Vrbo is working to crush Super Bowl party rentals

Vrbo is in the midst of a football ad blitz and plans to run a pre-Super Bowl ad on February 12. To that end, the company is deploying its party detection technology to detect unwanted bowl blowouts.
Photo: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire (PA)

Vrbo asks users to host all scheduled Super Bowl 2023 blowouts in their own home, and not to spoil someone else’s home or rental property.

According to a Monday ReleaseVrbo said it’s is rolling out its “Unauthorized Event Prevention Technology” which identifies a rental party before anyone has poured their first shots. This system generates a “risk score” for each reservation based on things like length of stay, time frame, number of guests versus beds, and more. The company made a point of saying that customers’ “demographics”, i.e. race, gender, age, etc., are not part of the identification system.

Online short-term rental companies have been pressured to spot and cancel planned parties before they happen. Last year, Airbnb attempted to completely prevent tenants from hosting parties at host properties. The short-term rental company’s system also tracks individual users looking to find a property, tracking their time with the app and comparing it to their proximity to the property and the total duration of their trip.

Airbnb automatically cancels reservations, which is different from the way Vrbo tries to handle things. Hosts are configured to receive an email if a reservation is “high risk”. This allows the host to cancel a reservation without any penalty. These so-called high-risk guests receive an email with Vrbo’s policies on parties or unauthorized events.

Vrbo said it piloted this system on last year, saying he avoided “over 500” bad bookings in the United States during that time. As the technology is rolled out nationwide, the company has made it a point to implement this update before the Super Bowl takes place in Phoenix, Arizona on February 12. The company said less than 0.25% of its bookings resulted in complaints related to the party. Expedia, the parent company of Vrbo, recorded 81.6 million bookings in its third quarter of 2022 on all of its various rental and hotel activities.

But beyond automatic systems meant to track revelers, short-term rentals have imposed major restrictions on certain types of rentals for some party-centric vacations. Before Christmas Eve, Airbnb too one night reservations restricted for those without a positive account history or who were booking locally. Although unlike Airbnb, Vrbo restricts users from making same-day bookings, although both companies let hosts set the time frame before a user can book a stay.

The two companies already share information with each other over registrations for so-called “party houses” not just because of claims that quiet neighborhoods are noisier, but because of reports of violent, even deadly, events associated to rentals. There have been several high profile shootings associated with short-term rentals. One recent shot during a “rally” in Los Angeles was associated with a short-term rental, according to the Los Angeles police.

The online property rental company wants the first football game of the year to go smoothly. Expedia has been put a lot of effort into advertising before the Super Bowl, and also spends heavily on pre-game branding ahead of the big game on Feb. 12.

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