We've seen this playbook before. Google isn't making much money off its vacation rental business, and doesn't need to sweat it. With its domination of search, Google will take its time, build its global property numbers, and test what works. Competitors know what's coming.
Like Airbnb, Expedia, and others in the sector, Google is making a push to professionalize and increase its portfolio of vacation rental offerings, and that means enlisting property managers, and entering into new partnerships.
Along those lines, U.S. vacation rental property manager Vacasa announced Thursday that it has directly connected to Google, delivering its more than 14,000 vacation rentals as listings in Google Hotels, which currently offers both hotels and vacation rentals.
Vacasa, which has grown organically and through acquisition, and has a $162 million purchase of Wyndham Vacation Rentals pending, is the first vacation rental software platform to connect directly to Google using its own application programming interface (API). The largest vacation rental manager in North America, Vacasa said it will eventually get those 9,000 Wyndham vacation rentals into Google search, as well. While Vacasa’s strength is in the U.S. and Canada, it also offers homes in Europe, Latin America, and Africa.
“We expect Vacasa’s partnership with Google to increase the visibility and guest demand for vacation homes we manage, thereby increasing revenue for our homeowners,” said Vacasa founder and CEO Eric Breon. “In addition, those who have an established preference for hotels may see vacation homes through their Google search and feel inspired to try a vacation rental for a future trip.”
Breon pointed to changing traveler preferences, and Google’s efforts. “We’ve seen a growing number of people opt for vacation rentals over traditional accommodations, and Google is optimizing its platform through these types of partnerships to better serve consumers,” Breon said.
The Vacasa CEO argued that it expects a first-mover advantage in terms of being the first full-service property management company to tie up with Google. “It also allows Vacasa to gather early performance data on the campaigns, allowing the opportunity to optimize our efforts earlier than future partners,” Breon said.
Google declined to comment on the Vacasa integration.
Google Vacation Rentals Versus Hotels
Google’s vacation rental search business is relatively new, and is a work in progress. For now, the listings predominantly come from online travel agencies, including Expedia’s Vrbo, Booking Holdings’ Agoda, TripAdvisor and the latter’s Holiday Lettings brand, among others.
But in addition to new-arrival property manager Vacasa, Red Awning, which has a consumer business but also does property management and distribution, has had its properties integrated into Google’s lodging search since March. RedAwning, however is not a full-service property manager.
Other property managers, such as Turnkey vacation rentals, list some of their properties in Google Hotels through RedAwning, as well.
“We are happy to welcome Vacasa to the Google vacation rental program that was developed in part with RedAwning support and input,” said RedAwning CEO Tim Choate. “We know that Google values a diversity of properties and suppliers to enable this offering, and while RedAwning is the largest direct API supplier to the program, more suppliers are needed.”
Choate said he agrees “with Vacasa that having the scale to optimize early is important, and RedAwning has already executed on a series of large-scale tests to optimize performance here on behalf our our 1,000 property manager partners.”
Watch Out for Google
What is all comes down to is Google is focused on increasing its vacation rental roster globally, and will undoubtedly be a major competitor to contend with.
Google is boosting its roster of vacation rentals organically, and for now its business doesn’t have providers competing for placement in Google Trips through auctions, like it does for hotels. Google apparently doesn’t have immediate plans to offer sponsored listings for vacation rentals as it does for hotels.
While Google is focusing on organic growth of its vacation rental business for now that doesn’t mean that mergers and acquisition activity isn’t out of the question.
Asked about the business model regarding its new presence in Google Hotels, Vacasa, which was founded in 2009 in Portland, Oregon said, “The Vacasa integration mirrors Google’s integrations with other vacation rental partners, and is not monetized.”
Google is seemingly content for now to build up its vacation rental supply, and to hone the customer experience. After all, this is Google — it has the resources to be methodical, and take its time building its alternative accommodations portfolio while it relentlessly tests what works for suppliers and customers, and what doesn’t.
Unlike for hotels, vacation rentals suppliers do not have to compete on price in Google Trips, the name of the search engine’s one-stop-shop travel business, over listings for the same property.
For example, a Vacasa listing for Sky View Lodge in Fish Haven, Idaho does not show what Booking.com or another provider might offer for the same property. You can contrast that with how Google runs its more mature hotel business. Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on Google Trips showed rates Wednesday from Booking.com, Priceline, Agoda, Kayak, TripAdvisor, FindHotel, Cancelon, Amona, Trip.com, Otel.com, and Getaroom.
Google’s alternative accommodations business is clearly at the very beginning stages of its evolution. Like it did for Google Flights and Google Hotels, Google will unceasingly build up its supply, and add new partners, as it has done with Vacasa.
For now. consumers find vacation rentals on Google Trips under a Hotels tab, which isn’t a sustainable proposition over the long term, but Google has no immediate plans to change that.
Note: This story was updated to include a comment from RedAwning.
Photo credit: Property manager Vacasa offers interior design services to vacation rental owners as in this San Antonio, Texas living room. Vacasa