OTAs or holiday letting agency - horses for courses?

Tom Burdett of Character Cottages on why choosing a holiday letting agency to market your investment property means you can enjoy the best of both worlds

“I am new to holiday letting. Should I use a professional holiday letting agency, or market the property myself on AirBnB?”

After a long career with Harrison James & Hardie I have recently made the move to Character Cottages, the luxury Cotswold holiday letting agency, where I immediately found my old ways of thinking challenged, forcing me to reconsider long-standing assumptions.

Since joining Character Cottages and learning about their sophisticated variable pricing algorithms, flexible bookings slots, responsive data analysis and Channel Manager software (more on these later) I soon learned that it isn’t a case of “horses for courses” when it comes to deciding between online travel agents (OTA) and a professional holiday letting agency.

When referring to an ‘online travel agent’ we’re talking about web-based businesses such as Airbnb, Expedia (which includes HomeAway) and TripAdvisor. These online platforms allow cottage owners to target the large audiences that these global businesses attract, taking bookings directly for a commission.

However, with the benefits of volume that these global platforms attract there does come the drawbacks of unpredictability, inflexibility and high levels of competition. Plus, featuring high in OTA search results, avoiding penalties and managing bookings across several OTAs comes with its own challenges.

I meet many owners using OTAs who settle for, and often celebrate, a result that is far below their property’s full potential. Selling premium dates throughout the year whilst leaving unsellable and unmonetised booking slots is a common mistake, for example.

Also, most individual owners do not have access to complex software allowing them to market on multiple online platforms whist maintaining an instant book status on each, which is essential when ensuring a property appears in the top tier of the OTA search results.

Decide to list with Character Cottages, and you get the best of both. As well as using our well-established and trusted brand, loyal customer base, local knowledge and broader online marketing channel expertise, Character Cottages have an arsenal of tools, including using OTAs, that work constantly behind the scenes to ensure unrivalled return on investment.

A dynamic pricing algorithm and flexible booking software means that awkward slots are filled, whilst our self-developed slot-based pricing structure ensures orphaned unsellable dates are always monetised. And our integrated ‘Channel Manager’ software is key to achieving instant booking status on all platforms, with 35% of all of our bookings being generated on the OTAs. Working together, this agile marketing strategy can generate an extra 20-30% in otherwise lost revenue.

Regardless of how new you are to holiday letting, there’s no reason why you can’t make a serious business out of your beloved property from day one, but there really is only one way to go!

Tom Burdett is Managing Director of Character Cottages, an independent company specialising in the holiday letting of luxury properties in the Cotswolds. To find out more about their services visit www.character-cottages.co.uk, email letmycottage@character-cottages.co.uk or telephone 020 8935 5375.