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    Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...

    Senior Contributor

      Hi there all:

       

      I wanted to pose a hypothetical question for the collective. And yes this is a DISCUSSION, so I'll leave it open (so long as posters stick to the community guidelines). If it turns abusive, I'll have to delete posts.

       

      Read them here:

      Community guidelines

       

      Many folks have asked us to change the label on the service fee to read "HomeAway Service fee". Service fee follows industry best practice, but let's explore this option a bit.

       

      And what if changing from service fee to Homeaway service fee, resulted in a 10% drop from  the bookings we are seeing now? 20%?

       

      Would you be willing to trade less bookings for you, and for your fellow owners?

       

      I posted about the volumes of bookings we're seeing here.

      How have bookings increased or decreased since the launch of the service fee?

       

      But for a moment, lets assume that the impact to conversion from that change was -10%. That would mean that we lost 10,000 bookings (roughly) with that change. In 9 days.  Would you want that? Would you feel comfortable recommending that? How would you explain the 10,000 lost bookings to the owners who lost those bookings?

       

      We are getting these bookings today, even with service fee. And bookings have increased year over year (you can see that in my post).

       

      I see posts in this community forum from about 100 people, give or take. Do you think that your 100 voices should determine the outcome for those 10,000 bookings?

       

      Or even it it was a 1% decline that cost 1000 bookings  for 9 days? Continued for a year the impact might be 30X-40X these figures? Would you trade 30,000- 40,000 bookings over the next 12 months?

       

      I know it's just a hypothetical. But go with me here. Embrace the spirit of this question and keep the conversation focused on this one idea. It's an important one.

       

      I am sure that many people are going to shout "Absolutely! I'd trade those bookings in a second! We've been saying that all along!" I'd really ask you to think hard about that though because It's HomeAway's job to get you and many hundreds of thousands of others more bookings.

       

      If you are not comfortable not getting those bookings (or not allowing someone else to get those bookings), at what point do you think we should make the tradeoff between labeling the fee and decreasing bookings for everyone? 10%? 1% .1%? 400K bookings lost a year? 40K bookings lost a year. 4,000 bookings lost a year?

       

      As Brian mentioned in his blog post we've heard your feedback, and we're considering our way forward on this issue. But I would really be interested to ask this community to seriously consider this.

       

      Regards,

       

      tom

        • 1. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
          jl11 Senior Contributor

          thale wrote:

           

          Hi there all:

           

          I wanted to pose a hypothetical question for the collective. And yes this is a DISCUSSION, so I'll leave it open (so long as posters stick to the community guidelines). If it turns abusive, I'll have to delete posts.

           

          Many folks have asked us to change the label on the service fee to read "HomeAway Service fee". Service fee follows industry best practice, but let's explore this option a bit.

           

          And what if changing from service fee to Homeaway service fee, resulted in a 10% drop from  the bookings we are seeing now? 20%?

           

          Would you be willing to trade less bookings for you, and for your fellow owners?

           

           

           

           

          Hi Tom,

           

          Thanks again. It's late …

           

          You stated that putting HA's name on the fee would result in a dramatic reduction in bookings. The question we're asking is why?

           

          On many occasions, you and Brian have told us your business decisions are data-driven and I believe that. So, what's it in the data that is telling you that calling it the HA or VRBO Service Fee will result in dramatically lower bookings? Why would that be a bad thing? You're telling us it'll have a negative impact but not why it'll have a negative impact. Can you please shed some light?

          • 2. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
            cljames132 Contributor

            Hi Tom,

            I'm inferring there's data to support this hypothetical decline in bookings. Have you A/B tested "service fee" vs "Homeaway service fee"?

            • 3. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
              Senior Contributor

              Hi there:

               

              I've answered ~ 30 questions tonight. Please take a moment to answer my one question of you.

               

              tom

              • 4. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
                Senior Contributor

                cljames132 wrote:

                 

                Hi Tom,

                I'm inferring there's data to support this hypothetical decline in bookings. Have you A/B tested "service fee" vs "Homeaway service fee"?

                Same comment. I asked you a question. Do me the kindness of engaging with my question and answering it.

                • 5. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
                  New Member

                  In the 16 years we have been a VRBO/HomeAway customer we have never seen inquires so slow in the prime booking season.  It feels like the site has already dried up like a prune.   Whereas compared to Airbnb our bookings are way up we are hopping busy with instant bookings flying in some minutes apart.  So in response to your question yes I vote for changing the label to HomeAway Service fee.

