6 years ago

HomeAway and the real life Home and Away soap opera

We heard this week vacation rental market leader HomeAway was charging into the Australian market through the acquisition of Realholidays.

This is just the latest move in the Australian vacation rental market where machinations resemble a soap opera in more ways than one.

For 26 years, home bodies, bored teens and people in emergency waiting rooms in Australia (and many other countries) have sat through the soap opera Home and Away.

home and away

Careers of Heath Ledger, Julian McMahon, Isla Fisher, Melissa George, Ryan Kwanten and many more started (or took off) on the shores of Summer Bay.

A top theme of the show is the changing dynamics of who is the top kid/head surfer in town.

But who knew that life could imitate soap as much as it has in the Australian online vacation rental and short let market.

In September 2009, Yahoo7 (JV version of Yahoo in Australia) bought TotalTravel (a mini TripAdvisor/vacation property listing service), simultaneously pushing their way into the vacation rental and classifieds listing markets.

TotalTravel’s home town of Byron Bay is as close to the fictional surrounds of Home and Away’s Summer Bay as could be imaged by any studio executive.

In 2010 the number two and three players in this market, Rentahome and Takeabreak, merged to become Occupancy.com, beat down the former top “surfer” Stayz to take the number one spot.

Meanwhile the number three player, Realholidays, was an afterthought business for online real estate company Realestate.com.au (REA).

Languishing at the Summer Bay school dance like a wall flower in faded board shorts, REA admitted that Realholiays was less than 1% of its overall revenue, and therefore a very small part of the market.

Just last month, Stayz then bought Occupancy to position itself as the dominant player in off and online vacation rentals in Australia, leaving TotalTravel and Realholidays back at the surf club trying to clean the sand out of their ears.

Until yesterday…

Yesterday the beaten and forgotten Realholidays was bought by the all conquering and cashed-up HomeAway.

Stayz/Occupancy is still number one but the beat-down kid from the rival surf club now has new vigour, money and drive.

I can only imagine the reaction over at Fairfax (ultimate parent owner of the combined Stayz and Occupancy).

Executives furiously charging into each other’s offices annoyed that their ascendency to the top of the vacation rental surf championship table may have only lasted 27 days.

We know that online vacation rental is one of the hottest and least consolidated parts of online travel.

We also know that technological changes and further acquisitions in this market are inevitable.

Furthermore, we also know that Yahoo7, and maybe even TripAdvisor/Expedia through Flipkey, will respond.

What we don’t know is who will win…

For that we will have to tune into next week’s thrilling episode. Welcome HomeAway to the land of Home and Away.

NB: I estimate the online vacation rental market in Australia to be around $455 million in 2010 (includes calculation), compared to an online accommodation size of around $2billion. For a full timeline of the life and loves of the Stayz acquisition of Occupancy check out this post.

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Tim Hughes

About the Writer :: Tim Hughes

Tim Hughes is an online travel industry executive who has been blogging since June 2006 at the Business of Online Travel (the BOOT).

The BOOT covers analysis of online travel industry trends, consumer and company behaviour and broader online/web activity of interest to online travel companies (with a bias towards Tim’s home markets of Asia and Australasia and with the odd post on consuming and loving travel thrown in).

In late-2010 the BOOT clocked its 1,000th post, 200,000th visitor and 300,000th page view.In his work life he is the CEO of Getaway Lounge - a premium travel deal site based in Australia.

Tim has worked for both Orbtitz and Expedia. Prior to the travel industry Tim was a commercial lawyer and venture capitalist. Tim’s views are his alone and not necessarily the views of Getaway Lounge or any of its investors.



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  1. Melinda

    Thanks for summing up the Australian vacation rental market for us. Here in US, it sounds like a version of “As The World Turns.” Wish HA would consolidated all their sites.

    • Tim

      Imagine “as the world turns” but on a beach, average actor’s age is 21, shirts come off a lot, over the top use of australian accents (think “you bewt” “g’day mate” and “flamin’ kids”) and a surf board in every third shot


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