Airbnb, Booking.com, HomeAway, Vrbo, TripAdvisor and Expedia are some of the biggest brands in the vacation rental space, high-traffic marketplaces that link properties to travelers. They’re an integral part of every property managers’ marketing plan. But which are the best for your short-term rentals?
Numerous factors can influence your decision: local market conditions, whether your target audience aligns with a specific brand, the amount of overhead admin required, the channel fees, and of course, which site brings in the most bookings.
To help you make your decision, here’s our overview of the most popular vacation rental marketing channels.
Airbnb is in tight competition with Booking.com to be the number one site in the accommodation and hotels space. Particularly in the US, Airbnb has brought awareness of short-term rentals to the mainstream and helped transform the industry.
In fact, according to Google Trends, searches for “Airbnb” are five times greater than searches for “vacation rentals.”
The site has more than 200 million users and approximately six million listings with 180% year-over-year (YOY) growth.
A particularly strong demographic for Airbnb is the US-based millennial traveler, a group that has a strong preference for booking entire homes and a tendency to book at the last minute: just a couple weeks ahead of time isn’t unusual, and some wait until they’ve already arrived to find a rental.
The strength of Airbnb's brand comes in part from its efforts to offer a more standardized experience for hosts and travelers.
Its Host Guarantee and Host Protection Insurance offer property managers and owners extra protection and greater confidence that they'll be covered in a worst-case scenario. It should be noted, while these are great features, it’s still best to ensure these policies aren’t your only line of defense.
For travelers, Airbnb has a handful of basic requirements for every host as well as standardized cancellation policies. Other programs - such as Superhost, Experiences, and Airbnb for Work - help foster trust and make it easier for guests to book a trip that meets their specific needs.
For property managers with multiple units, Airbnb has a pro marketing page that automatically aggregates your Airbnb listings so you can showcase your properties from one branded page - but you obviosuly won't be able to see a comprehensive view across channels unless you use property management software.
Learn more about trends and best practices to optimize your listings by watching our recent webinar with Airbnb.
Booking.com is the third largest e-commerce site in the world and has been the leader in the accommodation and hotels category, although it’s now running neck-and-neck with Airbnb with both sites hovering around the six million listings mark.
Drawing more than 420 million visits per month as a well-established OTA (online travel agency), Booking.com gives travelers a one-stop shop to book everything they need for their next trip, including flights and rental cars.
It has a particularly strong presence in the European marketplace and offers content in up to 43 languages, automatically delivering information about your properties to potential guests in their local language.
While Booking.com isn’t focused on vacation rentals - homes, apartments, and other unique accommodations account for 18% of the 28 million properties on their site - vacation rentals are gaining ground: Last year they experienced growth of 44% YOY above hotels on the site, and 70% of new signups are vacation rentals.
For property managers with multiple units, Booking.com is actively working on products and services tailored to meet your needs. This includes:
- Host and company profiles
- Group Connect, a view of all the properties in your portfolio
- Group analytics
- The ability to set up promotions in bulk
- The ability to edit and adjust your policies and house rules for multiple properties at once
Learn more about how Booking.com is working to meet your needs in our co-branded webinar.
HomeAway and Vrbo
Launched in 1995, Vrbo is one of the oldest and most trusted brands in the industry. HomeAway, started a decade later, was acquired by Vrbo in 2006. Both were purchased by Expedia Group in 2015.
And yet, HomeAway and Vrbo continue to be two separate brands. Many made a soft prediction that the company would ultimately merge their vacation rental brands into one — but it hasn’t happened yet, nor are there known plans for the company to do so. In the interim, the two sites are very closely aligned, including the same pricing model and policies.
The HomeAway and Vrbo sites combined attract approximately 27 million monthly visits.
- Vrbo attracts a large base of North American travelers
- HomeAway draws a more international audience, particularly from Europe, Australia, India, and Brazil
Compared to some of the other sites on this list, that traffic may seem a little lackluster. However, being owned by a travel powerhouse like Expedia has its benefits — such as its Expanded Distribution Network. It also offers:
- The “Book with Confidence Guarantee" for guests, which includes payment protection in case of fraud and rebooking assistance for canceled or misrepresented bookings
- $1 million liability insurance for owners and property managers
- The option for travelers to purchase property damage protection (see how MyVR and HomeAway compare)
To learn more about HomeAway and Vrbo to discuss best practices.
TripAdvisor is an OTA that’s particularly known for collecting feedback from the community: it has more than 630 million reviews and opinions, something the company leverages with accolades like their annually awarded Certificate of Excellence and Travelers’ Choice.
While its vacation rental segment is collected under the TripAdvisor Rentals umbrella, the company also has five other established consumer-facing brands, each with a strong presence in a specific market:
- FlipKey (North America) and HouseTrip (Europe) are the company’s flagship sites
- HolidayLettings (UK/Europe)
- Niumba (Spain)
- VacationHomeRentals.com (US)
The benefit to you? All vacation rentals listed with TripAdvisor Rentals are distributed through its other sites, which collectively attract 490 million travelers every month in 26 different languages.
Learn how to perform your best on TripAdvisor with this exclusive webinar.
Expedia’s audience is substantial: If you combined Airbnb and HomeAway’s visitor numbers, Expedia has almost 10x the volume of traffic. It has localized sites in 33 countries and, of course, includes HomeAway and Vrbo in its brand family.
The challenge? Most visitors won’t be on the lookout for a short-term rental. Because of this, Expedia may not be the first vacation rental distribution partner that comes to mind.
However, when placed next to traditional accommodations, vacation rentals are much less expensive and provide more amenities, making this a great opportunity to get in front of entirely new audience groups — if you’re strategic about how you compete with the more traditional listings:
- Target new customer segments, such as last-minute bookings
- Get ahead of the competition, since many property managers don’t have Expedia on their radar
- Discover a new audience that may not have stood out in the past
Expedia has the money, they've got the visitors, they've got the audience, they've got the brand, and they’ve got the reach internationally in all these different markets. All signals point to them having a place in the vacation rental advertising space, it’s just a matter of time.
So which channel is best?
Because of each channel’s unique audience and nuances, the most successful, revenue-rich channel management strategies should include every listing site. You don’t have to add each channel at the same time, but you should create a plan that adds channels incrementally as you grow.
If you’d like assistance in creating your channel growth strategy and would like to know more about revenue growth from adding channels, schedule a call with MyVR and we’ll walk you through it!
When you’re trying to scale your vacation rental business, you need the proper tools that can help you manage your day-to-day operations but also provide guidance to developing a personalized strategy that will reach your long-term goals.
As you add more channels to your distribution strategy, property management software like MyVR will help you efficiently run your business.
MyVR has direct connections to each of the five major channels we covered above and all of their affiliated brands, meaning that we don’t use a third-party channel manager like the other guys - saving you time, money and the pain of double bookings and software breakdowns.
MyVR not only provides you with all of the tools you need to scale and automate your business, but our staff of industry experts are here to support you every step of the way in order to ensure you achieve your unique goals.