SINGAPORE (Sept 5): HomeAway has been in the holiday homestay business since 2005, but ask someone which online platform he might use to book accommodation that is not in a hotel, and chances are he will say Airbnb.

Airbnb began business only in 2008, but due to slick marketing and its public championing of the sharing economy, HomeAway has often found itself in the shadows of its younger rival.

But Expedia, the world’s second largest online travel agency (OTA) by revenue, plans to upend the status quo after it spent US$3.9 billion (S$5.3 billion) to take over HomeAway in late 2015. The holiday homestay company was acquired to complement and enhance a diverse portfolio with a dozen or so brands already under its wings.

HomeAway’s chief strategy officer, Jeff Hurst, who visited Singapore last month, confirms that the company is working closely with Expedia to leverage the joint capabilities of both parties to maximise the business potential.

“When you look at the vacation rental business, the opportunity is overwhelmingly one of market awareness,” says Hurst. “People don’t usually think of the opportunity to stay in a home as frequently as they think of staying in a hotel. But when people try it out, what we see is that many of them overwhelmingly love the experience — once they get to stay in a home, they get hooked!”

HomeAway is riding on the brand penetration and marketing savvy of Expedia to raise market awareness on the benefits of holiday homestays. The comforts of a home, with easy access to a kitchen and laundry facilities, and simply a sense of greater space all round, has a value proposition that becomes compelling to many people after they try it.

Here in Asia, Hurst believes the market is warming to what HomeAway offers. The company has made Singapore its Asia-Pacific headquarters and last year, completed the acquisition of a Singapore-based company in the homestay business known as TravelMob, to cement its presence in the region.

“They already had good talent and good access with Singapore being a great place to build our regional operations,” he adds. —

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