As a vacation rental manager or an operator of serviced apartments, your ultimate aim is to increase your occupancy rates as much as possible. To make the best income out of your property management, you need to reach out to travellers by getting into the vast, at times infinite, network of the hospitality industry. Taking a look at Airbnb vs Vrbo can help you make up your mind easier, because OTAs and booking platforms are among the most immediate tools to increase the occupancy level, and not surprisingly, in return for advertising your listings, they charge large amounts of commissions from you as vacation rental hosts.
Starting Point: Airbnb vs Vrbo
Airbnb was launched in 2008 from a single room of someone who could earn some extra pocket money and was known as Air Bed and Air Breakfast. Nowadays, Airbnb has become a $38 billion company with 150 million users and more than 7 million listings in over 220 countries.
Vrbo started quite differently. In 1995, with somewhat a similar idea, Vrbo – Vacation Rental by Owner back then – was established. Vrbo is now owned by the Expedia Group. Today, there are over 2 million listings on Vrbo in more than 190 countries.
Airbnb and Vrbo are both very attractive and strong booking platforms for both hosts and guests. However, when it comes to listing your property as a vacation rental manager, you definitely need to know the differences as we all seek to make our vacation rental business the most profitable. Selecting either of these depends on many factors such as the property, its location, size, pricing models, and many other considerations. Here at Zeevou, we have made a list of the key factors you should consider before making up your mind.
4 Factors to Know Before Listing Your Vacation Rentals on Airbnb or Vrbo
1. Types of Rentals
This is a key difference between Airbnb and Vrbo. Airbnb allows an extensive and varied range of hosts and many unique home experiences. You can rent out a shared room, a private room, or an entire property with Airbnb. Conversely, Vrbo lets you list only full houses which means that you cannot list a shared space on Vrbo. For instance, it is possible for you to list a hostel or a hotel room on Airbnb but not on Vrbo.That is why Vrbo has a more limited number of listings than Airbnb.
This defining difference affects the type of guests who choose to stay in your properties as a result of the two channels’ marketing strategies. For example, Vrbo promotes private spaces for rent and encourages potential bookers to “have privacy and feel like your own home. Do not share and keep the whole place to yourself.” Unlike Vrbo, Airbnb promotes another type of travelling, including sharing, social experiences, spending less money, and adventure. Consequently, Vrbo attracts families and the elderly who travel and book longer stays. Airbnb, on the other hand, attracts young adventurers, students, business people, or those who are seeking new experiences or having short term trips with limited money.
It is free to list your vacation rental on both Airbnb and Vrbo. On Airbnb, as a host, you will be charged about 3% of the subtotal commission fee per booking. In some additional features like hosting experiences on Airbnb, you will have to pay 20% of the booking value as service fee. For more detail about this, check out What are Airbnb Service Fees?
Vrbo has two pricing models. If you have an empty house or apartment, and expect many bookings during the year, it makes sense to pay the annual subscription which is $499 per year. But if you are investing in a short term rental, maybe paying 5% per booking fee suits you better. Here you can find more information on Vrbo pricing models.
Both platforms allow hosts to charge guests for an extra cleaning fee in their total rates and encourage guests to rate the cleanliness of their place of stay after check-out. Adding cleaning fees helps hosts to use a cleaning service or buy cleaning supplies. There is a slight difference in policies; Vrbo makes you clarify the cleaning fee on the first listing page as an additional charge, but on Airbnb guests might not know about the cleaning fee till the checkout.
Tax rules may be complicated on both platforms since it depends on local regulations.
To protect you as a vacation rental manager against the common problem of cancellations, Airbnb and Vrbo have both set various levels of restrictions as cancellation policies.
There are six cancellation policies on Airbnb that you can offer to your guests which are called Flexible, Moderate, Strict, Long Term, Super Strict 30 Days, and Super Strict 60 Days, explained in detail here.
Similarly, on Vrbo five levels of cancellation policies are defined as No Refund, Strict, Firm, Moderate, and Relaxed. More info here.
Due to its rental types, Vrbo is more strict than Airbnb and full refund is impossible even for the Relaxed option, which returns only 50 percent of the money only if the booking cancellation happens 14 days in advance. The Airbnb Flexible option enables guests to get a full refund within 24 hours before check-in.
In both Airbnb and Vrbo cancellation policies, refunds do not include the rental service fee.
4. Special features
While looking for information regarding the comparative topic of Airbnb vs Vrbo, there are some features on both websites which allow vacation rental managers to get more bookings.
Airbnb offers the Experiences section, aggregated local activities that are hosted by local people. It includes a long list, from reserving restaurants, to having adventures, and to doing creative activities. This feature plays an important role in encouraging travellers to use Airbnb, which might eventually increase your occupancy percentage if you are appealing enough to attract all people looking for Airbnbs in your area.
As a member of the Expedia family, Vrbo is integrated with other OTAs of the same group. This implies your listings on Vrbo will also be displayed on HomeAway and other related booking sites. Vrbo also offers strong search filters, said to be more functional than those of Airbnb, allowing guests to find and book the rental of their choice more easily.
Airbnb vs Vrbo: Which One to Choose?
If you want to list a full house with a strict cancellation policy on Airbnb, it makes more sense to put it on Vrbo. People searching on Vrbo might be more suitable as potential customers for you in this scenario. However, Airbnb may give you a wider range of audience and more flexible policies in privacy levels, favoured more by travellers.
Choosing between Airbnb and Vrbo also depends on the region your properties are located. There are local regulations in some places that restrict listing on OTAs. Sometimes, the power of each platform varies from one region to another. In some areas in the world, Airbnb is more well known and has many more listings. Your properties get more exposure and coverage although offered in a more competitive market.
How About Listing on Both Airbnb and Vrbo?
It is possible to list your property on both platforms as increasing your exposure is always recommended. However, by listing your properties in different places, you need to make sure that no overbookings are going to happen. In order to prevent overbooking, you should use a channel manager. A all-in-one property management software helps you synchronise the calendars to keep you away from overbookings.
How About Having a Direct Booking Website Instead?
Imagine you paid no commissions to OTAs and could add to your bottom line, track your traffic through top analytic tools, and could use your income to expand your vacation rental business, wouldn’t you immediately act? All of these are possible if you get a Direct Booking Website and invest in what belongs to you!