How to Build a Vacation Rental Website Like Airbnb?

The use of technology in the travel industry is an interesting case study. Just 25 years back, an average American family would sit down with the American Automobile Association travel guidebooks for travel planning. They would keep a large printed map of the destination open and read through the travel guidebook to find hotel accommodations that fit their requirements.

They would typically spend quite a while to find suitable hotels near the attractions they would visit, like those famous national parks. They would compare the rates printed there in the guidebook and check how much AAA discount they could get. After shortlisting a few hotels, they will call them up. They would make a reservation guaranteeing it with their credit card. Oh, the good old days!

It’s now different. To plan a vacation now, login to Airbnb.com. You don’t confine yourself to hotels now, rather, there are vacation rental homes. These are more personalized. Enter a destination, and you get a variety of vacation rental homes. Rates, nearby attractions, restaurants, etc. are all displayed to you in no time. It’s a seamless experience to book a vacation rental home. You can’t bring back the romantic old days, however, you have more convenience and choices now.

Numbers tell their story. By the time 2018 ends, the vacation rental industry will clock a revenue of US $ 44.3 billion, as this Statista report shows. Its’ rapid growth, at a CAGR of 7.4%, puts the expected revenue at US $ 59 billion by 2022. A “Vacation Rental Marketing Blog” (VRMB) report states that vacation rentals will overtake the hotel industry by 2020.

Can you tap into this growing market? Thanks to the technology available today, you can. Here, I will explain how to build a vacation rental website like Airbnb.

Contents

What is a vacation rental?
Examples of existing vacation-rental websites
Features that a vacation rental website needs
How to build a vacation rental website like Airbnb without coding?
How to build a website like Airbnb with the Lodgify website builder
Create a vacation rental website with custom development
Managing your vacation rental website development project

What is a vacation rental?

The vacation rental market is quite different from hotels. Here, a homeowner offers short-term accommodations to guests in a residence. Note that it’s a residential property, not a hotel. Also, note that short-term typically refers to less than a month.

It’s also called “short-term rentals”, “vacation home rentals”, and a few other similar terms. Guests are also called “vacation rental guests”, “short-term renters”, or “occupants”. The duration of renting is short enough to avoid conferring any tenancy rights to the renters.

Note that this is a relatively new market, therefore, regulations to govern this industry are still evolving. To know more about it, you can read “What is a vacation rental, anyway?”. Vacation rental websites like Airbnb.com facilitate vacationers find short-term rental homes. They also enable homeowners to put their property on rent. These platforms typically charge a fee from the owners.

Note that the vacation rental space might face a disruption since blockchain-powered vacation-rental marketplaces are entering this space. These blockchain start-ups charge no commission from homeowners, which might transform the industry. An example is LockTrip. However, in this guide, we will focus on vacation rental websites as they are today.

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Examples of existing vacation-rental websites

It’s time we review a few popular vacation rental websites. I offer a few examples here, however, you can read “Top 10 vacation rental websites for listing your vacation rental property” for more.

Airbnb

One of the most popular vacation rental websites, Airbnb offers a wide range of vacation rental choices across geographies. It’s easy to use, both for vacationers and property owners. The ‘User interface’ (UI) is simple yet elegant. A robust booking engine allows easy searches and seamless booking experience.

The company offers top-quality customer service, furthermore, hosts are covered for damages to their properties. They have a credible vetting process, therefore, vacationers and hosts get the required assurance. They have Android and iOS mobile apps.

HomeAway

Another popular vacation rental platform, HomeAway has a wide presence. They list over 2 million properties in 190 countries. The easy-to-use UI helps both vacationers and hosts. They operate using 50 websites in 23 languages. HomeAway has mobile apps for both iOS and Android.

Booking.com

Booking.com is one of the largest travel marketplaces, moreover, they aren’t confined to vacation rentals. Their hotel segment is big, additionally, they also deal in flights, car rentals, and airport taxis. The UI offers a wide range of features.

