Planning a vacation, as exciting as it is, can also be stressful. Days spent searching for and tracking down the right place to stay for your budget, balancing flight costs with specific days you’re able to get off of work, and make sure your plan will make everyone in your group happy; a time consuming and sometimes difficult task! The majority of individuals who plan their holidays do it all online. One of the largest companies used when booking whole-home rentals is VRBO, which is owned by the huge HomeAway “family” of vacation rental websites, all of which were recently sold to Expedia.
With over one million listings and an estimated worth of $3 billion, HomeAway claims “to help travelers feel more confident when booking” and offers increased peace of mind through enhanced services and protections. According to Homeaway, “The service fee is charged to the traveler and is calculated on a sliding scale of 4% to 9% of the rental amount, excluding the deposit or taxes. The charge applies to the cost of the rental and will not exceed $499.” This most recent service fee that, according to the floating question mark next to the fee in the price breakdown, “helps HomeAway provide a safer and more secure booking experience, coupled with premium 24/7 customer support throughout your trip, protection and peace of mind” is now tacked on to the rental fee at the end of the booking process. Surprise! HomeAway is claiming you will love it because it will help protect you from fraud. Do you love it? Admittedly, the sliding fee is not new; Airbnb has a similar guest fee which they display to the guest before booking as well, stating it is for 24/7 support and to help cover costs for Airbnb. It seems that HomeAway may have torn a page from the Airbnb book, which seems to be growing at a large and consistent rate. The difference is that HomeAway is also charging owners exorbitant rates for advertising on their site.
These added fees have caught the attention of many concerned travelers and property owners alike who have commented lack of supported reasoning behind these fees – in one article here, HomeAway states that the new fee is to cover more marketing and operational costs. It seems their $60 million dollar marketing budget is no longer cutting it for this behemoth of a company. So what is it? Coverage for marketing? Or coverage for 24/7 support and fraud protection? There seems to be some confusion and need for clarity, here. Really, though, who is supporting guests when they need assistance upon arriving at their rental homes? Not HomeAway – the property owners and managers! So why pay for the support of HomeAway when they really aren’t giving that extra support at all, it seems? Perhaps they could offer a refund, but that doesn’t always fit the problem when guests wish for a happy holiday experience. To many, as sad as it is to admit, it seems like just another way to add more profit to HomeAway’s coffers. Check out the replies in this HomeAway forum in response to a letter from HomeAway owner Brian Sharples to get an idea of how owners, managers and travelers alike are perceiving this new fee.
We want our current customers to be very aware of these changes, how they have been perceived within the Vacation Rental Community and what HomeAway is claiming. We know that your dollars count when it comes to planning a stay away from home, and large business entities sometimes seem to lose track of that fact, as it seems in this particular case. You do have a vote on whether these fees are acceptable or not. You can vote by deciding where it is you want to spend your money. Do you want or need their additional layer of fraud protection? Or would you prefer a professional vacation rental company like us who has been in business longer than HomeAway and that you already know and trust? Do you want to help fund HomeAway’s (Expedia’s) newest marketing campaigns? It’s your money. You get to decide.