Sometimes, a business makes a conscious decision to dump a customer segment. It just got dumped by VRBO. I am not bitter. They did a reasonable job of signaling their intentions and providing notice of their changes. But I am not sure it makes sense.
My wife and I have been in the cottage rental business on Catawba Island Ohio since 1986. In those early days, we advertised in area newspapers and all correspondence relied on the USPS. All that was painful. Then VRBO came along and was perfect. Based on a flat annual subscription, they provided an advertising platform and purpose-built application for conveying property information, rates, availability, and responding to inquiries. Templates helped with all the repeatable emails like “Your Money is Due” or “Thanks for Renting with Us”.
HomeAway acquired VRBO in 2006 and in a roll-up strategy of many vacation rental websites. They created a dominant marketplace with shared rental listings. As a paid subscriber, VRBO continued to get better under HomeAway and I grew more satisfied as they rolled out new features.
In 2015 Expedia acquired HomeAway/VRBO. And things began to change. Alas, they began making it a booking platform and not an advertising platform. That is, they wanted to be like AirBnB. Initially, VRBO offered an option to pay more for an annual subscription to bypass their requirement to book through them. However, they optimized their search results based on listings where they were getting booking fees. Some customers got frustrated. But I was OK because I really wasn’t that dependent on their search results…renters looking for Gem Beach only have a few options.
In 2016 they added additional service fees to the traveler. Now I was frustrated! My prospects were frustrated. So I began to look for other options.
Today, my contract with VRBO expired. For the same cost as their old annual subscription, I have my own website – www.gembeachvacationhome.com – with all the same functionality that VRBO provided me. I use a dedicated gmail account for all correspondence and can display my property availability using the gmail calendar. Everything is functionally working the same although I know I will have a bit of work to overcome VRBO’s SEO prowess in search results.
See you later VRBO. It was a nice ride. As you can see, I am doing fine. I hope your shift to become a booking platform works out for you.