They operate in 227 countries. The website has over 40 language options. 1.2 million room nights are reserved daily using their platform. The company has Android, iOS, and Windows mobile apps.

VRBO

VRBO, a highly popular vacation rental website has a great UI that makes it easy for vacationers. Property owners too find it easy to use. VRBO is part of the HomeAway family, however, VRBO focuses on the US.

Maui, Palm Springs, etc. are their popular destinations. They list over 200,000 properties. The platform offers a wide range of choices, e.g., Condos, Apartments, and Villas. They have Android and iOS apps.

Features that a vacation rental website needs

A successful vacation rental website needs the following features:

  • The UI must be elegant, additionally, it should look professional. Remember that vacation rental homes are not hotels. Most vacationers wouldn’t know about the properties. They need assurance. Your website is their first, and only place to get this assurance.
  • With the exponential increase in mobile Internet traffic, you must have a responsive website. It’s non-negotiable.
  • Users should be able to navigate easily on the website. Consider the “3-click rule”, i.e., users should be able to navigate using 3 clicks.
  • The website should be optimized for conversion. It means several things, such as fast page loading speed, mobile responsiveness, avoiding clutter on the landing page, a clear ‘Call to action’ (CTA) button, etc.
  • A robust booking engine is, well, self-explanatory! Read about its’ importance in “5 essential features of vacation rental software”.
  • You need to offer a mobile app. It’s important in today’s era.
  • Displaying the featured vacation rental properties on the website in an attractive manner is important. Consider using a carousel to display featured properties.
  • Make it easy for your customers to do the transaction: Email support, customer service, and payment gateway integration are important considerations.
  • Social media integration and email marketing are important features to have. These help in your marketing effort.

Read more about the desired features in “Top Seven Features of Vacation Rental Websites”.

How to build a vacation rental website like Airbnb without coding?

You can build a vacation rental website without coding. The popular open-source ‘Content Management System’ (CMS) WordPress enables you to do that. There is a rich ecosystem for WordPress.

Many providers create and sell WordPress themes. Themes control the look and feel of the site, and they come with customizers. This enables you to incorporate your branding information, change the colors, choose a suitable font for the content, and much more.

For this project, I recommend you use the “WordPress Vacation Rental by Owner Theme – Muza”. You can publish and offer properties for rent. Owners can sign-up and publish their properties for rent. The theme is adequately integrated with the well-known WordPress eCommerce plugin WooCommerce. This theme is responsive and comes bundled with a front-end design tool.

Plugins are like apps. They address specific functionalities. Multiple providers develop and sell WordPress plugins for various functionalities. I recommend the “Hotel Booking – Property Rental WordPress Plugin” for this project.

This plugin is a complete hotel and vacation rental booking tool. It offers the required features, e.g., listing of properties, pricing table, a real-time search function for availability, payment gateway integration, etc. You can add custom fields like location, type of room, price range, etc.

You need to buy a hosting account. A vacation rental website will likely have a high number of visitors. Given this, I recommend you choose a performant and reliable hosting plan. While there are several options, I suggest you use WP Engine, which is a highly reputed hosting provider.

The cost to make a vacation rental website in this approach includes the hosting, theme, and plugin costs. You don’t need to hire developers.

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How to build a website like Airbnb with the Lodgify website builder

It’s another no-coding option, therefore, it enables you to launch your website quickly. Lodgify offers a website builder for the vacation rental business. You can use the direct channel technology they offer. Payment gateway integration is easy, furthermore, you can implement an efficient booking engine quickly.

The company offers attractive website templates for the vacation rental business. You can check their template here. Check their pricing page for their plans, however, note that you need to contact them if you have more than 100 properties for listing.

Create a vacation rental website with custom development

I will now explain how to develop a vacation rental website with the custom-development approach. Custom development takes longer. You need a skilled development team however, you can incorporate custom features.

