Think of an online booking as a reservation request, with a traveler commitment to pay, that owners and property managers can confirm with a single click. Travelers who use the booking-request button enjoy the speed and convenience of a streamlined reservation process. This does not mean inquiries are going away, and it does not mean transactions via HomeAway sites are required. Travelers may still send inquiries, as they do now. You will still have the option to communicate, book, and pay outside of our system, as you do today. Online booking is simply an additional option, alongside inquiries, that enables travelers to expedite reservation requests.
Credit card acceptance will not be a requirement for online booking. By mid-2015, online booking will work with payments that occur outside of HomeAway websites. That means owners and property managers can confirm a booking request online and accept payment offline or using another website – for example, by check, bank transfer, or another payment processor. HomeAway will continue to encourage and reward credit card acceptance as the fastest and safest payment method. Most travelers strongly prefer listings that accept both credit cards and offline payments, and we recommend doing both to maximize bookings.
Online booking is a free feature of subscription listings. HomeAway does not and will not impose an incremental commission for online bookings on top of a subscription. Alternatively, for non-subscription listings using the pay-per-booking option, the commission is 10%, and this includes online booking. We understand that some owners and property managers are concerned that HomeAway is moving toward a commission-only model, but that is not the case. We remain 100% committed to the commission-free subscription model. Please be aware that owners and property managers who process credit card payments will incur fees, as determined by their payments providers (e.g., Yapstone or a credit card acquiring bank).
Property managers and owners will have 24 hours to communicate with travelers and accept or decline booking requests. To ensure a great traveler experience, HomeAway will track the percentage of accepted and rejected traveler requests, and advertisers will lose the booking-request button if requests for available dates are frequently declined. Know that we won’t penalize owners or property managers for turning away travelers that are a bad match for their properties.
Traveler expectations have evolved, and we need to evolve with them. Today’s shopper expects to buy or book on every site; yet less than half of vacation rental listings feature online booking. Listings that lack online booking burden travelers with an average of 7+ inquiries and 9+ days of exchanges per successful reservation. This results in many problems for travelers, including inaccurate calendars and rates, slow or no response from owners and property managers, and ambiguity about the booking and payment process. When travelers experience these problems, they often abandon vacation rentals entirely. Together, we need to change this.
When surveyed, 92% of vacation rental travelers say they want the option of online booking. Over time, HomeAway, owners and property managers could lose a meaningful number of guests if we don’t adapt to meet their needs.
The biggest advantage to adopting online booking now is more reservations: on average, listings with online booking generate 100% more in bookings than listings without the online booking option. Another advantage is search position, because online booking is a significant component of your listing quality score. Finally, subscriptions with online booking will be eligible for distribution on third-party sites like Expedia as this functionality becomes available.