Longtime Vrbo executive Jeff Hurst, who was chief operating officer of Expedia brands and formerly Vrbo’s president, is leaving the company.
This follows the exit in September of John Kim, who was president of Expedia Marketplace, and last month became executive vice president and chief product officer at PayPal.
Expedia Group announced earlier this week that Brad Bentley, most previously president and CEO of clean energy company Inspire, would become chief operating officer of Expedia brands, taking Hurst’s role.
Hurst had been with Expedia/Vrbo and predecessor company HomeAway since 2010.
Kim has worked at Expedia/HomeAway since 2011.
Following Expedia Group hiring former Google travel advertising director Rob Torres in April, Expedia stated this week that it hired Tript Singh Lamba, most previously head of head of product for YouTube ad monetization and personalization at Google, as senior vice president of consumer product for Expedia product & technology.
Bentley will report to Jon Gieselman, president, Expedia Brands, including Expedia, Vrbo and Hotels.com. Lamba will report to Rathi Murthy, Expedia Group’s chief technology officer and president, Expedia product & technology.
“Building long-lasting direct traveler relationships and operating more effectively with our capital allocation are core components of our B2C strategy,” Giselman said in the announcement statement. “It is critical to have a leader that understands all the complicated investment tradeoffs between customer acquisition, engagement, and retention, and can apply that experience to our planning, operating model, and daily operations. Brad’s substantial operational experience with direct-to-consumer products puts our Brands division in a position to thrive even more.”
Expedia didn’t announce a reason for Hurst’s departure, and a spokesperson characterized it as merely a leadership change after Hurst’s more than 10 years of accomplishments at Expedia and HomeAway.
Just five weeks after Rob Greyber became CEO of Vacasa, the board has shaken up the leadership ranks anew, including naming TurnKey co-founder John Banczak chief operating officer, effective immediately.
TurnKey was Vacasa’s main rival among property management companies in North America until Vacasa bought Turnkey for $619 million in April 2021.
Banczak will supervise Vacasas’s field and central operations teams, the company said Friday in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
Banczak had served as Vacasa’s chief strategy officer.
In other moves, Greyber, who formerly headed Egencia for Expedia Group, will add chief product officer to his current CEO duties on an interim basis. Michael Xenakis, Vacasa’s chief product officer, will leave the company at the end of the month, Vacasa stated.
Vacasa led its announcement about executive changes with the promotion of Chief Operating Officer Craig Smith to the role of chief commercial officer. Smith had become Vacasa’s chief operating officer in early 2021.
In his new role as chief commercial officer, Smith will also assume Michael Dodson’s responsibilities as chief revenue officer. Vacasa said Dodson will exit the company in early November.
Some 10 months ago, Vacasa closed its first day of trading on Nasdaq in a blank check merger on December 7, 2021 at $9.84 per share, and closed trading Friday at $3.25.
Vacasa generated $9.94 million in net income in the second quarter, which ended June 30, on revenue of $310 million, a 31 percent year over year increase.
The property management company, the largest in North America, raised its 2022 revenue and adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) guidance in August, and projected adjusted earnings profitability in 2023.
“Google will kill Airbnb,” tweeted Nick Huber, who writes about business and real estate, owns a self-storage company, and has 247,000 followers on Twitter.
Two people independently messaged me about the tweet, which has generated a few thousand “likes,” and hundreds of retweets since Sunday.
One Skift colleague said of the tweet: “Everything this guy says in his tweet thread is wrong.”
Conversely, a superhost in Europe messaged me about Huber’s tweet: “I would have to agree. Everybody loves a direct booking (both hosts and guests), with no whopping service charges.”
Hosts Just Need to Put Links to Properties in Google … Hmmm
If only it were that simple.
Huber argues that hosts and guests can avoid Airbnb’s substantial fees, and both can save money with direct bookings. Actually, he claimed that Airbnb takes 25 percent of the transaction, mostly from guests, in the form of fees, which seems excessively off the mark.
After this story posted, travel industry veteran Drew Patterson tweeted that Airbnb revenue was only 13 percent of gross bookings in 2021.