                   

                  Here is my take on what I think has happened.  HomeAway did not count on the service fee pushing travelers over to Airbnb but this is definitely what appears to be happening.  We spent the last 24 months building our business with Airbnb achieving getting all of our properties to appear on the first page Airbnb says jump and we say how far.  Where HomeAway failed and AirBnb excelled is they were successful in not just building a listing site they built a community where both hosts and guests want to be part of. When is the last time HomeAway sent me a gift with a thank you card telling me what a great host I am and how much they appreciate my business Never!  Airbnb Gets It…they care about hosts and work to motivate and inspire us to provide the best possible experience ever. Through their motivation efforts we admittedly provide far more perks to our Airbnb guests as compared to VRBO guests.  Think about it....if thousands of Airbnb hosts are doing the same thing than the travelers is eventually going to see a world of difference between the two sites.  Perks that hosts want to give to Airbnb gusts and not to VRBO HomeAway guests is never going to be something Homeway can control.  This in turn has built the Air momentum of a fast running train churning billions of value.  What I find so interesting is as a Airbnb Super host I have never paid any attention to the service fee because it is not something that is in my face.  I have no idea what the service fee is on Airbnb and quite frankly I really do not care as guests seem to be fine with it.  So what is the big difference ?  Simple…. Airbnb gusts view the service fee as their ticket for admittance into the Airbnb community. 

                  • 6. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
                    rinaldomoon Senior Contributor

                    If you changed the name and it provided less bookings, at leas you're being "transparent" to the traveler and I would not have to explain what it is or say "it's not my fee"

                     

                    If you leave it as it is, the "increase in bookings" that you claim may be short lived as soon as the travelers who may not have "noticed" will eventually catch on and you will eventually have less bookings and as a result less owners.

                     

                    I'm not willing to gamble on "fudging over" something for a short gain.

                     

                    I prefer to look at the long gain and not short gain... building trust will be rewarded. It has a bigger gain on the long run.

                    • 7. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
                      susaninrehoboth Premier Contributor

                      Yes. If adding company name results in 10% drop, to me that means HA has serious image problem.What other conclusion would come to mind as reason for the drop?

                      • 8. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
                        Premier Contributor

                        J11 wrote: "You stated that putting HA's name on the fee would result in a dramatic reduction in bookings. The question we're asking is why?"


                        That was unclear to me as well.  Do you have sample polling data that backs that statement?

                         

                        Do you also have polling data addressing how renters indicate they would feel following finding out later what the fee is for and being dissatisfied that it provides them no identifiable service value?

                         

                        The distinct problem is that some homes have industry standard service fees already and guests understand there is a service fee to the property owner (often either to cover use or service of amenities like hot tubs, or because they are constrained from calling a portion they retain after a cancellation - the costs pf renting and re-renting- something other than a service fee)

                         

                        Feel free to make my listing drop or my inquiries and bookings less.  One is not better than 0.  And, it's 1/12 to 1/18 of what I've gotten from every other listing venue in the last 3 weeks.


                         

                        • 9. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
                          mloueze Contributor

                          Yikes! Your "hypothetical"  is actually a classic example of a loaded question - Loaded question - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

                           

                          WIthout access to hard data it really cannot be considered as it is.

                          • 10. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
                            u0999 Premier Contributor

                            Yes, I already stated before. I am OK with drop in bookings if HA/VRBO properly and explicitly names the fee.

                            • HA/VRBO collects the fee for supposedly invaluable "travel with confidence" guarantee to the traveler,
                            • AND HA/VRBO had all the data/research that told it that introduction of the fee WILL NOT result in reduced bookings because there is "price elasticity",
                            • AND HA/VRBO did research that told it that travelers do not mind paying the fee
                            • AND HA/VRBO is generating so much new traffic with new ad campaigns that should offset any potential bookings drop,

                             

                            then HA/VRBO should "own" the fee by explicitly naming  the fee, and dealing with any questions or concerns from the travelers displeased by the fee. Right now VRBO is "passing the PR buck" for something that owner did not want nor had any control over.

                             

                            I do not know about HA, but VRBO traveler is often a repeat traveler, they have used VRBO for years, and they are used to NEVER having to pay a fee. From the reactions, it's not even the size of the fee, it is whole idea of having to pay the fee where there was none before repels them.

                             

                            In my particular case, my listings state: "no booking fees, no hot tub fees, no admin fees, no per person fees, only cleaning fee which we waive on 7 night stays". So by introducing the veiled "service fee" HA negated my ad and evaporated my "competitive advantage " compared to many PMs in my market who charge slew of fees. It makes it look like my ad is dishonest.  One more reason HA/VRBO should OWN the fee.

