Traditional travel agents have been a major casualty of the rapidly changing vacation rental landscape in the past decade. Now they’re set to shrink further. Should vacation rental owners be bothered?
The days have long gone when most intending holidaymakers pored over a bunch of glossy brochures and went to the travel agents to book for them. Now they’re more likely to be researching potential destinations on their computer, tablet or even mobile phone. And often booking via the same medium.
It’s been a tough few years for travel agents, and new data shows that the next decade probably won’t be any better for the travel agency community. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, the travel agency sector will shed more jobs while other areas of the travel industry expect to grow.
Travel agents replaced by the internet
‘Employment of travel agents is projected to decline 12 percent from 2014 to 2024,’ the handbook reveals. ‘The ability of travelers to use the internet to research vacations and book their own trips is expected to continue to suppress demand for travel agents. An increasing number of travel bookings are also expected to be via mobile devices.’
It’s a situation reflected in other countries around the world. The report also reveals that the projected median income of travel agents is just $34,800 – a lowly amount by American standards and a sure sign of decline.
Aside from feeling sympathy for those having to leave a shrinking business, should vacation rental owners be bothered? Most definitely: yes!
Mammoth-size listings sites
Traditional travel agents have been displaced by the growth of the worldwide web and the rise of the mammoth-size listing sites such as HomeAway, Airbnb et al. To get an idea of just how big, consider this: HomeAway has 1 million plus listings worldwide and claims to reach 44 million travelers each month. Airbnb claims 2 million plus listings worldwide and 60 million plus guests! And, they’re both after your guests.
Back in April 2015, Skift referred to the ‘vacation rental land grab’. Skift commented: ‘Major players from Airbnb and HomeAway to the Priceline Group and TripAdvisor have tapped into only about one-fifth of the addressable $100 billion vacation rental and alternative lodgings market and some of these companies, particularly the online travel agencies with their huge marketing budgets, face what might be be considered a surprising obstacle in their way.’
‘Pesky vacation rental owners’
That obstacle was ‘those pesky vacation rental owners who are loathe to start paying commissions and often prefer to deal with guests directly and offline’!
Then again, in July of last year there was a lot of talk about a ‘big collision’ in the vacation rental industry with the major listing sites shaping up for industry domination. Since then we’ve seen the takeover of the HomeAway giant by Expedia with the attendant fallout for vacation rental owners.
But vacation rental owners have a choice. Remember there are many more independent owners out there who are not tied to and reliant upon one or more big listings site. To stay independent, owners need their own website and a service which allows direct payment by guests, plus a sophisticated reservations calendar.
Freedom to communicate with guests
Owners need the freedom to communicate with their guests whenever they want and to be able to gather data and contact details to build their business in the future. Homes and Rooms is in the business of providing just these sorts of services to independents, helping them compete effectively in a sophisticated market.
You can try it out for a 14-day, free trial, no obligation. See what it can do for your vacation rental.
Homes and Rooms founder Barry Sacks spelled out his fears and hopes for the future of the independent vacation rental owner in a personal blog entitled When Is Independence Day for Vacation Rental Owners?
In it, he looks at the possible threats facing owners and suggests ways to overcome them and run the business in the way the owner wants to run it. And to pocket more of the hard-earned bookings revenue that might otherwise end up in the coffers of the big listing sites.