Skift Take

Convergence is coming to the vacation and urban rental sector with more direct bookings happening online and sites cross-contaminating inventory. Expect a merger of markets and payment methods on all rental sites.

Renting a vacation home in the Outer Banks of North Carolina or the South of Spain once involved faxes, phone calls, and key pick-ups. The seemingly antiquated method of getting your family into a beach-front home for one week remained this way until quite recently.

And paying for them with a mix of cashier’s checks, wire transfers, and cash was even more antiquated.

But a number of startups and established vacation rental sites now collected rental options online and make it easier to book and pay for those pads without picking up the phone or visiting the bank, post office, or Western Union. And consumers have Airbnb to thank, even if the other sites won’t admit it.

Earlier today, vacation rental website and TripAdvisor subsidiary FlipKey announced its Book Now feature that makes its possible for guests at over 90,000 homes, or roughly 38 percent of FlipKey’s inventory, to see an instant rate and pay online.

“People want to book online,” FlipKey co-founder Jeremy Gall tell Skift, “we are going to push that forward in a meaningful way.”

Competitive Bookings

The vacation rental business is largely moving online with similar companies including, Wyndham Vacation Rentals, Dwellable, and even Airbnb offering search sites and payment options for vacation homes.

HomeAway spokesman Victor Wang tells Skift that 78,006 rentals, or 14 percent, of the total 571,684 home available on HomeAway’s website accept online payments.

Dwellable is at an earlier stage of development and doesn’t disclose the total number of U.S. rentals currently available on its website.

Dwellable CEO Kirby Winfield tells Skift, “…Dwellable simply sends inquiries to our Property Managers (PM’s)/listers, for free. There are many entities building software and brokering bookings on behalf of PM’s, but we are focused on the discovery experience for the traveller, first, foremost and final.”

All Airbnb payments take place online and a number of properties include an Instant Book feature. Property owners can set restrictions on who and how far in advance bookers can use Instant Book. Airbnb’s online payments have largely reinvented the user experience and pushed all other rental sites to adopt online bookings in order to compete. While this is a result of Airbnb’s business model — they make money by taking a cut of the booking as opposed to getting paid to list a property — it has a direct benefit to making life easier for the consumer.

Similarly, all of Wyndham Vacation Rentals’ 100,000+ global rentals are bookable and payable online. President of Wyndham Vacation Rentals, North America, Bob Milne, attributes this to the company’s hotel roots.

“We pride ourselves on real-time bookings – a concept that is still new for vacation rentals,” Milne writes to Skift, “We’ve been quick to adopt the conveniences that travelers have grown accustomed to over the years.”

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Tags: flipkey, homeaway, vacation rentals

Photo credit: A FlipKey property in upstate New York. FlipKey

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