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What are Direct Bookings?

Do you keep hearing about direct bookings and #bookdirect, but not sure what it means?

11 October 2022 - 9 mins

Woman looking at the direct booking website for Osprey House Orlando on her laptop

Have you ever noticed how much some vacation rental advertising platforms (Airbnb, Vrbo, etc) add on to the booking price in fees, either paid by the owner or paid by the guest?

It’s a huge amount. Usually more than 15%.

They charge this because they have found you the guest – but what if a guest finds you directly, not on their platform? You don’t want to be paying those sorts of commissions by directing your own guests to book on a platform; you want to be able to accept direct bookings!

1) What exactly is a direct booking?

A direct booking is one you get from your own website, or via your social media pages, or through word of mouth, or a repeat customer.

You can also get direct bookings through listings sites – ie sites that allow you to list your vacation rental and its availability, to showcase to renters, but do not “own” the booking that is made.

Essentially, a direct booking is one that has not come via a marketing channel that charges you commission, and controls when you are paid, such as the online travel agencies (OTAs) like Vrbo,, Airbnb or TripAdvisor.

This is not a new concept – all bookings used to be direct bookings!

The main point of a direct booking is that you have direct, unrestricted contact with the renter and you receive payment directly from them; it’s not held in reserve by a third party. You set the terms of the booking and you remain in control of it.

The 5-person apartment Estuary View Falmouth's direct booking site

2) Why accept direct bookings?

The most obvious reason to accept direct bookings is that you make more money from each booking; you won't have the sky-high commission fees (we’re talking 15% plus) of the OTAs. Additionally, the OTAs that don’t charge you large commissions tend to make this up by charging the renters large fees, and this doesn’t happen with a direct booking. So both you, and your guests, will be much happier.

Build one-on-one relationships with your renters – increase the chances of repeat bookings that again, will come directly to you (and if you’re unsure of the benefits of repeat bookings, then you should read this guide about how and why to encourage repeat bookings.

Accepting direct bookings gives you much more freedom. Set your own booking rules, cancellation policies, make your own decision on refunds, stay in control of the whole process of communication with renters.

We’ve got a whole guide on the benefits of accepting direct bookings.

Service fees on some of the big booking sites can be enormous

3) How to accept direct bookings

There are various ways of accepting a direct booking. Keep it old school and take the details over the phone, keep track with pen and paper or Excel spreadsheet!

Or to make things easier, there are various software options available to help you display availability, accept bookings and payments, and manage bookings, such as those at

The direct booking calendar for Casa Anita on

4) What is the #bookdirect movement?

If you’re someone who pays attention to travel news, you may have seen references to the #BookDirect movement. It’s a campaign started primarily by small businesses who are battling with the online travel sites (Expedia,, Trivago, TripAdvisor etc.) over fair access to online marketing tools for presenting their services.

The #BookDirect movement aims to educate both vacation rental owners and future guests about the possibilities and benefits of booking directly; to remove the fear that is sometimes associated with booking outside an OTA, and breaking the dependency some owners feel they have on the big platforms.

People use #bookdirect on Instagram to publicise their direct booking offering

5) How to get direct bookings

With this century’s huge advances in the technology behind vacation rentals and a plethora of properties advertised all over the Internet, figuring out how to attract renters is the part that frustrates most property owners and can be undeniably baffling.

And it’s not going to be as straightforward as deciding that you’re going down the direct booking route, removing your listings from the OTAs, and waiting for the direct bookings to come rolling in! In fact, you should stay on the big OTAs as long as you need them, as they are undeniably a good source of bookings.

But there are things you can be doing at the same time to encourage direct bookings.

Firstly, you should make sure that you are making the most of the enormous audiences on social media. These platforms are free! Yes, you’ll need to spend a little time getting this set up, and on maintaining it, but it’s definitely worth it. We have more in-depth guides on how to get going with Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

You should set up your own website too, whether this is something that you get a web designer to create for you, or a more simple off-the-shelf deal. It’s easier than it sounds – go for something like Wix, GoDaddy or WordPress. Embedding an availability and booking calendar – allowing for bookings to be made and paid – from Rentalsystems is very easy. And if you don’t have time to create your own website, you can just use your Rentalsystems property page as your own private website.

And once again, don’t forget your repeat customers. Anyone that has booked with you before, whether directly or through an OTA, ought to book directly with you the next time they make a booking.

Hikkaduwa tropical beach house direct booking website

6) How can a renter book direct through Clickstay?

At Clickstay, we offer a new model; one where the owner is in control. We don't charge a fee for finding the renter (a commission) and we don't charge a fee to the renter for using our platform (a service fee). Instead, we charge for the use of our booking software, in the form of a low payment fee per booking (just 3%). This allows you to control all aspects of the booking. When you list your property on Clickstay, you can receive direct bookings, along with the benefits of:

  • An availability calendar, that can be linked with iCal to your other calendars to ensure it’s up to date
  • Safe online payments – renters can pay by card
  • Direct payments – the money comes straight to your account
  • A pre-written booking contract populated with your terms
  • Holding / returning of breakage deposits
  • Review collection
  • Automated emails to remind guests to pay, to send directions, etc

and you’re also free to contact the renter directly; we don’t restrict any correspondence.

Booking page on Clickstay for Titan Villa in Turkey - - look, no service fee, and booking direct with Helen!

7) How can Rentalsystems help with direct bookings?

Firstly, you can join the Rentalsystems #BookDirect resources Facebook group to meet other book direct owners, ask questions, and share knowledge.

If you don’t currently have any direct booking option, then you can use Rentalsystems tools to help you. When you register your first property, as well as listing it on Clickstay, you’ll automatically have a private Rentalsystems page for that property. You can customise it with your own logo and use this page as you would a direct booking website – link to it from your Facebook page, Instagram, from the footer of your emails, and send it directly to new guests and repeat bookers. Get more information here.

If you already have your own website, then you can use other Rentalsystems tools to allow you to accept and manage bookings, process payments and correspond with guests. You can embed your calendar to display up-to-date availability, receive and accept booking requests or instant bookings, and collect payment.

If you have multiple properties, you can embed our search box, so guests can search by location, group size and holiday dates to find your ideal property for them.

"Spanish Dreams" private Rentalsystems page

Do you want to know more about direct bookings, and the #bookdirect movement? If so you should join the Rentalsystems #BookDirect resources Facebook group to meet other book direct owners, ask questions, and share knowledge.