Vrbo expands Fast Start program to entice hosts from competitors

UK: Expedia Group vacation rental brand Vrbo has confirmed that Fast Start, a program designed to help new properties capture rental demand, has expanded to Canada, France and the UK, in a bid to attract hosts from other rental companies including Airbnb.

It is claimed that the program increases the visibility of new properties in the first 90 days and displays a review score based on reviews from other travel sites. It launched earlier this year in March in the United States and has now marked its global rollout.

To be eligible for Fast Start, property listings must have a 4.5+ review rating and have earned more than £2,000 in the last year, or the host is a Superhost.

New properties across all vacation rental segments and brands – from individual owners to multi-property accounts – will display a ‘New to Vrbo’ badge for 90 days and feature its review score based on reviews from other travel sites. During this time, the new property will have an elevated position in the sort order and will receive “personalised” support optimising their listing if they choose.

As such, Vrbo says that the increased visibility of properties on its platform will help to generate an average of a 25 per cent increase in bookings and 140 per cent in the booking value.

The properties added to Fast Start will also not have to be exclusive to Vrbo.

Hari Nair, SVP account management, Expedia Group, said: “Fast Start removes the cold start problem new properties can experience when joining sites, tapping them right into the huge traveller demand our site delivers.  It helps new hosts and our current hosts with new listings get on our platform quickly whilst keeping their hard-earned review score.

“Fast Start is a popular program and we are excited to make it available in Europe and Canada,” added Nair.

Properties who are part of the Fast Start program receive:

  • 25 per cent increase in bookings;
  • 50 per cent increase in booked nights;
  • 140 per cent increase in gross booking value

Kevin Locraft, VP partner success, vacation rental, Expedia Group, said: “Since inception, our data and insights from hosts participating in Fast Start show there are strong positive outcomes not only for the hosts but also for our travellers. For over 25 years, it’s been Vrbo’s mission to pair homeowners and property managers with families and friends looking for a place to stay and spend time together.

“That mission endures just as strong today as it did when we started, and we truly appreciate all of our hosts who are continuing this journey with us, at such a critical time for the travel industry,” he added.

Based on a pilot of 1600 US-based hosts during the pandemic, Vrbo expressed its confidence that the success of Fast Start in the USA would be replicated in the UK, Canada and France, following a surge in demand for private homes.

The launch of the first host recruitment program in March also came in response to what Vrbo called an “influx” of hosts joining its platform, claiming that individual property owners who joined in 2020 made an average of almost US$6,000 per property, “50 per cent more than on other travel sites”.

Vrbo’s use of the term “Superhost”, which was originally coined by Airbnb, particularly telling as it suggests Vrbo is pursuing a more aggressive strategy to entice new hosts by offering greater incentives to those who achieve review scores of 4.5 or higher.

In March 2020, Vrbo encouraged hosts to provide credits to redeem when the traveller felt safe, or was able, to travel again.