This approach has the following steps:

  1. Select a ‘Platform as a Service’ (PaaS) provider so that you can focus on the development alone. The PaaS provider takes care of infrastructure, middleware, etc.
  2. Develop your website on the PaaS platform, and use ‘Application Programming Interfaces’ (APIs) for common functions.

Onboard your custom development team

You need the following skills in your team:

  1. Business analysts;
  2. Web designers, with HTML and CSS skills;
  3. Web developers with knowledge of popular languages like Java, JavaScript, Ruby, PHP, etc.;
  4. Testers;
  5. A project manager (PM).

I recommend the “Agile” methodology for this development since it’s suitable for iterative development. You can check our guide “How to build an Agile development team” in this regard.

Select a PaaS provider

Start-ups often don’t have the budget to invest in costly infrastructure up front. Moreover, several start-ups don’t want to spend time on infrastructure and software license management. PaaS providers handle the cloud infrastructure, networking, middleware, operating system (OS), runtime environment, database provisioning, API integration, and scaling. This allows one to focus on application development and application data.

There are several PaaS providers. I recommend you use the IBM Cloud PaaS (formerly known as IBM Bluemix). This is built on the IBM Cloud ‘Infrastructure as a Service’ (IaaS), additionally, it has an impressive array of cloud services that your web app can consume.

You can use the “Liberty for Java” runtime environment. Check the IBM Cloud databases webpage to know your database choices on the IBM Cloud PaaS. You also need a robust suite of DevOps tools for automated testing, build management, deployment management, etc. Check the IBM DevOps webpage for more details. Note that these are already integrated with the IBM Cloud PaaS.

APIs for common functions

Depending on your requirements, you might need to use a combination of APIs. There are clear instructions on the IBM Cloud PaaS platform about integrating 3rd party APIs. Check out the following APIs:

HomeAway APIs

HomeAway, the vacation rental website also offers APIs for developers to build their own apps. You can access the APIs here. You can incorporate the following features with these:

  • Listing information;
  • User accounts;
  • Messaging;
  • Scaling, by integrating with the partner ecosystem of HomeAway.

To use the HomeAway APIs, you need to establish a partnership with them, by contacting them. The API documentation is available here.

MyVR APIs

MyVR, the vacation rental software platform offers APIs, therefore, you can consume their services s min your website. Access their APIs here. With their RESTful API, you can access the account data. By using ‘MyVR Connect’, you can build using data they monetize on their platform.

To access their APIs, you need to register your web app with them. You need to sign-up with them for that. There API documentation can be accessed here. Visit their pricing page to view their plans.

Managing your vacation rental website development project

I recommend the ‘Scrum’ technique since it fits well with iterative software development. Your PM will be the ‘Scrum Master’, whereas a ‘Product owner’ (PO) provides the requirements in a document named the ‘Product backlog’.

Developers and testers work together in a ‘Scrum team’. They estimate features, and the scrum master uses this estimation to plan ‘Sprints’, i.e., iterations. Once a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP) is launched, further enhancements can be done in subsequent sprints.

The team holds a ‘Daily stand-up meeting’ to discuss the project status, while the scrum master resolves the project issues. The project stakeholders approve a sprint in a ‘Sprint review meeting’ if the features work demonstrably.

The team also conducts a ‘Sprint retrospective meeting’ after the sprint, to learn lessons from the sprint. You can read our guide “How to build a Scrum development team” for more details. Remember to use effective PM tools. We have suggested several such tools in our guide “The 10 best Agile project management tools in 2018”.

The cost to make a vacation rental website by custom-development

IBM Cloud PaaS pricing details are available on their website. API providers either display their price on their website, or you need to contact them. Your requirements and the labor rate in your geography will influence your development manpower cost.

Note that custom development is a complex end-to-end project, therefore, you may need professional help and find expert WordPress developers for hire. Check our guide “How to find the best software development company?” to know how to conduct due diligence before you engage a development partner.

Click this link if you are interested in how much it costs to create a mobile app like Airbnb.

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Aran Davies

Blockchain Expert | Developer | Writer | Photographer
Aran Davies

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