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Why OTAs Aren’t the Only Threat to Hotel Occupancy

Over the years we’ve been supporting independent hotels and resorts tackle a multitude of challenges, the largest of which always seems to be OTAs. Digital marketers, operations teams, revenue managers and GMs have a plethora of strategies for balancing the awareness OTAs give, alongside driving direct bookings. However, while we’ve all been focusing on the competition OTAs present hoterliers – is there a new challenger we’ve been overlooking?

We’re talking house sitting.

The likes of Kindred and TrustedHousesitters have seen significant growth over the past year to the point where it’s time for us to be discussing the impact the rise in house sitting could have on hospitality.

Woman with white fluffy dog on a sofa

Not familiar with Kindred and TrustedHousesitters?

Kindred is a members-only platform that allows you to browse a range of homes to stay in around the world, in exchange for offering other members the opportunity to stay in your home. For (almost) free. There is a cleaning fee and service fee (which is how Kindred makes their money).

TrustedHousesitters is an annual membership-based platform that allows home and pet owners to take applications for house and pet sitters for specific dates, and for people looking to explore different locations across the world to apply to stay in someone’s home in return for looking after their pets and/or home.

UK-based TrustHousesitters reported a 12% increase in memberships during the first quarter of 2023, led by growth from the US. And Kindred doubled its number of employees going into 2023. Comparative to the competition OTAs, and hotel competitors, pose, these platforms are still a drop in the ocean, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth keeping an eye on. Especially as cities, such as NYC, tighten restrictions on short-term rentals through the likes of Airbnb. This doesn’t necessarily mean hotels will be the sole beneficiary of these changes.

We’ve seen businesses like Outside.co, WeWork, and Zoom grow and grow thanks to remote work, and we’ve seen geographic markets like Portugal and Bali grow and grow thanks to digital nomads. Businesses that can cater to those looking to authentically experience being in different parts of the world, without the commitment of fully relocating, are bound to do well.

But, of course a hotel experience is vastly different to an Airbnb experience, and the same can be said of a house-sitting experience. For hoteliers, using experience focused mesaging, identifing with the values and needs of your target market, and allowing prospective guests to resonate with your brand are imperative. Price point and amenities may not be enough to persuade travellers who have the opportunity to stay in your area for free via a house sit. Although, house-sitting won’t be for everyone. For those looking to travel to switch off from work or the responsibilities of running a home, free accommodation in exchange for looking after someone else’s home and pets won’t be too appealing.

So, we’re far from equating the competition from house-sitting platforms with the competition from OTAs, but it’s something to watch, and a reminder to ensure your property service and experience is front and centre in all marketing strategies.

If you’ve not completed brand or key messaging work before, we’d strongly recommend it. Identifying what makes your property unique, and aligning that with a specific target market is important when building a strategy to compete against any form of competitor. To discuss your messaging, brand or marketing strategy, reach out to your Account Manager, Digital Strategist or Linda, our Director of Sales.