One of the silliest things Huber tweets is, “All it takes is folks putting a little link to their software in the Google listing. Management co manages that directly. Way more revenue to owner and less cost to guests.”
Alas, graveyards full of startup companies from Palo Alto to Madrid and Mexico City are testimony to the fact that you can’t merely put a link on a Google business listing, and expect millions upon millions of customers to discover it, and then use it. It takes a mammoth amount of resources to attract direct bookings and for a vacation rental business to build their own brands.
Hey, direct bookings would be mostly great for hosts and, to a lesser extent, guests, but how can property owners and managers attract them?
If you look at the global hotel industry, it has done an admirable job over the last few years, spending huge sums in advertising to urge customers to book directly on their own websites, where they have the lowest rates, instead of using online travel agencies.
Hotel direct bookings haven’t killed Expedia or Booking.com. Travel, it is often said, isn’t a zero-sum game. There is ample room for multiple winners.
Property owners use Airbnb for a reason: Airbnb has a great brand, and attracts legions of guests who start searching for places to stay on Airbnb instead of beginning their trip-planning on Google.
How does the host with one or a handful of properties compete with that kind of market power?
Direct Bookings Have Risks, Too
And although guests can avoid Airbnb’s fees by booking direct with the host, they run the risk of having no one to turn to if the host or property turn out to be a nightmare. Whether or not they work as well as advertised, Airbnb has some insurance protections in place for both hosts and guests.
Airbnb critics will be quick to say that Airbnb’s customer service for guests can be challenging, but it’s often better than dealing with hosts who have no brand or track record to stand behind them.
In fact, Google’s travel vertical has a vacation rentals feature, and it hasn’t really distinguished itself or put much of a dent in Airbnb’s growth precisely because Airbnb, and other big vacation rental brands, have shunned offering their homes and apartments through Google vacation rentals. So Google is hardly usurping Airbnb on that front.
Google has certainly damaged the businesses of innumerable travel companies because of its near-monopoly in search and the way it preferences its own travel advertising features. Curiously, although most of the far-out theories about Google taking over the travel industry tend to say that Google will transition from an advertising to a booking platform and would become an online travel agency — a switch that Google has shown little appetite for — Huber isn’t even making that argument.
Instead, he’s arguing that Google will serve as a listing platform, and build advertising around it, and that hosts, with an assist perhaps from property managers, would see direct bookings flow like lava down a hillside because these offers are inherently the best and cheapest deals for both hosts and guests.
Both Google and Airbnb Face Headwinds
Google killing Airbnb begs the question of which of the two has momentum versus the other. Both face big antitrust or regulatory challenges, and it’s hard to choose which one has the more daunting obstacles.
A little deeper into his twitter thread, Huber retreats a bit from his Google killing Airbnb opener, and pleads for “nuance.”
“Of course Airbnb will always have users,” he tweeted. “But over time many guests will go on google, find a vacation rental in an ideal location, click through to that website & book w/o paying hundreds in fees. 20 yrs from now ABNB will be a glorified lead generator.”
When it comes to predicting the future of companies two decades from now, I’ll pass on that one, considering it is difficult to look even two or three years ahead to see what the business world would look like.
So, alas, in Huber’s view, his talk of Airbnb’s death was apparently bombast.
When a twitter user tells Huber he downplayed the importance of factors like trust and reliability when considering direct bookings versus reservations through Airbnb, Huber retreats a bit further, tweeting:
“I think there will be an increased number of guests going directly. You can do all of those things without giving a huge chunk to Airbnb.”
Finally, that’s something we can agree with: There are many hosts doing everything they can to generate direct bookings, and they’ll likely have a degree of success. But I don’t believe “Google will kill Airbnb,” or that Airbnb will close shop anytime soon.
Note:This story has been updated to include additional information on Airbnb’s take rate. It also clarified Google’s role in the travel industry.
In its endeavor to expand as a preferred full-stack vacation homes provider, Oyo has acquired Denmark-based vacation rental operator — Bornholmske Feriehuse.
