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Key West Time
October 3rd
7:32am · 81°F

Why ‘Book Direct’ with a Local Vacation Rental Company rather than an OTA (Homeaway, VRBO, Airbnb, Expedia, etc.)

Book Direct With VHKW

By Cindy M. Rhoades

When you go on-line to find a Key West vacation rental, knowing which company to book from can become confusing and downright daunting. When you make a computer search for, Key West Vacation Rentals or Key West Vacation Homes, there are so many options to choose from on the cloud that it can be difficult to know where to start.

On top of all the booking site options, you'll run into 'Book Direct' campaigns. You'll see them for both local vacation rental businesses and hotels. Travelers who book on-line are asking, "What exactly does ' Book Direct' mean, and how does it affect the choice I make?" Bottom line is that it can save you up to 10% or more on the cost of your vacation rental and give you direct access to better guest service when you book on-line directly from the rental company.

In this blog post, gives you information to help you sort through the internet booking haze. We want you to know how to find the best vacation rental for your needs, at the guaranteed lowest rate, and how to avoid needless 'service fees,' that, don't provide a service. We also want you to understand how you can get the personalized service you are looking for the best guest experience when you book direct. To that end, we focus on the differences between the giant third-party on-line travel agencies or OTAs, (e.g. Homeaway, VRBO, Airbnb, Expedia, etc.), vs the local vacation rental companies or VRMs, (e.g. VHKW ~ Vacation Homes of Key West); and we explain how the differences between the two directly affect you, the consumer.

The On-line Search:

To understand how the booking process works, let's start when you're on your computer or smart device, and begin searching for a Key West vacation rental. First, you find hordes of properties and hotel rooms listed on the OTAs whose websites allow consumers to quickly book various travel related services via the Internet. These are the giant corporate third-party companies reselling all travel related services, including flights, hotels, cars, and now vacation rentals. As you work your way down your search list, you'll find the local VRMs, Key West vacation rental businesses. These are locally based rental and management companies that directly represent the vacation rental properties offered for rent on their websites. Have you ever wondered why the big OTAs come up on the top of the list of your internet search, while the local vacation rental companies?

Here’s How it Works: OTAs have names known all over the world, with billion-dollar on-line marketing budgets to make them look fabulous, entertaining, and fun to click through. With a global reach, they are viewed 24 hours a day as travelers click through looking for accommodations including vacation rentals. Even though in actuality they are third-party re-sellers, they have created their own mega brands, that consumers have come to trust and return to click through and book.

But buyer beware! While OTAs are here to stay, consumers like you, and VRMs like VHKW, must learn to use them effectively. While the dominant on-line presence of OTAs may tempt you to begin and end your search for a vacation rental right there, please understand that you will end up paying more money for extra fees that offer no added value! And, you may be fooled by a misleading promise for added service and protection.

The next time you visit an OTA, here is something to be aware of. Notice that the names and contact information of local property management and vacation rental companies are usually hidden or blocked on the OTA listing sites. When you're looking at properties on these websites, you can't even see who manages the rentals. That is until you've pushed the book-it button, committed to the business transaction, and instantly paid their add-on fees! After they collect your money, then they let you contact us. We've spoken with confused customers who have naively assumed that an OTA site directly represented the vacation rental they ultimately booked from us. This is understandable since the names and contact information are hidden from view.

On-Line Travel Agencies (OTAs) vs Local Vacation Rental Management Companies (VRMs)

OTAs: Even though OTAs have no ownership or management of the vacation rentals advertised on their websites, they treat them as their fleet of rental properties that are their commodities. Additionally, while vacation rental properties listed on these sites are actually managed by local companies, OTAs have now gone far beyond simply advertising them for rent on their listing sites. Now they are now vested in the business transactions of the vacation rental properties they list, collecting and processing payments from the consumer who books through their websites. But something else happens in that payment transaction which costs the consumer significant fees.

Did you know that when you book a vacation rental through an OTA, they typically add-on a 'service fee' to the guest, that offers no value or service? And the amount of this additional fee is not just a few dollars. It is arbitrarily calculated at 4% to 10% (sometimes even more) of the rental amount (excluding taxes and fees). That adds up to a lot of money charged to you for nothing gained.

