February 9, 2016 was an ugly day for nearly 1.3 million Vacation Home Owners. On this day the leading Vacation Rental home listing websites VRBO (Est. 1995) and HomeAway (Est. 2004) implemented under cover of darkness a guest service fee ranging between 4%-10% of the total booking. These 2 web sites historically operated by charging a listing fee in return for marketing and online tools to manage interacting and bookings with renters and they operated by charging a listing fee in return for marketing and online tools to manage interacting and bookings with renters. Overnight, with the simple flip of a switch, HomeAway transformed from Vacation Rental home listing website to online travel agent (OTA), but failed to notify its subscribers in advance that it was planning to make this change. In just 10 years between 2005 and 2014 Home Away rolled up 21 separate vacation home rental websites including VRBO in 2006 and vacationrentals.com in 2007. This snowball of acquisitions finally culminated in an avalanche when HomeAway sold itself in November last year to Expedia for 3.9 Billion.
What has happened here has been nothing less than a well orchestrated HIJACK. HomeAway has gained transaction control of over one million properties through the most dubious of tactics. In 2014 HomeAway enticed EVEN MORE Vacation Home owners onto the HomeAway platform:
“We are going to be free to travelers,” said Brian Sharples, co-founder and CEO of HomeAway, to shareholders in November of 2014.” TripAdvisor and Airbnb have chosen to charge big fees to travelers,” Sharples continued. “Well, we’re going to have a pretty sizeable marketing budget in the next few years. And we’re going to be letting everybody know, when you come to our platform, you don’t pay a fee, and we think that’s a big deal because if you look historically at the travel industry, those competitors who adopted no traveler fees first are the ones that ended up being the big winners in that business."
Shall we remain nameless & faceless in this goliath fight? I think not.
-Ivan Arnold #feedomfighter