While Airbnb’s Superhost program is more famous, Vrbo‘s Premier Host program is worth considering, with its promise of more visibility in search results and, thus, more bookings and revenues. In April 2021, the Premier Host program went through a major update: Beyond the name change, from Premier Partner to Partner Host, there was a remarkable change in the eligibility criteria, for both individual vacation rental owners and property managers. We’ll see the benefits of this free host loyalty and performance program, the biggest changes and how the program now compares with Airbnb’s SuperHost program, how to qualify, and where to find your Vrbo Premier Host scorecard to track your performance.
Launched in November 2017, initially as the HomeAway Premier Partner, the program was at first on an invite-only basis. It was designed to recognize vacation rental owners and managers that consistently deliver great traveler experiences. In 2020, the program went through two rebranding efforts: First, HomeAway became Vrbo and, second, Premier Partner became Premier Host. It is interesting to note this transition in language and the switch to the term ‘host’ popularized by Airbnb.
In April 2021, the elgibility criteria changed and were simplied for property managers, as we will see below. The visuals of the program evolved as well, in order to be more consistent and easier for both guests and host to recognise.
What is the Vrbo Premier Host Program?
The Premier Host program is Vrbo’s bid to boost owners and managers who go the extra mile to satisfy travelers and make the platform better for everyone. The concept: Become a Premier Host on Vrbo to get recognized for going above and beyond.
The goal of the Vrbo Premier host program is to help great properties and hosts stand out to potential guests.
To recognize and reward Vrbo hosts who consistently go above and beyond for guests, the Premier Host Program helps their properties shine apart from the rest so they can perform even better.
The Premier Host Program helps guests by letting them know they’re booking with an exceptional partner. And it provides Premier Hosts with the following business opportunities:
- ability to improve your search position for select dates with access to Boost,
- a special premier host badge across all listings in your account,
- appearances and more searches through the Premier Host search filter,
- and priority customer support so you can keep delivering the best guest experience
All partners are eligible:
- homeowners and property managers,
- partners who list hundreds of properties,
- and partners who list just one.
As soon as you meet the requirements across all of your listings, you’re in. You can qualify any time to automatically become a Premier Host. And every three months, Vrbo will review Premier Host account performance over the past 365 days to confirm they still meet the criteria. Using this scorecard in their Partner Dashboard, Vrbo hosts can track their status to meet these requirements:
- a great overall rating,
- a high acceptance rate,
- a low partner-initiated cancellation rate,
- and consistent bookings across your account and guest reviews across all listings in their account.
Should you join the Vrbo Premier Host program? What are the benefits for Vrbo hosts?
On platforms such as Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia or Vrbo, there are a few ways to generate more traffic and more bookings towards some properties. An obvious one is to make a listing rank higher (upranking). Yet, there are other ways to catch the attention of people searching on a website or an app.
- One is badges: Listings that display badges in search results attract more attention than those that do not. Examples of badges are SuperHost on Airbnb, Prefered and Genius on Booking.com and Premier Host on Vrbo. The badge can be some text and/or an icon. A badge helps a property visually stand out among search results. It also conveys a message, for instance about the quality of the property, helping create trust.
- Another one is search filters: To sort out among hundreds of options, a lot of travelers use search filters on travel sites. For instance, they may use search filters based on property types to only see chalets and another one based on amenities to see only properties with a hot tub. Filters around property quality and rating, as well as host status, are popular, as travelers use them as a way to avoid taking risks when picking a property. If a host is more experienced, a guest may think that their stay will be better or, at least, has less chance of going bad. This is very important for first-timer users of a platform. Obviously, platforms only create and promote search filters if the end result is more bookings, which is good for both the platform and the hosts.
Vrbo’s Premier Host program does make use of badges and search filters as benefits for eligible partners. As soon as you meet all of the criteria, your properties will display a Premier Host badge in search and on your listing, and you can start enjoying all of the benefits that come with Premier Host status. Here’s the extended list of Premier Host program benefits:
Premier Host Badge
Premier Host badge to recognize partners who provide quality traveler experiences. The badge is tied to your profile and shown across every listing in your account, even new listings. For multi-property owners and managers, it is a nice benefit that the badge is on the host level, not on the property level. It means that new listings, which have 0 reviews, still benefit from the visibility and trust conferred by the Premier Host status of their host. This is one of the ways that Vrbo uses to give new properties a fast start.
