HomeAway removes last remnant of independent guest-owner interaction

HomeAway has split opinion over its decision to alter the way in which potential guests can interact with a property’s owner.

At the turn of 2017, HomeAway shifted the ability for a traveller to find out more about a rental listing by pushing contact details for the owner to the enquiry and booking confirmation pages of a listing.

The former method was signalled front and centre on a listing, allowing the guest to engage with the owner to find out about more about a property – a process that worked the other way after initial contact, in that an owner could learn about who was going to being using a property for a trip.

In some respects, this change could be seen as a reorganisation of the site.

HomeAway sees it like that and also in terms of it benefiting owners and travellers in a “hugely positive” way.

An official says:

“The phone numbers are still available for travelers after a property is enquired or requested to book, the owner still has the opportunity to interact with the potential guest before the booking is accepted.”

But the move has not been accepted with the same amount of enthusiasm.

At the heart of the annoyance over the move is the theory that Expedia Inc-owned HomeAway is trying to keep the booking and interaction between guest and owner within the platform, essentially ensuring that people do not make a booking directly with the property owner.

Such a direct booking, of course, would see HomeAway lose its commission on the sale.

HomeAway has made no secret of its intention to push all bookings of all its vacation rental properties online.

This feeds further into the wider concerns that property owners have about their ability to manage listings in the face of other, more experienced and savvy owners.

Mickey Kropf, chief operating officer at Rented, says an owner can adjust and adopt online/instant booking, “but that will still do little to bolster search results against robust professional managers who optimize their listings, drive higher online conversion rates”, and, he believes, are “rewarded” by the sites such as HomeAway for doing so.

He adds:

“An owner can distribute across other platforms, but some, such as Airbnb, already essentially require online or instant booking and limit offline communications until after a reservation is made.

“Smaller retail distribution sites have tiny fractions of the budgets but may enable an owner to maintain control of the booking process and do so offline.”

HomeAway argues that the changes ensure a guest have a “safe and secure experience”, with automatic consumer protection thrown in.

But the official admits:

“It is also important for owners and property managers as it is a main factor to determine where a property appears within search results.”

Expedia Inc’s $3.9 billion deal to buy HomeAway in November 2015 has not been an easy ride, with a large backlash over guest fees just one of a number of issues that owners have raised.

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