Oyo has made the acquisition through its subsidiary DanCenter. Bornholmske Feriehuse has over 700 homes on its platform and according to an Oyo release the company is expected to clock more than 250,000 guest nights in 2022.
The acquisition underlines Oyo’s commitment to invest in Denmark towards accelerating the growth of travel and tourism in the market.
An initiative by Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs — Invest in Denmark — helps attract and retain foreign investments in the country by providing a customized one-stop service for foreign companies, looking to set up or expand business in Denmark.
The demand from foreign guests in holiday homes has been particularly high, said Rasmus Lund, director of Bornholmske Feriehuse. Lund hoped that the collaboration with Oyo would give Bornholmske Feriehuse the opportunity to keep up with demand, while allowing homeowners to benefit from the many online portals that DanCenter collaborates with.
“The agreement would help our many holiday home owners achieve a higher rental percentage, while also contributing income and jobs to Bornholm,” said Lund, who will continue as the director of the vacation rental company.
The acquisition in Bornholm will strengthen Oyo’s presence in Europe. In May, Oyo acquired Croatia-headquartered Direct Booker, which has more than 3,200 homes.
Oyo already owns vacation rental brands in Europe such as Belvilla (Belvilla by Oyo), DanCenter, Danland and Traum Ferienwohnungen offering fully-managed private homes across the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Croatia.
The company is strengthening its position as one of the country’s managers of short-term rentals and vacation homes through a series of acquisitions of companies, including Great Ocean Road Holidays, Best of Magnetic, Prestige Holiday Homes, First National Magnetic Holiday Rent Roll, and The Edge Holiday Rent Roll at Coffs Harbour.
Alloggio now manages about 1,950 holiday homes in the country. For fiscal year 2022, it expects to generate revenue of at least $14 million ($21.5 million Australian) and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of at least $7 million ($10.5 million Australian).
Dtravel said it is now taking crypto bookings for short-term rentals on a blockchain using smart contracts to process bookings directly between hosts and guests.
In fact, Dtravel, which describes itself as “a web3 direct booking tool,” said it facilitated the “first” hospitality booking on blockchain using a smart contact between UK host Amir Sadjady and a guest. Here are Sadjady’s listings.
Skift couldn’t independently vertify whether this is indeed a “first.”
Smart contracts automatically execute certain actions between the parties and lead to “lower transaction costs (than on online travel agencies), greater payment finality and non-custodial payments.”
A look at one of Sadjady’s London listings shows the nightly rate, a cleaning fee, a damage deposit, and a Dtravel platform fee amounting to around 4.3 percent of the nightly rate. If a guest pays with crypto the platform fee disappears, and if the guest uses a credit card the platform fee must be paid.
Dtravel said 5 percent of the tranacation goes to a community treasury. “However, these fees are being returned to hosts in the form of TRVL rewards, which is Dtravel’s native token, during the beta period,” the company said.
The company claims to have hundreds of available listings using smart contracts.
Dtravel said it was founded by former executives of major online travel agencies, and it has received $7.5 million in funding.
While vacation rental demand was up 32 percent year over year in January 2022, it slowed to 9 percent growth in May, the report found.
At the same time, supply of vacation homes in the U.S. is holding steady, if not accelerating. Evolve said vacation rental supply growth stood at 10 percent in January 2022, and in May it notched 12 percent growth.
“This means the economic environment is beginning to impact summer travel demand, and there will be more vacation homes vying for fewer guest bookings overall,” Evolve stated.
Asked whether the slowing demand growth might cause Evolve to do a restructing, including layoffs, co-founder and CEO Brian Egan said there have been no layoffs.
“No, quite the opposite, we’re continuing to grow rapidly,” Egan said. “Relative to any pre-pandemic time period, 2022 has been an incredible year for demand, and the impact of the macroeconomy is showing up in modest ADR (Average Daily Rate) compression year over year. It’s not threatening the fundamentals of occupancy that really drive the economics of our business.”
Airbnb announced Friday that it selected Jay Carney, most recently head of corporate affairs at Amazon and a former White House press secretary with ties to President Joe Biden, to replace Chris Lehane as global head of policy and communications.
