Now ready to provide opulent trappings like villas, castles, private islands and estates is online home-rental site HomeAway, which is launching its new luxury rentals collection today.
HomeAway consistently noticed a demand for luxury rentals, executive Jon Gray told Yahoo Travel. “We identified the luxury market as the fastest growing segment in the travel industry overall, which produces over a trillion dollars in annual sales in North America alone,” said Gray, the company’s senior vice president, Americas.
Price points within the collection can range from $150 to $20,000 per night. Amenities can be impressive, ranging from helicopter landing pads, home equestrian center/stables, access to private yachts and staff, such as drivers and housekeepers. “These are properties that fill many of the same needs as a luxury hotel with very high-end facilities, but with special amenities that add to the overall experience,” Gray said.
HomeAway points to statistics like these garnered from Companies & Markets 2012 Luxury Travel Report, as well as a 2013 Andrew Harper Reader Survey predicting significant growth in luxury travel in 2014 with over 33% more of its readership anticipating more luxury travel on their calendars, and 58% continuing their annual luxury vacations. Indeed, HomeAway turned to Andrew Harper LLC, the company behind Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report, a private, monthly publication for luxury travelers, when structuring its luxury collection.
Andrew Harper is curating Luxury Rentals from HomeAway, which spans 40 countries and offers more than 800 high-end properties, including villas, castles, estates and private islands. Adding to Luxury Rentals from HomeAway's inventory are launch partners Luxury Retreats and Travel Keys, well-established brands in the luxury travel industry.
Before being selected for the collection, Gray says, “Properties are evaluated by the luxury travel experts at Andrew Harper using a proprietary rating system developed exclusively for HomeAway. The rating system is composed of a 75-point screening process that evaluates luxury attributes such as price, services, location, amenities and more. No detail is overlooked.”
Homeowners must pass the Andrew Harper criteria, as well as pay a $999 annual, platinum membership fee, to be listed on HomeAway’s specialty site. Members on HomeAway’s existing vacation rental site generally pay an annual fee starting at $349. Homeowners don’t pay a commission, nor do renters pay for using the HomeAway site. Instead, HomeAway acts as a classified ad, where renters contact homeowners directly. What a Luxury Rentals from HomeAway member can expect in revenue? Says Gray, “An average owner books 18 weeks a year and $28,000 in bookings.”
Luxury Rentals from HomeAway collection’s primary competition comes via online rental sites Onefinestay and Airbnb. Unlike HomeAway, newcomer Onefinestay works hands-on with its 1,000, upscale rental properties located in London, New York, Paris and Los Angeles, dealing directly with bookings, housekeeping and concierge needs. The company, which launched its “unhotels” in 2010, has a portfolio that’s exceeded $2.5 billion. Overnight stays range in price from $250 to $2,000 per night.
San Francisco-based Airbnb entered the home rental market in 2008. The site is known for offering unique properties. Among its 500,000-property inventory in over 192 countries and 35,000 cities are villas and castles. The average price for a stay in an Airbnb-listed castle is $300 to $8,000 per night. While other sites are focusing on luxury, an Airbnb spokesperson told Yahoo Travel the company’s attention, at least through 2013, is on hospitality. In September, Chip Conley came onboard as Airbnb’s head of global hospitality. Conley’s first initiative was to create a hospitality lab in Dublin, and with it a training program for Airbnb hosts targeting response times, accuracy and cleanliness.
As for HomeAway’s future plans, they’re prodigious. “We want to be the world’s most complete marketplace for luxury vacation rentals,” says Gray. “Rather than only one person’s wares, a comprehensive collection where travelers can see all the inventory, from individual owners and high-end property managers, in one place.”