Bookerville has been asked many times in recent years to integrate with other payment processors besides PayPal. The context of this question needs to be understood: there are many alternatives to PayPal, and the best of these are true credit card merchant accounts. But for those who either cannot or do not want to go that route, then what they mean by "PayPal alternatives" is really other "lightweight" payment processors like Stripe, Square, Venmo, etc.
True Credit Card Merchant Accounts
Why are credit card merchant accounts better? The top reason is costs: they are usually significantly less expensive than PayPal and PayPal-like alternatives. Their exchange rates for foreign currencies are usually less expensive as well. So depending on your situation, it could be that a merchant account is really your very best solution.
Merchant accounts are more involving to set up though, because they need to tie in to your bank account, they will run a credit check on your business, etc. and there is generally more red tape to get it done. You will also need to choose an Online Payment Gateway that will be used to interface with Bookerville.
All of this takes time, whereas most businesses can set up a PayPal account in five minutes. Some merchant accounts also have either fixed fees per month (in addtion to the rates they charge for each transaction) and/or minimum volumes per month, etc. Generally, merchant accounts are more attractive for larger businesses.
If you want to explore merchant accounts, Bookerville very strongly recommends either The Lynnbrook Group
(for businesses with 10 or more properties), or NDMS
for smaller businesses.
PayPal Alternatives: Which One?
Bookerville has been integrated with PayPal since the beginning, so it has always been, and will continue to be an option for anyone who wants it. But we have since been asked for alternatives, and so now we are considering rolling up our sleeves and doing just that.
Since developing integrations with payment processors is so expensive, we really only want to choose one alternative, at this time. So we are asking for community feedback to determine the best one to start looking at.
Popular candidates we have heard property managers ask about:
If you have any interest in this, we ask you to participate so we can gauge not only overall interest, but also which alternatives will please the most businesses.
Feel free to chime in with other thoughts on this topic here, including "voting" for one of the three listed above, or offering other suggestions.
By now, I trust most of you have realized that inflation has been on fire for several months now, and as of this morning, June's Consumer Price Index (CPI) exposes that it's gotten even higher, at 9.1%. There now appears to be mixed concensus among experts about how much longer this inflationary period will be.
High Prices Probably Here To Stay
If history teaches us anything about economies, it's that inflation really doesn't ever reverse: these new high prices are very likely here to stay. The Federal Reserve's monetary policy and interest rate hikes can really only hope to slow the prices from rising much further.
Assuming the Fed's efforts prevail, then prices will simply "stabilize", which is a bit of a euphemism for "remain at that high level."
How Does It Impact The Vacation Rental Industry?
Bookerville has certainly watched vacation rental rates rise by considerable amounts the past couple of years, but it looks segmented and mostly it has not caught up with other categories. This might sound like unpleasant news for property managers at first blush, but the silver lining is that it likely means there is more room to raise rates higher.
If you haven't raised your rates at all, or only by small percentages over the past year or two, you are probably leaving significant money on the table, so to speak.
Should I Raise My Vacation Rental Rates?
Bookerville highly encourages property managers to watch these trends closely, now more than ever. Be diligent about this: watch what your competitors are doing, both at the local and national levels. If your rates have not risen by as much as surrounding or comparable properties, it's probably time to catch up.
Remember: if everyone else is rasing their rates and you are not, then you are effectively losing income. Why should you and/or your owners earn less than the new going rates? Explore the trends, discover what other businesses are doing, and experiment with raising your rates.
Bookerville also encourages property managers to look into price manager services like PriceLabs, Beyond Pricing, Amadeus, and AirDNA to name a few. And although most of these services are expensive, they all assert that they pay for themselves very quickly, then subsequently start raising your revenue substantially thereafter. Some even offer warranties to back this up. Now more than ever, especially because of the unprecendented high inflation we are currently experiencing, looking into a price manager might be a great way to make sure you are maximizing your revenue.
Bookerville also has an API
that is ready to be used by any price manager, and PriceLabs has already integrated with it. So this can be completely automated with your Bookerville account, and the updated rates will also automatically flow to any listing sites you are using if you are using one of our Channel Manager
Penny (Dime?) For Your Thoughts...
