Expedia Group, Booking on coming together with “one voice” to support short-term rentals

As the short-term rental industry has continued to grow and
mature, it has also increasingly come under fire from government
regulators in cities around the world, such as New York
, San Francisco,
Barcelona, Florence and Amsterdam.

Despite restrictions in these large urban areas, overall the
sector is continuing to gain market share. A report
last month from AirDNA and STR
found that in the United States, short-term
rentals have nearly doubled their share from 8% in 2018 to 15% through May of
this year.

And executives from two of the leading online travel agencies operating in this space,
Booking.com and Expedia Group, agreed that now is the time for their
companies and other stakeholders to come together to address the concerns being
surfaced by regulators and to collaborate to help the industry grow.

Speaking at the Vacation Rental Management Association’s
International Conference in Orlando in October, Tim Rosolio, vice
president of vacation rental partner success at Expedia Group, said, “There was
a time when a lot of this industry basically had its head in the sand about
regulation. … We’re in a state now where we certainly don’t have our head in the
sand … and we are starting to slowly come together with that one voice, to make
sure we put the right money in the right places and have the right partnerships
in the ecosystem. I think the OTAs can be part of that. We have huge lobbying

Moderator Matt Landau, founder of the Vacation Rental
Marketing Blog, pressed Booking.com managing director Ben Harrell about why
Booking Holdings has not been more engaged with advocacy for the rental sector.

“I don’t think we’ve been as aggressive as some others – it’s
certainly something we are open to talking about,” Harrell said.

“I would just echo the need for this unified voice. Booking
is happy to be helping and pushing and encouraging in this space so lots of opportunity
for us to work together to advocate for open opportunities for everybody. …
Certainly we want to make sure that vacation rental can not only survive but

But Rosolio cautioned that advocacy efforts must come from a
balanced perspective, with a willingness to give as well as take.

“I think we need to be prepared to … say we’ll put things in
place to share data. I’m fine with making people get registration numbers. I’m
fine with having certain things in place surrounding nuisances, parties and
trash, if that enables us to preserve the part of the industry that really adds
value,” he said.

“I can be prepared to maybe even get in on some degree of
zoning as long as we can preserve the industry that we have and enable some
runway for growth. Because I think an all-or-nothing approach, especially in
some states, I don’t know if that’s going to work.”

The session took place the same afternoon that Google
announced a new price comparison tool for rental properties
 that now shows rates
from multiple booking sites. Asked about the news and Google’s continued push
into travel search and booking, Harrell said it is not a threat but an

“This is not something to be resisted. It’s something to understand
and know where the traffic is going, where the eyeballs are going. … This is an
opportunity for all of us in this space to get in front of even more people,”
he said.

“Let’s start letting them see more vacation rentals as they are
searching for hotels. … It’s something Google can assist with. They can get us
in front of more people. Google is not a website, it’s a home page, and people
do start there. Love that or not. It is what it is, so we can make the most of
that opportunity.”

As the supply of rental properties has increased in recent years,
Rosolio said his team is working with partners to help them understand changes
they can make to drive more bookings.

“Maybe that is a more relaxed cancellation policy. Maybe
that is trying to understand that I know I used to only take week-long bookings, but now I need to accept long weekends, three-night minimum stay,” he said.

“So we’re trying to be on the cutting edge of enabling
people to drive those bookings. Especially if you have inventory that is good
but not top of the line ‘I can do whatever I want and it will book.’”

And Harrell urged attendees to not view hotels as the enemy
of vacation rentals but rather as two options that can coexist to meet the
needs of travelers in different situations.

“If you have a great vacation rental property and there’s
someone next door also with a great property, that’s fine – there’s enough
demand for both of you to be filled. We should view hotels the same way,”
Harrell said.

“Obviously, there is a desire to look at these as mutually exclusive,
but I actually think they work pretty well together. They are different
products for different people at different times.”

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