How to Create a Direct Booking Website That Will Get You More Direct Bookings for Your Vacation Rental

Direct booking websites offer property managers a way to show off your property to prospective renters and obtain their reservations without the help (or the fees!) of a listing site like Airbnb, VRBO or others. 

And yes, it does feel like anytime you try to open a new business, people immediately tell you, “Hey, you need a website!” Do you have to have a website for your vacation rentals? Probably not. Would it help you make more money? Probably so. 

What is a direct booking website?

A direct booking site is your standalone site to show off your properties to guests, where they can book directly through you, rather than through a third party. This has numerous benefits for your business that we’ll expand on below, but the main thing is that it allows you to control the entire experience that your guests have when booking your properties. 

You can opt to include whatever you want on your direct booking website. You have complete creative control! However, we would recommend the following: a photo gallery with images of the inside and outside of the property, along with specific pictures of what makes it special, directions for how to get to your property, as well as how to get from your property to various attractions in the area, and a booking engine that includes your rates, availability and the capability to take direct bookings. 

To take your direct booking site to the next level, you can even include reviews from previous clients, any discounts or deals that you may be offering, a bio page that offers some insight into you and your hosting journey, and even a blog to help drive traffic to your page.

Isn’t that what I can do on Airbnb or VRBO? Well, no, not quite. While putting your property on a short-term rental platform is a useful action item in its own right, it’s not the same as having a direct booking website. With a direct booking website, you are the owner–this means that what you think is right for the website is right, and what isn’t right, doesn’t need to go live. In other words, you retain the ultimate control of the site, while on other websites, you just control the information that you input. 

Benefits of creating a direct booking website for your vacation rental

Yes, building a direct booking website can be a little bit of work. But we think it’s a critical element of your business model. Keep reading to learn why.

Increased revenue

One of the most exciting benefits of renting through a direct booking website is that you can use your direct booking site to generate more money for your business. When someone books through your booking engine directly, it means they are paying you, and only you. There is no middleman. 

For example, if you list through Airbnb, and a client makes a booking, you still owe Airbnb a percentage before you can start thinking through money earned. If a potential renter books straight through your website, you won’t have any fees to contend with.
Put shortly, direct bookings offer you more control over your business by allowing you to work with your consumers directly. This renders it the most impactful channel for a vacation rental business as it pertains to your bottom line. 

Additional booking channel

People typically associate OTAs (online travel agencies like Airbnb) with bookings for short-term rental. However, you might be surprised to find out that nearly 40% of all short-term rental bookings are direct, meaning they are made through direct booking websites owned by rentalpreneurs or property managers like you.

While listing on OTAs can help you reach more guests, there truly is no “one best channel.” What this means is that the more channels you list your property on, the more chances you have to generate revenue and more flexibility in how you run your business. 

Generally speaking, if people do not opt to create a direct booking website, it is because they feel like it is too much work. But hang in there, we’ll tell you how Futurestay can take this action item off of your to-do list.

No OTA fees

Look, we’ve talked about this a little bit before, but the chance to put more money in your pocket makes us want to talk about it a little more. Although OTAs help you get the word out, let’s call it like it is: they run on fees, each one somewhat different from the other. 

What are these rates? Fair question.

  • At, you can expect to pay between 10 and 15% depending on the specific factors of your listing
  • On Airbnb, you and the guest often spilt the fees – which is typically between 18% and 22%. Because Airbnb tends to pass on many of their fees to their guests, it can create unpleasant sticker shock for them at checkout
  • Typically, VRBO fees will run about 8% of the total amount you charge your guests, including fees

Let’s look at an easy example here. Say you’re renting your three-bed, two-bath home in the suburbs for $100 each night.

  • At, you can expect to make $75 - $90.
  • On Airbnb, you’re looking at $85 - $97, but the guest might pay up to $115.
  • With VRBO, you could make $92.

But with your own direct booking website, you make the full $100. Now, that may not sound like too much on its face, but let’s say your property runs at a 61% occupancy rate, meaning your property is rented about eighteen or nineteen days out of the month. With this example, you’re saving a minimum of $56 but could make as much as $475. Take that high number, and you’re saving nearly $6000 a year. A couple of years of that, and you can be one more property closer to complete financial freedom! 

While OTAs ultimately do give you exposure, and subsequently, bookings, having your own direct booking website takes away those extra expenses by a long shot. Even if you’re only saving a few hundred dollars, that’s money in your pocket, that can either be yours to spend or yours to up your investment potential with. Best of all, once your direct booking site is gaining reservations, you will be increasingly less dependent on these booking platforms for the success of your business.  

More control over your properties

At the end of the day, this is your business and nobody else’s. With a direct booking website, you retain the ability to tell guests anything you want about your property. No need to work within the guidelines of different platforms–if there is something special that you think will get people in the door, then you get to display it, front and center, on your own website. 

Additionally, we live in a media age. Potential renters will be enticed by videos of your property, content showing guests having a great time, and even videos talking about the fun things there are to do in your area. With your own website, you can feature elements like video content, 3d walkthroughs, customer highlights, and more. By telling your story, you can make your property more appealing than the competition, and add to your profits. 

Increased brand awareness

Building your own website is a chance to highlight your own brand so that users remember how to find you, and look for your properties when they are looking for a place to stay instead of going back to an OTA. Guests who enjoy staying with you in one property may remember to check your website to look for different properties, properties in new cities, or even to rebook the original property that they enjoyed so much.

