In recent months, two of the vacation rental industry’s biggest marketplaces – Airbnb and HomeAway – have implemented big changes on their websites, transforming the direction of their businesses. For HomeAway, the most notable adjustment came with the removal of contact information, which is now only visible once the booking is complete. For Airbnb, this was the renewed focus on “Instant Book” listings over the more traditional inquiry-based version.
What do these changes mean for owners and renters?
Both platforms are using these changes as a way of lessening (or even eventually eradicating) communication between both parties, turning the sites into something that looks more like a booking engine and less like an open marketplace.
What will this mean for the industry? Will this model be a success, or will less people begin to use the websites as a result?
At Tripz.com, we believe these big changes are an opportunity to disrupt these sites before it becomes the norm – by diving in head first and reinstating the open communication that individuals once loved about vacation renting.
It’s already proven unsuccessful
Back in 2011, the founder and former CEO of HomeAway Brian Sharples presented a talk at Capital Factory Demo Day. During this speech, Sharples shared personal insights into lessons learnt from his founding and managing of HomeAway, including a tale about Expedia’s acquisition of top vacation rental business Vacation Spot in 1999, which had completely failed no more than a year later.
Sharples identified the two biggest problems that lead to Vacation Spot’s demise. Firstly, the jump from subscription-based payments to one that took a percentage of the rental total – a change which was overwhelmingly rejected by customers.
The second issue came when owners and renters were no longer able to communicate directly on the platform, which was also received with discontent from customers. Naturally, owners who rent their properties want to be able to speak to the incoming guest before confirming the reservation or checking guests in. And coincidentally, guests want to clear up any doubts about the property before paying a cent.
This is exactly why Expedia’s Vacation Spot acquisition failed, not only did they get rid of the key elements that made the vacation rental business so successful when they ditched affordable prices and personal communication, but they also drove customers away in the process.
Now, almost six years after telling the Expedia story, Brian Sharple and HomeAway seem to be heading in the same direction. Why are they so focused on eliminating those important pre-booking conversations? What are the rest of us missing?
The vacation rental market needs improvement
No matter whether these changes from Airbnb and HomeAway help build them up even more or simply bring them down a notch, there is definitely room for improvement in the market. In other words, a revival of the classic vacation rental experience by facilitating communication between renters and owners, while at the same time, offering prices that hotels cannot beat.
That’s where we come in. At Tripz.com, we want to fill that empty space. Our platform neither restricts communication between guests and hosts, nor does it charge booking fees like most other listing sites out there.
We want to bring back a uniqueness that the market is currently missing. We’re talking establishing personal relationships and maintaining them, rather than masses of faceless guests.
Predictions for the future
Like any business in this competitive industry, only time will tell if the business model we’re using for Tripz.com will be a success.
Owners are wising up to the big players, with more and more of them now looking for alternatives to combat these new restrictions.
We know better than anyone that technology is at the forefront of these instantaneous guest communications – it’s never been easier to connect with someone on the other side of the world than it is today. With increasing numbers of social networks (like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat), consumers, and travelers especially, still crave a sense of connectedness.
Additionally, there is an increasing tendency for travelers to prefer doing business with individuals or smaller businesses. That’s why owners who list on smaller marketplaces or even have their own vacation rental websites are seeing a good growth in bookings year after year.
It’s unlikely a giant like Airbnb will crash overnight. But it is entirely likely that sites like Tripz.com will begin to make a name for themselves in the industry by filling the void left by competitors and providing the open marketplace that travelers are looking for.
About the Author:
Tripz.com is a new vacation rental listing site that aims to be the low cost provider in the industry by eliminating booking fees for travelers and commissions from owners.