Get Ready – The Heat Is About To Get Hotter
Did you notice HomeAway removed your phone number from your listing?
I recently noticed owner phone numbers were missing on the HomeAway website. A recent Skift article confirmed my suspicions. Here Is what they noticed;
“HomeAway testing the removal of phone numbers from some listings to encourage online bookings”
It seems as if the walls are closing in on those who don’t embrace online booking on listing sites. It’s about to come down hard on you, real soon. What have you done about it?
Racism The Rocketship To Instant Bookings
There’s now more than money and traveler preferences behind pushing the instant booking agenda.
There’s a stronger more hateful force pushing for the instant bookings of vacation rentals. There’s now a social cause behind it – fighting racism.
We know how powerful racism is, we’re seeing a resurgence of racism in our world today.
And according to a recent Harvard social experiment racism is affecting the vacation rental industry too.
- In the Harvard experiment, they found that hosts approved guests to book their properties with white-sounding names 50% of the time.
- It was reported hosts approved guests with African-American-sounding names 42% of the time — an eight percentage point and 16% difference.
Some people are questioning if the experiment should even be considered, they’re claiming it’s not a scientific metric.
However, the experiment has been enough to validate claims from travelers who said they experienced racial discrimination from Airbnb and HomeAway hosts.
These racial concerns have birthed two niche vacation rental listing sites created by individuals to combat against the issue of racism in the vacation rental sharing economy they were experiencing.
Will the fight against racism in the VR industry speed up the push for instant bookings on vacation rental listing sites?
Yes, mainly because with online booking you don’t have a choice of who books, It eliminates the racial profiling during the booking process and that is why you’re about to see a big push for instant bookings across the board.
Could the cause of combating racism in the name of “fairness” help to lower the resistance from owners and managers who are unwilling to make the instant booking switch? We’ll just have to see…
Both HomeAway and AirBnB are taking steps by making changes to their websites and platforms in their effort to fight racism.
Known Changes Airbnb & HomeAway Are Making
- Airbnb and HomeAway both are focusing on increasing instant bookings on their site so there will be no vetting of guests.
- Airbnb is rolling out changes in 2017 to property calendars to prevent you from blocking dates on the calendar then later opening the dates up to accept bookings.
That would seem like a good idea to deter a host from denying a guest based on their race by saying “we’re booked.” However this change would also benefit the “system” by preventing managers and owners from saving (blocking) popular dates like Christmas by marking them booked – keeping more inventory available in the marketplace.
- Airbnb is also running experiments about removing photos of the travelers who inquire. Users are requesting to keep their photos and information more private during the booking process to prevent them from being discriminated against. Expect more changes in this area.
Racism is also costing Airbnb and HomeAway big dollars in commissions from bookings owners and managers are not accepting.
Racism Affects The Bottom Line
The Harvard researchers also checked back to see whether the host ultimately filled the spot after rejecting the fictional black guest. Hosts only did so 35% of the time.
They calculated that hosts lost about $65 to $100 each time they rejected black guests. This is definitely another motivator for the move.
Will Vacation Rental Sites Leverage Racism To Force Instant Bookings
Michael Endelman an Airbnb vacation rental executive said instant bookings are going mainstream.
The content of a recent Skift article appears to suggest there’s no turning back to the 24 hour “request to book” – it’s a dying concept.
Are you ready to flip the switch to online bookings? Have you already? There are changes coming.
What do you think?
I can see this gaining momentum since there is a social responsibility to fight racism. I’m not sure if this is planned or they are turning a problem (racism) into an opportunity, Interesting read Jay, I’m a bit nervous of what’s coming next. Thanks for keeping us in the loop
I believe home owners should always have the right to choose to whom they rent their home. I agree that they may make decisions based on what are now socially unacceptable criteria, but nonetheless, it is their perogative to decide with whom they wish to do business. Sometimes, they may wish to decide against someone, as the same guests may wish to book again, but last time, they damaged their home – would you do business with those same folks?
Hey Stephen thank you for commenting. That’s a good point. A vacation home is a home… so in some respect we should be able to chose who we want in our home BUT a rental is also a business – does that matter?
There are times when we should be able to turn-down bookings as I wrote about in the post “ever had a guest you wish never booked”, http://villamarketers.com/vacation-rental-guests/ – but it should never be about discrimination.
While I have my opinions, I do not want to be insensitive to the one who either is or feels they’re being discriminated against. That must be a disgusting feeling.
That’s what going to make this a tough topic to battle because if you fight against “fairness” (online bookings) you can seem “unfair”. Feels like a slippery slope.
I’m totally agree. I had customers in the past that did horrible things to my property, I do not want to be forced to rent it again against my will. That is not discriminatory. Also why those companies want to take the control of the calendar, I want to be able to block the dates I want it for my own use, I don’t want them to use my calendar as they want it.
