As a vacation rental owner, I’ve sought to leverage my opportunities at earning income by hosting my property on Airbnb, VRBO, and other platforms. After ten years of experience, I’ve stuck with Airbnb and removed my listing from other competitors. This is primarily due to exposure – Airbnb is a more popularly used service, and my rental is in an urban area. VRBO is a strong competitor for larger, more unique rentals, although Airbnb has provided “Airbnb PLUS” listings for years and access to retreats, experiences, and is more prominently used for rentals in urban environments.
Based on my experiences as a host, I want to highlight some of the benefits of Airbnb and explain why I’ve stuck with it for over a decade.
1. Platform Popularity and Listing Exposure. A recent comparison of website visits from December 2019 to May 2020 shows that Airbnb.com surpasses VRBO.com in multiple categories. It’s important to notice that even during these unprecedented times, potential customers are still visiting Airbnb at almost double the rate than VRBO. Historically, this gap was nearly three times larger, as can be seen in December, an important month for travel due to holiday break. The data also shows that visitors spend about two more minutes on Airbnb and look at 15 more listings than VRBO. Obviously, the data speaks for itself – your listing has a higher potential of being seen amidst the saturation of vacation rentals, and research supports the idea that the longer a customer is on your website, the higher likelihood that they will make a purchase, whether it be now or in the future. Besides the data, my experience of having an Airbnb in an urban area has resulted in a much higher ratio of inquiries to bookings on VRBO, while Airbnb has been the opposite. This is likely due to a combination of Airbnb’s marketing department, UI/UX team, and their ability to rank high on search engines.
2. Creating the Ultimate Travel Experience. Vacation rental owners and real estate investors need to see themselves as partners of the platform they’re on. In other words, if you’re going to pay a listing fee to the platform among other services, you should be getting your moneys worth. Airbnb does a much better job at being your partner by providing various options for your potential customers outside of vacation rentals. This is seen through their “Experiences” category, which provides opportunities for your customers to not only book a rental, but also an experience on the same website. Experiences include, but are not limited to dance lessons, culinary tours, history walks, and more. This is extremely relevant for international travelers who may want to consolidate the amount of accounts they create in order to enjoy all these features. Many of my renters have taken advantage of a nearby tour, which has been cited as one of the reasons they chose my Airbnb. This also resulted in establishing business relationships with locals who are also committed to making income in the tourism industry.
3. Protection for Hosts. Admittedly, I only had a few bookings on VRBO, all which were great, so I’ve never had to reach customer service for any issues. However, with over 300 reviews on Airbnb at this point, I, like many others, have had some bad experiences. Guests either breaking something, losing the keys, or having large parties that have disrupted nearby residents have all been part of those negative experiences. However, Airbnb has an amazing policy that protects the hosts and acts as a mediator to collect money due to unnecessary damage. Additionally, guests that are known to be breaking any laws, or rules set in place (e.g. if you have a maximum number of guests for your listing) are contacted immediately to comply or vacate the residence. These instances are rare, and Airbnb is reliable in collecting personal information for any new accounts to ensure that users are held accountable for their poor decisions. There’s also very little waiting time for hosts contacting the helpline – unlike some other providers that make you wait forever to speak to a representative, I have always got ahold of someone in 5-10 minutes, sometimes less.
Although my experience as a host is limited to owning an apartment in an urban area, I do believe VRBO provides great value to those with vacation rentals elsewhere. VRBO has existed for over a decade longer and is an established company for those who own cabins, beach houses, and more. However, my experiences and the data support using Airbnb for my needs. I am very thankful for the revenue, assistance, and business relationships I’ve developed as a result of using Airbnb, and highly recommend their services.