Increasingly online listing sites such as AirBnB, TripAdvisor and Owners Direct (a misnomer if ever there was one) and holiday letting agencies are charging owners sizeable commission and guests heavy booking fees. It’s a win-win situation for them and a lose-lose one for guests and owners.
They are also making it more and more difficult for the potential guests to communicate with owners. This ensures they can’t be bypassed before they grab your money. But what a shame. Who knows the accommodation and local area best? The owner. The obvious person to ask questions to make sure it’s the right accommodation and the right destination for you.
So, how do you avoid steep online fees when booking your holiday? Just book direct. Save money and get a personal booking service.
Finding holiday properties that take direct bookings
There are several ways to do this. Here are some suggestions:
- Look for niche sites which cater for either a type of holiday (e.g. dog-friendly holidays) or a particular area. The site we use, www.westbay.co.uk is a great example of this. It has lots of information about the area and listings for cottages, apartments, b&b’s etc. It’s aim is to be informative and helpful, not to make money.
- Use Google wisely. Type in the area you are interested and a few suitable words like “self catering” or “holiday” or “cottage”. Scroll past the first page or two. These are dominated by the big online travel agencies (OTAs) who have the marketing budget. Then click away.
- If you use Facebook there are a growing number of groups for owners to advertise their holiday accommodation. Try Book your Holiday Direct with the Owner for properties in the UK and France.
- Local tourist information sites such as Visit Dorset have lots of information about your preferred area as well as listings for accommodation providers, restaurants and local businesses.
- Have a look at simple listing sites like Owner Holidays, Dorset Holiday Cottages, The Holiday Let and Independent Cottages. These still allow you to contact the owner directly and book with them privately, just like the original idea behind Owners Direct before they were bought by HomeAway.
- Be a detective! Look for the name of any property that takes your fancy on one of the OTA sites. Many owners have dropped hints in their listings about their own websites. Then google the property name to find the owner’s website.
- TripAdvisor also have some ‘direct booking only’ listings but they are usually at the bottom of a search list. Look for the ones that do not say ‘payment protection’. These owners pay a subscription to list their properties instead of TA taking a commission per booking from guests.
- On some OTA sites you can still communicate in advance of booking. Make an enquiry rather than going directly to ‘Book it Now’. Ask owners if they are willing to book with you privately.
Peace of Mind
If it worries you that you are not booking with one of the “big names” you can always give a property owner a ring to have a chat about their property. If they have plenty of information on their website, a Facebook page and some other listing sites, then this, supported by a phone conversation, should reassure you that they are genuine holiday homeowners. Many owners, including ourselves, can take credit cards, which gives you similar payment protection to that offered by the OTAs.
Next time you are hunting for a holiday please give these suggestions a go. Save booking fees and a whole heap of commission and support your independent holiday home owner to boot!