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Is Google the answer to Airbnb or Booking.com?



Industry expert Richard Vaughton reckons Google could be the big disruptor in the short-term rentals space – and will soon be coming after the likes of Airbnb and Booking.com.


Richard was the special guest on the latest #HCHPodcast where he shared his considerable wisdom about the sector, including his thoughts on growth, mergers, trends, AI, and many other topics.


From managing and building a family business, to launching and scaling tech companies, all the way through to advising some of the biggest brands in the sector, Richard has a wealth of knowledge and expertise about the short-term rentals world. And his final answer during the episode was one of the most enlightening, after he was asked which platform he preferred out of Airbnb and Booking.com.

 

“That’s a million-dollar question," said Richard, who recently sold his tech business Rentivo to Situ. "If I was an investor, I would back Booking.com because it's a money machine and hotels can't escape the vortex of Booking.com. It's a super-tanker, and it takes a long time to turn around – but when it gets its eyes on something [it will focus]. And I imagine at some point in the next few years, it will become more engaged in short-term rentals. So that’s the money option – but in terms of who’s going to win the marketing [battle] and the hearts and minds of owners, then that's going to be Airbnb."

 

Richard added: “Which do I prefer? I head off to Google because I think Google is the going to be the big disrupter here – as the other two are very app focused. So, Google is coming after them because it’s going to be losing money from them."

 

Richard also spoke at length about the importance of direct bookings, specifically why hosts should be aiming to avoid paying commissions to online travel agencies like Airbnb and Booking.com.

 

“I’m a bit of a book direct aficionado – that’s actually how we started and crowdfunded Rentivo,” said Richard. “If you’re building a castle, you need a moat. So, if you’re only on Airbnb, you can lose your listing fairly quickly. One property is a speck in the distance to them. Also, they might put their prices up or change their algorithm.

 

“If you’re an individual owner, repeat business is one of your best opportunities. You can also engage customers in a much more professional and hospitable way. We are in the hospitality industry and some people forget that. Being personal can help you stand out and pick up secondary bookings and referrals.

 

“It’s hard though [to attract direct bookings]. It’s not just a case of building a website. It takes a lot of hard work and effort. But if you do it over a number of years, you’re going to get major benefits from it. I work with a few companies and one of them has 75-80% direct bookings. That’s OVO Network and they’ve put a huge amount of effort into that. But just consider how much control they have over their business.

 

“And as an addendum to that, if you have a high percentage of direct bookings, you’re considered to be a good company – and that adds value to your exit.”

 

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