As the online travel agency giants start taking vacation rentals extremely seriously it's hardly a surprise that metasearch engines are hoping they can also capitalise.
And if this week is anything to go by, a battle for marketing rhetoric is already upon the industry and consumers.
HomeToGo, the Germany-based metasearch engine for vacation rentals, is launching officially in the US with a dedicated team in a bid to capture some of the clicks going the way of sites such as Tripping.
The company launched in 2014 and has Euro 6 million in funding from early-stage investment house DN Capital and Acton Capital Partners, as well as other unnamed angel investors.
So here comes the rhetoric:
Despite naming previously Tripping as its nearest competitor (TLabs here), and therefore presumably tracking a lot about what the California, US-based company is doing, HomeToGo says it's the "world's largest search engine for vacation rentals", with three million offerings on its system.
Head over to Tripping and, front and centre on its homepage, is its claim of five million rentals available.
Meanwhile, on AllTheRooms, it's 6.5 million.
Someone clearly needs to define "largest" at some point.
Nevertheless, investment bucks are coming into metasearch engines for vacation rentals (Tripping has $21 million so far) and even with the big boys and girls of OTA land sizing up the opportunity, there is a sense that the market could be there for the taking for the early movers.
"Currently served by large home-share companies, the US online travel industry is fragmented in regards to vacation rentals with thousands of companies in the US alone.
"Searching and comparing vacation rentals can be time-consuming and confusing due to overlapping inventory and booking fees."
Even the recent £3.9 billion acquisition of HomeAway by Expedia Inc is not, as yet, being seen as detrimental to the metasearchers. In fact, the complete opposite.
Tripping CEO Jen O'Neal says:
"This is great news for HomeAway, Expedia, and the industry as a whole. It shows that vacation rentals are becoming increasingly mainstream and that OTAs need to have a solid stake in VR to remain competitive."
O'Neal says the meta-booking concept that has taken hold in hotel search (especially on TripAdvisor) is also starting to make its presence felt in vacation rentals.
This, O'Neal says, helps consumers have the confidence in the product if the availability and the ability to secure the reservation (and pay) is available on the site.
Tripping will facilitate around one million meta-bookings by next year, O'Neal says.
Diversification will also likely boost the sector with services such as Vacatia (Startup pitch here) and it's newly launched resort rental marketplace vying for attention. The company raised Vacatia raised $8.8 million in series A in April.
Existing suppliers also appear to like the concept of metasearch for vacation rentals at the moment, with Wyndham president and CEO Gail Mandel recently saying at the Phocuswright Conference in the US:
"An online marketplace helps us reach places we would not have reached before, so when you are bringing in new people, growing business from a distribution standpoint, then it's fine."
Still, there are those that consider the concept to still be in its relative infancy and, therefore, facing a number of challenges.
Dan Lynn, global business and technology leader for HomeAway, which lists on some metasearch sites, says there are some technical issues that still need to be resolved.
These include the mapping of products (from a geo-tagging perspective), whereby location identifiers are not standardised for vacation rentals which can lead to discrepancies and confusion for consumers.
Similar issues exist around logging the facilities contained within rental properties and pricing, in that some metasearch sites will have specific criteria that need to included in a listing, but others may not.
This, again, can lead to issues around consistency and process given that most rental properties are managed by individuals, rather than dedicated marketing departments.
Still, O'Neal says it has tools within its system to help iron out some of these issues and that they are not enormous problems that will be holding back the growth of the market to any great degree.
Interestingly and inevitably, the spectre of Airbnb looms large on the horizon.
With almost every large player (be it OTA or supplier, such as Booking.com, HomeAway, Housetrip, Wimdu, et al,) participating in metasearch, Airbnb is notable for its absence.
Currently the sharing giant only lists its properties on Hipmunk, via a feed deal which was signed in March 2011. AllTheRooms also carries Airbnb content, but this is an unofficial agreement.
So although metasearch for vacation rentals is having a solid period of growth, universally many believe it would, inevitably, be the addition of Airbnb into the marketplaces that could REALLY send the fledgling sector into the stratosphere.
NB:Vacation rentals image via Shutterstock.