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Airbnb, Vrbo roll out interesting plans as travel picks up



Sites such as Airbnb Inc. and Expedia Group Inc.’s Vrbo have rolled out features designed to make it easier to become a host as vacation-rental brands are jostling to persuade owners to list homes on their sites as properties are in short supply in certain outdoor destinations.

Demand for homes near beaches, national parks, and other nonurban areas has been high during the pandemic, but it is accelerating as the economy reopens, vaccinations rise and some companies have announced plans to keep flexible work arrangements in place.

Vrbo had in March had launched Fast Start, a program that allows hosts who have Airbnb experience to transfer their Airbnb ratings to Vrbo. Vrbo said it has acquired thousands of hosts through the program, though it declined to specify further details.

Airbnb last month said it has eased the sign-up process for new hosts, reducing the number of steps required to 10 from over a dozen. The company said it has added more than 100 upgrades to its platform, including features for one-on-one mentoring on hosting. It also is trying to convert guests into hosts, offering referral payments to hosts who can get others to list their places on Airbnb.

“In some cases, we may not have the right supply” for certain areas within the vacation rental market, “and we’ve got to go fill that out,” Peter Kern, Expedia’s chief executive officer, said at an investor conference earlier this month.

A Vrbo advertisement campaign that mentions Airbnb by name, targets hosts seeking to diversify their listings beyond a single vacation-rental platform, said Jeff Hurst, chief operating officer of Expedia Brands. “We’re more explicitly encouraging partners who may only list on a competitive platform to also list with us,” Mr. Hurst said

Hosts say guests are traveling farther and booking more weekdays than they did before the pandemic, in part because employers are settling into more flexible work arrangements indefinitely.

Airbnb and Vrbo have said they are seeing longer stays in their rentals.

For, which like Expedia also offers hotel listings, the pace of recovery among alternative accommodations has outpaced hotels in some states, said Eric Bergaglia, the site’s global head of homes and apartments. The company plans to invest more in vacation rentals over the next few years, he said

Airbnb charges 3% of the host’s booking revenue, though the fee is higher for professional property managers. Vrbo charges host 5% of the booking and a 3% payment-processing fee. Booking Holdings Inc.’s charges host 15% of the booking.

 With tourism in cities on the rebound, hotels are increasingly looking like a better deal for many renters, as they don’t usually charge many of the fees rental hosts typically do.




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