The Vacation Rental Market: Guide to the Major Distribution Channels


So, you’ve got a vacation rental but aren’t sure about where best to list it? From major online platforms such as Airbnb to HomeAway, through to finding local property managers, there are lots of places you can advertise your short-term rental. As a vacation rental owner, you want to know where your vacation rental is going to perform best. You also want to know how much you’re going to have to pay to list your property. Here’s the ultimate guide to the major distribution channels for vacation rentals:

Local Property Manager

Property managers are an excellent way of both looking after your vacation rental and advertising the listing. Property managers are based locally, close to your property, and this means you don’t have to be nearby to let people in, arrange the property for the next set of guests, or be woken up in the middle of the night if guests are arriving late. Do research about what type of property management is available in the area of your vacation rental. You want a property manager that’s well-connected to local travel agents, and who can showcase your rental, make it stand out from alternative accommodation options such as hotels, and ensure that it is professionally managed by someone with experience. 

Managed properties are usually advertised in a more traditional way — from flyers in local travel agent windows, through to listings on local sites, listings at real estate agents, local Facebook groups, and by posting in newspapers. Traditional vacation rental distributions such as this do equally well as online travel agents, as there’s more personal time and effort put into trying to fill your home rental. For the local property manager, they want to have maximum occupancy in your vacation rental, as it will determine if you continue using their services, which therefore impacts their own personal business and money flow.


Online Travel Agencies

If you prefer to do things online, an online travel agency will be the best distribution channel for you. The best bit is that you don’t just have to pick one online platform, and you can list on multiple platforms. This means you can broaden your horizons and your vacation rental can be available to different demographics. For example, Airbnb is thought to draw a younger crowd, those looking for a weekend trip, and business travelers, whereas HomeAway is thought to draw older generations and families. By listing on multiple platforms, you can maximize your chance of a high occupancy rate.

However, by listing on multiple distribution channels, it sometimes means you can’t really sign up to perks, such as Airbnb’s instant book policy, as it would be difficult to manage an instant book calendar with your property also listed on other quick-book sites. 


Listing Fees

Don’t forget that each site has its own rate, and the cost to list your property will be different per site. Each online vacation rental platform has differences in its fee structures, with some charging a flat fee per listing, and others charge a fee based on commission. With a local property manager, the fee will also vary. So do your research before signing up. 


Best Distribution Channels

Some of the best vacation rental distribution platforms include Airbnb, Booking.com, VRBO, HomeAway, AllTheRooms, and TripAdvisor. Here’s a round-up of some of the best distribution channels. 



Airbnb is the most well-known platform in the vacation rental industry. If your vacation rental is listed on Airbnb, there’s a greater chance of it being seen due to the number of views the Airbnb site has, however, in turn, this also means your property is placed next to a lot of competition, as others grapple to list their properties too. At present, Airbnb charges hosts a 3 percent fee.



AllTheRooms is the world’s first full vacation rental search engine, and since it came onto the scene, has aggregated nearly 14 million vacation rentals around the world. Its listings include everything from treehouses to castles, and it has an extensive search engine. 



HomeAway, which is part of the Expedia group, is a great place to list your vacation rental thanks to its connections to Expedia and its enormous inventory, making it a popular choice for those looking for their perfect ‘home from home’. Its appeal to travelers is that it has around 2 million listings across 190 countries plus it has an easy-to-use interface. The platform draws an older demographic, large groups of friends, and families. To list on HomeAway, you have a choice between paying an annual subscription fee or signing up to a pay-per-booking model.



VRBO, is another popular distribution site that’s very similar to HomeAway. It’s a favorite with families and older couples, who are looking for a ‘home from home’ when on vacation. VRBO’s slogan is ‘Why rent a room when you can have the whole house?’ It plays on the idea that it is cheaper to stay in a vacation rental, than a hotel, and you have tons more space to spread out in a vacation rental. It’s certainly enough to sway an undecided traveler into booking a whole house or apartment. As with HomeAway, on VRBO you also have a choice between a subscription fee model or a pay-per-booking model.


TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals

TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals is growing in popularity thanks to the platform’s ‘free-to-list’ policy — meaning you don’t have to pay to list your property. At present, it has just a 3% commission on bookings. It’s a great platform that allows you to list your property with zero contracts or upfront fees. TripAdvisor is close to a household name in the wider travel industry, and travelers all around the world regularly check the site for tour reviews, restaurant reviews, and the top things to do, meaning it has the potential to draw a lot of traffic. 



It’s also worth bearing in mind that each site has different requirements in terms of how well supplied a vacation rental is. For example, Airbnb recommends hosts provide clean linens and towels. Other sites request vacation-goers bring their own, or make their own beds. Check the fine details before you list.

Putting your home on the short-term rental market? See what your local competition is doing with AllTheRooms. Download your free sample report today!