Sunday, November 9, 2008

Resources for renting vacation homes

Renting a vacation home is cheaper than paying for multiple nights at hotel rooms. How can you be sure that you're renting a nice home though? There are many online resources that can help.

Homeaway Inc., the world's largest vacation rental booking company by the number of properties listed, is moving to increase reliable user reviews on its Web sites, so potential renters can have more confidence in their choices. Tripadvisor, a unit of Expedia Inc. that is the market leader in hotel user reviews, plans to add vacation-rental reviews to its site by the end of the year.

Other companies are trying to make the experience of renting a home more like staying in a hotel. Last month, three rental booking companies -- Mountain Reservations, and Mexican Destinations -- joined their inventory and launched the booking Web site The site says customers will get "hotel-like amenities" such as check-in, cleaning services, 24/7 service and maintenance, and the ability to book a rental with a credit card. Late last year, Group RCI, a vacation-rental and time-share-swapping company owned by Wyndham Worldwide, entered the U.S. market with Endless Vacation Rentals. The company says it offers 24-hour help over the telephone, full refunds on canceled reservations, and free over-the-phone concierge service in multiple languages.

The big 3 travel sites (Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz) are bumping up their activity in the vacation rental space, with Travelocity increasing its condo, B&B and vacation rental inventory by 5 times in the last 2 years.

Solving the bogus vacation property review problem

Being able to trust a review of a vacation property is a problem, right? A small company called FlipKey (which was recently purchased by TripAdvisor) has come up with what I think is a cool a solution. Only solicit and accept reviews from people who have stayed at the property.
Flipkey Chief Executive T.J. Mahony says that only people who have stayed at a property can comment (unlike with hotel reviews on TripAdvisor) because reviews are solicited by an email using booking records. "One of our mantras," to property managers, "are negative reviews are a good thing," because it creates trust with travelers, Mr. Mahony says.
I poked around the site a bit, but couldn't find any places that I have actually stayed to do a comparison, but your mileage may vary.