Late last week, vacation rental managers began reporting that their company logos had disappeared from Vrbo’s listing pages.
Previously, Vrbo displayed company logos on listing pages which held enormous value for property managers in building brand awareness. Now, the property photo is being displayed where the logo once was, and the phrase “Property Manager” has replaced the company name. In researching Vrbo.com over the weekend, the change affected all PM listings across the platform for the searches our team conducted.
According to John Banczak, TurnKey Vacation Rentals cofounder and chairman, “If this is a permanent change, this will be the nail in the coffin of Vrbo’s relationships with property managers. The Book Direct movement was already well under way, Airbnb continues to gain share, and Google’s product is coming to market. Take away the already limited branding and there would be every reason now to look for alternative distribution channels.”
We reached out to Vrbo for comment and received the following official response from the company’s leadership team:
“We’re continually running tests to understand how different elements of the shopping experience impact conversion in order to provide as many bookings as possible. Currently, we’re running a test with only part of Vrbo traffic on what contact information is displayed, when and where. As with all of our tests, this will run for a few weeks and we’ll share learnings and gather feedback from property managers if the results indicate any changes should be considered.
“To reiterate what we shared at Rezfest, we are committed to supporting the brands that property managers have worked hard to build. For example, the new property carousel makes it easy for travelers to find additional listings from the same property manager, establishing them as the go-to local expert with incredible places to stay. We’ll continue to gather managers’ feedback and explore additional ways to help them get more bookings.”
But not everyone is feeling optimistic about Vrbo’s commitment “to supporting the brands that property managers have worked hard to build.”
“At the recent VRMA International Conference, the HomeAway team spoke at a general session about their commitment to their ‘partners’ (VR managers).”said Jodi Refosco, owner of Taylor-Made Deep Creek Vacations. “To find that they are now ‘testing’ removing our branding from property listings undermines those words and is extremely concerning to say the least.”
Until now, property managers had an additional value in using Vrbo, commonly know among hoteliers as the billboard effect, which refers to the phenomena where a potential guest sees a hotel on an OTA, but then decides to visit—and ultimately book through—the hotel’s website directly. The billboard effect only works when the guest knows the name of the hotelier, or in this case the property manager. If this latest change at Vrbo holds, PMs will lose this benefit of using Vrbo as a marketing channel.
Since Expedia purchased Vrbo, the company has been open about its intent to eliminate “leakage” on the vacation rental site. In February 2108, CEO Mark Okerstrom discussed the company’s thoughts around leakage, saying the Vrbo (then HomeAway) team is “always trying to find ways to incent the right behaviors or correct problems that are resulting in leakage or poor behaviors.”
The Vrbo statement states that it will be gathering feedback. Property managers who are concerned about the change are advised to reach out to its leadership team.