Vrbo Competitors: Who Is The Dominant Property Booking Platform?

Vrbo is an online marketplace on which users can book and rent various properties such as apartments, houses, cabins, cottages, and more.

The company, which is headquartered in Aurora, Colorado, was founded in December 1995 by David Clouse.

Vrbo, which stands for “vacation rentals by owner,” enables you to rent a property for any given number of days.

One of the key distinctions to other platforms is the fact that one cannot book a single room on Vrbo. Instead, they have to rent the whole property.

Users on the platform may filter by the number of bedrooms, the type of property, rules of the house, amenities, and more. Each listing is accompanied by reviews and a dedicated host profile on top of all the other relevant information.

You’ll be able to communicate with the owner once the booking is completed. Vrbo, furthermore, offers various guarantees to protect customers against malicious hosts.

Vrbo was launched by native Coloradoan David Clouse with the purpose to rent out his ski house online. Soon, other house owners across the United States began to ask whether they could list on his website as well. In 2006, Vrbo was acquired by HomeAway for an undisclosed amount.

Nine years later, Expedia shelled out $3.9 billion to acquire HomeAway, Vrbo, and all the other firms under its umbrella. Today, Vrbo lists over two million homes on its platform. Expedia expects Vrbo, which employs over 600 people, to reach $2 billion in annual revenue.

The site, in 2019, underwent a major brand overhaul which, among other things such as feature improvements, entailed a name change from ‘VRBO’ to Vrbo. A year later, it even retired the HomeAway U.S. brand to completely focus on Vrbo.

The methodology with which competitors of Vrbo are ranked is based on a variety of publicly available information. Data such as revenue, number of listings and bookings, funding and valuation, the number of employees, and anything else in between will be taken into account. 

This analysis only looks at booking site competitors who either aggregate listings from other platforms or directly work together with hosts. Hotel chains, which often have their own booking platform, are thereby excluded.

It has to be noted that this analysis should not be seen as an endorsement of either service. It is merely a summary of the competition that Vrbo faces as of today.

So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top 10 competitors of Vrbo.

1. Airbnb

Headquarters: San Francisco, California

Founder(s): Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk

Year Founded: 2008

Airbnb is, without a doubt, the undisputed leader when it comes to booking homes and other types of rentals. These days, travelers can book anything from cabins in the woods all the way to treehouses.

Part of Airbnb’s success is simply grounded in the fact that the platform become one of the first that focused on allowing homeowners to rent out their apartments and houses. However, Airbnb has also faced dozens of legal battles with cities across the globe. Those municipalities claimed that hosts were running illegal hotels and were subject to taxes. Additionally, some have argued that Airbnb’s existence has led to higher rental costs, pricing out locals in the process.

Airbnb, despite those issues, has been a juggernaut of a company. It now boasts 6 million listings, has 4 million hosts on the platform, and is available in 100,000 cities and towns as well as 220+ countries across the globe.

Investors have poured a combined $6.5 billion into the company, which went public in December 2020 and is valued at over $60 billion. In 2021, Airbnb has generated close to $6 billion in revenue. It currently employs over 6,000 people worldwide.

Source: Airbnb, Crunchbase

2. Booking.com

Headquarters: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Founder(s): Geert-Jan Bruinsma

Year Founded: 1996

Booking.com has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the Netherlands. Recent university graduate Bruinsma, in 1996, launched Bookings.nl after he discovered that it wasn’t possible to book hotels online in his home country.

Four years later, he agreed to a merger with Bookings Online. The combined company acquired the Booking.com domain name soon after. Priceline, after failed acquisition talks with Expedia, acquired Booking for $133 million in 2005.

In 2018, Priceline Group decided to rebrand into Booking Holdings, which now encompasses world-renowned web properties such as priceline.com, Kayak, Agoda, OpenTable, and more. Meanwhile, Booking also expanded into the short-term rental market to take advantage of the opportunity that was largely created by Airbnb and Vrbo.

The platform now lists over 860,000 hotels and apartments, respectively. In 2021, Booking Holdings, which unfortunately doesn’t break down income figures for Booking.com, generated $11 billion in revenue. Booking.com itself employs over 15,000 people across the globe.

Source: Booking.com, Booking Holdings, Skift

3. Expedia

Headquarters: Bellevue, Washington

Founder(s): Rich Barton, Richard Bangs

Year Founded: 1996

Expedia was created as a sub-division of Microsoft and was launched as an online travel agency with the purpose of being promoted on the firm’s MSN portal. Rich Barton, at the time, worked at Microsoft’s CD-ROM division and was responsible for creating travel guides.