Moreso than perhaps most of our other posts, we are keenly interested in hearing your feedback on this topic. Feel free to chime in with your own observations, predictions, experiences.
Bookerville provides many popular "widgets" that you can plop into any of your web-pages using a technique called iFrames. You can view all of these widgets here: Embeddable Widgets
The most popular of these is the Public Booking Calendar, but the Multi-Property Search, Public Master Calendar, rate tables, inquiry forms, and others are also very widely used by many property managers.
What Are 3rd-Party iFrames?
We are going to have to get a little technical here to explain this. iFrames have been around since at least the late 1990's. It's a simple way to automatically create a small box on your webpage that shows the content of another website.
This is very helpful for things like the Bookerville Public Booking Calendar for your property(ies). You plop in a simple iFrame tag into your webpages's HTML code, and the Bookerville Public Booking Calendar for that property appears right in that box in your webpage. And since Bookerville lets you choose custom accent colors, you can make this blend in pretty nicely into your page.
Widgets embedded as iFrames are much, much simpler and easier to install into your webpages than the alternative, which is hiring a professional web developer to build you a custom website (or modify your existing one) to make use of Bookerville's API. Embeddable widgets using iFrames are a much easier and much less expensive solution.
The iFrames you use to do this are called 3rd-party iFrames because they point to a different domain-name (bookerville.com) than the domain of your website.
So What's The Problem?
Over the past four years or so, the various browsers have started looking at 3rd-party iFrames as a security issue. I have still not read anything at all that really adequately explains the supposed security issues of 3rd-party iFrames, but there is a lot of material out there that asserts this to be true.
Because of this, browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Edge, and if you must, Internet Explorer) have been gradually making it harder and harder to effectively use 3rd-party iFrames. In fact, Chrome was the first to completely shut it down with the version that started rolling out about a year ago (early 2020).
The symptom of this is that the widget will still display
ok when you first view your webpage, but upon trying to interact with it, you'll soon get the dreaded "session timeout" errors, and you can't make any progress.
Because of this, we started advising our clients to link
to the various widgets instead of trying to embed them, because the link approach is not having any problems at all.
Then Why And How Are iFrames Back?
I don't know why - perhaps because of so many complaints from various organizations using 3rd-party iFrames legitimately? - but modern browsers are now allowing 3rd-party iFrames. As long as certain special "headers" are present in the content of the 3rd-party serving domain (bookerville.com, in this case), they will permit those 3rd-party iFrames to work as intended.
So we began investigating and testing this around May of 2020. It was very difficult and involving; the documentation on this is very cryptic, very vague. It also required migrating to newer versions of our technology stack, which in turn caused several other significant issues that had to be discovered through testing, developed around, and tested again. It has been a long, tedious, frustrating, and very expensive process.
But the fruits of this effort have shown that 3rd-party iFrames are indeed working again, even on the newest of the major browsers.
What Does This Mean For Me?
Most of you will probably not be affected at all. If you were one of the groups that switched your Bookerville widgets to be links instead of embedded iFrames, then you may wish to experiment with converting them back to embedded iFrames, if you prefer that solution. We advise that you try it with only one or two properties, test it thoroughly, and even then let that test property prove that it works well for a variety of guests for a few weeks before switching all your properties back to embedded iFrames.
When testing: it's always best to test your widgets when positively signed out of your Bookerville account. This ensures that you are most-closely mimicking the same experience of an anonymous guest to your website.
Will iFrames Work Forever Now?
That is the big question isn't it? We sure hope so - but this contentious technology has gone back and forth over the years, with various browser brands choosing to not support them, only to reverse their stance a year later, etc. It's been a frustrating situation for a long time.
What Bookerville is still recommending to clients is to just link
to these widgets instead of embedding them. Links are a much more reliable way of achieving integration: the various widgets look and work their best when they are running in their own, stand-alone page, and links provide that ideal context for them. Also, by not embedding them into your page you will be immune to the fickle tantrums of the browser gods in the future.
As always, contact us if you need help, or have questions/concerns about any of this.