OTA differences: Airbnb vs Vrbo vs Booking.com

No matter if you’re a guest, host or property manager, this guide to the major vacation rental booking platforms, or online travel agents (OTAs), will help you understand the differences between Airbnb and Vrbo and Booking.com. Which services do they offer now? What are the costs? And crucially for hosts & property managers, how do the typical bookings on each platform differ?

Click here for a more detailed run down of the platforms in terms of their average listing and bookings, and the impact to vacation rental distribution.

What is a vacation rental booking channel or OTA?

Sites such as Airbnb, Vrbo & Booking.com form marketplaces for owners and managers to sell their accommodation to shopping guests, and give the guests the opportunity to find a home in their destination as an alternative to a hotel.

What is Airbnb?

From 2008 when 2 San Francisco-based designers hosted 3 travellers on airbeds, to 2M+ people now staying in Airbnbs per night for a home away from home in any of the 100K+ cities with Airbnb listings.  Plus, Airbnb experiences mean hosts share their passions and interests with both travellers and locals.

What is Vrbo? 

In 1995, Vrbo introduced a new way for people to travel together, pairing homeowners with families and friends looking for the space they need to drop the distractions of everyday life and simply be together. As part of Expedia Group Vrbo offers the owners & managers of 2 million entire homes in 190 countries exposure to over 750 million visits to Expedia Group sites each month.

What is Booking.com?

Founded in 1996 in Amsterdam, Booking.com has grown from a small Dutch startup to the third largest e-commerce site in the world as part of Booking Holdings Inc. A marketplace for both established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes and available in 43 languages, Booking.com offers more than 28 million total reported accommodation listings, and 70% of new signups are now vacation rentals.

Host highlights

Being owned by a travel powerhouse has its benefits – Vrbo listings get a visibility boost from other sites in the family through Expedia’s Expanded Distribution Network. 

Whilst these shouldn’t be relied upon alone, both Vrbo and Airbnb boast a $1 million dollar Host Guarantee insurance programme to protect hosts from costs associated with damage & accidents.

Airbnb also sport a smart pricing tool for hosts to optimize their rates directly, as well as programmes to boost visibility and occupancy; Superhost, which rewards positive guest experiences, and Plus, exclusive to more luxury listings with stringent requirements and in-house photography. Vrbo & booking.com both provide premier partner programmes that serve a similar purpose to Airbnb’s Superhost, with booking.com focussing more on professional property management companies.

For property managers with multiple units, Booking.com is actively working on products and services to facilitate managing your portfolio collectively, including group analytics, edit and promotions.

Guest highlights

Airbnb’s USP here is its room only listings, to serve those with spare rooms and travellers looking for cheaper or more flexible accommodation.

Airbnb have also brought themselves inline with Vrbo’s Book with Confidence Guarantee, implementing verification for all listings worldwide, a 24/7 support hotline and a “guest guarantee” that the company will secure you a new listing of at least equal value or refund 100% of your payment in the event of a listing not meeting expectations.

Vrbo stands out for its user search filters including 25 different types of homes, 13 location types and safety and accessibility features. 

Booking.com meanwhile is available in 43 languages and shout about their 24/7 customer support, price matched rates and no reservation fees.

So what are the key differences between Airbnb & Vrbo & Booking.com?

Revenue & Fees

Airbnb Owner Fee: 3 – 5% booking fee
Guest Fee: Typically between 10 – 13% per booking

Vrbo Owner Fee: $499 annually or 5% per booking
Guest Fee: Typically between 10% – 11%

Booking.com Owner Fee: 15% per booking
Guest Fee: 0% per booking


Cancellation Policies

Our main vacation rental OTAs offer varying cancellation policies from flexible to strict, with most offering hosts the option to make their bookings non refundable, partially or fully refundable until a certain point ahead of the booking. Airbnb alone do not support a fully non-refundable policy – their most stringent on the guest is a ‘super strict 60 day’, with the guest entitled to a 50% refund up to 60 days ahead of the booking.

Who do they serve?

Below we look at where each OTA shows its listings. While Airbnb list the most properties in all regions, they have their highest volume in Europe, and their greatest proportion in the Americas. Vrbo and Booking.com battle it out for second place, with Booking.com winning the day in Africa, Asia and its biggest base of Europe. Vrbo meanwhile sees most of its listings in Europe but is more dominant in the Americas and Oceania.

Our top 3 vacation rental supply nations of the United States, France and Italy all have Airbnb as their leading OTA. Booking.com runs a close second in Italy, while Vrbo is best of the rest in the US, where TripAdvisor surpass Booking.com.

Meanwhile we can look at the difference in guest stays across the main OTAs. We have chosen to look specifically at 2020, where stays have been longer on average due to the COVID-19 crisis. TripAdvisor stays are typically longest at 6 days, with Vrbo averaging 5 days. Airbnb and Booking.com both sit closer to 4 days, with Airbnb stays usually around half a day longer.

Below we look at average number of guests per booking across our booking channels. All typically host between 3 & 4 guests, with

How are they performing?

Especially in the current climate, it always makes sense to keep tabs on how the different booking platforms are performing. Charts such as the ones below, tracking website visits and number of reservations can be very helpful. Check these and others on our tracker at www.seetransparent.com/coronavirus-impact/.

Still have questions? Visit the OTA help sections:

Contact Airbnb

Contact Booking.com

Contact Vrbo

So which OTA is best?

Well, this of course depends on each individual case; which property you are looking for or selling, and in which market.

For hosts trying to occupy their vacation rentals it always makes sense to list your properties on as many booking channels as possible to ensure that your listing is seen by the maximum amount of possible guests. Just be careful to tailor your listing according to the platform and account for all associated fees. It also pays to position yourself to prioritize superior bookings – be aware of pricing and instant booking settings and of course always make sure the availability is up to date across the board – we recommend looking into channel managers to do this job for you!

If you do have to choose, prioritize you booking channels for the right reasons – choosing a channel that costs slightly more in fees but secures the most bookings for your property and market type could pay off!

Below you can read more of our vacation rental analysis articles on our blog, or find out about our data solutions that set property managers and more apart from their competition.