HomeAway has been given an noticeably higher profile in parent company Expedia Inc's latest earnings release, with bosses talking in terms of its "ecommerce transition" adding that it is also "growing significantly faster than the overall alternative accommodations market".
Mark Okerstrom was leading his first earnings call as CEO since he took over from Dara Khosrowshahi who now runs Uber.
The "ecommerce transition" is based around making more of HomeAway's inventory instantly bookable online. It has 1.5 million listings, of which some 500,000 are instantly bookable.
He said: "The number one priority [for HomeAway] is to get what [it's] got online and monetize it better."
On the one hand, the current monetization appears to be going well. CFO Alan Pickerill told analysts that HomeAway "reported the highest quarterly adjusted EBITDA in the company's history of $126 million, representing 63% growth year-over-year."
On the other hand, he also said that HomeAway was unlikely to make the previously announced target of an EBITDA of $350 million for 2018.
One immediate benefit of making more of the inventory instantly bookable is that HomeAway can ramp up its performance marketing efforts. Okerstrom noted that transaction revenues, as opposed to subscription revenues, were more than 75% of the total in the quarter for the first time.
"Conversion rates continue to steadily climb as the team ramps up its test and learn velocity...making it easier and more attractive for travelers, property owners, and managers to transact on the HomeAway platform."
Performance marketing does not currently drive a lot of bookings to HomeAway, but the expectation is that this will change.
"By the end of the year, [HomeAway] will be in a position where they have a true technology-driven performance marketing platform in place [and] be in a better position to actually execute on performance marketing".
HomeAway has already "leant more heavily into paid marketing than we anticipated" as a result of the progress, and this will continue into 2018.
In the Q&A, one analyst asked how much of HomeAway's growth was coming from a general increase in awareness of alternative accommodations - "a rising tide lifts all boats" - and how much was organic. Okerstrom did acknowledge the impact of the former but said:
"It's hard to say, but we do believe that they are growing significantly faster than the overall alternative accommodations market".
Another question about HomeAway focused on previously discussed plans to expand from its core US/western Europe resort and ski inventory. Okerstrom said that HomeAway was also trying to get more homes in urban and metropolitan locations. The emphasis is on making these instantly bookable so that they can be distributed through its OTAs where there is specific demand for urban properties.
Currently around 95,000 HomeAway properties can be booked at its OTA sites.
Overall, the performance of Expedia Inc in financial terms fell short of expectations, with Okerstrom admitting that "we are not at all satisfied with our Q3 performance." Total revenues were up by 15% to jut under $3 billion, although the market expected a bit more, while earnings per share was also less than what was predicted.
Click here to access the page of Expedia Inc's Investor Relations site to access the earnings release in full.
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