The success of Airbnb during the pandemic has been one of the biggest stories of not only the tourism industry but of business in general. People are looking for a safe escape from “lockdown” and take advantage of the ability to work remotely from “home,” even if that home is a cozy vacation rental with a view of the sea! Now Vrbo (formerly VRBO), the old-timer of the online vacation rental market, has introduced an advertising campaign to get back into the game, “Your Together Awaits.” It’s got me wondering… Vrbo vs AirBnB: can the old-timer make a comeback and compete against the Silicon Valley giant?
When I first saw the new Vrbo ad on television I didn’t realize that it was for vacation rentals until the end when John Legend (what a choice of a voice) says: “These are the Vrbo [pronounced ver-boh] vacation homes waiting for you…” Vrbo and I go way back to my early days of web development and the early days of booking vacation rentals on the web.
According to Wikipedia, the website was set up in 1995 to promote a single ski resort condo in Colorado. As VRBO, they then started taking listings from other owners and soon it was one of the only online marketplaces for vacation rentals and unique in that it was “vacation rentals by owner.” Around this time sites like hotels.com, lastminute.com, booking.com, etc. were getting started. While VRBO always seemed to have a large selection of properties, the design of the site was always a little dated and led me to avoid recommending it to my clients in the industry.
Vrbo now has the weight of Expedia behind it, having first been acquired by competitor HomeAway in 2006 and then with HomeAway being acquired by Expedia in 2011. The site has much more the feel of a modern, corporate site and a large advertising budget to attract the necessary properties and guests, but will VRBO ever be the “go-to” for those looking to book a rental — or even for the owners looking to list?