January 29, 2020 / By The Weekender Travel
We all know the devastating impact the fires and drought have had on towns and regions across NSW, Victoria and South Australia dependent on tourism. Current figures suggest that cancellation rates of more than 60% have been experienced across NSW and Victoria, even in towns outside the bushfire zones, causing economic damage of up to $1 billion.
So what can we do? One thing we can change is our reliance on sites such as Airbnb when booking accommodation. Not only do these sites charge us more, they leave owners and agents out of pocket.
Also lost is the personal connection that arises when travellers and hosts communicate directly with each other. So come on Australia, let's start planning our trips to the many regional destinations that need us and, when we do, let's make sure we book direct.
Why go direct?
The biggest reason to book holiday accommodation direct is that - for both host and traveller - it makes more sense (or cents!) Large booking sites charge both parties to the transaction for using their site.
For hosts, Airbnb charges a service fee of between 3% - 5%, or between 14% - 22% for businesses that elect to have a host-only fee (more popular with hotels and other hospitality businesses). Stayz, which was an Australian company until 2013 when it was sold to Expedia and became part of the HomeAway group, charges hosts a commission of 5% on all bookings made through its platform.
For travellers, the costs are even higher. Airbnb charges travellers a service fee of between 3% - 13% for every booking they take. This means the cost of your holiday can increase by hundreds of dollars, particularly during the summer months when nightly rates are highest, with none of that money going to the property owner or local agent. Stayz has a similar system, though it is less clear on its rates, but the end result (and price) are usually the same.
So let's say you want to book a property with a nightly rate of $250. If you book on Airbnb or HomeAway/Stayz, you will pay up to $32.50 extra per night just for booking via their site. If you book for a week, that could be an extra $227.50 on top of the basic accommodation and cleaning costs.
However, if you go direct you are likely to save this whole amount. If the property has its own booking webpage (and many of the best properties on the major booking sites do), or the property is managed by a local holiday accommodation agent, there will usually not be a service fee added to your booking. Most property owners and accommodation agents charge the same nightly rate for their properties whether they are listed on a large booking site or their own property page, and don't add service fees to direct bookings.
So, when you book direct, you know all your money is going direct to the owner or agent, not being siphoned off by large third party booking sites. Furthermore, the deposit you are required to pay to secure your booking may be lower (meaning your money stays in your account longer).
There is another important reason to book direct. Owners and holiday accommodation agents love connecting directly with the people coming to stay in their town and region. They can share tips on great things to do, help with any special requests, and provide information on the property before you book. Their cancellation policies are also usually the same or more flexible than Airbnb's or Stayz/HomeAway's and it's always great to know there's someone at the other end of the phone to discuss your booking if you need to.
This desire for connection is even greater now. Locals in regional all across Australia want to reassure visitors that their shops are open, their holiday properties are ready for guests, and their towns are waiting eagerly for your business. So come on, what are you waiting for?
How to book direct?
Ok, this is where it gets a bit harder. Large multinational sites like Airbnb and Stayz/HomeAway bank (literally) on the fact that you will be willing to pay the large service fees in exchange for the ease and convenience of using their sites. Booking direct however requires a bit more effort.
While many of the top properties listed on Airbnb and Stayz/HomeAway have their own websites where you can check availability, rates and book direct, finding them takes time and effort. Shortcuts do exist, for example - most local, regional and state tourism webpages have information on holiday accommodation in their area. While some of these pages still operate as booking sites, others like South Australian tourism provides information and links directly to a property's own booking page.
That is also how our site The Weekender works. All the properties listed on our webpage link directly to a property's own website and booking page. We also don't charge owners or local holiday accomodation agents any fee for enquiries they receive through our site.
Finally, a great way to find a selection of properties on offer in an area is to book through a holiday accommodation agent. These businesses are usually local and manage everything to do with a holiday property including taking bookings, arranging cleaning, and dealing with repairs. They are another great way of supporting a local business and connecting directly with the people in the area you want to visit.
So what now?
Whether you're in a position to book a holiday, or you are planning how to spend your holiday dollars in the future, finding a way to make sure that your money has the most impact for the people, businesses and communities affected by the drought and fires, is important. A key part of this is booking direct. This way, not only do you put a smile on the face of an owner or agent, you also know that all your money is going local and not to some large multinational corporation far removed from the tough economic realities facing many parts of Australia today.