Indeed, until this morning, I could not have told you what a Vrbo is. This morning I found out that it is a “vacation rental by owner”.
In fact, these have been around for quite a while. My sister booked one a decade ago when she took her family to Paris. She didn’t call it a Vrbo, but that is what it was. And it was a nice one too. It made a lot of sense to book an apartment where everyone had room rather than hotel rooms. What has changed since then is how easy it is to book a Vrbo these days. It just takes a few minutes because we now have dedicated vrbo platforms.
Booking.com may be the biggest. TripAdvisor is another. Airbnb is a brash upstart. But don’t forget Couchsurfing (in a recent promo, it was argued that couch surfing was a good way to energize your sex life). And now that there are platforms, folks with space on their hands and an interest in “cashing up” are getting into monetizing their spaces. My good friend built a small business out of this renting out really nice apartments for short term occupancy in Tallinn and Tartu. They are vrbo’s and he advertises on some of the above platforms. It is a fun small business that connects us to people.
Here is the thing. None of this stuff existed a few years ago. Indeed, a very smart VC (Fred Wilson) turned down the Airbnb folks for seed financing when they pitched to him a few years ago, Fred is very smart, but he just didn’t believe the idea would scale. It is scaling.
And that tells us something about the stuff people want to do. I asked this question in a project interview last week. “What do you look for when you travel to a new place?” Answer – “I want to connect with real life and real people.” Call it the anti-Disney World trend. And we are just starting to see cool “travel services” that are attuned to it.