The vast reach of MSN enabled Expedia to grow like gangbusters. Three years after it launched, Expedia was spun out of Microsoft (the first time Microsoft did something like this) and went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

In 2003, Barry Diller’s IAC acquired a controlling stake in Expedia. Two years later, it spun off its travel division to create Expedia Group, which now entails brands such as Vrbo, Hotels.com, trivago (who are all on this list), hotwire, CarRentals.com, and many more.

Expedia itself offers products across the travel experience including accommodations, flights, car rentals, activities, and more. In 2021, the Expedia Group generated $8.6 billion in revenue. Much like Booking, it does not disclose revenue figures for Expedia.com.

One last interesting side note: Expedia CEO and co-founder Barton resigned in 2003 (right after the IAC acquisition) and ultimately went on to launch the real estate site Zillow. He, furthermore, helped to establish sites like Glassdoor.

Source: Expedia Group, Funding Universe

4. Agoda

Headquarters: Singapore

Founder(s): Robert Rosenstein, Michael Kenny

Year Founded: 2005

Michael Kenny arrived in Thailand in the mid-1990s to work for the Arcadia Hotel Group (now Hilton). Over the coming years, he launched various travel-related sites such as PlanetHoliday.com (1997) and PrecisionReservations.com (2003).

He eventually merged those two sites to launch agoda.com back in 2005 and brought on long-time friend Rosenstein as a co-founder. And just two years later, Agoda was acquired by Booking Holdings for an undisclosed amount.

In 2018, John Brown replaced long-time CEO Rosenstein to push Agoda beyond its Southeast Asian roots and establish the platform in Europe and North America. That same year, Agoda also began to increasingly push its Homes product, which directly competes with the likes of Airbnb and Vrbo.

Today, Agoda offers close to three million properties (also including hotels) in 200 countries across the globe. Booking does currently not disclose revenue numbers of Agoda, which employs over 4,000 people in 30 countries.

Source: Agoda, Skift

5. TripAdvisor

Headquarters: Needham, Massachusetts

Founder(s): Stephen Kaufer, Langley Steinert

Year Founded: 2000

TripAdvisor is primarily known as a travel review site on which users can rate destinations, hotels, restaurants, and more. In fact, over one billion reviews have been posted on the site thus far.

On top of that, TripAdvisor acts as a point of approval. Top-rated restaurants on the platform can display their ratings via a poster that they can stick on their doorsteps, among other spots. TripAdvisor, furthermore, provides travelers with tons of inspiration via its Travellers’ Choice awards.

What many don’t know is that travelers can also book hotels, flights, or vacation rentals directly on the platform. TripAdvisor’s extensive review system certainly provides them with a decent indication about the quality of a booking.

However, the company has also been caught in the past restricting negative reviews, for example when it banned reviews on Salt bae’s London restaurant. Co-founder Kaufer, who led the company for over 20 years as CEO, furthermore stepped down in May 2022.

 TripAdvisor, in spite of those issues, has become one of the biggest travel-related websites. It generates $902 million in annual revenue (most of it from advertising). The platform, which employs over 2,500 people, offers reviews on almost 9 million accommodations, restaurants, experiences, airlines, and cruises.

Source: Statista, The Sun, TripAdvisor

6. Hotels.com

Headquarters: Dallas, Texas

Founder(s): David Litman, Robert Diener

Year Founded: 1991

Hotels.com, as the name would suggest, is primarily used for booking hotels across the globe. However, property owners can also list their apartments on Hotels.com if they meet certain quality standards. The site itself is available in 85 countries and 35 languages.

Hotels.com began life as the Hotel Reservations Network (HRN), which enabled travelers to book hotels via toll-free phone calls. The firm, throughout the years, changed hands multiple times. Since 2005, it is owned by Expedia (just like Vrbo). Three years prior, it was rebranded from HRN into Hotels.com.

Apart from its super valuable brand domain, Hotels.com has also been extremely savvy when it comes to marketing. In 2014, it launched its Captain Obvious series, which tries to highlight the platform’s perks in a comedic way.

Expedia does currently not disclose any revenue figures for Hotels.com. The company currently employs over 1,000 people.

Source: Hotels.com

7. trivago

Headquarters: Düsseldorf, Germany

Founder(s): Malte Siewert, Peter Vinnemeier, Rolf Schromgens

Year Founded: 2005

trivago is an aggregation site that works together with hotel chains, independent hoteliers, online travel agencies, and other types of companies and individuals to list on its platform. There are currently five million accommodations and hotels listed on the platform.

