Skift Take

It remains to be seen what does with its new and how heavily it gets promoted, but clearly is committed to the vacation rental sector, and will likely make many more moves. HomeAway has to do much more to get its digital act together.

Hotel behemoth launched a dedicated site for vacation rentals, villas and apartments, and in some ways it is HomeAway’s worst nightmare., the new initiative, offers 146,663 “vacation rentals,” many professionally managed properties, with reviews, photo galleries — and importantly, the ability to book online with instant confirmations.

For some of the properties, the guest doesn’t have to pay up front, but merely reserves the property with a credit card, and pays upon arrival.

It is no coincidence that features more than 460,800 hotels and alternative accommodations — including the same 146,663 properties that you’ll find on the new

But a dedicated site for vacation rentals, villas and apartment will create added consumer awareness — and the entire online travel industry, already focused on’s spending power, will be looking to see whether markets the hell out of on Google and elsewhere.

Headaches For HomeAway

To say this is HomeAway’s worst nightmare is not to say that HomeAway management is cowering in a corner, and that they haven’t seen this coming as has been pushing in earnest into vacation rentals for the last couple of years.

HomeAway has dozens of vacation rental websites around the world, a penchant for growing through acquisitions, and fields 952,000 listings at the last official count. TripAdvisor, which recently acquired, is no slouch, either, with 550,000 rental properties in the fold.

But, consider the digital acumen of the new in contrast to HomeAway’s situation.

HomeAway has a fledgling new marketing and distribution agreement with Expedia and it will take months to get it going it going at any scale because only a minority of HomeAway’s 952,000 listings are distribution-capable, officials say.

HomeAway and Expedia are working on the issue, and HomeAway has made progress in making more of its vacation rental listings bookable online, but it has a long way to go.

Digital Conversion is’s Strength

In contrast, and are doing to the vacation rental industry what earlier did to hotels and the online travel industry — leaving them in the dust digitally speaking, and likely creating a legion of imitators.

For example, take a look at Residence Villa Daubenton in downtown Paris on (and it gets similar treatment on

It is a digital conversion (turning lookers into bookers) wonderland.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 9.48.14 AM

In addition to the photo gallery and a “Good 7.7” rating based on 206 user reviews, you’ll see messages flash such as “Most recent booking for this property was yesterday at 16:44 from the United States.”

And another: “There are 5 people looking at this condo now.”

In other words, hurry up, you’d better book it soon or it will be gone.

These sorts of messages, pioneered by in the travel industry, have become almost industry standard for online hotel booking, but is bringing these skills to vacation rentals, as well.

Lookers are advised: “Last chance! We have 1 apartment left.”

Immediate Confirmations

Users are urged to “book now,” and they’ll get an immediate confirmation, with no prepayment requirement for some of these properties. Guests can just put in their credit card and “pay at the property in local currency,” states.

Contrast’s digital acumen in vacation rentals with some of HomeAway’s listings, where you still have to email or phone the manager or owner, and send checks when there is no online booking capability.

HomeAway has a clear edge in scale — those 952,000 listings — but has the digital DNA and massive marketing clout.

It remains to be seen what does with and how heavily it gets promoted, but clearly is committed to the vacation rental sector.

Game on.


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Tags: booking, homeaway, tripadvisor

Photo credit: Priceline's has launched a dedicated vacation rental site,, in a new challenge to industry leader HomeAway. Pictutred is the Royal Garden Villas and Spa in Canarias, Spain. Royal Garden Villas and Spa

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