Vrbo has launched new party house prevention booking technology [Unsplash]

Vrbo launches technology to prevent party house bookings

US: Expedia Group vacation rental brand Vrbo is rolling out new unauthorised event prevention technology that identifies potentially disruptive parties before they take place.

The company estimates that, over a 12-month pilot phase, the system prevented more than 500 unauthorised event bookings in the United States. In doing so, Vrbo says that its hosts saved roughly $2.5 million in party-related damages and minimising disruptions to surrounding neighbourhoods.

It represents one of several measures that Vrbo is taking to educate and equip hosts for the significant influx of visitors who will be traveling to Phoenix, Arizona for Super Bowl LVII between The Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs on 12 February. Over the last year, Vrbo used the Phoenix-area market to pilot its new program and, based on the results of the pilot, the technology will be deployed nationally and automatically applied to all Vrbo bookings in the United States.

Philip Minardi, director of public affairs at Expedia Group, said: “As home to college bowl games, spring training, pro golf tournaments, and this year’s Super Bowl, metro Phoenix is no stranger to hosting major sporting events. These events boost tourism and the local economy but can understandably cause concern among residents.

“Being a good neighbour in the communities where we operate is essential to maintaining a healthy marketplace. Even though disruptive party houses are rare on Vrbo, addressing them is still a priority.

“By deploying this new solution and working closely with local hosts, Vrbo is preventing problematic behaviour before it starts,” he added.

The technology works by generating a ‘risk score’ for each booking based on multiple factors, including but not limited to the length of stay, lead time before the stay begins, number of guests who are booking, a listing’s number of beds and variety of other amenities, and weekday of first booked night. Guests’ demographic information is not considered, and Vrbo clarifies that it does not share personally identifiable information.

If the technology deems a booking to be high-risk, the Vrbo host receives an email alerting them to the concern and enables them to cancel the booking without any penalty.

Separately, booking guests also receive an alert message prior to booking, reminding them of Vrbo policies against disruptive gatherings and similar nuisances. Vrbo does not block or cancel bookings — that decision can only be made by the host or booking party.

Vrbo claims that fewer than 0.25 per cent of weekend bookings across the United States became the subject of party-related complaints over the last 12 months.

Policies and programs already in place to prevent improper use of Vrbo properties include:

  • A no-tolerance policy for party houses. Vrbo says that it will ban any travellers who violate published house rules and break their rental agreement by turning a rental into an unauthorised party house, as well as any host who knowingly allows such violations.
  • Not allowing same-day bookings and providing the option for hosts to disable Instant Book for short booking windows so they have sufficient time to vet their guests.
  • A nationwide partnership with remote noise-monitoring company NoiseAware. Hosts who are enrolled receive real-time updates when there is a nuisance problem.
  • Stay Neighborly is a web portal through which local officials and neighbours can contact Vrbo customer service to help address nuisance complaints.
  • A partnership with Airbnb to develop the Community Integrity Program, an industry-wide collaboration that addresses community safety by sharing important information about problematic listings, strengthening action against repeat party-house offenders.
  • A full-time trust and safety team that continually improves ways to keep bad actors off the Vrbo platform and prevents abuse of properties.

In addition, Vrbo has teamed up with Arizonans for Responsible Tourism [AZRT], education platform Rent Responsibly and digital transformation platform GovOS to help educate hosts on responsible renting practices and compliance laws in the state. The community alliance created a regulatory resource centre with compliance and permitting guidelines and is hosting a series of virtual and in-person educational events for hosts.

Linda Curry, president of Arizonans for Responsible Tourism and Vrbo host, said: “AZRT is excited to collaborate with Vrbo and other industry stakeholders to ensure Arizona hosts have the resources they need to comply with new state laws and local regulations and minimise disruptive occurrences around the big game and other major events.”

Meanwhile, Airbnb announced last June that its ban on parties at its listings would become a permanent policy after seeing a steep drop in unauthorised gatherings since implementing temporary restrictions on parties and events in its listings globally in August 2020.

The company said that the temporary ban had proved “effective” in limiting reports of party-related disturbances and disruption at its listings, with a 44 per cent year-on-year drop in the rate of party reports since leading to a positive reaction from Airbnb’s host community, as well as local community leaders and elected officials.

Airbnb also collaborated with property monitoring company Minut to support its Good Neighbour Campaign, bringing together a a series of measures and resources to help combat anti-social behaviour in short-term rentals, following previous successful trials in Prague and Edinburgh.

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