Vrbo was leaving money on the proverbial table by sticking with whole homes. That seems to be changing, but it remains to be seen how far Vrbo will meander into hotels and other inventory types.
Vrbo, which has largely stuck by its whole-home vacation rental mission as a differentiator until now, is filling in the gaps where travel demand is intense by adding hotels, Skift has learned.
For example, a search for stays in Rapid City, South Dakota, over the next few weeks, produced listings for InterContinental Hotel Group’s Holiday Inn Express and Staybridge Suites Rapid City; Wyndham’s La Quinta Inn & Suites, Americinn, and Super 8; as well as the Magnuson Grand.
Over in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, Vrbo showed a listing for the Edgar Hotel Martha’s Vineyard, which is part of Choice Hotels’ Ascend Hotel Collection.
In Miramar Beach, Florida, Vrbo produced listings for Extended Stay America Suites, Quality Inn & Suites, Candlewood Suites, Embassy Suites Hotel, Best Western Sugar Sands Inn & Suites, and Days Inn by Wyndham Destinations, for instance.
Tom Botts, a long time hotel marketing and distribution executive, who is now chief commercial officer at buy now and pay later provider Uplift, said “hotels that have long branded the vacation rental platforms such as VRBO and Airbnb the enemy may have second thoughts about their inventory appearing in these channels, further expanding their third-party distribution, especially in already high-demand markets like these. I’m waiting to see the Grand Hyatt New York on VRBO — then we’ll know the world is fully spinning in reverse.”
“This has been the best ever start to a year for Vrbo, and vacation rentals in popular beach locations have been in high demand all summer,” said a spokesperson on Thursday for Expedia Group, which owns Vrbo. “In addition to vacation rentals, guests may also see hotel room or resort inventory in their Vrbo search when looking for a place to stay.”
How Does Vrbo Get the Hotel Inventory?
Is Vrbo sourcing the hotel inventory from hotel chains’ headquarters or individual properties when the hotels are affiliated with chains?
The answer is both.
“There are a variety of contract options available for partners, both at the corporate and hotel level, to best fit their needs,” an Expedia Group spokesperson said.
In contrast to many of Vrbo’s vacation rental listings that give hosts the option of vetting guests, the hotel inventory on Vrbo all have “book now” buttons although, just like on sister site Expedia.com, the hotels have the option of letting Vrbo collect the payment immediately or allowing the guest to pay at the property during the stay.
At Skift’s Short-Term Rental and Outdoor Summit in May, Vrbo boss Jeff Hurst choreographed the upcoming expansion into hotels, saying “You can’t solve for there’s not enough homes in the Outer Banks [of North Carolina] for all the people who want to go to the Outer Banks this summer,” he said. “Some people are going to have to not go to the Outer Banks this summer.”
He said an expansion into adding hotels and resorts in beach destinations, for instance, wouldn’t necessarily happen all at once but would be tactical for now to meet surging demand.
In the past, Vrbo has listed 2-star hotels and other inventory that wasn’t strictly whole homes, but these were fringe sorts of listings when whole-home vacation rentals were unavailable. But now Vrbo, an Expedia Group brand, seems to be making a more concerted effort to broaden its hotel inventory in the face of a surging travel demand in resort or other popular locations where vacation rentals get sold out.
Over the years, Vrbo has sought to differentiate itself from Airbnb, which offers apartments, room shares, and hotels as part of its mix, by sticking with whole home vacation rentals. There’s no indication that Vrbo would dabble with apartment rentals, but hotels are definitely part of the equation for now.
However, in contrast to Vrbo, which was offering hotels and houses in Miramar Beach, Florida over the next couple of weeks, Airbnb was showing apartments, condominiums, private rooms, campers, and villas — almost every type of property except hotels.
Airbnb has stated that it it is still investing in its hotel business after acquiring HotelTonight in 2019, but hotels don’t appear to be a priority for now.
Note: This story was updated to add information about how Vrbo sources hotel inventory.
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Photo credit: This March 31, 2015 photo shows three hotels that share the same building, from left, Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites, both Intercontinental Hotels Group brands, and Hampton Inn, a Hilton Brand, on West 39th Street in New York. Vrbo is starting to offer hotels, including some Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites properties. 150826 / 150826