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Wyndham’s former portfolio of European vacation rental businesses has rebranded under a new name as it targets further expansion.
The company is now called Awaze following its sale to Platinum Equity for $1.3 billion last year. Brands such as Novasol, Cottages.com, James Villa Holidays, and Landal GreenParks will continue to work independently but CEO Henrik Kjellberg hopes the new corporate identity will create a closer relationship.
“By pooling together some resources and building better tech solutions we think we can do things, still keeping the local brand flavour, but the technical solutions behind it will be done more at a group level,” he told Skift at the ITB travel conference in Berlin on Thursday.
Part of the plan is to make the total inventory available on each brand, which is not the case at the moment.
“I mean it is crazy that if you go to Cottages.com today and look for Croatia, where we are by a country mile the market leader, you can’t find the properties because they’re on Novasol,” he said.
It leads to a bizarre situation where customers looking at sites such as Airbnb, Booking.com and Expedia, which Awaze supplies, have access to more properties than they do on the individual sites.
“It’s a little bit backward that the third parties have access to our inventory but our own brands don’t,“ he said.
Private equity buyers usually have pretty aggressive growth strategies to carry out before they sell a business after a few years. It sounds like this will be the case with Awaze.
With the brands it already owns having a certain degree of independence it is easy to see more slotting in.
“We’re pretty opportunistic especially on the M&A agenda being owned by a private equity player this is something they’re very interested in. We have an M&A team in-house as well,” he said.
“We’re constantly looking at opportunities…we have so much left to do in Europe so that will be the main focus but we’ll look at other things if they come up.”
Unlike other travel companies who are looking at getting into other sectors such as tours and activities, Awaze plans to stay focussed on vacation rentals.
“I’m a big believer in focus. I think there’s something like 4 million homes out there in Europe to be had and we have 100,000 so when we get to 4 million I’ll start looking … at what to do next,” Kjellberg, who joined in 2018 having spent much of his career in various roles at Expedia Group, said.
The Difference Between Awaze and Airbnb
Although Awaze operates in broadly the same sector at Airbnb it is a different type of business.
Most of the properties they have are exclusive, Kjellberg said, and the company takes care of things like the management and pricing. They also tend to be outside of urban areas. At one point Airbnb was talked about as a possible buyer of the company.
“The dynamics outside the city are very different to inside the city. Inside cities you tend to have things like licensing issues, people worrying about neighborhoods [suffering] overtourism,” he said.
“Whereas outside we bring employment, we are largely talking about secondary homes that are largely empty otherwise. We bring villages to life. We tend to have a very positive relationship with the municipalities and councils we work with.”
The Awaze group of brands generates gross revenues of more than $2 billion (€1.8 billion) and has over 110,000 places to stay in 36 countries.