Here’s how serious global vacation rental giant HomeAway is about understanding their market: last year, they cooperated with researchers at the University of Texas in Austin to find out exactly what contributes to long-lasting memories of a vacation.
One of the study findings was comforting for companies like HomeAway that specialize in groups and families: vacations that include a mix of family and friends or multiple families are more memorable, because in deference to the larger group the vacationers’ habits and routines give way to activities they might not otherwise consider. These novel activities tend to stand out when one looks back at vacations of years past.
There were some surprises. Most of us would guess that beach vacations are more memorable than trips to the mountains. But it’s actually the mountain vacations that stand out more in memory – perhaps because group activities such as hiking and communing in a cabin replace lying on a beach: you have to be more creative in the mountains. Apparently cabin fever has its benefits.
And another surprise, this one a relief to many of us: using technology during vacations doesn’t seem to compromise them, as long as it’s used the right way. For example, all those photos people snap on their phones and post, which many fear distract from the experience itself, do help people remember the good times and don’t seem to diminish the memories. But as you’d expect, spending a lot of time on a laptop while on vacation will impact your enjoyment, and the way you remember it.
A focus on professionalism
Serving destinations globally, HomeAway boasts over two million unique places to stay, making them the 300-pound gorilla in their market. With this leadership position comes the need to stay ahead of trends in vacation rentals, and to be proactive rather than reactive.
By far the most significant development in the business, of course, has been online booking. We spoke with HomeAway’s vice president and managing director for its EMEA Markets about what he sees as the trends in online booking and its most advanced form, the ability to book and confirm instantly.
“The overall trend is towards what I would call professionalism,” says Marcello Mastioni, speaking from a train on his way across Germany. “People want the sort of smooth, clean transactions when booking vacations that they experience when they book an airline ticket or buy a product. They don’t want a confusing, clunky process, they want reliability, and more and more they want the transaction completed on the spot rather than waiting for a confirmation of availability.”
Mastioni expects the trend towards instant booking to continue as consumers increasingly demand it and property owners and managers who don’t have it in place pay a price in reduced bookings.
But the professionalism of which Mastioni speaks extends beyond booking. “Vacation rentals offer more value, space, character, privacy and amenities than hotel rooms, and that’s what is driving the market in addition to growing comfort with the concept,” he says. “In addition to these advantages, though, what we’re seeing is that the renters are becoming more particular about things being in order, clean, equipped and ‘as described.’ In other words, they want the advantages vacation rentals offer, but they also increasingly want the rental experience from booking through checkout to be imbued with the professionalism that hotels and other industries offer.” Mom and Pop management by owners is increasingly giving way to professional management, though the breakdown is still about 50/50.
The demographics of people booking vacations online tend to skew younger, and younger people are not only highly comfortable with technology, but more demanding about it. They want to handle transactions completely online, without cumbersome human interaction. In the case of vacation rentals, they prefer shorter booking windows, allowing them to be a bit more spontaneous instead of being forced to book well ahead of holidays. And they expect things to work: HomeAway offers a “Book with Confidence Guarantee,” backing their rentals with 24/7 customer service to address any problems or disappointments.
Mastioni calls the consolidation of fragmented, privately-owned properties around the world into global rental pools “an incredible achievement.” The thought of two million listings accessible from a single website would have been inconceivable just a few years ago, he says. Today, by visiting a website such as HomeAway, you can type in a destination and pull up listings from a wealth of sources rather than a single property management company. “It’s been made possible by mutually beneficial partnerships throughout the industry,” he says. “For example, our relationships with software providers such as Kigo are triple wins. Kigo’s clients can choose to have their listings seen on HomeAway’s worldwide network as well as those of all the other distribution channels Kigo has partnered with, giving them global exposure, and we increase our listings with each of these partnerships. So we win, Kigo wins, and vacationers win.”
Kigo continues to pursue partnerships beneficial to our clients, both in the U.S. and globally. It’s not just about technology: it’s about helping clients be successful in general, by putting together the pieces that make it happen.
HomeAway, based in Austin, Texas, is the world leader in holiday rentals with sites representing more than two million unique placed to stay in 190 countries, and is a part of the Expedia, Inc. family of brands. Learn more about HomeAway, please visit HomeAway.com.