TripAdvisor is making a serious and its first move into the European holiday rental business this week after confirming the acquisition of UK business HolidayLettings.
The deal for what was the UK's last remaining large independent holiday rentals business puts TripAdvisor on the road to becoming an intriguing rival to the dominant player in the sector, HomeAway.
Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed today.
The purchase of HolidayLettings is the first major acquisition for TripAdvisor in Europe for a number of years. It snapped up review site HolidayWatchdog in February 2008.
But the timing of the deal will not come as a surprise to HomeAway after seeing TripAdvisor buy US-based rental business FlipKey in 2008 and officially launching its vacation rental channel on the main site in 2009.
HolidayLettings was created in 1999 in Oxford, UK. It has since grown to include around 40,000 holiday homes listed in 166 countries around world, attracting 25 million visitors a year to the website.
The business will continue to be run as an independent site, TripAdvisor says.
But the marketplace in the UK has changed in recent years with HomeAway snapping up HolidayRentals and OwnersDirect to spearhead its so far success and reasonably unchallenged push into Europe.
The other major rental brand in the UK is Villarenters, owned by Teletext Holidays.
A report from PhoCusWright in 2008 estimated the US vacation rental market to be worth around $25 billion a year. Unofficial estimates at the same time put Europe even higher.
Although HolidayLettings claims to be completely independent, two-thirds of the business was owned (until today) by RightMove, one of the UK's largest property sales companies.