This fee often confuses the consumer, and understandably so. Since the OTAs call this a 'service fee,' travelers can naturally assume these added charges are for quality assurances and guest services provided by the giant OTAs. But the fact is, all services are provided by the rental agency, who manages the vacation rental you rent. If you should have a problem with the rental during your stay, and contact the OTA that booked it for you, they tell you to call the VRM. Bottom Line on OTAs - When you book through an on-line travel agency:

  • IT WILL COST YOU MORE MONEY - You'll pay up to 10% or more for a 'service fee,' that offers you no added value.

  • YOU'LL GET NO ADDED CUSTOMER SERVICES - Don't be fooled by a misleading promise for protection or service. Customer service requests made to OTAs are referred directly back to the local management company.

  • YOU'LL GET NO HOSPITALITY SERVICES - OTAs do not provide the enhanced guest experience you can enjoy from a local VRM.

  • INCREASED RISK FOR FRAUDULENT LISTINGS - OTAs may do their best to screen businesses and individuals who list vacation homes on their sites. But they have become such mega listing sites, it is impossible to completely eliminate scammers that sometimes are able post false listings on the OTA sites, and manage to collect money from unsuspecting consumers. At VHKW, we have had guests come to us for help, after being scammed out of money to rent properties in Key West that didn’t even exist.

Local VRMs: On the other hand, when you 'Book Direct' from a local vacation rental company (VRM), you bypass the mega corporate OTAs and go straight to the local source. VRMs, not only advertise the properties, they manage them. At, we manage the vacation rental homes we advertise, because we live in Key West. When you book directly from us, you'll save money and have direct contact with an experienced management team for the property you rent.

Our Key West based rental agents specialize in finding the best property to fit your group. Our in-house property management team works with you directly, making sure your vacation goes smoothly, from booking to check-in to check out.

We are local professionals available to answer your questions about specific details or location of our vacation rental properties, and we are happy to host you. We can help you find Key West experiences beyond what you could have discovered on your own. Bottom Line with VRMs - When You 'Book Direct' with a local Vacation Rental Management Company:

  • YOU WILL SAVE MONEY - Avoid needless OTA 'Service Fees.'

  • YOU WILL GET THE BEST RATE GUARANTEE - At VHKW we guarantee the best rate and can inform you about unadvertised deals and discounts.

  • YOU WILL RECEIVE PERSONALIZED SERVICE - Speak directly with a real person. At VHKW our rental agents and property managers know the houses we manage. We will help you choose the best property for your needs and are authorized to offer the flexibility only local service can.

  • YOU WILL HAVE ACCESS TO ON-SITE PROPERTY MANAGERS - At VHKW are here to maximize your comfort and address any unforeseen problems. Our local service gives better protection. Call us anytime.

  • YOU CAN SPEAK WITH LOCAL KEY WEST STAFF WHO HAVE LOCAL KNOWLEDGE - Learn about unique things to do in Key West. We are available to assist guests to find special Key West experiences. Since we live here, we know our island way beyond the beaches, restaurants, and bars.

  • YOU CAN GET ADDED PROTECTION FOR YOUR VACATION INVESTMENT - VHKW is authorized to offer you travel insurance to protect your vacation rental investment from unforeseen circumstances.

Browse the OTAs ... LOOK BUT DON'T BOOK

When it comes to OTAs, there's a catchy phrase that's emerged from the vacation rental management industry, Look But Don't Book. Enjoy browsing the big OTA listings, they are part of life. At VHKW, we also need to advertise many of our properties on some of these sites to give them maximum marketing exposure, but when we rent them to you directly we can give you a better deal.

So before you click the button on any mega OTA site to rent a property we manage - remember this fact. Rental requests and payments you make to a big OTA, flow through their corporate structure ... then directly to our desks! Fact is, you really don't need them to get what you want from us. Be smart about it, and don't get snagged with an extra fee for nothing. We are the people who are in Key West doing the work for you.

Visit our website, book directly from us, and save yourself money on needless fees. You can spend what you save on fun Key West experiences. Talk to us, get the details you want, enjoy local knowledge about the island, and personalized service you deserve. BOOK DIRECT AND SAVE with!


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