We all read in horror about recent Orinda “Airbnb” tragedy. Although I use Airbnb for a small portion of my bookings, it is my least favorite platform precisely because of its “culture”. Some may have found it cool and refreshing (sharing you home or renting your couch out to strangers), I found it strange, at the very least. Since the platform started as house sharing venture, it created certain type of clientele, often with vastly different behaviors and expectations than those that traditional vacation rental home owners are used to and expect.
As it became a marketing powerhouse and encroached into traditional whole home rentals territory, at the same time as Vrbo presence started to dwindle, many owners listed there.
The platform that MAYBE (and it is a huge big MAYBE) worked for shared homes with host present( initially) no longer works.
There are so many loopholes in airbnb’s “policy” that unscrupulous, bad and downright criminal guests learned to exploit them. There is “advice” on forums on how to circumvent cancellation policies and get money back. What used to go on in no-tell motels (drug dealers, “escorts” running their business, etc) shifted to “Airbnbs” because of Airbnb’s policy of guest anonymity (on which Airbnb doubled down last year, removing even guest photos prior to booking) and pressuring hosts into blindly accepting Instant Bookings. In its misguided quest for political correctness (or, rather, more money masquerading as PC) Airbnb exposed hosts, property and communities at large to wild parties, drug offenses, prostitution and now - big tragedies like that in Orinda.
Vrbo has been on the path of blindly copying Airbnb’s model of anonymity and pressuring owners into Instant Bookings (whether explicitly suggesting it or implicitly, by making non-IB properties non findable), guest non-verification for some time. It is only a sheer LUCK and frankly, a miracle, that Orinda event happened in an “Airbnb” and not in a “verboh”. Luck because many bad, partying, rule breaking and criminal guests have not, en masse, realized yet that Vrbo is now a copy of Airbnb in terms of policies and have not (yet) shifted their partying and criminal activities to “verboh”s.
The only thin layer of protection remaining from impending disasters is that Vrbo still takes damage deposits (but already testing waters about removing those and urging owners to do so).
If I were you, Vrbo, I’d be going to Chesky’s twitter feed and looking at the feedback. It is almost universal outrage about his barking up the wrong tree and doubling down on blaming hosts (owners) for the tragedy brought on by Airbnb’s policies helping guests deceive the host.
If I were you Vrbo, I would be quietly reversing the course before it is too late, and before YOU became front page tragic news labeled with your newly minted “verbooooh” moniker.
“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” -
― Otto von Bismarck
Question is, Vrbo, whether you will choose to wise up now.