Booking 8.8 > 9.8 > 9.9
Updated: Oct 13
In 2021 90% of Poggiosole's bookings came via the eponymous (and ubiquitous) online Dutch travel agency. In 2022 about half our reservations came through Booking, the rest through our website (except one group of Americans who used Airbnb). But this year's lower share of Booking-referred guests doesn't diminish the importance of Booking.com to Poggiosole. Many of our guests discover us on Booking. And while it's true that, on subsequent visits, many reserve with us directly, discovery is crucial: absent Booking.com far fewer folks would know we exist.
Booking charges handsomely for this matchmaking. All things considered, including their "Genius discounts", the premium Booking effectively applies to our base rates (assuming we wish to net the same revenue from a Booking-generated reservation as from a direct one) hovers around 30%. Ouch.
OTOH that hefty premium pays for a very sophisticated presentation of lodging and holiday options, including, crucially, each property's review rating: an average of the numeric value (on a scale of 1-10) that guests assign to their overall experience throughout their stay. Typically these ratings range between 6 and 10. To help the discovery process, Booking assigns qualitative terms such as "Very good", "Excellent", and "Fabulous" to these values, but, as is often true, it's the numbers that do the talking.
When, in May 2021, I took over management and custodianship of Poggiosole from my parents, our review rating on Booking was in the high 8's: 8.8 or 8.9 if memory serves, with our sub-score for cleanliness trailing in the low 8's. My goal then, with the pandemic still very much on everyone's mind, was to move our review rating to the mid-9's by the end of 2022. As a small vacation rental operating in a very crowded market (the Chianti fiorentino is packed with properties that resemble ours), I saw the path of guaranteeing continuity of interest and revenue as inseparable from the pursuit of quality, inside and outside Poggiosole's lodgings. And as any seasoned Booking user knows, the line separating the best from the rest is two to four tenths of a point above 9.
So last week, when our average review rating on Booking ticked from a more-than-I-had-wished-for 9.7 to a nosebleed-inducing 9.8, I took note. Fewer than 1% of Booking's listings in Tuscany rate that high. The question is no longer how to move higher but how to maintain such a lofty score. But before succumbing to performance anxiety, I'd like to take a moment to:
1) thank Booking.com,
2) thank our guests,
3) thank our cleaning crew (Nicoleta and Mario, Dana and Emilio through 2022, Feliciano, Alina and Michela from 2023),
4) thank our long-term gardener Marco and our occasional but essential earth-movers Massimiliano and Samuele,
5) thank our stone masons Valeriano and Marco (different Marco), our metalsmith Simone, our plumbers Gianni, Sasha and Marco (different Marco again), our electricians Alessandro, Leonardo and Davide, our carpenter Akim and our painters Stefano, Simone and Mirko,
6) thank our furniture refinishers Giacomo and Michele,
7) thank our new gardeners Abdu (and his crew), Cecilia, Marco (!) and Vincenzo
8) thank our master olive pruner Vittorio
9) thank our groundskeeper and all-around handyman Vasile,
10) thank our pool guy Antonio and our lighting designer Paolo,
11) thank my eldest son Elio who has punched above his weight this summer weeding, whacking, hauling, sanding, lifting and sorting while repeatedly beating Vasile at chess.
Last not least I salute my mom and dad for taking the plunge, aged around 70 back in 1999, on an old country house, 6 hectares of largely neglected land, 500 craggy olive trees and a dilapidated stone hayloft (our present-day fienile). As I put it to them back then, "The question is whether or not to commit."
Commit they did, the rest of us following.
Update, August 2023: our rating on Booking has edged up to a dizzying 9.9. We can't promise it will remain that high, but we will continue to work in the same spirit that brought us here.