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There’s always talk that the Priceline Group and HomeAway would make for a great merger, and we’ve written about it previously.
But as part of our Future of Travel Booking E-Book we had a chance to ask Priceline Group CEO Darren Huston, when we sat down with him in November, what he thinks of HomeAway. HomeAway is actively pushing vacation rentals online, and Huston speaks of a standard that HomeAway needs to achieve if the two companies are to work together.
The interview — and you can read a small excerpt below — also elucidates a significant difference in the strategies of the Priceline Group and TripAdvisor. That is, TripAdvisor, which last year acquired Viator and Lafourchette, wants to own the entire travel cycle, and Huston of the Priceline Group dismisses such ambitions for himself.
Skift: What do you think of HomeAway? I’m always curious. Do you view HomeAway as not really a kindred spirit to the Priceline Group in terms of their lack of technology prowess or the number of properties that aren’t bookable online?
Darren Huston: No, not at all, actually. I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done. They’ve been basically on a roll-up strategy. I think Brian [HomeAway CEO Brian Sharples] runs a great company. We’re in constant discussions. It’s not like they don’t want to work with us or something. It just takes time and the bar that we’re holding out is that things need to be instantly confirmable, immediately bookable. That’s a pretty high bar in the vacation rental industry, but we want to stick with that bar because we think that is ultimately what the consumer wants.
We’re in discussions all the time on how do we achieve that together. We happen to start most of our vacation rental efforts in Europe and they are much stronger in the United States. I think there’s plenty of potential for us to work together…. Brian knows totally that the model they have reflects the industry of today and he needs to transform to where the industry is going tomorrow….
Skift: You mentioned [earlier] end-to-end booking or end-to-end solutions. Now, you have OpenTable in your portfolio. You got the restaurant reservations now or you’re building restaurants but one hole seems to be in tours and activities. Do you envision filling that gap?
Huston: …. We’ve always believed that the specialty store approach was stronger than the department store approach because by having the world’s leader in rental cars, the world’s leaders in accommodations and then letting them [travelers] buy an EasyJet or Ryanair, that’s a way people travel which would be more like a specialty store versus saying I’m going to own all the pieces so whatever you need, you want a taxi or whatever, you just pick from it.
It’s not to say that that isn’t necessarily a strong strategy and there are people who play that strategy, but our move into OpenTable was really not primarily to say we’re going to own all of travel….
But we really entered the restaurant space not because of the link and the cross-sell. It was much more a really large marketplace with very familiar characteristics to the long tail of accommodations, cash flow businesses, businesses in need of great software, a company that was really built on B2B that needs B2C competencies. For Booking, we’re really B2C and we’re building out B2B competencies for the long tail with Hotel Ninjas and Buuteeq and these other acquisitions. It’s a really nice marriage in terms of we’re both trying to learn and build going forward.