Lehane, known for his hardball tactics in running campaigns opposing tougher municipal and state regulation of Airbnb, left Airbnb months ago, and joined a crypto fund. Lehane has many political jobs on his resume, including serving as press secretary for then-Vice President Al Gore from 1994-2000.
Carney has ties to President Joe Biden, having served as his director of communications when Biden was vice president. A former journalist, Carney was White House press secretary under Obama from 2011-2014.
Carney, who will begin his role at Airbnb in September, will be part of Airbnb’s executive team and will “work with co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky to ensure that as Airbnb grows, we strengthen the communities we are in.”
In a statement, Chesky said Carney is adept at community engagement “and is committed to ensuring that Airbnb is a force for good.”
Airbnb’s impact on communities can be multifaceted. On the one hand, it generates revenue for local businesses, including hosts, and makes travel affordable for many who otherwise wouldn’t be able to vacation in such fashion.
On the regulatory front, Airbnb faces an outcry in many communities around the world that it is hurting the quality of life, and contributing to a housing crisis as long-term rental properties get taken off the market, and turned into short-term rentals for tourists.
“The potential for travel to promote economic and social good has never been greater,” Carney said of his Airbnb appointment in a statement. “I’m thrilled to be joining Airbnb to help guide its work to connect communities and people through travel, drive economic participation, and help us discover that while our differences are real, they are overwhelmed by our similarities.”
Carney is a board member of Urban Institute, which Airbnb said works on issues such as affordable housing, racism and healthcare matters.
Despite the fears of recession and soaring fuel prices that have retreated somewhat in recent weeks, average daily rates for short-term rentals in the U.S. this summer jumped 7 percent year over year — and that’s nearly 30 percent higher than the summer of pre-pandemic 2019.
Those conclusions were part of an update to AirDNA’s mid-year 2022 outlook, which said U.S. average daily rate growth is highest in urban and coastal areas. (See chart below).
“As we look to summer 2022 (June-August), more STR nights have been booked than any other summer in history, as of the end of June,” the report said. “The previous record was set just last year, and the U.S. is currently seeing 12.3% more booked nights than at the same point in time in 2021.”
Short-term rental demand in big cities this summer, though, is still 28.3 percent lower than in the summer of 2019, AirDNA found.
In addition, AirDNA forecast that the U.S. supply of short-term rentals would jump 21 percent year-over-year in 2022 as both Airbnb and Vrbo increased their listings.
“With supply outpacing demand growth as expected, our outlook for occupancy is largely unchanged,” AirDNA said. “Our revised forecast now calls forU.S. occupancy to average 58.2% for the year, slightly lower than our 59.8% forecast in October.”
AirDNA’s occupancy numbers seems to be more bullish than those of Key Data Dashboard. The latter’s occupancy stats may skew more heavily toward vacation rentals specifically.
Occupancy rates in the U.S. in the third quarter (July, August and September) are currently at 39 percent, down from 45 percent during the same period in a standout 2021, according to Melanie Brown, director of analytics at Key Data Dashboard, which tracks vacation rental data.
Property manager AvantStay said Friday its employee roster was subject to 43 “job reductions” in the past 30 days.
The company argued that these weren’t layoffs because they came as part of a “gradual reorganization.” There actually was a net reduction of 19 employees over the last month because the company, which has around 600 staffers, also did hiring during the period, AvantStay said.
Skift earlier reported that AvantStay had fired around 80 employees, but AvantStay’s statement about 43 job reductions cast doubt on the original number. AvantStay, however, would only make statements about job reductions in the past 30 days.
Avantstay said in December it managed more than 1,000 properties in more than 100 cities.
AvantStay founder and CEO Sean Breuner said: “As you know we recently hired a new COO and we executed a reorganization of our company to eliminate redundancies and introduce new executives. We have been and will continue to keep hiring as travel remains robust this summer (hopefully others seeing same).”
The company said it is not engaging in any fundraising at this time.
Several now-former AvantStay employees posted about the layoffs on various social media platforms. One said the company cited a looming recession, and investor losses as among reasons behind the job cuts.