The vacation rental industry has truly gone international — “international criminals” are directing phishing scams at owners and renters, says HomeAway CEO Brian Sharples.
During the company’s first quarter 2012 earnings call yesterday, Sharples estimated that phishing scams related to identity theft will impact about $1 million worth of HomeAway’s transactions in 2012. That comes to less than .1% of transactions, he says.
Vacation rental owners are particularly vulnerable to phishing scams because they generally use personal email accounts such as those from Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail and Windows Live, Sharples says, adding that HomeAway has increased its owner education efforts to combat the threat.
In addition, although HomeAway’s Carefree Rental GuaranteeÂ Â does not mention “phishing,” its Internet fraud section has been revised to provide protections in instances where payments have been made to someone other than the owner when the owner’s email account has been compromised.
Sharples also says that HomeAway is in the process of changing the way customers and owners interact on the site to counteract phishing attempts, although the development project won’t be complete until later this year.
HomeAway is concerned about the social impact of phishing, too. Sharples noted that customers “have potential to get pretty upset” when they fall prey to these scams and spread the word to their friends.
Noting that the behind the scenes efforts to better fight the phishing scams may not be in place until later in 2012, Sharples said he hopes in the long-term that the impact gets “a lot more muted.”
In other developments, Sharples indicated that TripAdvisor, which he characterized as HomeAway’s biggest direct competitor, is utilizing aggressive pricing policies in the UK, which hurt a bit there, but can’t be implemented globally.
Sharples revealed that HomeAway added about 60,000 vacation rental listings in the first quarter, bring its total to 699,088 listings through the end of March, while TripAdvisor added just 9,600.
Sharples continues to argue that peer to peer short-term rental siteÂ AirbnbÂ is a “pretty different business” than HomeAway’s and “there is hardly any overlap” in traffic because the two companies’ customer bases are “very different.”
HomeAway took a new look at this question over the past few months.
Still, Sharples says HomeAway added 60,000 paid listings in the first quarter while Airbnb added 33,000.
“We have momentum,” Sharples said.
Addressing the mix of paid vacation rental listings from professional managers and owners on HomeAway, officials stated that professionally managed properties on HomeAway sites now make up about 27% of paid listings, up from about 22% or 23% in the first quarter of 2011.
Sharples said HomeAway would like to increase its percentage of professionally managed properties to about 40%, which he says is their representation in the market.
However, Sharples conceded that that professionally managed properties bring less SEO (search engine optimization) benefit than vacation rental owner listings because professional vacation rental managers generally advertise in multiple places.
For the first quarter, HomeAway’s net income attributable to common stockholders was $2.4 million compared with a net loss of $7.5 million in the first quarter of 2011.
And, revenue in the first quarter of 2012 increased 23.4% year over year to $64.1 million, driven by renewal rate strength, increases in paid listings and other revenue, the company says.
Average revenue per listing declined 1.8% to $322.
Note: Image courtesy of Shutterstock.