Hi everyone, as this community is so active and with all members being directly involved with the industry in one way or another, I think it's the perfect place to ask for help with this.

For a new blog post, I'm looking for opinions and quotes on what you think will be the future of the vacation rental industry, given recent events like 9flats and Wimdu merging, and LeisureLink and Vacasol going under.

All opinions, comments and ideas are welcome to join the discussion! Leave your comment on this post and please, please, don't be shy. The more the merrier!

Thanks in advance and really looking forward to hearing your thoughts about the future of this industry!


2 years ago

Love the topic. These are my two thoughts for the future of vacation rentals:

Voice activated bookings & artificial intelligence

There’s been lots of talk about chat bots, personal assistants & artificial intelligence. Apps like Lola are really interesting. Here’s what they do:

Lola wants to use mobile messaging, and an artificial intelligence system that learns traveler preferences, to reinvent how consumers book travel using a travel agent.

A.I clearly isn’t good enough yet because they still use real people - but for how long? Additionally, the thought having to text people, wait for their response, go back & forth, not see detailed information and trust they’ve not made any mistakes is still pretty tedious. It’s hardly “frictionless”.

Although, it’s devices like Amazon Echo & Google Home which really excite me. They sit in your house and constantly listen for you to talk to them. I know it sounds silly but having to press a button to activate voice command on my phone, then talk to my phone isn’t cool - I’m referring to Siri. Anyway, once activated they can do things like:

  • Call an Uber
  • Order a laundry pickup
  • Set alarms
  • Check your calendar
  • Answer questions
  • Restock your fridge (food delivery)

Amazon Echo has been mentioned on here before but in the context of a useful device to have in your vacation rental.

I’m talking about using these devices to actually find & book a holiday.

Large OTAs will inevitably build apps for these devices - I’d imagine Airbnb & Booking.com will do very soon. Then they'll control voice activated & online bookings.

However, the beauty of A.I means if you ask it to do a task, say find the cheapest holiday, the A.I will know that booking direct is by far the cheapest option and avoid the OTA all together.

For this to work, data needs to be standardised, even across individual owner websites - so A.I’s can make the best choice - or a new listing site which actually connects owners directly with the guests…

...which leads to my next idea….

Decentralised accommodation & blockchain

The current situation

The web was designed to be decentralised so that everybody could participate by having their own domain and having their own webserver and this hasn’t worked out. Instead, we’ve got the situation where individual personal data has been locked up in these silos. […] - Sir Tim Berners-Lee

This is exactly what’s happening to the vacation rental industry and the so called sharing economy (Airbnb, Uber etc). The idea behind the sharing economy is:

Democratised access to excess capacity through a platform. The sharing economy takes something which is usually expensive but underutilised and enables it to be used more efficiently by allowing it to be used by more than just the owner of the product - Chris Herd

However, this is NOT happening. In reality:

These companies are not really sharing. In fact, they're successful precisely because they don't share. They aggregate services together, and they sell them - Don Tapscott

So what’s the future?

I see a future with a true decentralised structure - What Sir Tim Berners Lee refers to as “Web 3.0”. His idea is to:

To bring back power to people. We are thinking we are going to make a social revolution by just tweaking: we’re going to use web technology, but we’re going to use it in such a way that we separate the apps that you use from the data that you use

What does this mean? Well, instead of booking your next vacation rental through an intermediary, such as Airbnb, you’ll booking it direct with the owner. This will be achieved through a truly decentralised listing website which uses blockchain technology. Here’s how Don Tapscott describes it:


What if, rather than Airbnb being a $25 billion corporation, there was a distributed application on a blockchain, we'll call it B-Airbnb, and it was essentially owned by all of the people who have a room to rent.

When someone wants to rent a room, they go onto the blockchain database and all the criteria, they sift through, it helps them find the right room, and then the blockchain helps with the contracting, it identifies the party, it handles the payments just through digital payments -- they're built into the system.

And it even handles reputation, because if she rates a room as a five-star room, that room is there, and it's rated, and it's immutable. So, the big sharing-economy disruptors in Silicon Valley could be disrupted, and this would be good for prosperity.

Would it work?

Many people would argue it simply wouldn’t work because once again a large corporation controls the decentralised network and always has the ability to build in hidden fees and make more profit. However:

Github is the posterchild for this: a $2 billion company built entirely as a value-added service on top of the decentralised technology of Git — despite users being able to trivially take their data and leave at any point - Matthew Hodgson

Owners and managers will control their data and their destiny. The companies who manage the network will operate in a similar fashion to Github - by making money with value added services (instead of taking a percentage owners / guests money) which they charge a nominal monthly fee. Users will actually WANT to pay them monthly for these extra services because they don't feel cheated.

Danny ~ Please can you do a series of posts on this topic of block-chain - I would like to know more?

2 years ago

I'd love to - busy with crowdfunding right now but will dedicate some time to it soon. I'd actually love to build a blockchain based listing website 😀

Good idea !

For the ones interested, Jess asked the same question on the Vrtech Facebook page. Great thoughts and opinions can be found there! https://www.facebook.com/groups/197680997288668/?fref=ts

2 years ago

Hey Jess, certainly. There's a good blog post on rented.com about companies / industries that are merging. For example Airbnb & Hotels. I think this is very relevant. As instant booking is becoming the new standard (unwillingly), vacation rentals will become similar to the hotel industry.

That being said, rentals are different. They are our homes. I think that the big listing websites will continue to dominate in bookings but the future will have guests understand they can save more money by booking direct. It's an education process.

2 years ago

Thanks Maria, I'll be sure to check that out. Really appreciate your input!

Agree with Maria, it will also be an education process for hosts, non-pro ones will have to learn how to publicize their house, sell it and provide a great guest experience. Not all of them are doing it right now. Individual owners are more and more tired of housekeeping management.

2 years ago

That curious, I just wrote a big piece on this but from an investor risk perspective:

Rocky Roads Ahead?

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