After more than a year without accepting advertising on its platform, Vrbo is once again opening up shop. The home rental brand, purchased by Expedia Group in 2015, will begin to slowly introduce advertising on its homepage and across the broader site.
Previously, Vrbo was using its own media team, but everything will now be brought under the Expedia Group umbrella, one of the travel industry’s largest that also includes Hotels.com, Travelocity, Orbitz and Hotwire.
The arrival of Vrbo, which goes by HomeAway in the U.K., to Expedia’s media network was announced earlier this month and won’t hit full speed for some time, according to Hari Nair, svp of Expedia Group Media Solutions, the digital marketing provider for Expedia and its subsidiaries. Nair emphasized a “crawl, walk, run” approach to introducing advertisers to the platform.
The decision to bring Vrbo into the Expedia Advertising fold was made before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, but Nair thinks that having the scale of Expedia’s advertising platform will help Vrbo ride the wave of recovery.
“As you think about travel recovery coming back, and as you think about brands wanting to advertise in front of this valuable audience, it’s perfect timing,” he said.
According to a study by the property management platform Guesty, which surveyed over 400 companies that use Airbnb, Vrbo and Booking.com, more than half reported cancellations were up between 76% and 100% for reservations from June through August. But only 41% of respondents reported no change in cancellations between September and November, more than half reported cancellations reaching less than 10% during the same period.
Vrbo, originally founded as Vacation Rental By Owner in 1995, underwent a rebranding last year, changing the all-caps VRBO acronym into its new name, with a new typeface. According to Vrbo, the site reaches roughly 16 million monthly unique visitors with 257 million monthly pageviews.
Nair hopes the brands that will advertise on the platform are obvious, including airlines, hotels and financial services (hello, travel rewards members). Eventually, Vrbo will add sponsored listings, which are already available on other Expedia platforms.
The travel brand believes it’ll be well positioned to capitalize on the recovery, which is heavily anticipated to begin with domestic and local travel. According to a Vrbo’s own internal research, more than 65% of Vrbo users travel by car, while only 35% fly. They’re also more affluent, with 52% of them earning over $100,ooo a year, spending five times more than the average traveler, and staying three times longer. That’s an enticing audience for advertisers.
“We really appeal to people who are looking to plan and manage what we call ‘complex family travel,'” said Kate Rush Sheehy, Vrbo’s senior director of brand marketing strategy. “The vast majority of our inventory is two or more bedrooms.”
Among its platforms, Expedia Group believes Vrbo will give brands a new audience, as audience crossover between, for example, its Hotels.com and Expedia brands is below 30%.
But, there may not be a deal for brands already working with Expedia.
“We’re always looking at our pricing; we don’t have set rule as such. In some cases it could be premium, depending on what kind of targeting they want,” Nair said.
Expedia is gearing up for a return to travel over the next few months as well. On May 4, Expedia launched its “Where Next?” campaign, featuring a search bar that lets would-be travelers type in a location and be met with an image and a link to that city or country’s destination marketing site. While briefly engaging for consumers, it’s allowing Expedia the opportunity to gather insights by compiling the most searched terms.
Nair said the top results so far were Florida, California, New York and Hawaii. Internationally, Italy was in the top three, notable considering how hard the country was hit by Covid-19.
Neither Nair or Sheehy would talk booking figures, but when travel revenue can be hard to come by, it’s expected that new advertising dollars will be welcomed. Sheehy did say that the platform was seeing a lot of “dreamers,” or hopeful travelers who were searching but not booking anything.
“Vrbo is such a large aggregator of demand,” Nair said. “We hope that this is going to be a sizable business for Vrbo and for Expedia.”