The headline from VRBO’s latest change for owners sounds great: The annual renewal drops to just $349 a year, IF you sign up for online booking. That’s how VRBO will collect its brand new service fee from your guests who complete their booking through VRBO, not through you.
If you reject the new online booking system, the renewal rate still falls to just $499 a year, half what some plans are now.
But here’s the veiled threat in VRBO’s message to owners: Participating, or not participating, in online booking will determine the position of your listing in search results.
The way I read that? Let VRBO hit your guests with a big service fee (4%-10%), or VRBO will bury your listing. (WATCH THE CEO’s VIDEO)
The sort of good news is a grace period. VRBO will let you add one year under your current plan if you renew by July 11.
VRBO is also adding an owner review of renters feature – I guess so other owners and management companies can see if they’re about to rent to horrible people – and it’s adding a VRBO tab on the Expedia website (Expedia paid $3.9 billion last year to acquire Home Away, VRBO’s owner.)
I really don’t know what to make of all of this. It’s a money grab, and people traveling to St. John already shell out a crap-load to rent a villa, plus 12.5% in hotel taxes to the VI government. A VRBO service fee of 4% to 10% might be too much to ask.
On the other hand, VRBO generates a bucket load of St. John bookings. You can’t really live without them today.
What do you guys think?