Within the midst of a shattered journey trade, Vrbo is optimistic about its future

If you had to pick one place in America to own a condo, you could do a lot worse than Breckenridge, Colo.

The ski resort at the foot of the Rocky Mountains has fewer than 5,000 residents and a median income of around USD 86,500. A four bedroom condo on this snowy aerie that was recently listed for $ 2.4 million. 25 years ago a gentleman named David Clouse was lucky enough to own a condo here. But Clouse had a problem. When he wasn't in the residence, the place was just an expense.

Clouse could have rented his apartment by doing what everyone else had done in 1995: listing it in the classified section of the newspaper. Instead, he turned to what people called the World Wide Web.

It turned out that the online vacation rental listing worked very well – so well that Clouse began to take other people's listings. Soon he had a startup company: Vrbo, which stood for Vacation Rentals by Owner.

Vrbo started in 1995 after David Clouse reached out to the Internet to rent his Breckenridge, Colorado apartment (1) and that one listing expanded to become a platform for others (2). By 2011, the Vrbo (3) website had 180,000 rentals listed. Today there are more than 2 million including this beach escape in Malibu, California (4).Courtesy of VRBO; 1: Getty Images

Nowadays, of course, there is no shortage of sites that offer short-term leisure rentals, including Tripadvisor, Booking.com and of course Airbnb.

Like much of the travel industry, the online rental markets have been hit hard by pandemic lockdowns. Unlike much of the industry, however, these platforms have a little more reason to be confident in the months ahead.

"The past year has been incredibly difficult on many levels," Vrbos vice president of global branding, Lish Kennedy, told Adweek. "(But) I'm optimistic for 2021." Assuming enough Americans who want the Covid-19 vaccine can get it, Kennedy believes travelers stuck at home in 2020 will "make up for lost time" by booking through their platform.

In many ways, the accommodation industry has suffered the cruelest turn of the pandemic. "The hospitality industry is about to collapse," said an August report by the American Hotel and Lodging Association. According to the research firm STR, although hotel occupancy had dropped by more than 77%, the impact on rental apartment platforms was far less – around 45%.

Airbnb's declines didn't stop its IPO late last year. And although Vrbo had a publicity hit in the spring when Airbnb offered full refunds for pandemic-related cancellations and Vrbo didn't let homeowners do that, its market position remains intact.


In 2019, Vrbo did what many mature brands have to do: it updated its logo.
The blocky capital letters rendered in a sans serif forest green were replaced with characters rendered in flowing ribbons like icing on a cake. According to the company, the new font should evoke the streaks we see on vacation.
"From board shorts to ski wear to classic French-Breton … from umbrellas on the beach to log cabins in the mountains … from geological strips to the crest of a breaking wave," the company said in a statement.
But the overhaul had a different purpose. It also shifted the brand name from an initialism to an acronym: Vrbo should be pronounced.

While Airbnb accounted for 44% of listings for vacation rentals in the fourth quarter of 2020, Vrbo had an impact of 34%, according to AirDNA. And according to a survey commissioned by Vrbo in August, not only have 82% of Americans already have vacation plans for 2021, but the popularity of outdoor travel destinations like the one Vrbo lists has soared.

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