The vacation rental market is again attracting attention with this week trivago announcing the integration of Expedia’s HomeAway vacation rental inventory into its hotel search platform.
Johannes Thomas, managing director and chief revenue officer at trivago says of the decision to offer vacation rentals on the platform:
“The proportion of travelers who are considering vacation rentals is growing, and we see this as a strategic opportunity to expand our offering.”
The company recognizes challenges in offering both hotel and residential properties, and has plans to apply technology to personalize the search and ensure that customers are not overwhelmed by offers. As Thomas explains:
“Presenting both hotels and alternative accommodations in one search is challenging from a user experience perspective.
“We don’t want to confuse hotel bookers who use trivago, and that is why personalization will play an important role here. We want to only display vacation rentals when they are relevant to our users.
"That is why we are thrilled to have HomeAway on board, as this allows us to expand testing on how we can build a more tailored user experience.”
The news came as Priceline Group chief Glen Fogel said the company would be looking to extend its footprint in vacation rental.
Expedia has been working to refine the ecommerce flow for HomeAway’s 1.5 million listings, of which 500,000 are instantly bookable.
Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom said during the company’s Q3 call this October:
“The number one priority [for HomeAway] is to get what [it’s] got online and monetize it better.”
John Kim, CEO at HomeAway, says of the new integration with trivago:
“We believe it is a huge marketing opportunity for HomeAway. trivago’s personalized approach in displaying vacation rentals helps us target a highly relevant set of travelers, and that is why we are bullish on the conversion on our site.”
While fine-tuning marketing and ecommerce processes may boost bookings, the vacation rentals market comes with hidden administrative and CRM costs not found in the hotel side of the business, as the Priceline Group acknowledged in its reporting this month.
Priceline is investing in artificial intelligence and machine learning to help automate processes like onboarding and reduce the costs of dealing with less sophisticated property owners and more frequent customer contact.
Trivago's plans to deploy this new product line in stages may help the company adjust to the more labor-intensive and sensitive product line.
The company is running tests with over 150,000 properties available to users in five of its key markets — Germany, Italy, Canada, the UK, and the US — to be followed by a gradual roll out of readily bookable properties throughout 2018.
The site will display home rentals as part of universal search, with both hotels and residences appearing if a customer selects both options, and where properties are available. The company is also adding a “Vacation Rental” filter for those who prefer to only see those results.
In its announcement, the company states:
“For trivago, this is another major step forward in adapting to more diverse traveler expectations and in understanding better how to display vacation rental inventory on its platform. This will open a new marketing channel for vacation rental platforms and increase diversity in trivago’s marketplace."