Canada's vacation rental market isn't a cottage industry anymore.
The market in Canadian chalets and cabins has been late to embrace e-commerce. But it is catching up now.
CanadaStays, the largest vacation rental listing platform in Canada, seems poised to benefit from this trend.
The private company claims revenue growth of 30% over the past year.
It has grown its listings base from 25,000 properties this time last year to 40,000 globally today.
While global brands such as HomeAway and FlipKey tend to only have urban listings with a handful of property chains, CanadaStays covers the country with geographical depth.
Outside of Whistler, B.C., there's little overlap. The company says its listings dot nearly every one of Canada's 30,000 lakes.
In October, the Toronto-based company changed its name from CottageCountry.com.
When the company was founded in 2008, the word cottage made sense to have in the name because in certain parts of Canada "cottage" is synonymous with taking a summer weekend away to the lake.
But French speakers prefer chalet. Plus the company wants to boost its urban condo and whole-home listings, especially in the run up to the 2015 PanAm Games in Toronto. The new name aims to have a broader appeal and clarity of message.
CanadaStays, which has about 30 employees in two offices, is about to launch insurance for consumers, via an insurance provider in Canada, with policies to offer the property owners soon to follow.
Distribution via portals
A year-and-a-half ago, the company hired Emily Rayson as chief operating officer. Since then, one of the big things the company has done has been to expand its third-party distribution strategy.
It reposts all of its listings on third-party content portals, putting the listings in front of the eyeballs of up to 2.5 million unique visitors a month, on average.
Additions in the last eight months include Canoe.ca, World Fishing Network, Zoomer, which markets to the 45 year old plus demographic, and Travel Alerts, one of Canada's top travel deal sites.
The site continues to have its partnership with Cottage Life, Canada’s Largest cottage magazine (plus the cottage life network television station).
Instant booking option
In the spring, the company launched commission-based pay-by-booking functionality as an option for hosts who are okay with direct, or instant, reservations. Without doing any announcement or marketing of pay-per booking, the service has seen strong engagement. Says Rayson:
"Every day we have dozens and dozens of hosts signing up for that. It’s great for us not to have to solicit so much. ... The commission is 10%."
One of the company's goals in the first financial quarter of 2015 is to improve its website's responsiveness on mobile devices, such as by making its search filters easier to use on smaller devices. While serviceable today, the site could be easier to use on mobile.
Despite the expansion on many fronts, the company aims to stay true to its quality-control ethos. Rayson says:
"We’re one of the few sites that vets every listing before it goes up. We crosscheck if addresses are legitimate and appear to be in decent shape, and we check if the phone number and owner's information exists in other databases.
We have rejected properties that we have declined they don't meet a certain criteria from us in both quality and the info that’s been put out, something many other competitors our size don't do."