Travelers, apart from a place to stay, can also book flights and rent cars via the platform. However, its listings are not always accurate. In April 2022, the Australian government imposed a $32.6 million fine on trivago for misleading consumers over hotel room rates.

However, it wasn’t always bad times for the company. In 2012, Expedia spent $632 million in cash and common stock to acquire 61.6 percent of trivago. Four years later, trivago became the first German company to go public on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

In 2021, trivago generated €361 million (~ $378 million) in revenue. The company, furthermore, employs over 1,000 people.

Source: Crunchbase, Reuters, trivago

8. Google Travel

Headquarters: Mountain View, California

Founder(s): Google

Year Founded: 2011

Google’s advances in travel started as early as 2004 when it launched Maps, which is now one of the firm’s biggest revenue generators. Six years later, the company finally got serious about travel when it acquired flight information software company ITA for $700 million.

The acquisition enabled the company to launch Hotel Finder and Flights a year later. In 2016, Google launched its Trips mobile app, which it rebranded into what we now know as Google Travel back in 2019.

While Google does not disclose any data about its travel product, it can still be assumed that it is now one of the biggest booking platforms in the space. This is because Google controls the rails, meaning many travelers begin their search for destinations and accommodations on Google Search and are thus immediately presented with the firm’s own product suite.

In the past, competitors such as TripAdvisor and Yelp have called out Google for its allegedly anti-competitive practices of favoring its own products. Google now offers the ability to book flights, hotels, and vacation rentals while also providing travel inspiration via data from Google Maps.

Source: Redeam

9. HomeToGo

Headquarters: Berlin, Germany

Founder(s): Nils Regge, Patrick Andrae, Wolfgang Heigl

Year Founded: 2014

HomeToGo is another Germany-based aggregation site that claims to be the marketplace with the world’s biggest selection of vacation rentals (15 million, in fact).

It is able to offer millions of listings by actually not directly working with hosts but the other big booking platforms. Apart from Vrbo, HomeToGo also works together with Booking.com and TripAdvisor, among hundreds of other sites.

Those partner sites then pay HomeToGo a portion of the booking price or monthly subscription fee to be advertised on the platform. HomeToGo, furthermore, operates local booking platforms in 25 countries across the globe. It, for example, owns CaseVacanza.it, Tripping.com, or Wimdu (which, ironically, was created to become the European version of Airbnb).

Customers on HomeToGo can book anything from apartments all the way to farmhouses or castles. Investors have poured a combined $176.7 million into HomeToGo, which went public in September 2021. That same year, the company, which employs over 400 people, recorded $105 million in revenue

Source: Crunchbase, HomeToGo

10. OYO

Headquarters: Gurgaon, Haryana, India

Founder(s): Ritesh Agarwal

Year Founded: 2012

CEO and founder Agarwal became the first person of Asian descent to be accepted to the prestigious Thiel Foundation, which provided him with the necessary capital ($100,000) to launch OYO Rooms right out of high school.

OYO, short for “own your own,” differentiates itself from other booking sites by providing its hotel partners with full-stack technology that allows them to manage bookings. In fact, many of the hotels on its platform actually were rebranded to include the OYO logo.

However, the firm has been accused of various malpractices as well. These include rooms rented out by unlicensed hotels, withheld payments to hoteliers, inflated numbers to raise money, and more.

OYO, despite its various problems, has been able to raise $3.1 billion in venture funding thus far. Over 157,000 hotels now utilize its technology. Revenue for 2021 was equal to 40 billion Indian rupees (~ $550 million).  

Source: Crunchbase, New York Times, OYO

Honorable Mentions

There is obviously a plethora of other companies that didn’t make the cut. After all, online travel alone is a market worth over $450 billion.

As a result, many other accommodation booking sites have sprung out in the past. Examples include London-based Plum Guide or Homestay, among others.

Hotels have also responded to the growing demand for long-term accommodation. Marriott Hotels is just one of many hotel chains that have launched a dedicated booking site.

Their global footprint certainly allows them to compete with the likes of Airbnb and Vrbo across a variety of locations. On top of that, many of those chains also offer reward programs that provide customers with discounts.

Lastly, flight comparison sites have utilized their traffic to expand into accommodations as well. Both Kayak and Kiwi, as well as many other sites, offer the ability to book rooms for example.

Hi folks, Viktor checking in! Years of experience in various tech-related roles have led me to start this blog, which I hope provides you with as much enjoyment to read as I have writing the content.