I don’t use instant booking because it’s hard to keep up with the events in both of my areas and don’t want to give away dates for the regular rate when you can ask much more for weeks / weekends with special events or nearby festivals going on. There’s no racism involved, That’s crazy. It’s just a lame excuse for the big monopoly advertisers to get their fingers in the pie even more and increase their profits, palin and simple !! The underlying problem is that they are causing rate hikes for the private owners and the tenants trying to book
Steve I understand exactly what you’re saying we all have a few quirky things we do in our businesses. We should be able to operate our businesses the way we need to. For now we can… just not on their platforms.
Could something like racism fuel the fire for stronger regulations against vacation rentals. I suppose this could turn legal on us?
Steve the problem really isn’t online booking, its about us losing control. We are watching before us the transformation of the vacation rental business.
That Is right MONOPOLY!! Is there something that we as a owners can do about it??
Guess the idea of putting up walls is popular these days! Any barrier between the people responsible for the day to day activities at a vacation home and the guests that want to stay there just isn’t a sustainable model. If I can’t communicate with our guests prior to booking, then how do we comply with local regulations? We are limited as to how many people can stay in a house and also the number of cars. Its not like the OTA does anything to verify what the guests says is true concerning the intended use of the property. Holding the guests accountable to what they intend to use the property for is on our side of the ‘wall’!
Vacation homes are available only if it is to the benefit of the homeowner. As soon as the risk changes, or it no longer makes economic sense, then the house gets taken off the short term rental market. What about this fundamental principal of vacation rental availability does the OTA’s just not get?
The home owner only puts the house on the short term rental market because they need the cash flow to offset the expense of ownership. Big companies don’t own these houses. Its normal people who are often cash challenged trying to make a little money to pay off the mortgage and cover annual costs. One bad rental can be devastating financially as well as spiritually, and not only to the individual home owner, but also to the community. We are still under highly restrictive regulations that arose because of 1 bad renter 1 weekend about 10 years ago.
Being the eternal optimist, I think vacation rentals are here to stay. We will survive the greed and short sightedness of big bullies in the playground. The millennials and generation X want to vacation in our town, and they know how search the web. They will find me even if I no longer can advertise on the big OTA’s.
So let the OTA’s build their wall! I think between me, others like me in this industry, and the demand generated by the guests, we’ll figure out a way to build our tunnel!
This is a very difficult thing. Some comments below claim that it is not discrimination to refuse rental to any renter that the owner THINKS may do damage to their property or upset the neighbours. This is actually discrimination. In business and in life we discriminate all the time. It is part of survival! In Australia it is hard for people under the age of 25 to rent a car. That is clearly discrimination against younger people either by the rental business or the insurance company that will not provide insurance because actuarial calculations regarding accidents and the age of drivers make it a bad business choice.
I am certainly not advocating racial discrimination. However, I would probably refuse a group of 8 young black men just as I would refuse 8 young white men if I thought the risk that they wanted to have a noisy party was too great. The only way I can make a judgement is to talk to them, ask them if they intend to have a party, explain the problem of noise for our neighbours and then make a judgement.
The way things are now, if the group was non-white, I may be accused of racism if I refused to rent to them.
Actually, I rent to Australian Aborigines, Papuans and Indians (subcontinent) regularly because they are always family groups. Indians often travel with large extended families and will want to fit 12 into a 5 bedroom home. Although I don’t usually like renting to a group with more than the number of beds available, I have found Indian families incredibly respectful of our homes so I let them (they usually bring an airbed).
My point is that I, as the owner or manager, want to make that discriminatory decision myself. Let’s also not forget that a listing site is a site for discrimination. Every potential customer is discriminating when making a decision about which home to choose.
Forcing an owner to take every customer without any opportunity to make a choice (as will happen with instant booking) is not going to make any difference to the level of racism in society. Prohibition did nothing to stop drinking but it did the crime level.
Nicely articulated Nick!
We’ve seen instant booking causing more trouble than good business in many cases, but racism. We welcome any race at our villa rentals. In fact, when people ask us where our clients come from, our answer is always “They’re from everywhere.”
Here are some of the problems we encountered through instant booking. These guests book our villas without any communication before paying. It turned out that they have not fully understood the terms & conditions we’ve stipulated that was provided to them, or they have not read the written description carefully. When arrived at the villa, they wanted to change the staff at the villa to be all female for religious reasons. They expect to have food ready at the villa when they arrive, even without any order. They thought a small percentage of surcharge for the food is too much. And the list goes on…
It always works best (not only for us but most importantly for the guests) when we can speak to them, and communicate some important details and ask them any requirements they may have before a booking confirmation.
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