In February 2015, HomeAway celebrates its 10th anniversary. Thanks to you, the HomeAway vacation rental marketplace has become the world’s largest, with more than one million listings. In 2014 alone, HomeAway will host more than 800 million website visits and 7 billion page views. We remain totally committed to helping each visitor book the perfect vacation home with you, our valued owners and property managers.
As we look forward to the next two years, our top priority is to enable the listings on our sites with the online booking option. By “online booking option”, we mean that a listing has 1) an accurate calendar and rates table, 2) a booking-request button, 3) a commitment by owners and property managers to respond to reservation requests within 24 hours, and 4) a high acceptance rate of requests for available dates. If the vast majority of listings achieve this, then the traveler experience on HomeAway will compare favorably with the best travel sites on the internet.
This online booking feature is free for travelers and free for subscribers. Starting mid-2015, credit card acceptance will not be a requirement for online bookings; any safe form of payment will be supported. Travelers will continue to have the option to inquire first, by email or phone, and owners and managers may continue to arrange reservations and payments directly with travelers, just as you always have.
We hope owners and property managers will join us in making the vacation rental booking experience the best on the web. If we do, more travelers than ever will find and book the perfect vacation home, and together we’ll grow the industry for years to come.
Your questions – our answers
What does this mean for how owners and managers will interact with guests?
Think of an online booking as a reservation request, with a traveler commitment to pay, that owners and property managers can confirm with a single click. Travelers who use the booking-request button enjoy the speed and convenience of a streamlined reservation process. This does not mean inquiries are going away, and it does not mean transactions via HomeAway sites are required. Travelers may still send inquiries, as they do now. You will still have the option to communicate, book, and pay outside of our system, as you do today. Online booking is simply an additional option, alongside inquiries, that enables travelers to expedite reservation requests.
Will credit card acceptance be required for online booking? Will other forms of payment be allowed?
Credit card acceptance will not be a requirement for online booking. By mid-2015, online booking will work with payments that occur outside of HomeAway websites.
That means owners and property managers can confirm a booking request online and accept payment offline or using another website – for example, by check, bank transfer, or another payment processor. HomeAway will continue to encourage and reward credit card acceptance as the fastest and safest payment method. Most travelers strongly prefer listings that accept both credit cards and offline payments, and we recommend doing both to maximize bookings.
What does online booking cost an owner, property manager or traveler?
Online booking is a free feature of subscription listings. HomeAway does not and will not impose an incremental commission for online bookings on top of a subscription. Alternatively, for non-subscription listings using the pay-per-booking option, the commission is 10%, and this includes online booking. We understand that some owners and property managers are concerned that HomeAway is moving toward a commission-only model, but that is not the case. We remain 100% committed to the commission-free subscription model. Please be aware that owners and property managers who process credit card payments will incur fees, as determined by their payments providers (e.g., Yapstone or a credit card acquiring bank).
May I communicate with travelers before confirming online booking requests?
Property managers and owners will have 24 hours to communicate with travelers and accept or decline booking requests. To ensure a great traveler experience, HomeAway will track the percentage of accepted and rejected traveler requests, and advertisers will lose the booking-request button if requests for available dates are frequently declined. Know that we won’t penalize owners or property managers for turning away travelers that are a bad match for their properties.
Why is HomeAway placing so much emphasis on online booking?
Traveler expectations have evolved, and we need to evolve with them. Today’s shopper expects to buy or book on every site; yet less than half of vacation rental listings feature online booking. Listings that lack online booking burden travelers with an average of 7+ inquiries and 9+ days of exchanges per successful reservation. This results in many problems for travelers, including inaccurate calendars and rates, slow or no response from owners and property managers, and ambiguity about the booking and payment process. When travelers experience these problems, they often abandon vacation rentals entirely. Together, we need to change this.
When surveyed, 92% of vacation rental travelers say they want the option of online booking. Over time, HomeAway, owners and property managers could lose a meaningful number of guests if we don’t adapt to meet their needs.
Why should I adopt online booking now? Don’t I have two years?
The biggest advantage to adopting online booking now is more reservations: on average, listings with online booking generate 100% more in bookings than listings without the online booking option. Another advantage is search position, because online booking is a significant component of your listing quality score. Finally,
subscriptions with online booking will be eligible for distribution on third-party sites like Expedia as this functionality becomes available.