What are some direct booking costs to consider vs. OTA service fee?

Direct bookings costs to consider

Paying your OTA platforms a chunk of your revenue may seem a lot to many property managers and hosts. Direct bookings seem like a better alternative when you add up all the money that was spent on paying the service fee. However, there are several direct booking costs to consider before you choose to go down that road and completely leave OTAs behind. 

According to research by hospitality.net, 41% of guests prefer OTAs, 29% book direct, and another 29% like to book trips with travel agents or tour operators.

Direct booking costs to consider
Source, Guest Preference Data

This blog explores the advantages and disadvantages of both OTA bookings and direct bookings. It also explores all the direct booking costs to consider. 

OTA bookings:

OTA (Online Travel Agency) bookings are reservations made through third-party platforms and websites, such as Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, or TripAdvisor, which act as intermediaries between property managers, hosts, and travelers.


  1. Increased visibility: Listing your property on online travel agencies (OTAs) exposes your rental to a large audience of potential guests. Especially because OTAs also have strong marketing campaigns.
  2. Built-in trust: Many travelers are familiar with and trust established OTAs, which can make it easier for them to book your property.
  3. Payment processing: OTAs often handle payment processing, reducing the complexity of collecting payments and payouts.
  4. Reviews and ratings: Positive reviews on OTAs can help build credibility and attract more bookings.


  1. Commissions and fees: OTAs typically charge commissions for each booking, which can significantly reduce your revenue.
  2. Less control: You might have limited control over the booking process and guest communication, as it often goes through the OTAs’ platform.
  3. Competition: Your property is listed alongside others, increasing competition and potentially leading to price pressure.

Direct bookings:

Direct bookings refer to reservations made by guests directly over the phone or on websites owned by short-term rental companies or hosts without involving third-party intermediaries or online travel agencies (OTAs). 


  1. Higher revenue: Direct bookings eliminate the need to pay OTA commissions, allowing you to keep more of your earnings from each booking.
  2. Better communication: You can directly communicate with guests, offering a more personalized experience and promptly addressing their questions and concerns.
  3. Branding: Direct bookings allow you to build your brand identity and showcase your unique property features.
  4. Guest relationships: By interacting directly with guests, you can build long-term relationships, build your email list and potentially encourage repeat guests.


  1. Lower visibility: Without the reach of established OTAs, you’ll need to invest in marketing to drive traffic to your website.
  2. Initial investment: Creating and maintaining a professional website and implementing secure booking systems can require an upfront investment.
  3. Marketing costs: Effective marketing strategies are necessary to attract potential guests to your website, which can involve ongoing expenses.
  4. Payment handling: Managing payment processing and security might require additional resources.

Choosing the Best Option:

Ultimately, the best choice depends on your property, goals, and resources. Some property owners opt for a hybrid approach, leveraging the benefits of both options. Here are a few tips to help you decide:

  1. Consider Costs: Calculate the potential revenue after deducting OTA commissions and compare it with the costs of marketing and maintaining your website.
  2. Build a Brand: If you want to establish a unique brand identity and build guest relationships, direct bookings might be more appealing.
  3. Marketing Strategy: Assess your ability and willingness to invest in effective marketing strategies to drive traffic to your website.
  4. Guest Control: Consider how much control you want over the booking process, communication, and guest experience.
  5. Long-Term Goals: Consider your long-term goals and whether you will invest the time and effort to develop your booking channel.

Both bookings through OTAs and direct bookings have their advantages and challenges. The decision depends on your property’s uniqueness, marketing capabilities, financial capacity, and keenness to manage the booking process and guest interactions.

What are some common direct booking costs to consider? 

Let’s explore the various expenses you should consider when aiming to boost direct bookings for your vacation rental or short-term rental.

1. Website Development and Maintenance:

Building a user-friendly and visually appealing website for your properties involves web design and development, with ongoing maintenance. These costs ensure an optimal user experience, fostering trust and encouraging direct bookings.

2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO):

Investing in SEO includes strategies like keyword research, content optimization, and backlink building. Successful SEO improves your website’s visibility on search engines, driving organic traffic and potential direct bookings.

3. Online Booking System:

A seamless online booking system simplifies reservations on your website. Initial setup and ensure secure and convenient booking processes, increasing the likelihood of direct bookings.

4. Professional Photography and Videography:

High-quality visuals created by professional photographers and videographers effectively showcase your property’s features. You would want a professional lifestyle photographer or videographer to showcase why guests would want to take a trip to your area. This leaves a lasting impression on the minds of your potential guests and boosts direct bookings. Make note that this cost is also associated with OTAs; however, it will be more in the case of direct bookings since you would want to generate more content for your website and social media platforms.

5. Content Creation:

Creating valuable content like blog posts and destination guides enhances your website’s appeal. While it incurs costs, informative content attracts organic traffic and establishes your authority in your property’s location.

6. Social Media Marketing:

Promoting your rental on social media platforms involves ad campaigns, content creation, and potentially hiring a manager. An effective social media presence increases your property’s visibility and can lead to more direct bookings.

7. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising:

Running paid ads on platforms like Google Ads comes with costs, but it can drive targeted traffic to your website. Balancing ad spending with potential bookings is key to its success.

8. Email Marketing:

Building and maintaining an email list involves subscription costs for email marketing software. It’s an efficient way to promote special offers and encourage repeat bookings through your website.

9. Guest Services and Amenities:

Investing in welcome packages, maintenance, and staff ensures exceptional guest experiences. Unique amenities set your property apart and encourage recurring guests.

10. Website Hosting and Domain Costs:

Reliable website hosting and domain name maintenance incur ongoing expenses. These are essential for your site’s basic operation and accessibility.


Deciding between online bookings through third-party platforms and direct bookings via your website involves weighing advantages against costs. While OTA bookings provide exposure and trust, they come with commissions and limited control. Direct bookings offer higher revenue and engagement but require website development, SEO, and marketing investments. Careful consideration of these expenses aligned with your property’s uniqueness and long-term goals can help maximize direct bookings, enhancing your vacation rental’s profitability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are direct bookings worth it?

Yes, direct bookings are typically worth it for short-term rental hosts and property management companies. Despite initial investments, they offer more control, brand-building opportunities, and increased revenue by bypassing third-party commissions, making them a valuable strategy for property success.

How to choose the right booking source?

Choosing the right booking source for your short-term rental depends on your goals, property type, target audience, budget, competition, long-term strategy, and flexibility. Assess these factors to determine whether direct bookings, online travel agencies (OTAs), or a combination of both aligns best with your specific circumstances and objectives.

What are the advantages of direct bookings for short-term rental hosts?

Direct bookings provide short-term rental hosts and property management companies with higher revenue due to reduced commissions, greater control over the booking process, and the chance to build their brand identity and foster guest loyalty. This approach also reduces dependence on third-party platforms. This allows hosts to cultivate stronger guest relationships and access valuable guest data for targeted marketing. It ultimately enhances profitability and property success.

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