The vacation rental industry has witnessed a seismic shift in recent years, with a surge in online platforms providing homeowners the opportunity to monetize their spare properties.
If you are considering joining the pool of hosts, it’s crucial to understand where to list your vacation home for optimal exposure and return on investment. Let’s explore some of the top platforms in 2023, diving into their unique features, pros, and cons.
No article on vacation rental platforms would be complete without mentioning the industry behemoth, Airbnb. Founded in 2008, Airbnb has consistently been a favorite choice for both hosts and travelers alike.
Airbnb’s greatest strength is its extensive global network, with properties in more than 220 countries and regions. This guarantees a broad audience for your listing. Additionally, Airbnb provides comprehensive host protection insurance and has implemented a reliable rating system, ensuring transparency and security.
However, Airbnb’s 3% host fee, while lower than many competitors, can add up over multiple bookings. There’s also considerable competition on the platform, meaning your property needs to stand out to gain traction.
Booking.com is a general-purpose travel site that also caters to vacation rental listings. It offers an immense user base, with properties in over 120,000 destinations worldwide.
A unique feature is its “no guest fee” policy, which may attract more visitors. Booking.com also provides hosts with an opportunity to become ‘preferred partners’, improving listing visibility in exchange for higher commission.
On the downside, Booking.com charges a relatively high commission fee, up to 15%. Moreover, it’s primarily known for hotel bookings, meaning that vacation rentals might not be the first choice for some users.
As one of the earliest players in the vacation rental market, Vrbo focuses entirely on whole-property rentals, making it ideal for hosts offering entire homes.
Vrbo stands out with its annual subscription model, allowing unlimited bookings for a flat fee. This can be more cost-effective for hosts with high demand. Plus, being part of the Expedia Group, your listing gains exposure on multiple travel sites.
On the flip side, Vrbo’s user base is smaller compared to Airbnb or Booking.com. Also, its focus on whole properties might limit the types of rentals you can offer.
The VRBO and HomeAway websites were merged into one in 2020.
Expedia is a powerful player in the travel industry and offers listing options for vacation rentals under its umbrella, which includes brands like Vrbo and Hotels.com.
Expedia’s biggest pro is its broad appeal to a wide array of travelers, from business to leisure, which might bring diverse bookings. However, much like Booking.com, its reputation as a hotel-booking site may overshadow its vacation rental offerings. Moreover, the competition is intense, requiring more effort to make your listing stand out.
FlipKey is a vacation rental marketplace owned by TripAdvisor, offering hosts access to TripAdvisor’s vast user base. Properties listed on FlipKey are also listed on TripAdvisor Rentals by default.
The major benefit of these platforms is the exposure to millions of TripAdvisor users, enhancing the potential for your listing to get noticed. Furthermore, their strict verification process ensures high-quality listings and builds trust with potential guests.
The main downside is their relatively high commission rate, reaching up to 3% plus up to 16% per booking. Some users also find the interface less intuitive compared to other platforms.
TUI Villas is a European-based vacation rental platform that is particularly strong in countries like Germany, Spain, and France. If your property is located in Europe or you aim to attract European travelers, it could be a beneficial platform.
One of the advantages of TUI Villas is its affiliation with the well-established TUI travel group, which can enhance credibility and exposure. Nevertheless, the platform’s geographic focus means it may not be the best choice for properties outside Europe.
Owned by TripAdvisor, Holiday Lettings offers hosts the chance to list their properties to millions of users. Like FlipKey, listings appear on the TripAdvisor network, providing significant exposure.
One of the platform’s major benefits is its secure payment system and easy-to-use interface. However, as with FlipKey, a downside is the relatively high commission rate of up to 3% plus up to 16% per booking.
Homestay is a unique platform that connects guests with local hosts who live on-site. It’s ideal for hosts who have extra rooms and enjoy offering a more personal and local experience to travelers.
While Homestay’s emphasis on host-guest interaction can provide a unique selling point, it may deter guests seeking more privacy. The platform also has a smaller user base than many competitors, resulting in potentially fewer bookings.
Luxury Retreats, acquired by Airbnb, is a platform for hosts with high-end, luxury properties. This platform has a rigorous inspection process, ensuring all listed properties meet their high standards.
With its focus on luxury properties, hosts can command higher rates. However, the strict listing requirements and a smaller, more niche audience can limit your listing’s potential.
OneFineStay is another platform focused on luxury vacation rentals in urban settings. With properties in over 200 cities around the world, OneFineStay offers a high level of service, including personal greetings for guests, professional cleaning, and even an iPhone for use during their stay.
The focus on upscale, urban accommodations allows for premium pricing. But as with Luxury Retreats, the audience is narrower, and the property requirements are more stringent.
SabbaticalHomes is a unique platform aimed at academics on sabbatical needing longer-term stays. If your property is near a university or research institution, this could be an ideal platform.
The major advantage here is the potential for longer bookings compared to other platforms. However, the audience is specialized and much smaller, which might lead to fewer overall inquiries.
9flats is a European platform that works similarly to Airbnb. However, it’s more prevalent in European markets, making it a good option for hosts with properties in Europe.
The advantage of 9flats is its ‘no guest fees’ policy, which could make listings more attractive to guests. On the other hand, the platform is not as well-known outside Europe, which could limit exposure for properties in other regions.
Choosing where to list your vacation rental can significantly impact your earnings and overall experience as a host. It’s essential to consider factors like fees, audience reach, the platform’s focus, and user interface when making your decision. Although Airbnb, Booking.com, and Vrbo remain market leaders, emerging and niche platforms may offer exciting opportunities, especially for hosts with properties in specific regions or with unique offerings.