As a vacation-rental host, I’ve had some fantastic opportunities to experience what it’s like to fulfill reservations from different online-travel-agencies. Through my experiences at Lodgable, I’ve overheard feedback – some very strong opinions about Booking.com. From what I’ve gathered, the feedback was either drastically positive or negative. There were some misconceptions, and the majority of issues had easy resolves. Many times, they can only compare their Booking.com host experience, with their experience hosting in sites like AirBnB. It’s no surprise that there’s a storm of emotional rhetoric, flooding the internet about host-experiences with Booking.com. They are the largest vacation-rental booking platform in the world, absolutely in a league of their own. As a third-party voice, I hope this guide can shed some light on the crucial differences with AirBnB, and hopefully grant you some advice through some of the common complaints.
I’ve had success with AirBnB, how is Booking.com going to be different?
I hear a lot of skepticism about hosting on Booking.com, coming from hosts that enjoy an “AirBnB” style of hosting. This is not a debate about which one is ‘better’, as that’s entirely subjective. It’s important that you understand some of the larger differences, so you can decide if it’s something you can work with. Here is a brief synopsis, outlining some of those:
- (Without using a channel manager, like Lodgable) Booking.com is harder get started with – After creating a listing, there’s a tedious approval process, and you need to be setup with an online merchant processor so you can take guest credit cards (the most preferred method).
- AirBnB will handle payments; collecting them on your behalf, then issuing you payouts. With Booking.com, hosts can operate with much more autonomy. With that being said, you’ll need to collect payments from guests. For more information on managing guest payments, directly with Booking.com, check this out.
- You can’t “request to book” on booking.com, it’s all instant booking. You really have to focus on keeping-up accurate availability because bookings are always confirmed instantly. ‘Instant Booking’ means more earning potential for you, this was always one advantage hoteliers had over vacation-rentals. You’ll see the vacation-rental industry start to shift more and more into the ‘instant-booking’ model.
- Commission structure differences – AirBnB charges the host 3-5%, and the guest 6-12%. Booking.com does not charge the guest any fees but will charge the host a commission of 15%.
- As a guest, it’s much easier to make a reservation with Booking.com. I’s about as easy as making a reservation in a hotel, which is the experience that Booking.com intended for their guest network. Booking.com sells a service, that’s it. AirBnB is very personal, selling an ‘experience’. AirBnB puts their guests through an exhaustive verification process. Also, both the host and guest can leave public feedback for one another.
- Booking.com isn’t exactly ‘survey heavy’ – A guest can leave a review for a property; however, a host is unable to review a guest (just like a hotel). Because of the ‘interpersonal structure’ of AirBnB, negotiating rental costs is a common occurrence, you don’t really see this with Booking.com.
Complaints I’ve heard from Booking.com hosts, and what they could have done differently
“The guests are always able to cancel free-of-charge, bypassing my cancellation policy!”
I hear this almost constantly. Let’s assume for a second, that a Booking.com guest creates a reservation, and then cancels it – but it’s cancelled just a few days before the check-in, and the host’s cancellation policy clearly states, “Guests will be charged 100% of the total price if they cancel the reservation within 14 days before arrival”. Technically, if the host has already successfully collected on this booking, they don’t need to issue a refund, they’re perfectly fine! But if they haven’t collected on it, at this point – their chances of collecting on that booking, are practically zero. Booking.com host-support is not going to help them chase down a guest that owes them money, even though their completely entitled to it. Host’s should be proactive in collecting for reservations, from the very minute that they’re received. They should quickly open up some dialogue with the guest and attempt to collect. If they stumble upon a bad credit-card, Booking.com allows the host to cancel the booking after 24 hours (no penalties to the host), if no payment updates have been made from the guest. This speedy turnaround, allows a Booking.com host to free-up their calendar quickly, improving their chances of successfully booking those days.
“Booking.com changed the wording within my property description!”
The listing was optimized for search-engine-optimization (SEO). This is actually a good thing! Booking.com will routinely make adjustments in listing descriptions, and sometimes even the titles. They’re wanting to make sure your listing is just as publicly accessible as possible, and can be easily categorized and searched for.
“I seem to be receiving more ‘fake bookings’, than real ones, and I’ve even had a few instances of fraudulent credit cards!”
There’s no shortage of forum discussions about invalid, declined, or fraudulent credit card data in Booking.com. It’s definitely something hosts are becoming vocal about. It’s no surprise that a guest can input any credit card (with or without funds), or even a random string of digits. The cards aren’t authorized, or charged by Booking.com. To help combat this, the host should try to initiate their own pre-authorization charges of 1-10$, as soon as booking has been made. A successful charge will drastically increase the validity of the reservation. Due to the Lodgable policies in Booking.com, Lodgable hosts can charge the full-amount of the reservation, the second a booking is received. Some of our more engaged hosts will also take steps to establish solid communication with the guest, or even try charging a smaller amount – if the card was declined for “insufficient funds”. Good dialogue before the check-in, is an indicator that the guest is expressing intent to fulfill the reservation. Choosing to accept the booking income, or remainder of the income, at check-in – is at the hosts discretion, and should only be factored in certain/special situations. There’s definitely a kind of ‘art’ to all of this; a conscious effort is paramount to successfully navigating Booking.com!
“Guests will cancel the reservation, outside my cancellation policy. I’ll have to issue them the total booking amount (100%) back – but my merchant processor dings me on refunds. They take a percentage of the transaction – this still ends up costing me money!”
This situation requires a little more finesse’, to ensure that our good-willed host isn’t being charged for something that he/she has absolutely no control over. The problem isn’t really an issue with the Booking.com cancellation policy – it’s all attributed to how that host was collecting on the reservation, and how it should have been collected, with regard to the cancellation policy that they’ve setup. Lodgable’s Booking.com cancellation policy states, “The guest can cancel free of charge until 30 days before arrival. The guest will be charged the total price if they cancel in the 30 days before arrival.” With this cancellation policy, the host should wait until it’s within ’30 days to check-in’, before charging the card, thus ensuring no chance of a refund. The same idea applies to hosts that only collect a percentage after a certain time period (IE: 50% of the booking, within 30-60 days). So, the guest will only get charged – once they’re within a cancellation period, where they won’t be entitled to a complete refund. The host will still have a positive balance, minus any merchant fees.
“Booking.com charged me commissions, even though the guest never showed!”
This host should have squared away the payment – long before the check-in date; but, situations like this do arise, especially in reservations that don’t grant appropriate buffers in time (same day check-ins, as an example). Unlike some other booking sites, it’s really important to mark no-shows in Booking.com (or let your channel manager know). Booking.com has no way to verify if you’ve successfully received payments, so if the reservation hasn’t been cancelled, they naturally assume you’ve collected on it, and will then charge commissions.
“I use Booking.com simultaneously, with some other online-travel-sites, and I receive more double-bookings on Booking.com, than anywhere else!”
This is mainly attributed to Booking.com not running with a generic iCal (.ics) format for linking up calendaring, like other major online booking sites. They realize that a number of their hosts are not going to solely list their property with them. Booking.com actually encourages the use of a third-party channel manager. Lodgable uses a direct API integration to keep property calendars current and simplified (oh, and it’s free).