Premier Host Filter
Premier Host filter to help the property stand out to travelers. When travelers use this filter, then properties that do not belong to a Premier Host are hidden from the search results, both the website and in the app
Access to Boost to help increase visibility
Access to Boost to help increase visibility, with the ability to improve the search position for select dates. You can earn power-ups by accepting bookings and when a guest completes their stay. If you have multiple properties, you can earn power-ups across all listings; however, power-ups can only be used by the listing that earned them.
Premier Host Support
Priority support with 24/7 access, to keep delivering the best traveler experience. It means that Vrbo customers booking with a Premier Host get access to better support, which can help solve issues faster. The Premier Host Customer Support number is available for owners with Premier Host status. The rest of the vacation rental owners can use the Vrbo online chat to get in touch with support representatives. Vrbo Premier Hosts can reach dedicated customer support at 1-877-212-4741.
Possibility to market the Vrbo Premier Host status
Getting a status is great if potential travelers can actually know about it, for instance on social media. Here, Vrbo is trying to improve how much hosts can leverage their Vrbo Premier status, by enabling them to share it through their messages to leads and guests. Hosts who have attained such status will be entitled to use the term “Premier Host” and to display the Premier Host badge on all qualified listings as well as in platform-based communications with travelers.
Airbnb is great at getting SuperHosts to share their status on social media. The company makes it easy for hosts to share images that help convey the message that someone is a SuperHost. Vrbo probably want its PremierHosts to emulate this free viral advertising.
Cosmetic but significant changes: A name and new visuals for the Vrbo Premier Host program
The visuals for the program are new even though their design is not particluarly remarkable. As shown above this text, the visual for the program reads a bit like “PremierHost”, which recalls Airbnb’s SuperHost.
Since HomeAway’s rebranding into Vrbo, the company has started changing the way it called its owners and managers. They used to be partners. Now they are hosts. The Vrbo Premier Partner program already became the Premier Host program in 2020. What can we read into this name change?
- OTAs like Expedia and Booking use the word partners, as did HomeAway. Now, Airbnb has made the term Hosts popular. Vrbo is now using the word Hosts more, just like Airbnb. On the supply side, it is important, especially when Vrbo is trying to attract SuperHosts to its platform.
- On the demand side, it looks like switching from “Premier Partner” to “Premier Host” is more attractive to travelers. Vrbo shares that when testing the verbiage Premier Host versus Premier Partner, Premier Host was better understood by travelers and consequently led to more engagement. Vrbo saw more than a 12% increase in usage with the Premier Host filter. As we have seen, the filter is a key benefit of the program. So, if more people use the filter, then the overall value of the program increases.
Switching from host to partner also helps reduce some confusion. Indeed, Vrbo also uses the term partner for property management software providers (PMSs and channel managers). They will remain called “Vrbo partners“. The company has divided them into the following three tiers:
- Elite Software Partner
- Preferred Software Partner
- Integrated Software Partner
Major changes in the eligibility criteria for the Vrbo Premier Host program
In the former version of the Premier Host / Partner program, the eligibility criteria were ot the same whether you had 1 property or several. Quite frankly, it was bit complicated to understand the rules for property managers. Now, the rules are the same for everyone. Also, they are on the account (host) level, not on the property level.
Here is a Vrbo illustration of the new rules:
In detail, let’s compare the new and old versions of the program. We are also comparing them side-by-side with Airbnb’s SuperHost criteria.
|Vrbo Premier Host (Past)||Vrbo Premier Host (Now)||Airbnb SuperHost|
|Average review rating (minimum)||4.5||4.3||4.8|
|Booking acceptance rate||85%||90%||90%|
|Owner-initiated cancellation rate||10%||5%||1%|
|Number of reviews (minimum)||3||3||N/A|
|Bookings / nights volume (minimum)||5 bookings||6 bookings or 60 booked nights||10 bookings OR|
3 bookings that total at least 100 booked nights
So, how can we interpret the changes?
- Average review rating (minimum): 4.5 -> 4.3. The rating bar is lower, so it is much easier to qualify. This is a bit surprising, as it means that the guest feedbacj factor is less important than in the previous version. The rating gap between Airbnb SuperHosts and Vrbo Premium Hosts is widening.
- Booking acceptance rate: 85%-> 90%. Here, the bar is raised. For properties that are not under instant booking, it is harder to qualify. The booking acceptance rate only makes sense properties that are under request. Properties that accept instantbookings automocally get a 100% acceptance rate. Just like Airbnb, Vrbo wants most of its hosts to go towards instant booking, as it increases conversion.