If you’re just starting out in your short-term rental journey, this may not seem critical yet. But please learn from our experience. Creating a website is a manageable first step that will only pay dividends for you as you grow your business. Establishing brand loyalty early, so that your customer base can grow alongside your business, is one of the most critical action steps you can take as a vacation rental owner. 

Own your guest relationships

While OTAs can be an important part of your short-term rental strategy, they do create a barrier between you and your guests.

On the other hand, direct booking sites allow you to conduct business with your clients directly. For example, let’s say you know that a particular month is a low time for your rental. You might want to send an email blast to former renters, letting them know about an exciting event in the town the property is located in or a discount you are offering just for that month. With a third-party website, it’s tricky to get back in touch with your past clients, but with a direct booking website, you are unlocking the ability to market your properties in a way that isn’t possible on third-party platforms. 

How can I create a direct booking website for my vacation rental?

There are many different ways to create a direct booking website for your vacation rental business. The goal is to find the method that works best for you without committing to an exorbitant upfront cost. 

Template Website Builder

There are many website builders that can expedite your website creation process without needing to take on a huge expense. If you're up for quite a bit of DIY, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and WordPress all provide affordable website templates that you can customize to showcase your property. However, a simple display website might not be enough if you want to provide guests with an accurate availability calendar and take direct bookings.

Custom website

On the flip side, some business owners opt to hire a developer to create a custom-coded website to better address their needs. While this does offer you the chance to customize to your heart’s desire, it will impact your bottom line, as custom websites can cost a pretty penny.

Booking widgets

If you’ve already got a website, but it’s missing a booking widget, you’ll definitely want to add one. If this is the case that you’re in, consider using Futurestay’s booking widget, which is available for websites built on Wix. This integrates cleanly with Futurestay’s management platforms, as well as that of other booking websites. 

Such integration is the most crucial thing to ask about when shopping for website add-ons. You’ll want to make sure that you are all set up to avoid double bookings that can lose you guests and revenue. 

Futurestay Website

Futurestay helps rentalprenuers create a direct booking website in just minutes without having to design or code anything.

It comes complete with best-in-class management tools built into the website to help you manage your property. It also works seamlessly with your OTAs to minimize the work you need to put in to keep your reservations in sync. Best of all, it integrates with Google Vacation Rentals, which allows you to list your property straight on Google–an option that third-party website builders can’t offer you.

Click here to find out why Google Vacation Rentals is so important for direct bookings

Managing your direct booking channel

There are a couple of key considerations that you’ll want to take into account when determining how to best manage your direct booking channel. Continue reading. 

Pricing your direct booking vacation rentals

With direct booking websites, you have ultimate control over your bottom line. At the end of the day, this allows you to get creative with your pricing. If you are using the right tools, you'll be able to implementing discounts, extended stays, or even incentives for future bookings. Because pricing is often the number one factor in determining whether or not a guest books, Futurestay provides dynamic pricing. Our Smart Rates use data from your local market, powered by Airdna to make sure you are always priced right.

Managing reservations between channels

We can’t say it enough: your calendars have got to be in sync. Once you cancel a reservation because of a double booking, OTAs will penalize your listing which often results in less visibility and bookings. Attempting to keep your calendars up to date manually, is a massive risk and liability - it requires a high time investment and leaves too much room for human error. Consider opting for a direct booking channel that sync these reservations automatically, to reduce errors and keep your guests happy.

Managing guest communications

OTAs offer automated emails that cut down on the administrative time you’ll spend on each booking. With this in mind, you’ll want to consider if and how you’ll work around this with your direct booking website.

Truly, there are three different routes you can take:

Manage it manually - while it's simple and easy to write same 3 or 4 emails to each guest that books on your direct website, it's incredibly time consuming and prone to error. Guests expect prompt, accurate communication and they won't be too understanding if their booking receipt is late just because you happened to be busy at the time they booked. 

Build an automated process with several tools - By combining tools like Zapier, Make and IFTT, you can connect some common template website builders to email platforms like Mailchimp or Constant Contact. While it's possible to achieve, it will take tech knowhow and time to set up and maintain.

Use Futurestay - With Futurestay's direct booking website, guest communications are automated and seamless. Every booking, receipt, notification or even cancellation that occurs results in the right message being delivered to the right guest at the right time. There's nothing to set up or maintain - it just works.

Regardless of what you choose, be sure to have a means by which your guests can contact you. Provide a phone number and email for your guests to access easily.

Finally, don’t forget – if you're doing this right, you should be collecting data each time your guests fill out a form! Choose a way to manage this data, so that you can use it for advertising purposes later. 

Choosing a Direct Booking Website

We've laid out all of the options and it's time for you to take the next step. Think about your budget, goals and technical skills when answering the following questions:

Do you have time and skills to design and code a website yourself?

Are automated guest messages important to you?

Do you know how to price perfectly, or do you need dynamic pricing to help?

Is having accurately synced calendars a priority?

Do you want your website to go live today? Or weeks or months from now.

Do you want to be on Google Vacation Rentals?

The answers to those questions will help you decide which approach to take. If you're still unsure, click here to contact our team and discuss. Or if you're ready to get started click here!

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