                            • 11. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
                              cmrentals Contributor

                              In the interest of full disclosure and good faith I think the fee should be worded "Homeaway Service Fee" regardless of number of bookings. I can only assume the question posed is in response to customer and owner confusion and or dissatisfaction with fee. We have never seen such a dramatic drop in inquiries in 6 years. If we were to look at cost vs benefit, we find little to no benefit in staying with HA. We want to stay, but in all reality we will move on. HA was the category leader and that is why we continued to renew each year without hesitation. I could go on about why this and that but you have more than enough feedback to understand what this has done to owners and customers. We hope HA will ultimately do the right thing and remove the fee altogether.

                              • 12. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
                                lovesthebeach Senior Contributor

                                Tom, you say using the term Service Fee follows industry best practice. Should that better be phrased as standard practice. How is "Best" determined? Is it best for just bookings, is it honest? Who is it best for?

                                 

                                You see most owners describe their fees, cleaning fee, pet fee, linen fee, pool heating fee, so there is transparency in what the fee is and who it is paid to.

                                 

                                There might be 100 or so active participants here, but I'm sure there are some who read without posting.

                                 

                                My answer to your question is I would prefer honesty and transparency, even at the expense of some bookings.

                                If the marketing campaigns are going to bring forth the masses, that result in more bookings as opposed to the most bookings, while being honest, than you know my vote.

                                • 13. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
                                  Active Contributor

                                  Tom, it's a lot more than 100 voices and you know that.  There are now 1000's of voices all over the place, on bulletin boards, on Facebook even on the radio and more are going to come and will keep on coming.

                                   

                                  So to answer your question directly I personally would be willing to accept anything that gives me the owner back control of my business.

                                   

                                  This is about much more than the disclosure, this is about the future of the business.

                                   

                                  You want it to be one way, we want it to be another.  One of us will lose.

                                   

                                  Last round it was Expedia that lost and had to get out of the VR business, let's see what happens this time.

                                   

                                  I think your guys made a mistake.  You failed to realize that the reason why nobody was screaming about these fees was YOU.  The traveler and the owner had the homeaway family so we could care less what Airbnb or TripAdvisor were doing.  We had you, a great place to advertise at a decent price.

                                   

                                  Now you are just like them only worse because you are actually double dipping.

                                   

                                  So we owners will leave we will continue to leave every time we see an opportunity.

                                   

                                  So to answer your question directly I not only would give up those bookings I have.  I have allowed my HA subscriptions to laps one after the other.

                                   

                                  I truly believe in my heart of hearts that Homeaway has just put itself out of business.  There are owners scrambling all over the place to find other venues, and all these owners have tremendous dislike for the company now.  They will continue to spread the negative message. These people will never trust homeaway again.

                                   

                                  You guys keep painting yourselves into a corner.  You just did a radio show where you tried to explain why the traveler fee was so needed but instead what you basically communicated to travelers was that it is not safe to book on homeaway because there are so many crooks and bad owners on it that you need to provide insurance......  You basically made the case for seeking out the owners directly and booking with them.

                                   

                                  Bottom line either the owner community surrenders and you win or we don't and you lose.  The time for both of us winning is probably already gone.

                                   

                                  I think in the end more and more sites will come along, we will become more sophisticated on how we do our marketing and the traveler who is looking for a VACATION HOME (not a weekend in someone's spare room) will find ways to save by avoiding homeaway, Airbnb and TripAdvisor.

                                   

                                  I think TripAdvisor has already realized this given the collapse of FlipKey and they have for example left holidaylettings alone and are making a major investment into vacationhomerentals by making it look and feel exactly like VRBO and Homeaway used to be.

                                   

                                  Sure they have their intention to flip those right to commissions but they are watching you to see if you fall.

                                   

                                  You are right, if you state the fee clearly as being a "Homeaway Service Fee"  you will lose many bookings because travelers will say, "screw that" and go elsewhere.  But it is not like those bookings are not going to get filled Tom, those folks are still going on their vacation.  They will still book our homes they will just not do it on Homeaway and that is the real reason why you need to disguise the fee.

                                  • 14. Re: Feedback Request: What if HomeAway made a change that produced less bookings...
                                    otttoyboy Senior Contributor

                                    thale wrote:

                                    I've answered ~ 30 questions tonight. Please take a moment to answer my one question of you.

                                    It's the entire premise of your question!  We can't answer any of your questions until you provide this clarification:

                                    Why do you pre-suppose that owning up to the Service Fee will result in 10,000 fewer bookings?

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