HomeAway confident about UK market’s prospects despite rising costs concerns

HomeAway confident about UK market’s prospects despite rising costs concerns

Vacation Rentals specialist website HomeAway claims Brits are not being put off travelling by the slump in the value of the pound.

The site, bought by Expedia in 2015 for $3.9 billion, says a survey of 1,000 people found sterling’s value is top of mind with 54% expecting costs to rise this year.

However, Marcello Mastioni, EMEA managing director of HomeAway, said the overwhelming majority are not planning to decrease their holiday spend.

“The results are very encouraging. There’s an interesting aspect around people wanting to get away to escape Brexit with a vacation,” he said.

Despite the apparent upbeat prospects for outbound travel, HomeAway has also found the ‘staycation’ (holidaying in the UK) trend remains as buoyant as ever.

A growing market for UK holidays among Brits in 2016 looks set to continue with 20% of people surveyed saying they intend to do more ‘staycationing’ in 2017 than last year.

For families that figure was even higher, at 34%, said Mastioni.

“When you think about the UK market in general, the outlook is very positive because the weak pound will attract many international travellers to Britian,” he said.

HomeAway believes that bringing full-home rentals onto a conventional, trustworthy online booking platform means more people looking to budget on holiday are seeing it as an option.

The cost-conscious holidaymaker has, since the 2008 crash, been flocking in their droves to all-inclusive resorts as they look to control costs.

But self-catering in holiday rentals offers an alternative way to manage costs and in accommodation that also better suits the trend for extended family and friends groups to travel together.

Mastioni said: “Vacation rentals are creating opportunities for travellers to stay within their budgets and enjoy a great location in an entire house.

“There is more inventory in the market today. What we think is that, on an apples to apples basis, you get at least twice the space for half the price in an equivalent hotel.

Top trends in the UK market in 2016 according to HomeAway data:

  • Malaga was Brits most favoured holiday destination in 2016
  • Other Spanish hot spots Barcelona and Mallorca made up the top three
  • Amsterdam dropped from top spot in 2015 to sixth
  • Disney World in Orlando increased in popularity taking fourth spot
  • Spanish destinations represented two thirds of the top 20, 85% were European
  • Spain, US, Portugal, Netherlands and France were the only countries in the top 20
  • Cornwall overtook London as the top ‘staycation’ destination beating New York, Costa del Sol and Amsterdam
  • Third and fourth most popular ‘staycation’ destinations were Yorkshire and Devon
  • The second and third weeks in January is the busiest booking period for holiday homes
  • London retained its top spot for overseas tourists
  • Ayrshire and Arran claimed second spot and 45% of the top 20 for internationsl visitors were in Scotland

“Because we tend to offer destinations where the footprint of hotels is limited we are not subject to price rises in those places that are experiencing huge demand.

“When you think about the broader travel industry the UK is one of the most advanced markets for things like online purchasing but it’s still surprisingly skewed to travel agents and tour operators.

“There has been an explosion in low cost air options for the UK traveller and we see a potential shift as soon as booking an accommodation like vacation rental online becomes the norm.

“HomeAway has made huge progress in online bookability. The overwhelming majority of our inventory is online bookable.”

The site has one million properties available on ‘Instant Book’ offering immediate confirmation and most of the rest is available on a 24-hour quote and hold basis.

An enduring issue in the sector has been the risk of fraud due to the aspirational nature of holiday rentals and the fact they are challenging for trusted traditional tour operators to manage.

HomeAway has acted to counter this perception and now offers a peace of mind money back booking guarantee offering a 24/7 365-day of the year support for any customers with issues.

“This is part of our big vision to unlock vacation rentals as a mainstream holiday option,” added Mastioni.

“We are taking responsibility and providing reassurance and mutual coverage for owners and customers.”

A move away from a subscription model to a pay-per-booking transaction model is also helping to drive up quality because property owners directly benefit the more successful HomeAway is.

The firm now provides private owners and property managers advice and tips on how to improve the quality of their listings to help drive more bookings.

This, in turn, ensures descriptions are more accurate, so complaints are reduced, or owners have no choice but to invest in their properties or lose out.

Like TripAdvsor in the hotel space, HomeAway is ensuring there are no hiding places for poor quality suppliers in the holiday rentals market.

“This incentivises owners and ourselves to provide the best possible experiences,” said Mastioni. “We share the success with our owners, which we think is a great model.

“In general we think vacation rentals are a win, win solution for everybody. Travellers love them and a key growth driver is not a lot of people have tried it yet. When they do they love it.

“We think we definitely play a role in enabling tourism growth.”

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