If the vacation rental industry has been known as a technology backwater, HomeAway is busy advising vacation rental owners on how to get more savvy about social media.
And, the vacation-rental leader, playing both sides of the fence, also is trying to get more advanced software into the hands of companies which professionally manage vacation rental properties.
For example, in its most recent Community Newsletter, HomeAway advises owners that Pinterest may be an ideal way to market their properties, especially to women, who are said to make up about 60% of the users of the visual social network. HomeAway states:
When using Pinterest to market your property, think in visual terms: the view from your back porch, your five-star chef’s kitchen, your inviting bedroom and luxurious bathroom, the swimming pool-hot tub combo your guests love.
And, HomeAway suggests owners can pin photos of scuba-diving activities if the property is in Cozumel or bird-watching images if the vacation home is located close to tweets (the kind issued by feathered creatures).
And, last summer HomeAway added an owner-dashboard feature, which enables owners them to publish slideshows of their vacation homes to Facebook.
But, HomeAway will increasingly face a challenge of how to talk to two different supplier audiences — professional managers and small-time owners.
Professionally managed properties accounted for about 27% of HomeAway’s paid listings in the first quarter of 2012, and HomeAway’s goal is to bump up that percentage to around 40%.
In the same newsletter that HomeAway informed owners on how they might use Pinterest, HomeAway provided a link to an article for professional management companies about its new Overview software, with its online booking engine, administrative functions, revenue management and website solutions.
As the ranks of the professional management companies grow, there is bound to be more tension between the professional management companies and the “little guys and gals” — namely vacation rental owners who may have a mortgage on just a single property.
HomeAway is going to have to walk a very fine line, and will also face headwinds from professional management companies which may resent the vacation rental by owner marketplace that HomeAway has fostered.
“The property management segment needs to recognize this is where a lot of the demand is,” says Douglas Quinby, PhoCusWright’s senior director, research, referring to HomeAway. ¬†”It’s where consumers are shopping. The forward-looking property managers are looking at HomeAway as a marketing partner, and not just as a competitor.”
And, HomeAway is doing all it can to blunt the “us versus them” mentality which still impacts the vacation rental sector.
“HomeAway is making a concerted effort to get the industry past the legacy perception that ‘its property management companies vs. rental-by-owner,’” Quinby says. “They would not acquire two leading vacation rental PMS [property management system] vendors in order to kill the category.”