If you rent a vacation home or operate a bed and breakfast, a web presence is now essential. Most tourists today plan their trips using the internet.
In the last few years, however, the Bed and Breakfast market has become dominated by online booking websites such as Bookings.com and TripAdvisor. and by online listing agencies such as Air BnB and HomeAway. These services charge the accommodation owner a percentage of bookings made through them, which feels like a lot, but your competition is using them and so are your guests, so it’s hard to avoid unless you’re in a very specialized niche or have many units.
(In 2018, some feedback I’m getting is that Air BnB is dominating the industry and is currently the primary place you should list, before and even instead of setting up a website.)
When designing a website for a tourist accommodation business, I strive to convey a feeling for the scenery and/or the decor of the house in the website. I figure that the people who will want to stay there will be attracted to a website that reflects the house’s personality.
The website has been a tremendous advertising tool and accounted for a major part of my business last year at a time when many tourism operators were struggling so I cannot thank you enough.
~ Elizabeth Measures, Whitman Wharf House
While search engines bring in some traffic directly, visitors to vacation home sites often arrive via provincial or state tourism publications or websites.
Having your own website does give people an opportunity to book with you directly and avoid the booking fees. However, if you’re only renting a couple of rooms, you’ll have to weigh the costs and benefits. Right now, it looks like AirBnB.com is the first place to list, and maybe the only listing you need.
See my 2011 blog post about websites for vacation rental homes and cottages.