Friday, January 17, 2020

Booking Sites, Things Learned, Maybe a Triology, I Hope Not

For the first couple years I didn't take guests. I was tired from 100 hour weeks at Let's Play for twenty years or so. I had the managers and a few friends come out and that was fine. I'd sell just enough stock each month to make the payment. Then I let somebody stay and they told somebody, who told somebody else and it turned into a semi job even when I retired from Let's Play.

Then three years ago I bought the place next door. Last Hurrah. I still was only taking referrals from people that had stayed here and told them not to post comments on web sites about their stay because I was trying to keep from having a job. There was so much work to be done next door and improvements to be made and it doubled the mortgage payment and then some I soon found myself losing $10,000 or so a month and I can't do that for very long.

I put the lodge and Last Hurrah on Trip Advisor, Home Away and it's affiliates including VRBO, Airbnb, Glamping Hub, and there might be a couple more. That was September of 2018. The first month I got three or four bookings, in October six or eight, November nine or ten, and then the reviews started coming in and well now I'm buried and have no life for much of the year, well at least not the one I retired to get. The revenues are five times what they were just two years ago.

I'm not going to post any pictures of a computer screen so here's a few pictures I took out wandering around that didn't quite fit in the story of the day and now I'll use them just to break this up.
All of the booking sites are a little different but mostly along the same lines. They all have a calendar for each unit, I have nine, that links with the other sites if you set it up right. Then if somebody books on one site it automatically blocks those dates on the other sites so there's no double bookings.

However what I learned was that HomeAway and VRBO have somebody send you a request you have 24 hours to make a decision. That doesn't always work for me. They send in their request for dates and I respond telling them to bring food and anything they want to drink besides water cause there's no stores out here and though they probably won't need four wheel drive but they will need five or six inches of ground clearance. Most SUVs, Jeeps, and trucks have that. Most sedans and vans do not. I also add that it will take an hour to get here and if height is an issue for them there will be lots of issues on the way up and down Hurrah Pass. Sometimes they don't respond or cancel the request and sometimes they're checking with everybody or making sure they can get suitable transportation. HomeAway though wants me to accept or reject them within 24 hours. Their computer program is set up that way.

If I don't accept or reject while I'm waiting for a response back from the potential guest within their 24 hours, the request expires, they block the dates on all the other booking site calendars, send me an email saying I'm a loser, and send the guest who is still checking an email saying I didn't respond in time which is unacceptable to them and the request expires. If it happens twice to the same listing they suspend my listing so it doesn't show up on their websites.
I can reinstate it but I don't. They think they're teaching me a lesson to not be irresponsible but they aren't. 70% of my business now is online bookings. The other 30% being previous guests, referrals, and people that visited while passing by or just stumbled upon me. Of that 70% Airbnb is probably 60% of the online business. So I changed it to only link the airbnb calendar to the others but not the others to airbnb. Whenever there is a booking on airbnb it blocks the other calendars. When there is a booking through somebody else then I go block it on airbnb which blocks the others. So they are just linked in one direction now. I have to remember to put all bookings on airbnb or risk a double booking of which I've had two in the three years and I moved them to a different rental. In most cases the unit still books it just doesn't book on HomeAway so they're really hurting themselves and their income more than me. I've talked to them about it and nothing is going to change. I keep a spreadsheet on my desktop that I can look at quickly but I still screw it up occasionally.

No comments: