment selections are endless. There is always the pain point on rates too. People who use booking.com, happily give away 15%, but argue over 0.01% on a card fee...

If I had enough time, I would seriously look at cryptocurrency gateway/transaction protocols and think conversion to Fiat in real time. The big boys are doing it, but new ground...

jcpedenjcpeden
last year

Hi Richard,

Crypto is on my radar, I hold (HODL) some BTC - I'll consider that.

The intention with the payment system would probably be a layer that used Stripe for the heavy-lifting but allowed owners and easily managed system that they could load into their site. Is this what Spreedly effectively offer?

jcpedenjcpeden
last year

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