More HomeAway clients are booking stays in urban destinations, such as Montreal. // © 2015 HomeAway
Feature image (above): Many HomeAway rentals, such as this one in Telluride, offer clients value-added bonuses, such as more space and amenities such as washing machines, kitchens, hot tubs and more. // © 2015 HomeAway
Expedia recently announced plans to acquire HomeAway, the alternative accommodations online marketplace that features more than 1 million listings in 190 countries. HomeAway differs from Airbnb in its focus on second homes and vacation rentals.
Some travel agents might regard the news as further proof that the rental industry is primarily interested in collecting direct bookings. Add this to other complaints lodged against the rental category — such as its lack of a built-in commission model and concerns regarding client safety — and it’s easy to see why a travel agent might prefer booking a good old-fashioned hotel.
But Bill Furlong, vice president of North America for HomeAway, thinks that travel agents who don’t consider the company’s rentals — which include VRBO listings — are missing out. Furlong explains how travel agents can benefit from booking HomeAway.
What should agents understand about HomeAway’s product offerings?
HomeAway lists more houses to rent than the world's largest hotel operator has rooms. In fact, through the properties on its sites, HomeAway lists more bedrooms — approximately 3 million — than the three largest hotel companies in the world have combined.
What is the average price of a HomeAway?
The average price for a two-bedroom, two-bath home on HomeAway.com is around $1,500 per week.
With more than one million homes worldwide, HomeAway offers places to stay at a wide range of prices from budget rentals that cost less than $100 per night to large, high-end luxury homes that rent for more than $1,000 per night.
Are millennials your main clients?
No, the average age for travelers booking through HomeAway is 44 years old.
Also, 24 percent are between 25-34 years old; 23 percent are between 35-44 years old; and 24 percent are between 45-55 years old.
Does your client base mostly consist of budget travelers?
Whether a traveler is on a tight budget or they are looking for luxury accommodations, vacation rentals offer a tremendous value compared to hotels. Vacation rentals offer, on average, twice the space at half the cost of a hotel room and are equipped with cost-saving amenities such as a kitchen for cooking and extra bedrooms for splitting costs between family members and friends.
More than 65 million travelers visit HomeAway’s sites each month — no matter their budget.
Why should a travel agent consider booking HomeAway for their clients instead of a traditional hotel?
Travel agents are always excited to offer their clients travel options that offer unique, memorable experiences at a tremendous value. That’s exactly what vacation rentals provide.
By renting a vacation rental through HomeAway, a travel agent can find a property for a client that has a spectacular private pool or an amazing media room, while the kitchen or multiple bedrooms are a perfect fit for the client’s needs.
A majority of HomeAway’s inventory consists of secondary properties instead of primary homes. These vacation homes are conditioned to welcome guests; you won’t find someone else’s belongings in the drawers or groceries in the fridge.
Vacation rentals are also the ideal travel option when traveling with a group or family. HomeAway rentals provide twice the space at half the cost of a hotel room.
How can an agent make money by booking HomeAway/VRBO?
Currently, there are more than 100 travel agents who have joined the HomeAway affiliate program, and each have the opportunity to earn a commission every time they book a client to stay in a property listed via the HomeAway pay-per-booking model.
How can agents feel satisfied in the safety of a HomeAway property since it lacks the infrastructure of a hotel?
Just like any inquiring traveler, agents should read reviews and call the owner to get a better idea of what the property is really like. The more reviews and photos a vacation home has, the better. HomeAway listings provide thorough descriptions of the property to make sure it is a safe, appropriate choice for a travel agent’s clients.
Furthermore, reviews from past guests give additional confidence that the choice is a good one. This is advisable even if you would like to book online.
For tangible safety precautions, travel agents should make themselves familiar with HomeAway’s protection policies.
Is there someone at HomeAway/VRBO who will talk on the phone with agents trying to better match their clients to the right property?
When booking a vacation rental, owners or property managers are the best resource when questions or concerns arise. If you would like to know whether a particular listing is the right fit for your client, owners can tell you what to expect. They will also answer any concerns about booking, payments and checking in or out of the rental.
If you would like a third-party opinion, pick a listing that has reviews. HomeAway only allows past travelers to review the property they've rented. The reviews will assist travelers in the decision-making process.
When trying to narrow down a location or a property, HomeAway.com has more than 55 search filters to help narrow down which type of property is suitable for your group’s needs.
If travelers still have questions, we encourage them to contact our customer support team that is available 24/7.
Are there any destinations in particular where a HomeAway rental is much better than the existing hotel options?
Historically, homes are rented as beach or mountain getaways, but we’re increasingly seeing stays in urban destinations. Families and groups are discovering that vacation rentals are a budget-friendly option when traveling together.
When comparing average vacation rental prices to the average rates of a three or even five-star hotel, vacation rentals are usually half the price. When accounting for a group of four or more, savings are sky high. Splitting costs of a house can save hundreds of dollars.
Destinations where the average HomeAway price for a vacation rental is lower than a three to five-star hotel per night include the following.
Hotel: $267 per night, according to Hotels.com
HomeAway Rental: $104 per night
Hotel: $318 per night, according to Hotels.com
HomeAway Rental: $230 per night
Hotel: $315 per night, according to Hotels.com
HomeAway Rental: $189 per night
Hotel: $337 per night, according to Hotels.com
HomeAway Rental: $213 per night
Hotel: $280 per night, according to Hotels.com
HomeAway Rental: $180 per night
Are there any destinations in particular where a HomeAway rental offers a much richer cultural experience than hotel options?
HomeAway vacation rentals enable travelers to fully experience a destination. Staying in a whole house in a town where hotels may not be available allows travelers to experience the everyday life of locals. Rent a villa in the Italian countryside or experience the culture of a town hidden by the Costa Rican jungle.
What are some good questions an agent should ask their client in order to match them with the best rental property?
When booking a vacation rental for a client, travel agents should ask what they are looking for in a home. How many bedrooms? Bathrooms? Desired location? But, most importantly, they should take note of what kind of amenities the traveler might expect.
Vacation rentals give travelers the option to enjoy choice amenities during their stay, such as gourmet kitchens, home theaters, amazing pools, access to resort amenities, ski-in/ski-out access and basic necessities such as washers, kitchen supplies and a baby crib. Knowing the wants and needs of the traveler beforehand will help when talking to the owner or property manager.
Anything else you think travel agents should know?
Vacation rentals are the perfect match for travel agents who specialize in helping their clients discover travel options that they might not know themselves. The good news for travel agents is that millions of travelers each year have spectacular trips where the vacation home they stayed in was what helped make the trip special.
At the same time, 65 percent of travelers don’t even consider a vacation rental when planning their next trip. With the help of travel agents, we hope to introduce people to vacation rentals so they can enjoy memorable vacations with friends and family.