Airbnb, VRBO, and The Imperative of Not Canceling Bookings: Lessons from Open Air Homes

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By: Brad Greiner, CEO of Open Air Homes and OpenAiRE Brokerage

In the ever-evolving vacation rental landscape, one rule remains sacrosanct: never cancel a guest’s booking. This isn’t just a matter of courtesy; it’s a matter of trust, brand reputation, and long-term business viability. It becomes even more pertinent for businesses like Open Air Homes, where a commitment to the guest experience is intertwined with our reputation.

Today, we delve deep into why adhering to this rule is more important than ever, drawing insights from recent actions by VRBO and our own experiences at Open Air Homes.

Laurel Canyon by Open Air Homes

The Scenario at Open Air Homes

When homeowners sign with us, they are stepping into a mutual agreement. A key component of this partnership is the understanding that once a booking is made, it’s set in stone. The gravity of this rule was underscored about four years ago when a homeowner, in a hasty decision to sell their property, left us grappling with 10 pre-booked reservations.

This rash move not only jeopardized the vacation plans of ten separate guests but also threatened the business interests of every other homeowner associated with us. If platforms like Airbnb or VRBO had chosen to penalize us due to one homeowner’s irresponsibility, it would have affected all our partners. The lesson? Bookings, once made, are akin to contracts, unbreakable unless the property literally goes up in flames.

Laurel Canyon by Open Air Homes

A Wake-Up Call from VRBO

VRBO’s recent actions underscore the significance of this ethos. As reported by Dennis Schaal for Skift on October 25th, 2023, “Vrbo has recently severed ties with ‘a large number’ of its vacation rental hosts who have canceled too many guest bookings without valid reasons.” Tim Rosolio, VP of vacation rental partner success at Expedia Group, further highlighted this new strategy, stating that Vrbo has been “firing hosts, and cleaning out bad actors from its ranks.” The message is loud and clear: unnecessary cancellations can severely tarnish the guest experience and jeopardize a brand’s reputation.

Quoting from the article: “Vrbo also decided to levy penalties of up to 50% of a gross booking against hosts who cancel too much. Vrbos is also making it tougher for hosts to qualify as premier hosts, a status that can elevate their homes’ positions in search results.”

Balancing Growth and Quality

For online platforms, the number of listed properties might appear as a testament to their growth. But, is it merely a vanity metric or does it reflect strategic depth? VRBO’s recent purging of hosts implies a tilt towards quality over sheer numbers. And for businesses like ours, quality is paramount.

Direct Bookings: A Safety Net

In 2019, keen on not being overly reliant on giants like Airbnb and VRBO, we shifted focus to direct bookings. Today, approximately 40% of our monthly revenue is sourced from direct bookings. This strategic move ensures that if platforms like VRBO or Airbnb tweak their algorithms or introduce new charges for premier placements, companies like Open Air Homes have an alternative channel to bank upon.

Philippe Starck by Open Air Homes

An Evolving Industry

The world of vacation rentals is evolving, and businesses must adapt. For Open Air Homes, the guest experience is paramount. While the landscape may shift, and platforms like Airbnb and VRBO may evolve their strategies, our commitment remains unchanged: to provide an unparalleled experience for our guests and maintain the trust of our homeowner partners.

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