- Owner-initiated cancellation rate: 10% -> 5%. The bar is rising, yet Airbnb demands 1% or less from SuperHosts. Some hosts will not be happy having less control over cancellations, but it is a more guest-centric approach.
- Number of reviews (minimum): “3 or more Vrbo reviews”. The criterion is the same as in the previous version. Yet, a precission is addedd: “Vrbo reviews”. Why? Because Vrbo is allowing Airbnb hosts with a new listing to display their existing Airbnb review score on Vrbo (see Vrbo Fast Start). So, Vrbo wants to make sure that Vrbo guests actually stayed at this Premier property. On Airbnb, properties do not get a review rating unless that at least 3 reviews, so the requirement is built-in and there is no need to ask for at leat 3 reviews to become a SuperHost.
- Bookings / nights volume (minimum): 5 bookings or 60 booked nights. The alternative of 60 nights is new. Vrbo is now welcoming longer stays, as it has increased the maximum bookable length of stay from 32 days to 180 days in 2020. So, properties that welcome longer stays can now qualify with fewer than 5 bookings, for instance 4 stays of 15 days. This is is consistent with the OTAs’ move towards allowing longer stays.
Side note: How the Premier Host program used to work for property managers
We’ve seen that the rules of Premier Host program are now the same for all, whether you are listing one vacation rental or managing 2,000 of them on the platform. Previously, owners and managers with more than one listing need to follow a 2-step process to become a Premier Host.
The first step related to the listings’ activity in terms of bookings, reviews, and booking and payment methods. Property managers had to meet these conditions with at least 10% of their listings. Additionally, listed properties had to meet these criteria over 365 days, and they were reassessed every quarter. The criteria were:
- Number of bookings: The listed property must have five or more completed bookings.
- Number of reviews: The listed property must have three or more reviews.
- Booking and payment methods: Have enabled online payments and online bookings.
At least 10% of all listings had to meet these activity requirements to move to step 2.
Step 2 related to the experience that property managers offered to Vrbo travelers. Once Vrbo confirmed that a host with more than one listing had enough eligible properties to join the program, the platform would move on to assess the traveler experience provided with those properties.
The following criteria had to be met by at least 51% of the eligible properties (from step 1) over the same 365-day period:
- Booking acceptance rate: 85% or higher booking acceptance rate on qualifying bookings.
- Average review score: 4.5 or higher average review score on eligible listings.
- Cancellation rate: Under 10% cancellation rate on reservations made for qualifying properties.
How do you become a Vrbo Premier Partner / Host?
Vrbo’s Premier Host used to an invite-only program. Now, as soon as you meet the requirements across all of your listings, you’re in. You can qualify any time to automatically become a Premier Host. And every three months, Vrbo will review Premier Host account performance over the past 365 days to confirm they still meet the criteria.
How to track your performance as a Premier Host?
The Premier Host scorecard, located under Performance in your dashboard, tracks your progress toward achieving Premier Host status. You can also download a report from the scorecard to learn more about your overall performance. Use the report’s filter and sort options to identify areas for improvement.
Every quarter, Vrbo will review your Premier Host status to determine if you still qualify for the program. Quarterly assessments take place on February 1, May 1, August 1, and November 1. Vrbo reviews performance over the past 365 days and remove accounts that no longer qualify. You’ll automatically be added back into the program as soon as your account meets the eligibility criteria.
Does Vrbo have Superhosts?
Yes, in a way. The Vrbo Premier Host program is the answer to Airbnb’s SuperHosts. Premier Hosts are recognized for the guest experience they provide and for the business they generate for Airbnb. Just like SuperHosts, Premier Hosts have a status, have a badge, and have their own search filter.
What is Boost on Vrbo?
Boost is a program for Premier Host listings intended to push up listings higher in traveler search results. With the acceptance of bookings on HomeAway, and after someone completes a stay, you earn “power-ups.” Afterward, you could use power-ups to improve your listing’s search position and drive more bookings for particular days. The more power-ups you use, the greater boost your listing would get. This means that Premier Partners could keep your power-ups and use them to have a more significant boost, but remember to use them before they expire. Power-ups can not be purchased or redeemed.
According to Vrbo, the right moment to use boosts is when there’s low season, and you don’t see many bookings in your calendar. By boosting, you improve your search position or where your listing appears to travelers in search results. You can boost a maximum of 7 successive days at once.