Skift Take

It's never any fun when companies are reluctant to speak ill of competitors. But, when it comes to wooing hosts, little Vrbo believes it needs to explicitly tell hosts what it can do that giant Airbnb can't. The pitch may be useful in attracting a segment of hosts.

Short-term rental host recruitment is a new high-stakes battle in online travel, and Expedia’s Vrbo drove home that point in kicking off a new online advertising campaign that informs hosts that if they list their homes on Vrbo they’ll attract “the guests who stay longer and spend more” than Airbnb guests.

The script of one of Vrbo’s YouTube videos, which was released Thursday, states, “If you only list your vacation home on Airbnb, you might get a few people. You might attract someone looking for a quaint little studio. But if you list it on Vrbo, you’ll attract families looking for a bit more and who spend over twice as much more. Your dream guests await. Become a Vrbo host today.

A second online video, similarly and brazenly disparages Airbnb’s value proposition for hosts.

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“If you only list your vacation rental on Airbnb you might get a few people,” the narrator says. “But if you also list it on Vrbo you’ll get VRBO families who book bigger places like yours. Your dream guests await. Become a Vrbo host today.”

Both Vrbo adds have a call to action, citing a Vrbo host sign-up page.

There are a few takeaways:

Vrbo and Airbnb over the past few months have been trading barbs about whose hosts earn more on their respective platforms, but it is an apples to oranges comparison because Airbnb offers a variety of properties, from apartments to vacation rentals, while Vrbo focuses on whole homes. Vrbo guests would therefore tend to spend more on average.

Asked about the claim in the new advertisements that Vrbo guests “spend over twice as much more” than Airbnb guests, a Vrbo spokesperson said Thursday, ““Vrbo internal data substantiates the statements when we compare those stats to the Airbnb IPO stats.”

In Airbnb’s S-1 filing, based on average stays of 3.7 nights in North America, the gross booking value of stays and experiences was $610 on average in 2019.

It is interesting to note that one of the Vrbo advertisements criticizes the notion of only listing homes on Airbnb rather than urging hosts to abandon Airbnb outright. In other words, hosts should add Vrbo listings to their distribution outlets rather than going dark on Airbnb.

The new ad campaign from Vrbo, which is a much smaller business than Airbnb and more U.S.-oriented, follows the launch of its Fast Start program, which offers incentives to Airbnb super hosts to sign on with Vrbo.

Airbnb launched a global branding campaign in late February, and has debuted a secondary campaign geared to recruit hosts.

With surging demand for short-term rentals expected as a full travel recovery eventually gets under way, platforms will need to recruit new hosts and onboard listings to meet expected demand.

Skift reached out to Airbnb for comment on Vrbo’s ad campaign, and Airbnb stated: “Airbnb’s hosts are our partners and they have made Airbnb a noun and a verb, which is why we’re grateful that in the last year, new hosts have earned more than $1.2 billion on Airbnb, with the average new host earning $8,000.”

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Tags: advertising, expedia, hosts, short-term rentals, vacation rentals, vrbo, youtube

Photo credit: A vacation rental on Valentine's Day, February 12, 2020. Vrbo began an advertising campaign to attract hosts. Robert Stinnett / Flickr.com

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