Expedia’s Acquisition of VRBO and HomeAway – owner beware!

So Expedia just shelled out $3.9 billion to acquire VRBO / HomeAway. What do you think about that? You know what I think about it? I think it’s total B.S., and in my not so humble opinion it represents further owner-unfriendly consolidation of the vacation rental industry as we know it.

VRBO and Homeaway started off back in the day as lead generation services. They aggregated large numbers of listings and put them in one spot so people could easily browse places to spend their vacation. Interested parties made inquiries about the listings, and vrbo/homeaway forwarded that information on to the owner.

Since then the vacation rental market has evolved in such a way that VRBO/Homeaway have began spoofing, almost hiding, the direct contact information of customers. This, and other tactics they are using to make the relationship between owner and guest less personal, is changing the philosophy of VRBO/Homeaway as a lead generation service. They are taking steps to make guests THEIR customers while trying to make owners subservient to VRBO/Homeaway.

It is my opinion that Expedia will continue this same march and further strip customers from owners and create an “Amazon . com” of vacation rentals. As you may know “Amazon . com” owns hardly any inventory, but instead have a platform full of subservient sellers that provide products to Amazon’s customers.

I do not want the vacation rental industry to fall prey to some mechanized behemoth like Expedia where people can book without even talking to the owner. Irregardless of what VRBO/HomeAway/Expedia would like to think of believe, guests who stay at my place are my customers.

Owners and property managers, I hope you will join with me in undermining Expedia the consolidator by doing these things:

  • find your customers’ email addresses and contact phone numbers and communicate with them directly. Don’t put yours or your customers’ information on vrbo / Homeaway / Expedia’s hacker-infested websites.
  • remain open to up and coming websites that follow the traditional model of lead generation whereby the website passes the customer’s information directly to you.
  • don’t participate in performance metrics that vrbo / Homeaway / Expedia try to assign to you.  I’m sure you’ve seen them.  Currently these sites are assigning performance metrics to how fast you answer customer’s inquiries.  With me, I answer my customer’s inquiries directly to their email address or phone number.  It’s none of vrbo / Homeaway / Expedia’s business what agreement my customer and I have or have not come to.
  • turn off all of the guest hospitality services.  I know it may seem cute and convenient that your guests can be notified of upcoming arrivals, emailed contracts, and reminded to leave feedback through the vrbo / Homeaway / Expedia websites.  However, what is happening here is that vrbo/HomeAway/Expedia is creating report with your customer when it should be you creating report with your customer.  If you stand by and do nothing then your customer will become their customer as many already have.

So why is VRBO / HomeAway worth $3.9 Billion?  Because they have figured out a way to use your property (many of which are worth millions of dollars) to steal your customers!  Please comment on this post and let me know what you think!

VRBO Over The Years