US: Expedia Group has announced that it will retire its HomeAway brand in the United States next month, instead refocusing on simplifying its vacation rental portfolio and diverting U.S. users away from the HomeAway website and mobile app towards its Vrbo brand.
The group has also confirmed that any travellers who have made existing bookings will not have those affected by the changes, and their login details will be transferred over to Vrbo.
Since making Vrbo its primary alternative accommodations division in May 2019, Expedia Group launched its Vrbo brand in countries where the company did not yet have a vacation rental presence and rebranded existing country-specific sites to Vrbo. Vrbo is now live in 15 countries across the Americas, EMEA and APAC regions.
Expedia Group CEO and vice chairman, Peter Kern, said: “Since it was founded 25 years ago, Vrbo has become a leader in the vacation rental industry and a household name in family travel. Through the years, the Vrbo brand has consistently outperformed HomeAway with family travellers.
“Unifying our vacation rental brands under Vrbo allows us to focus our energies on providing the best travel experience for families everywhere,” he added.
In simplifying its portfolio of vacation rental brands, Expedia Group wants to free up more resources that it can dedicate to marketing, engineering and customer support purposes for Vrbo. The merger of the two brands in the United States, it believes, will build greater brand affinity for Vrbo with its traveller base, vacation home owners and property managers.
Vrbo president Jeff Hurst said: “Family travel is incredibly complex – whether you’re planning a trip with kids, grandparents, extended family or close friends who are like family – it’s not easy to find a place that makes everybody happy. The incredible homes available on Vrbo are uniquely suited to serve all kinds of families because of the space, privacy and amenities they provide.
“Our singular focus on Vrbo means we can do more to give families amazing vacations and deliver quality bookings for our partners,” he added.
In a statement, Expedia Group said it would continue to introduce the Vrbo brand globally. Its portfolio of vacation rental brands already includes HomeAway UK, Stayz [Australia], Bookabach [New Zealand], Abritel [France] and Fewo-direkt [Germany].
HomeAway acquired VRBO in 2006, and Expedia Group acquired HomeAway in 2015. In early 2019, VRBO rebranded to Vrbo to include a new logo and pronunciation, before Expedia Group made it its primary global alternative accommodations brand later in the year.
In recent months, Expedia Group has sought to adapt its business in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and staff restructuring behind the scenes.
Then-CEO Mark Okerstrom and CFO Alan Pickerill resigned from their posts with immediate effect in December as board chairman Barry Diller cited “disappointing third quarter results and a lacklustre near-term outlook”.
February saw a significant trimming of Expedia’s workforce by 12 per cent due to fears over the seismic impact the coronavirus would have on its business, as well as increasing competition from emerging market players such as Google. Two months later, Expedia Group confirmed Kern as its new CEO, at the same time as raising $3.2 billion in debt financing and equity investment from Apollo Global Management and Silver Lake Partners.
Since then, the group has stepped up its drive for simplification by phasing out its Multifamily Solutions product. Last month, a spokesperson told Skift that the company was in the process of “winding down” its business with hospitality startups Pillow and ApartmentJet.