In the summer of 2022, Vrbo unveiled its “Only Your People” campaign—basically a series of films that showcased the benefits of staying in the private homes available on Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner). Produced by Vrbo in collaboration with an agency, the films emphasize how Vrbo guests “always have the whole place” to themselves.
The campaign has spread far and wide—a testament to the resources of The Expedia Group which owns Vrbo. Plenty of hoteliers espouse the opinion that there are enough customers to go around, while others see a need to differentiate and go on the offensive. Industry pundit Glenn Hassman (pictured right) is in the offense camp, declaring that the best way to combat the campaign is by highlighting services and amenities that are lacking at a vacation rental.
“When all you have is ‘only your people’, you must do all the work,” says Haussman, president of Rouse Media and host of the Long Island, N.Y.-based No Vacancy podcast. “The hotel industry should fight back with a campaign focusing on how ‘our people’ allow you to focus on being with your family while alleviating all the chores you do all year such as cooking and cleaning. Plus, hotels have amazing amenities that vacation homes do not—such as great spas, restaurants, kids clubs, and more.”
“Hotels need to be innovative and create experiences at the hotel which guests cannot get at AirBnb or Vrbo,” adds Vinay Patel, CEO, Fairbrook Hotels, Chantilly, Va. “Hotels also need to highlight the differences and advantages of staying at a hotel, other than simply a price differential.”
Jim McGuire of Salem, Mass-based Plastilam believes that for travelers wanting to access something special, hotels have the edge. “With creativity, a hotel key card can feel like a key to the city, unlocking premium amenities, concierge guidance, admission to events, and a home base at the heart of the action,” he says. “Partnerships with local businesses can transform room keys into discount cards that unlock exclusive savings for guests. As a traveler, it’s hard to find a private rental at the city center with a pool, hot tub, and gym, plus an in-house wine tasting or live music. Even if they find it, they’ll have to do all the clean-up.”
Then again, Vrbo is spending a lot on advertising that consistently promotes travel, and that is one reason to focus on harmony instead of competition. “Hotels are hotels and short term rentals are short term rentals,” muses Lisa Lombardo, chief culture and strategy officer, HDG Hotels. “We are all the lodging industry. Whatever encourages people to travel, I’m for it. I’m more concerned that all of us in the lodging industry are licensed and doing what needs to be done to provide our team members and guests with the best possible experience in all possible ways.”