31 Oct 2018

Q&A: HomeToGo on metasearch in the vacation rental industry

The private accommodation sector has been in the spotlight for the past few years. It has attracted the attention of the online giants but also witnessed the entrance of bold new players such as Airbnb.

And, of course, metasearch has tried to become a part in the process – with some big investment rounds going into startups and, unfortunately, some fairly high-profile casualties along the way.

Phocuswire spoke to Dr. Patrick Andrae, chief executive of HomeToGo about current trends and the need for metasearch in the vacation rental industry.

Why do you think vacation rental needs a metasearch platform?

The vacation rental market is extremely fragmented – much more so than the hotel or flights market. There are hundreds of websites offering vacation rentals – it can take users hours of searching to discover the perfect accommodation for their needs.

From our own experience with this dilemma, and hearing our friends complain about the pain of trying to find a vacation rental, the need for a solution was clear. Thus, HomeToGo was born.

With HomeToGo, you can search for exactly what you need, at the best price, and still book with your preferred website -fast.

Google has made forays into hotels, flights, tours, and activities – do you see it going after vacation rental as well?

Google is a search engine, so it makes sense for them to aggregate travel inventory like flights and hotels. However, flights and hotels are easier to aggregate.

From a coverage standpoint 90% of the inventory is the same for all hotel metasearch engines. None of the big vacation rental providers have more than 20% of the market. This puts HomeToGo at an advantage as aggregation goes well beyond simply price comparison.

How will the OTA giants decision to divert marketing spend away from metasearch affect their development going forward?

Many metasearch platforms with a lower quality product will be negatively impacted by this. If an OTA is not getting value back from the metasearch, it is inevitable they will stop spending with them.

Our 300 partners work with us for a variety of reasons – one of which is that we are able to provide a new stream of highly qualified “ready-to-book” traffic to their sites and listings.

For smaller vacation rental websites, we help them gain visibility (we send over 20 million users per month to our partners). In general, this might harm platforms that rely on a low number of partners.

Can you share what you customer acquisition strategy is as you go up against much larger companies with deep pockets?

We aggregate and compare more websites, and therefore more vacation rentals, than anyone else. This provides the user with a faster, easier, and more cost efficient way to find the best accommodation for their specific needs.

We are also the technology leader in metasearch for vacation rentals. HomeToGo is based on a complex search technology that integrates, combines, and deduplicates the data of hundreds of partner websites to make the world’s vacation rentals easily accessible and comparable for everyone.

With this technology we give users the largest choice with one quick search, while machine learning based sorting technology guarantees the results are ranked by relevance for the needs of the individual user that searches.

In such a competitive vertical, that is very cost intensive when it comes to marketing, we spend wisely and with purpose. Our growth in the US market demonstrates that we are making the right decisions with our share of TV ads, retargeting, and other marketing efforts.

Additionally, our advanced technology provides the user with a lot of benefits while performing their search. We see this reflected in the large amount of return and direct traffic that continues to increase each month.

How do you see metasearch platforms evolving in vacation rental and more widely especially in light of the challenges faced by Tripping?

Inevitably, less robust products will drop off. The winner will have the best tech, user experience, and partnerships. In the end, it will be a “Winner takes all” situation and we are on a very promising path.

For HomeToGo, the future involves expanding our offering and localized product while enhancing our search functionality even further to continue to provide the best results no matter the search.

In general, metasearch will have to continue to evolve to accommodate users seamlessly across devices, including voice search technology.

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As OTA giants such as booking and expedia race to add vacation rental inventory to their offering – with the belief that consumers want to compare traditional accommodation and rentals – how does vacation rental metasearch make it’s mark?

The vacation rental market is extremely fragmented. There are literally hundreds of websites offering vacation rentals. For a user, finding what they are looking for quickly, efficiently, and at the best price, is key.

While there are many big players out there, a provider is limited to only their inventory. By offering an aggregation of many providers at the same time, vacation rental metasearch makes life easier for users.

As people get more and more used to the idea of a vacation rental as a beneficial accommodation, they are more likely to experiment with new ways of finding the best vacation rental for their desired destination, budget, and needs -metasearch makes it easy to do just that.

HomeToGo recently acquired Casamundo. Can you share anything further about how this fits in with the overall strategy?

HomeToGo and Casamundo’s experiences and insights complement each other and create a promising opportunity for future growth and development.

Casamundo has a great team and brand in the UK and European vacation rental industry. We’re looking forward to continuing to build, as a group, the best vacation rental search experience on the market.

Most likely, Casamundo will open its platform to other aggregators as well.

Does not having Airbnb participate in the model hamper it in anyway? Why do you think Airbnb has chosen this strategy and do you think there’s any chance it will change it’s mind in the future?

We can’t speak to Airbnb’s current or future strategy, but by looking at some of our domains you will find that Airbnb is already a partially integrated partner. For instance, via pop-under users can easily reach and compare prices on Airbnb.

What’s your view on the metabook model?

Making the process even easier for the user is key.

How important do you believe brand is in metasearch?

Of course, brand is important, but building a brand without a foundation of a robust product and high quality tech will only carry you so far.

Once a company has a solid foundation, building a brand helps build user trust and recognition, which is always important in a competitive market.