Phocuswright 2015: Vacatia launches promising to bring non-hotel resort accommodation to market

Phocuswright 2015: Vacatia launches promising to bring non-hotel resort accommodation to market

A US start-up has launched aimed at the family and group travel sector, making thousands of privately owned and timeshare properties available for rental for the first time.

Vacatia officially launched what it claims to be the first instant book resort rental marketplace during last week’s Phocuswright conference in Florida, targeting a market it says is worth $10 billion in the US alone.

The San Francisco-based firm, which secured $8.8 million in series A funding in April, is forging partnerships with select resorts in destinations globally to feature their properties.

Test destinations already live include Myrtle Beach, in South Carolina, Maui and Orlando, with many more due to be added in the USA and Europe, including Marbella, Spain.

The properties featured have been only available historically through some form of ownership, whether full purchase, timeshare or fractional.

Vacatia says there are 1,500 such resorts in the US alone and more than 5,000 globally. Currently there are nine million timeshare customers in the US.

Caroline Shin, co-founder and chief executive, said the site was opening up an entire product range that to date is not available to rent or difficult to find online among classified listings sites and OTA search results.

She said the concept was aimed at “chief vacation officers”, often mums, who plan the family holiday but want many of the amenities and private space they have at home.

“There has really not ever been a focused place for these listings to be shown and merchandised. Vacation rentals are surging like crazy, more and more leisure travellers and especially families are wanting ‘non-hotel’ accommodation. No one goes to a OTA to look for a two bedroom villa.”

The majority of Vacatia inventory is expected to come from a long tail of independently run resorts which Shin said typically occupy the most sought after spots in holiday destinations.

Around a quarter will be timeshare properties and just under a fifth of larger accommodation units within resorts operated by well-known hospitality brands.

Vacatia says this type of accommodation has the benefits of an Airbnb-style house rental within an environment that offering professional hospitality services like check-in, on-site restaurants and room service.

Shin said a key component of Vacatia’s strategy will be to enable these properties to be well merchandised in what is currently a highly fragmented market. “We exist to make family vacations better and help family resorts thrive,” she said.

“We are driven by the belief that resorts are the perfect accommodations for vacationing family and friends, and our team is working hard to create the easiest, most trusted way for families to discover and book the best resort residence rentals.”

In beta testing over a number of months before launch guests booked more than 2,500 room nights at resort residences, while providing feedback to improve the marketplace.

Of those who booked 79% were holidaying with family or friends (61% family, 18% friends) and 23% said they were bringing children.

Erik Blachford, an early investor in Vacatia and former chief executive of Expedia, said: “Vacation rentals of private homes have dramatically increased as more consumers are voting for space and utility, over hotel services.

“The new Vacatia rentals marketplace, by focusing solely on resort residences, offers the best of both worlds for vacationing families who can now easily find accommodations that combine home-like amenities, hotel-like professional services, fun and relaxing resort amenities and locations.”

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